N. Shatrujeet

Hitachi Atom: Size does matter

The five-commercial campaign for Hitachi’s newly launched split air-conditioner, Atom, communicates the brand’s small-but-powerful proposition through an interesting story

Imagine being billeted in an upper crust hotel with the air-conditioner turning the air frigid. Imagine freezing in the frosty atmosphere but not being able to do anything about it… simply because no one around appears to have the foggiest idea where the darned AC is. Now imagine the experience at the hotel replaying itself through the day across sundry locations, with no one being able to come to your rescue… because no one can find the AC and turn it off.

This particularly ludicrous situation forms the backbone of the ongoing five-commercial television campaign for Hitachi's newly launched split air-conditioner, Atom. Put briefly, the intriguing campaign is about a day in the life of two mild-mannered foreigners (distinctly European, from their accents) visiting India, presumably on business. The campaign opens on a sumptuous hotel suite where the duo requests the room boy to turn down the icy air-conditioning. ‘Yes sir…' the obsequious room boy looks around uncertainly for a while, then slowly adds, ‘But where is the AC?'

The campaign then follows the foreigners to the hotel restaurant. Shivering with discomfort, they once again ask a bearer to moderate the temperature. The bearer informs them that he would do as they bid - the moment he got a fix on where the AC was. ‘Where is the AC?' the frustrated duo asks, looking around. The campaign moves to a saloon. As the barber brings the razor up to one of the gentleman's lathered face, the horrified visitor stares at the quivering hand wielding the razor and whimpers, ‘Excuse me, Mr Barber, where is the AC?' The barber, needless to say, is clueless.

The action moves to a boardroom where a business meeting is in progress. Our increasingly confused guests have the attention of everyone gathered. Suddenly, one of them raises his hand. ‘One critical question… where is the AC?' he asks, the cold air causing a tremor in his voice. His local business associates shrug helplessly. The campaign ends back in the hotel room. Bundled in blankets, the two men stare at the room boy and an AC mechanic, imploring them to do something about the room's temperature. ‘So where is the AC?' one of them looks at the mechanic hopefully. The mechanic surveys the room, then informs them that that is precisely what he wants to know. Nearly obsessed, his voice on edge, one of the foreigners demands, ‘Where is the AC…?' Each of these five films ends with the voiceover speaking about the new Hitachi Atom with its Lambda Technology. ‘It's very small, very powerful,' the VO explains.

Small. But powerful. Shorn of creative hyperbole, this is the single-minded message that Hitachi and its agency Leo Burnett India are attempting to communicate about the Atom. So small that it could escape attention, yet powerful enough to be sensed. Now, to put the advertising rationale in the proper perspective, a bit of product speak is in order.

The Atom, which is being launched simultaneously across the world by Hitachi, is being touted as the smallest split air-conditioner (SAC) in the domestic market. "The Lambda Technology in the Atom allows for a special coil design, which helps decrease the size of the AC by over 30 per cent," informs Amit Doshi, vice-president (marketing & service operations), Hitachi Home & Life Solutions India. The claimed user benefits include a non-obtrusive appearance (it gels into the interiors, adding to room aesthetics), powerful cooling (it delivers the required cooling at less power), blind suction grille (which allows for easy cleaning), a special shape of the evaporator coil which allows for a higher T Flow fan - which, in turn, allows for higher air flow at a lower RPM, resulting in lower noise levels - and easy installation. "The Atom can be installed anywhere, even on a partition of the office, because of its size and weight. It weighs only 9 kilograms," says Doshi.

Despite having a set of seemingly appealing end-user benefits, the Atom is hampered, ironically, by the biggest positive it has going for it - its small size. "A focus group conducted by us revealed that while in many product categories ‘small' is equated with ‘technology', in ACs, small was perceived to be ‘less powerful cooling' as compared to a bigger machine," reveals Doshi. "The objective facing us while launching the Atom was to change consumer mindset. Hence, our communication objective became ‘How to communicate small but powerful' in a simple manner that could be understood by consumers. Also, the communication had to believable, and hence, to use ‘technology' to lend believability to the communication."

Speaking about the communication challenge the agency faced, Rameet Singh Arora, account director, Leo Burnett India, says, "The physicality of the Atom's size had to be communicated, but we also had to convey the fact that this AC is by no means less powerful. To demonstrate this, we decided on exaggerating a situation where people feel the power of the AC but can't see it." The idea of creating an interesting story of two people who spend their time looking for the AC followed. "It had to be a memorable and clutter-breaking story," says, KV Sridhar (Pops), national creative director, Leo Burnett India. "So we took these two visiting foreigners - who can't know where the AC is - and put them in situations where they keep looking for the AC but can't find it. And the best part is even the locals don't know where it is, which adds to the intrigue." Sridhar adds that the commercials used a graphic representation of how the technology functions to support the product claim. "We also exaggerated the idea of small by bringing in a ‘magnifying glass' device," he says.

The decision to do many short films (the average edit time of the five commercials is 20 seconds) instead of one full-length film has to do with frequency. "Given the relatively small budgets we have, building in frequency and salience is important," opines Sridhar. He, however, adds that each of the five films is a standalone ad in every sense. "While we have five films to sustain the interest value in the campaign - if you've seen the two guys in one ad, you know what they're searching for in the next, but you'd wait to see whether they find the AC - the approach we used was that each film is complete in its own right. This ensures that the message finds its target even if someone sees only one ad."

For Hitachi, which claims to have a 12 to 13 per cent market share in the 3-lakh-units-per-annum SAC segment estimated to be growing at 30 per cent (the 7-lakh-units-per-annum window AC segment, in comparison, is estimated to be growing at a slower 15 per cent), Atom is a significant component in the larger scheme of things. "Our continuous innovation strategy has paid rich dividends and has enabled us to grow at a CAGR of 15 per cent over the last three years," Doshi points out. "Hitachi has been able to achieve a brand awareness of 95 per cent, and is amongst the top three brands in the consideration set of the AC buyer. However, last year, we decided to rethink our strategy and shift the focus from the window segment to the higher-end solution products, which are low volume but high profit products. This year we have planned for a low growth in WAC, while we plan to grow higher than the market in SAC and packaged products (high-end commercial use ACs)."

Atom, clearly, has a role to play in furthering Hitachi's growth expectations in the SAC segment. And Doshi believes brand communication is meeting its purpose. "The slice of life concept of two foreigners and their experiences during the day is clutter-breaking, memorable and believable. The ridiculousness of the situation where even the Indians are not able to find the AC, and the punch line ‘Where is the AC?' make the ads memorable and clutter-breaking, while the use of the product window lends believability to the campaign." Incidentally, in order to build buzz around the campaign, ground-level activities such as a Where-is-the-AC treasure hunt are being organized at dealer showrooms, multiplexes and shopping malls.

The Team:

Creative : Agnello Dias, Santosh Padhi, Nitesh Tiwari

Account Management : Rameet Singh Arora, Aniruddha Banerjee

Filmmaker : Ram Madhvani

Production House : Equinox Films

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