N. Shatrujeet

Hutch: Simple proposition, charming metaphor

The latest ad for Hutch uses a warm human metaphor to communicate how the cellular network sticks to the cellular subscriber like a shadow

The easiest way to advertise a cellular service feature such as ‘extensive network availability' is to have a television commercial that shows everyone from Kantabai in Worli to Pammi in Bhatinda to Mr Chatterjee in Siliguri holding cell phones to their ears, staring into mid-distance and smiling mindlessly.

It's also the most uninspiring way of advertising ‘quality of network'. And all it took is one delightful little ad from Hutch to demonstrate how awfully pedestrian that class of cellular service advertising can be.

Delightful little ad; that is how the Hutch commercial is best explained. Delightful because of the excellent use of a warm human metaphor to communicate how the Hutch network sticks to the cellular consumer like a shadow. Delightful because the ad does not bludgeon you with the I-am-the-answer-to-your-prayers sort of hard sell. Delightful because the ad doesn't resemble your regular ad in the first place, and, in fact, keeps you guessing about the nature of the product being advertised till the very end.

Very briefly, the commercial is about this cute little dog that keeps following its master (a little boy) wherever he goes. Irrespective of what the boy is doing or where he is going, the mutt sticks to his heels, doing its best the keep up with its master. And even though the boy seems rather unmindful of his pet, the dog loyally tails him… in a way only dogs can tail their masters. ‘Wherever you go, our network follows. Hutch,' is all that the explanatory super says.

Not a single shot of a handset anywhere in the ad. No talk of people staying in touch with loved ones. All the ad does is tell an endearing tale that establishes the concepts of ‘roaming' and ‘24x7 connectivity' by mirroring the relationship that a cellular service provider has (or should have) with its consumers.

"Today, for the typical cellular consumer, the quality of network is one of the key criteria when it comes to choosing a cellular service operator," explains Renuka Jaypal, national business director, O&M India, explaining the reasons for advertising as ‘plain vanilla' a topic as quality of network. "What we have seen is that the average Indian has started traveling a lot more, be it intra-city, within the country or even abroad. So a cellular network that keeps the consumer connected wherever she goes has become a fundamental need - and a strong reason-to-buy."

According to Jaypal, the reason Hutch has chosen to highlight this aspect of its service is the fact that the brand "offers great quality of network not only in India but even across the world". For the record, in India, Hutch operates in the four city circles of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, and in the three state circles of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. "Apart from the circles where Hutch exists directly, the brand has partnerships with other operators across the country and across the world, which enables the consumer to stay in touch," she says. "We saw that ‘keeping you connected' is a big story to go with, and we are going the whole nine yards on this, across media." The campaign, she informs, is in the process of being extended to print, outdoor, radio and direct. "The campaign is aimed at reinforcing Hutch as a superior network."

For now, let's stick to the commercial though. Due credit has to be given to the agency for creating such a charming metaphor for network availability. "From the beginning, we have never tried to talk technology in Hutch/Orange advertising," says Mahesh V, creative director, O&M. "We have always attempted to simplify and humanize the advertising idea, minus all the jargon. We just stuck to that task here too."

Simplifying and humanizing may be true of a lot of Hutch advertising. But the relevance of the ‘humanizing' in the latest commercial is amazing. Ask any dog lover, and he'll tell you how relevant the ‘dog metaphor' is. "We first thought of a three-year-old boy following his older sister all over the place," says Rajiv Rao, Mahesh's long-time art partner on Hutch. "It sounded okay, but the more we thought we realized that a dog following a boy would make better sense as the image is more easy to associate with." And somehow, it is a truer image, at least in the context of a cellular service. "The network should be like that dog in the ad - unobtrusive, but always there," Rao makes the point.

At the end of the day, the beauty of this ad lies in its execution. The sight of the poor mutt running slavishly behind the boy, stumbling to keep pace, sitting dutifully by its master… your heart goes out for the dog in every frame. And the agency gives all the credit to Bangalore-based Nirvana Films. "Our brief to the director (Prakash and Sneha Varma) was to show the friendship and loyalty between a dog and its master - minus the mush," says Mahesh. "That's all we gave them, but Nirvana just took the brief and breathed so much life into it. They have done a great job."

That they have. Rao, in fact, points to the time of the shoot as a case in point. "The monsoon is the worst time to shoot in Goa, but if you see the end product, it's clear that the weather worked very well for us as it gave the film a very different feel (the camerawork is that of Danny Pope). Nirvana was able to turn a disadvantage into an advantage." Rao and Jaypal also credit Nirvana for not picking typical Goa clichés and locales. "I've been to Goa some 30 times, but Nirvana has taken shots of Goa that I didn't even know existed. They have put their hearts into this film," Jaypal acknowledges.

Interestingly, the hero of the ad - the dog - is not a trained mutt. "We had hired a trained dog from Mumbai, but for some reason there was a delay in its arrival. So we got hold of this local dog from Goa as a stop gap, but it performed as well as any trained dog, so we finally went with it," Rao smiles. Sometimes, the best things just happen. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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