Ananya Pathak

Dabur advertises hair oil for kids

We spoke to Rajat Nanda, marketing head-hair care, Dabur India.

Generations of parents have viewed the entertainment screen – earlier television sets and now smartphones, laptops and tabs – as an escape to peace (for a short while, of course) from their little ones. Kids glued to these screens are an audience for marketers who leverage their pester power. Dabur India's recently launched film for Dabur Amla Kids Nourishing Hair Oil banks on this power that children hold in household consumer choices.

The digital film - 'Princess Alia' – is a 90-second animated film targeting mothers of young kids (five to 13 years). “Dabur Amla Kids Hair Care range is specially made for young girls keeping their lifestyle and their specific hair care needs in mind. There is an unmet need today for a range of specialised hair care products for kids,” says Rajat Nanda, marketing head-hair care, Dabur India.

Rajat Nanda
Rajat Nanda

While the animation, catchy music and jingle may make it seem like an ad targeting kids, Nanda clarifies that the idea is to educate the mothers about the benefits of this product in terms of ingredients, safety and the extra nourishment it offers. He tells us that the brand's main focus would be to reach out to maximum number of mothers and generate trials.

The protagonist - 'Alia', who has long, strong and shiny hair because of the 'magical potion', has an uncanny resemblance to Walt Disney's Rapunzel, the princess who was kept unaware of her royal heritage by a vain old woman who raises her in a secluded tower in order to exploit her hair's healing abilities to remain young and beautiful forever.

Rapunzel - a still from 'Tangled'
Rapunzel - a still from 'Tangled'

It even reminds us of HUL Clinic Plus' 'Chulbuli Song'. Britannia NutriChoice also tried animation at the time of the launch of its new variety - Oats Chocolate and Almond Cookies, last year.

Also Read: Britannia's latest digital ad mimics an animated movie trailer

Dabur's Amla range of oils has been around since 1940. The kids variant was launched earlier this year (August), along with Dabur Amla Kids Nourishing Shampoo. Looking at a principally urban audience, the product has been initially launched on e-commerce platforms and extended to select modern trade outlets. This is however the first time that the 'Amla Shampoo' has been launched in the Indian market.

The kids variant was launched in the international market a few years ago with a similar communication but a different protagonist - Princess Amaira.

Dabur Amla Kids Nourishing Hair Oil is available in a 200ml pack priced at Rs 120, while the Dabur Amla Kids Nourishing Shampoo comes in a 200ml pack priced at Rs 145. The products are also available in a Castle Combo pack, priced at Rs 265.

Like many countries which have well defined rules and legislation concerning advertising to kids, India too has precise legal regulatory systems that govern broadcasting and consumer protection. Yet, children have always occupied pride of place in Indian advertisements, especially those marketing products meant for children such as milk foods, chocolates, biscuits, ice-creams, jams and toys, helping platforms like VOOT Kids to bloom in the country.

Also Read: "There is no technological way to ensure ads are 100% child-safe:" Saugato Bhowmik, VOOT Kids

We asked industry experts about the best platforms to advertise to kids, and the care brands should take when advertising to them.

Suresh Eriyat, director, Studio Eeksaurus, thinks it depends on the age group of the targeted children. The children’s age group is quite complex to target as they grow out of things very quickly unlike adults. He explains, “When we work with the channels (internationally), they segregate the children's programmes into slots of 2-5 years, 6-8 years, 9-12 years and the last category of 13 years and above (when they start loving live action programmes and become boring as adults). Sometimes, they sub divide it even further.”

Suresh Eriyat
Suresh Eriyat

He goes on to add, “In India, kids mostly access films through digital/TV/cinema mediums when assisted by a parent- mostly mothers, till they are five years old. So the age group that can choose to watch their preferred programmes on their own, on phone/iPad/TV would be limited to 6-12 years. This is a Tier 1 and Tier 2 city phenomenon. In most other households of India which have single TVs, kids have to watch what elders of the house watch, which is mostly Hindi GEC. So to reach more kids, Hindi GEC is the only way. But the purchasing decision lies with moms mostly. Only persuasion power stays with kids.”

He finds it refreshing to see animation being used as a medium for advertising a kid’s hair oil and says says the storytelling is simple and endearing, the animation is super high quality for an Indian production. He thinks it could work brilliantly for a product for adults as well. “We often encounter doubt from the corporate clients whether animation would work, as it takes time to create. But this is a good example of a film becoming a time immemorial product. Animation has that unique property which rarely gets tapped. Tom and Jerry would be 90 soon. Mickey is 91 years old!!! Do we love any live action movie character that is 91 years old like that?!”

He prefers the 'Chulbuli' film from a communication point of view because it is not targeting just the kids, like the Dabur one does.

What should a brand be careful about when targeting children? He says Disney is a good producer to follow for this. "They always prefer to produce only 'nice’ films which children can watch, and parents can let them watch without worrying about any unwanted content exposure to their kids. Their content goes through stringent filters about the influences that they’re projecting through their products. They avoid all sorts of negative influences to reach the children, be it distorted socio-economic views, violence/confrontational subtexts, sexual contexts, abusive language usage etc., to name a few.”

“A brand should be careful about avoiding these influences. Even then, branding someone as good or bad, portraying dark complexion as inferior, certain language accents to denote class differences etc are so widely used even in those fairy tale films, as such subtexts escape even the most careful writer's radar while creating such films. But then how much is 'so much’?!,” he wonders.

Brand consultant Sita Lakshmi Narayan Swamy, opines that Dabur's new variant aims at extending their portfolio in order to garner increased volumes from an untapped albeit large segment - kids. Many other FMCG majors such as Colgate have used the same strategy to their advantage.

Speaking of advertising to kids, she says, “While there are a few guidelines that exist and also come up for review periodically in India, there are hardly any cases where a ban is enforced or punitive action taken.”

Sita Lakshmi Narayan Swamy
Sita Lakshmi Narayan Swamy

“In my view, kids are too young to be able to take rational decisions on product/ brand choice. Hardly any kid I know would instinctively choose Cabbage over Chocolate or Chaas over a Cola. They are young and emotional, so it's very easy to win them over with communication, thereby influencing their choices. So the onus falls upon the corporates and industry to be responsible in what, how and where we communicate to children. It behoves us to ask ourselves the question 'Am I doing this to increase just sales or will this add to the well-being of the children?',” she says.

Commenting on the ideation of the film, she quips that while the idea of a little princess as a protagonist is not unusual, the brand has been clever in constructing a plot that is not beauty-centric, but instead focuses on 'good vs evil'. It does so by using the protagonist's long and strong hair [as a result of using the product] as a means to defending and protecting others.

“The execution of the narrative is nicely done and in my view, will appeal to little girls at least. It does reinforce gender stereotyping though by portraying a little girl [not a boy] with long , lustrous hair, which to my mind, is typically the adult view on female beauty.....,” she signs off.