Shreyas Kulkarni

Facebook's new ad takes Holi to Romania

During this time of the year, several brands release their Holi-themed ads. But the one ad which caught our eye was from the 16-year-old social media company Facebook. Two years after its first India campaign 'Live what you love', Facebook has now launched a high-decibel campaign titled 'More Together', starting with the Holi spot.

'More Together' was first released in the US to illustrate how the Groups tab on the Facebook app helps people from different backgrounds come together over a shared interest. But Facebook had a different idea when it launched the campaign and ad in India. (India is the first country in the Asia Pacific region where Facebook has launched its 'More Together' campaign).

Made by creative agency Taproot Dentsu, the ad talks about the power of connections of the social media application. It features a youngster (Ketan), who is in Romania, away from his friends and family. When he sees his friends uploading their images of playing Holi, his favourite festival on the Facebook app, he feels despondent because, while India is drowning in colours, Romania is downing in the snow, instead. So, his friends decide to bring the festival of colours to Romania.

Ketan's friends in India find his friends in Romania and ask them for their help in making Holi colours, Romanian style. What we see, as a result, is Ketan's Romanian friends surprising him with colours.

Using connections to make something happen is what one could gather from this ad. But this isn't the first time an ad on such a topic has been made. In 2018, smartphone manufacturer OnePlus released an ad for Diwali, which was quite similar to the Facebook Holi ad – an example of how the community or connections of a product or service can help make things happen, no matter how difficult they are, for a lonley Indian overseas.

The ad, while illustrating the global reach of Facebook's connections, also served as a reminder of what the company was all about in the very first place, a social media network. In the past few years, Facebook has been under public and official scrutiny for various reasons, but as it mentioned in a press release, "Consumer marketing is a new strategic area of focus for Facebook and is part of the company’s priority of transparently communicating the role its services play in the world."

'Live What You Love' (2018) was a massive consumer-outreach campaign that encouraged individuals to express their originality and do what they love. While the ads in that campaign centred on an individual, the Holi ad in the 'More Together' campaign revolves around the power of connections and groups.

'More Together' is a 360-degree campaign will cover mediums like radio, cinema, outdoor, digital, and out-of-home. Shimit Amin, of 'Chak De! India' fame, has directed the first ad, while photographer Bharat Sikka has created the OOH ads.

When asked about the change in the ad's focus from the individual to a group, a Facebook spokesperson, in an email conversation, said that the objective is to showcase how people across the country can do more together by harnessing the power of their connections on the platform. A festival like Holi personifies this well. Through the campaign, there will be multiple TVCs going on air, across India, in different languages, that meet the same objective, too.

In response to whether this campaign was an attempt by Facebook to recapture the narrative around itself, the spokesperson said that the company wants to be more assertive in telling its own story. It has allowed others to do this for it in the past, and it's time that it stood up and spoke directly to the people using its apps. Some things are working well and the world needs to know about it, and this is why Facebook is excited to showcase how people from different backgrounds can harness the potential of connections.

Pallavi Chakravarti
Pallavi Chakravarti

When asked about Facebook's brief to her team about the campaign, Pallavi Chakravarti, executive creative director, Taproot Dentsu, said, "The Holi spot is just one of the manifestations of ‘More Together’. I think what Facebook expected of us was to truly delve into this global philosophy, understand it and shape it for our country, contextually and emotionally. As the weeks go by, I hope you will be able to see that we have managed to depict the essence of ‘More Together’ in a myriad of forms - all of which, we hope, will be relevant to (and embraced by) Indians young and old."

On the insight behind the ad and how it was a break-away from the usual Holi ads, Chakravarti said, "It's not so much a Holi story as it is a power-of-connections story, to my mind. Facebook is beyond boundaries, geographical or otherwise. So, we said to ourselves if our biggest strength lies in the fact that it can bring people from all over the world together then why can't it take a small part of our culture to the world as well? The story pretty much wrote itself after that. It is human, we have all felt alone at times, far away from our roots and it's almost too much to bear to think of everyone back home celebrating and making merry when we can't join them. What we've all needed at times like these, is a little magic. Enter Facebook."

afaqs! spoke to a few experts about this ad, how different it is from Facebook's previous ad, and whether it helps the social media giant stand out among the several Holi ads.

Expert Review:

Mythili Chandrasekar
Mythili Chandrasekar

Mythili Chandrasekar, consumer behaviour and brand strategy enthusiast

The ad uses Facebook's core feature and benefit of connecting people across the world - and that should set it apart among other Holi-themed ads. It takes an Indian festival to a foreign land, dispels loneliness, celebrates friendship, and involves new people. Well done.

Neeraj Sharma
Neeraj Sharma

Neeraj Sharma, planning head, Rediffusion

I wouldn't compare the two (old and new) because the purpose is different - one is about individuality through the device of a common name, the other is about togetherness; one is more about the brand, the other is more about the occasion; one is about standing out with one's unique quirks and beliefs, the other is about blending in with one's commonality and rituals. What binds them together, though, is the role of the brand which is connecting you with the world. It encompasses both your individual-ness and your community-ness.

Any ad stands out because of either of these things a. It entertains you, e.g. Bisleri camel ad. b. It challenges the norm (cultural or category) Daag achhe hain. c. Its power of story-generating either intrigues or connects, e.g. Ghar ka khana, Ghar ka khana hota hai.

I would leave it to the viewer's judgement if it does either of the three.

I feel it has taken the basic reason of festivals, which is 'celebration together', and attacks the basic premise of "not being there", which is explored enough by Diwali ads, so I don't know if it's a new story or not. Relevant yes, connecting - not so sure.

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