N. Shatrujeet

Short, Sweetex and simple

The new commercial for artificial sweetener brand Sweetex is a good instance of an idea working overtime to compensate for limited advertising spends

It's a standard gripe in agencies, particularly among creatives: the client doesn't have the budget to support good advertising.

They have a point there, but only to an extent. Wafer-thin budgets can be a constraint, but it doesn't follow that powerful advertising is solely dependant on lavish spends. Good advertising ideas need not always be at the mercy of high production costs, and all it takes is a low-budget film - like the new 20-second one for artificial sweetener brand Sweetex - to demonstrate this amply.

The Sweetex film is, in fact, a classic instance of an idea working overtime to compensate for limited spends. But more of that anon. The ad first. The film opens on a sandy beach, with the surf rolling in in the background. In the near foreground, one sees the corner of a beach chair, with the foot of the man occupying the chair sticking out indolently. A pair of flip-flops, a carelessly dropped book, an empty can of some fizzy drink and a big tube of sun block lotion lie scattered near at hand, implying a nicely decadent vacation.

All of a sudden, a hand reaches down, picks up the tube of sun block lotion and disappears from view. The surf keeps rolling in, and nothing stirs as the quiet beach lazes in the sun. Then, abruptly, the hand comes into view and deposits the tube of sun block on the sand beside the chair.

The tube, all squeezed and crumpled, lies in the sun - practically empty!

‘Time to switch to Sweetex,' goes the super, and the surf keeps rolling in in the background.

Minimalism. That's what comes to mind when one views this ad. (And we're clearly not referring only to the production budget, of course, although that's where it all started.) The entire sequence of events in the film has been captured in one single 20-second take, with a static camera set on the ground beside the chair. No snazzy camera angles, no quick cuts, no special effects. No models either. Just a beach, a hand and a leg (both strikingly pudgy, one notes ruefully in retrospect), some sun and a tube of sun block lotion. And, may we add, some damn good framing - which makes you wonder early on about the product being advertised…

What is particularly interesting here is the manner and the circumstances in which Sweetex has made a comeback in mainline media. A 30-year-old brand that literally pioneered the low-calorie sweetener category in this country, Sweetex has been out of the media for nearly a decade now. And has, in the process, paid the price by ceding mind and market share to younger rivals such as Sugar Free and Equal. "Sweetex was the market leader in the artificial sweetener category, but has been dormant for quite a while now," admits Sumit Joshi, product manager, Boots Piramal Healthcare Ltd (BPHL). "However, over the past five-six years, the category has witnessed rapid growth of 20 to 25 per cent. This is primarily due to increased consumer awareness of low-calorie sweeteners as a healthy option to sugar."

Consumer awareness has, of course, been driven almost entirely by Sugar Free (from Cadila Healthcare Ltd), which enjoys tremendous advertising support. As a consequence, Sugar Free literally grew the category, while Sweetex, which had ceased talking to consumers, quickly lost relevance among younger audiences. "Sweetex has a lot of equity among older consumers, but new consumers are not coming in," says S Joshi. The figures speak for themselves. In the Rs 50-crore-per-annum category, Sugar Free commands a market share of 65 per cent. Sweetex has a 16-per cent share, which is more or less on par with that of the other new entrant, Equal. "We had to get back into the consideration set of consumers," explains S Joshi. "We had to revamp Sweetex's image and make it more contemporary. Also, we had to do all this in a clutter-breaking way that gave Sweetex a distinct personality."

The view at BPHL was that the answer to much of this lay at the doorstep of advertising. "Considering there is little differentiation at the product level (all low-calorie sweeteners have almost the same quantity of aspartame), we saw that the communication was the only real differentiator," S Joshi says. The company, however, was loath to ply the degrees-of-comparison route. "We decided we would not sell the benefits of low-calorie sweeteners as our target consumers (Sec A1, A2 and B1) are fairly evolved and don't need to be educated. And we agreed that we would not do a ‘percentage communication' as that is what the competition is doing. Sweetex could not be a me-too brand."

The brief that BPHL gave McCann-Erickson India (the agency handling the account) was to "touch the consumer by giving her a trigger to switch to Sweetex". And the client-agency team decided to focus on the growing incidence of obesity among Indians as a point of entry. "We are targeting not just diabetics but all health-conscious consumers, and we realized that today's consumer is very concerned about his or her weight. So the first signs of flab or a paunch is the trigger we need to get consumers to convert to artificial sweeteners," says S Joshi. "The idea was to exaggerate the single point of obesity to make our point. The execution in the film meets that requirement, and also makes our communication visually different from the competition. I think McCann has done a great job, as the ad had to stick out, despite a low budget."

The low budget is what forced the agency to think of something "really hard-hitting and hard working", reveals Prasoon Joshi, national creative director, McCann-Erickson India. "We knew we had to do something that made the brand stand out, but the budget wasn't permitting us to do much. Then me and my team (Ramanuj Shastry, Rahul Mathews and Puneet Kapoor) came up with this idea. Everybody contributed to it." P Joshi singles out Mathews and Kapoor (for "pushing the idea"), and Naren Multani, the films head at McCann who has directed the commercial. "This is totally an in-house effort of McCann, and I am pleased the ad has turned out well."

The Team:

Creative : Prasoon Joshi, Ramanuj Shastry, Rahul Mathews, Puneet Kapoor

Account Management : Neeraja Shiknis, Imraan Khan

Direction : Naren Multani © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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