The #SoWhatAreYouWatching campaign has been crafted by The Script Room, a newborn agency the founders of which don't identify it as an ad agency at all.
Previously, for a TV show or movie to be classified as successful, many people had to have sampled it at the same time. Netflix and other video on demand platforms, have tweaked that barometer - for these platforms, it's more important to have "something for everyone" as Netflix head Ted Sarandos has been reiterating in his interviews. #SoWhatAreYouWatching is Netflix India's latest ten-ad TV campaign that delivers an overall message that the OTT platform has offerings for all age groups, i.e. from the kid cartoon fan to the elderly.
As a percentage of overall time spent on Netflix, film viewing in India is the highest in any country and 70 per cent of Netflix members in India watch at least one film a week. The number of films watched per month, per member has grown 50 per cent since last year, claims the Netflix team.
An undercurrent in the campaign is that people now have a new destination for entertainment and no longer need TV sets. The kid in the last ad enjoys watching Stranger Things (Netflix series) even though his watching TV is banned. Similarly, each of the ads connects an age group to a particular set of shows (possibly data-led, Netflix boasts excellent algorithms). Also, Netflix can be accessed on devices from anywhere, spoilers are an important part of conversations and there are upcoming shows, are just some of the messages delivered in this campaign.
Away from the insights and the campaign, there are a few noteworthy points about the situation. Netflix is a digital OTT platform (set to kill TV) which is advertising on TV (which boasts reach). It's a pure content house that's creating sub-30 second TVCs. Also, the commercials clearly speak to two sets of people, first - ones who have boarded Netflix, belong to the environment and know their way around and second - the ones who don't have Netflix memberships and are missing out on the good stuff. The campaign's name - So What Are You Watching - is a phenomenon native to the continually viewed episode-series format on OTT platforms, unlike the - have you watched - question around movies on linear TV or multiplexes.
The campaign has been conceptualised by The Script Room, an eight-member-strong agency that has offices in Mumbai and Bangalore. It started ops on March 22, 2019 and was co-founded by admen Ramsam (Rajesh Ramaswamy) and Ayyappan (both ex-Lowe). However, the founders don't identify their shop that had its first client as Netflix, as an ad agency.
"We are not an ad agency at all. In fact, we foresee us working with agencies. There are things that are generally expected of an agency like print ads, OOH, packaging design, activation ideas, pure digital ideas, consumer research etc. that we don't do. It's an idea that we had discussed long back, to have a place that's only about writing, something like a 'writers' room'. The love we all have for writing and jamming together ended up with us deciding to do exactly that," says Ayyappan.
"There are many things that we're currently doing that agencies don't like screenplay and dialogues for feature films. There's a lot of content out there which may be great, but don't need scripts. It could be a social experiment, something execution-heavy or pranks, but there's no joy in writing that stuff. So, anything that a writer can have fun with is our trip. Someone asked us - 'so basically you don't want to do any of the boring parts?' I think that's the best way of putting it," he adds.
Speaking about the agency's offerings and probable clients, Ramsam says, "A client could be anyone who is looking for great video content and something that merits the written word. And the offering could be content that is contemporary, relevant and aims to entertain in some way - especially movies, web-series, short films, documentaries or even an ad. We want to look at an ad as content. Of course, it is to sell, but the emphasis is more on the audience and not just what you want to say. So, if someone is looking for this and our sensibilities match, we're on."
Turning to experts:
Carlton D'Silva, CEO and CCO, Hungama Digital Services, finds the campaign well-executed and based on 'good insights'. He says, "Indian households face problems of what to watch because they usually watch TV together. Mostly, it's been driven by the person they most want to please (whatever the reason might be). Each of the campaign's films talks about the personalisation aspect of Netflix very differently and that's what makes it unique.
"Commercials are going to give way to content. With the plethora of content choices, people will predominantly be using their mobile devices for consumption. This makes them very discerning of what they would like to invest their time doing. We will continue having commercials (forced/entertaining), but content will be more embraced and appreciated. People share content more than commercials. They do not like propagating brands directly but have no problem doing that through good content," D'Silva adds.
Creative consultant Pradyumna Chauhan maintains that the campaign does stand out. Chauhan says, "The ads are short, have a hook and include interesting characters. It goes a bit here-and-there like in the 'Prince' ad (elderly couple) or the hospital one, which is also fine as you want to show Netflix reaching one and all. I enjoyed the edge in the ads spun around Netflix content that is awaited - Sacred Games and Stranger Things. Those build the brand in a longer term but also dial up curiosity/consumption in the short-term."
Chauhan continues, "The agency's output seems fairly aligned to what a content brand may want to advertise. But these are ads (running on TV), so does that really make them a content agency? Also, if they continuously create content-based solutions for brands, maybe they can be seen as one."
Auryndom Bose, group creative director, Dentsu One, considers the campaign an 'extremely endearing take' on a 'much-loved, iconic brand'. "But does Netflix need to be something endearing? So what's the objective of the ads? Is it creating awareness? Everybody knows Netflix. Is it saying that there's a show for you? The trailer for the show suffices. Showcasing what a pop culture phenomena Netflix has become plays back what is already happening around us. This is Netflix either wooing advertisers saying everybody is watching (they don't have ads yet) or a missed opportunity for an iconic brand to speak about itself," he says.
"The blame would be on the wrong brief. Everybody is on or wants to be on Netflix, so the tip is to aim to create a 'badge value' for Netflixers. Netflix is currently the costlier option versus Amazon Prime and Hotstar. So, the way to justify this is by creating value. Value comes when you know you are paying for an iconic brand, not simply an endearing one," he adds.
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"Ad guys doing content is good, but ad folks don't really have an upper hand. The 'real' content guys aren't far behind and soon the 'client' will go to Netflix or Disney or Anurag Kashyap for content requirements," Bose signs off.
Concept, Script & Dialogues: The Script Room
Production House: Coconut Films
Director: Indrasish Mukerjee
Executive Producer: Nupur Guha & Tushar Raut
Senior Producer: Mrudangi Jasani Baidya
Producer: Minoti Ashar
Associate Producer: Suraj Shetty