Abid Hussain Barlaskar

"...it's about how everybody can bring Kerala back on its feet without charity or sounding preachy.": Anushree Tainwala, Samsonite

Bodh Deb, Autumn Worldwide, also tells us how his agency missed the train but then sped past it with campaign - #KeralaIsOpen.

It's probably the first time that a luggage and travel accessories brand has shifted from the category status quo of the durability/ease-of-use fashion narrative to create an ad campaign that's slightly off-road but, nonetheless on-track. Samsonite's latest ad campaign - #KeralaIsOpen - aims at reviving the tourism industry in the state post the devastating floods caused by heavy rainfall this year.

While entities from around the world and all over India pooled their resources and aid, the state government had to cancel official Onam celebrations and divert funds toward rehabilitation.

"...it's about how everybody can bring Kerala back on its feet without charity or sounding preachy.": Anushree Tainwala, Samsonite

Samsonite's #KeralaIsOpen ad film

The title of the campaign - #KeralaIsOpen - echoes like an invitation from a popular and much-loved restaurant that's just reopened after renovation. But here, it's the state's tourism industry that has thrown open its doors; an industry that accounts for around 10 per cent of the state's GDP. This year, tourism was drastically affected by the deluge leading to a major spike in cancellations thus affecting all things connected to the tourism industry.

The ad opens up with Mr Nambiar, a guesthouse owner, awaiting guests and is soon followed by Jancy, a cabbie waiting to pick people up at the airport. The film also covers others stories like that of one Mr Nair, a Kathakali dancer longing for applause and Fatima who needs customers for her Karimeen (fish) fry, a Kerala delicacy. Finally, in a dramatic turn, it's Fatima's son who breaks the news - 'They are coming!' - i.e. tourists. And all of this happens in just 1.40 minutes.

Apart from the subtle branding and the glance of a Samsonite Evoa suitcase at the end, the ad mostly highlights how tourism generates employment, commerce and opportunities in the state.

So how did the campaign happen?

afaqs! spoke to Anushree Tainwala, executive director - Marketing, Samsonite South Asia, to find out more about the campaign.

"...it's about how everybody can bring Kerala back on its feet without charity or sounding preachy.": Anushree Tainwala, Samsonite

Anushree Tainwala

"The discussion began sometime around World Tourism Day (September 27) when we were planning our yearly communication. We were ideating about what can be done this year; something a bit different, perhaps. The agency brought up the Kerala idea. Insights were two-sided - one was about Kerala as a travel destination in recovery mode, where tourism actually drives the economy. We were trying to capture that. On the other hand, there were charities and donations by big corporates and others. Our campaign is about how everybody can bring Kerala back on to its feet without charity or preachy messages," Tainwala says.

"Moreover, the holiday season is just around the corner, with people already planning holidays around Diwali, Christmas and other festivals. The campaign aims to make Kerala a part of their plans and not let it be forgotten," she adds.

What's also quite interesting is the background story of how the ad agency missed the brief but still made the best out of it. Bodh Deb, vice president and branch head at Autumn Worldwide, the agency that crafted the campaign, tells us how.

"...it's about how everybody can bring Kerala back on its feet without charity or sounding preachy.": Anushree Tainwala, Samsonite

Bodh Deb

"I have been reading reports of how Kerala's tourism industry was affected and business was down, with people cancelling their trips. I just felt that in a time like this, the last thing one should do is cancel on people. And in such a situation, people cancelling on 'God's own country', doesn't add up," Deb outlines.

"We also had a little bit of luck. One, we had a travel-based brand like Samsonite by our side and two, we already had a month-old World Tourism Day brief which we were unable to crack; I even got an escalation call about it. But then, the news reports, the tourism-day brief and the escalation call - all the dots connected and it clicked," Deb explains excitedly.

"We made it a point that this wouldn't be another product campaign, but the message and the thought would be at its core. Since the story is about Kerala and its people, apart from a few members on the team, most of the workforce was from the southern state. It's a people's campaign first and we are happy," Deb concludes.

Turning to the experts:

Nima Namchu, chief creative officer, Havas Worldwide, considers the campaign a great idea; especially for a brand to take it upon itself to support Kerala on its journey back to recovery.

"...it's about how everybody can bring Kerala back on its feet without charity or sounding preachy.": Anushree Tainwala, Samsonite

Nima Namchu

"...it's about how everybody can bring Kerala back on its feet without charity or sounding preachy.": Anushree Tainwala, Samsonite

Jaideep Mahajan

"I like the quiet, understated and dignified mood of the communication. The only thing I would change is - remove that shot of the Samsonite luggage. While it fits in perfectly with that shot, it just felt too much like a plug," Namchu says.

"It's a very smart move on the part of the team to wait for the noise in the media to die down before releasing this film. While other brands seem to have forgotten Kerala and moved on to other more lucrative causes of the week, the placement has definitely made Samsonite's communication stand out," Namchu adds.

About the benefits the brand would reap from the campaign, Namchu states, "For the people of Kerala, Samsonite will move from being seen as just a marketer of luggage to a sincere and mature member of the community concerned not just with the immediate but the long-term well-being of the community that they are a part of. You want brand love? This is one of the ways to win it," Namchu signs off.

Jaideep Mahajan, nation creative head, Rediffusion Y&R, says, "While Kerala picks up the pieces and rebuilds itself, it is clear that rehabilitation will take more than just money. A sense of normalcy or 'back-to-business' is needed. This film is a small but powerful step in that direction. The messaging is crisp, the tone of voice is honest and the call-to-action is clear. The cause is much larger than any brand or strategic intent and this reflects in the execution of the film. The hashtag could have been different as it is very similar to a popular overseas campaign from 2016."


Client: Samsonite India

Agency: Autumn Worldwide

Founder & CEO: Anusha Shetty

Co-Founder & Director: Abhay Rajankar

Chief Digital Officer: Prashant Ramamurthy

Insight & Idea Conceptualized by: Bodh Deb

Script Written by: Nishant Ananthram

Campaign Manager: Eram Khan

Agency Campaign Team: Noopur Vasuraj, Swati Balani, Shreeti Nair, Yashas Patel, Soumyadeep Ghosh, Kaveri Ganiger, Aparajita Pradhan, Krithika Kris R, Deepak Puttaramaiah, Radhika Sinha, Hormaz Bhesania, Birva Solanki, Aiyappa Somaiah, Supriya Char, Bhagyashree Jhadhav, Aashica Pai, Varun Vasuraj, Radhika Ajgaonkar, Mohit Bhardwaj, Prakhar Roy, Pooja Patil, Shriya Chopra, Rugvedi Joshi, Tulika Kapur & Akash Gowda.

Production House: Momomoto Studios

Film Directed by: Deepti Nagia

Cinematographer: Anend C Chandran

Associate Cinematographer: Vishwajith Odukathil

Offline Editor: Tushar Sadashiv Shivan

Post Producer: Prabhat Iyer

Executive Producer: Sandhya Sharma

AD's: Sam Xavier, Ajeesh Thomas & Freddy

Line Producer: Navey Mittar

Kerala Line Producer: Amir Ul Rameez

Local line production: Phataphat India

Cast: Franco, @Amby Nair, Thara, Selvaraghavan, George, George Todd, Sibichan

Colourist: Rahil

Assistant Offline Editor: Viraj Shah

Voice Over: Shashank Vaity

Sound Engineer: Aldrin Rodrigues

Violinist: Suresh Lalwani

Online Editor: Auggi

Executive Music Producer: Allister Martins

Music Director: Abhishek Walimbe (Foster BLACK Music & Productions)

Have news to share? Write to us atnewsteam@afaqs.com