N. Shatrujeet

HP Milcy: Long-running lube, literally

The new television commercial for diesel engine oil brand HP Milcy uses heightened drama to bring out the brand benefit in a simple yet memorable manner

Advertising in the low-involvement lubes and engine oils category presents two unique, yet interlinked challenges. On the one hand, the communication has to drum in a single-minded, relevant (and ideally exclusive) end-user benefit. On the other, while delivering the end-user benefit, the advertising has to break category clutter to ensure bare minimum recall, if not top-of-mind.

At one level, this may sound axiomatic and reflective of all advertising, irrespective of product category. But somehow, it is truer in the case of lubes, particularly those meant for heavy commercial vehicle (read truck) engines. After all, the target consumers for truck lubes are a motley bunch - the truck driver (the man at the wheel who lives with the brand on a daily basis), the garage mechanic (who is often the biggest influencer of purchase decisions) as well as the fleet operator/owner (whose biggest motivation is to keep a lid on costs). It stands to reason that any truck lube communication should try and keep all three constituencies in mind.

It is in this context that one has to view the latest television commercial for HP Milcy, the flagship monograde diesel engine oil from Hindustan Petroleum. Conceived by Mudra Communications, the commercial opens on a makeshift truckers' pit stop beside a highway. A garage mechanic (actor Rajpal Yadav) is busy topping up a truck with a can of HP Milcy. His task at hand done, the mechanic is in the process of screwing the red plastic cap back on to the can when the cap slips out of his hand, falls to the ground and starts rolling. The mechanic lunges for the cap, but the cap keeps rolling, gathering momentum by the second. The mechanic, empty can in hand, gives chase.

The chase spills onto the highway, cap rolling merrily along with the flustered mechanic in hot pursuit. Roll, roll, roll. Run, run, run. The red cap rolls down sweeping highways and past green fields. Not one to give up, the mechanic goes after the cap, hitching rides on cycles and trucks. Even on horseback. The sun sets, but the cap is unable to shake off the tired but doughty mechanic, who jogs down the road torch in hand. The sun rises to show the sleepy mechanic still tailing the cap. The voiceover talks about HP Milcy's ATA Formula, which evidently keeps the engine oil consistently viscous. The benefit: a non-stop run duration of 18,000 km.

This, incidentally, is the first new piece of communication on HP Milcy in over three years (although a commercial for multigrade variant HP Milcy Toofan went on air in 2002). "The mother brand has not had much advertising support lately, and there has been no fresh communication on HP Milcy in a while," says Anup Chitnis, senior creative director, Mudra Communications. "HP wanted to talk to truckers, which is why they commissioned a new communication." The need to talk to truckers is one thing. Saying something significant is another. "In this category, having a single-minded proposition is extremely important," says Subir Mukherjee, director, brand communications, Mudra Communications. "Most diesel engine oil brands focus on things like superior engine protection or better economy. We felt HP Milcy had to say something distinct that would differentiate it from its rivals."

In its quest for that single-minded benefit, the agency was aided by a test finding, which showed that the anti-thickening agents (ATA Formula, when translated into ad speak) in HP Milcy regulated the viscosity of the oil. "Category advertising was always speaking of viscosity, but there was no substantiated claim from any of the rivals," Chitnis points out. "Tests carried out by HP showed that HP Milcy retained crucial viscosity for 18,000 kilometers, which meant that a consumer who uses HP Milcy needs to change oil only once in 18,000 kilometers. The tests gave the claim credibility, and we decided to make ‘non-stop 18,000 kms' into an interesting product story that the consumer can relate to."

The heightened drama in story of the runaway cap and the mechanic brings out the brand benefit in a simple yet memorable manner. And one of the most interesting aspects of the ad is the presence of the HP Milcy can (fitted in most naturally) in almost every frame of the commercial, rendering the mandatory packshot/product window that follows, redundant. "Yes, the product has been built into the story in a way that it doesn't jar," agrees Chitnis, adding that the idea of getting the mechanic to carry the empty can during the chase came only at the shoot "Ren (Rensil D'Silva, senior creative director at Mudra) and I saw that the mechanic running with the can was logical as he was anyway chasing the cap, so we put the can in." For the record, the film has been directed by Chitnis and D'Silva, with Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy providing the soundtrack.

"The film does not speak to truck drivers alone," Mukherjee points out. "It is the mechanic who has a more regular media habit, and even drivers and fleet operators listen to the mechanic's recommendations. Which is why the protagonist is a mechanic. This campaign appeals to the mechanic at the product level, and there lots of below-the-line initiatives that we are undertaking to build a stronger association with mechanics and garages. The campaign also appeals to the fleet operator at the image level." The overarching objective of the campaign, Mukherjee adds, is to help take HP Milcy into a position of leadership in the Rs 2,600-crore organized diesel engine oil market, currently dominated by Servo (35 per cent market share) and Castrol (over 25 per cent share). "HP Milcy is the number three in the market, and the aim is to make it a big player in the category," says Mukherjee. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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