Shreyas Kulkarni

Is this what celeb endorsements will look like in a locked-down world?

A shot-in-quarantine advertisement for Madhur Sugar that features Soha Ali Khan, among other celebrities, makes us wonder...

The ongoing lockdown may have compromised on the ad world's ability to shoot outdoors, but brands and agencies are still making ads with the limited resources at their disposal. And, what about celebrity endorsements? Well, we came across an ad film for packaged sugar brand Madhur Sugar that features actress Soha Ali Khan.

Titled #LooseNahiMadhurSahi, the campaign has been created in collaboration with BC Web Wise, a digital advertising agency. The primary proposition here is that the product has been packaged in a safe and hygienic manner, and is untouched by human hands.

According to a press release, a multidimensional approach was chosen to drive this campaign. The media platforms to promote this campaign were chosen based on where most of the brand's key audience and decision-makers were present.

Hygiene is something that nobody should compromise on especially during these challenging times. Switch to buying...

Posted by Soha Ali Khan Pataudi on Friday, April 17, 2020

The campaign also features celebrities like Karishma Tanna, Anita Hassanandani and Surbhi Jyoti, who have all promoted it on their respective social media handles. And, 'Mrs. Mukhyamantri', a popular show on Zee TV, was tapped for sponsorship.

Regional communication was vital for this campaign, so, enter digital OTT platforms like SonyLIV, ZEE5 and Voot in four languages (Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and Hinglish). The campaign will also be promoted via Facebook and Google Display ads.

Chaaya Baradhwaaj, founder and MD, BC Web Wise, says, “We aimed at making the women and homemakers realise by themselves to make informed choices! We are expecting a behavioural change through this campaign."

Satbir Singh Sindhu, president and business head at Madhur Sugar, added, “Our intent with this campaign is to educate consumers about why it is imperative to graduate to packaged staples from a trusted brand like Madhur Sugar. Through this campaign, we are trying to impress upon all buyers, that hygiene is the first step to health and safety. It is advisable to cut down the purchase of loose staples like sugar completely and instantly graduate to Madhur Sugar, which is completely untouched by hand. One can wash vegetables, pulses and rice, but sugar can't be washed so ensuring you only bring home a trusted brand like Madhur is critical. Madhur Sugar follows all the guidelines given by the government, and will continue to ensure delivery of the safest and most hygienic sugar to our customers.”

Launched in 2007, Madhur is a brand from Mumbai-based Shree Renuka Sugars, India's largest sugar refiner and ethanol producer.

The ad, however, hasn’t gone down well with our reviewers.

Santosh Padhi
Santosh Padhi

“Consumers are not in the right state of mind…”

Santosh Padhi, co-founder and CCO of Taproot Dentsu, says brands, especially those that sell essential goods, have become desperate to be seen. He says that in present circumstances, it is hard to execute a wonderful commercial with limited resources. In this ad, there was no director or camera person, so, the actors probably shot themselves using a DSLR or mobile camera.

Brands ought to remember that the consumer mindset is not in the ‘right state’, Padhi cautions. "Please stop, it is not the right time to tom-tom about yourself," adds Paddy, as he is fondly known. Instead, they (the brands) should now contribute quietly to the wellness of society, he feels. "Don't be desperate to win my heart…," he says.

Just because ad spots may be less expensive now, does not mean you milk the situation, especially when basic goods are hard to get, goes his logic. "Whatever you do, I am going to get bugged with you, so please don't stress your agency out, don't push commercials....," he says.

Had there been something around the lines of ‘we as a brand would like to add a bit of sweetness to your chai’, it may have worked, he says, adding that unfortunately, there wasn't a layer like that to the narrative, and no subtlety either.

Carlton D'Silva
Carlton D'Silva

“I think we can use celebrities much better, even with the limitations of the lockdown…”

Carlton D'Silva, co-founder, House of Awe, a media-agnostic communication agency that specialises in brand, entertainment and experiential marketing, points out that exactly the same script can be used for similar products, like pulses, for instance. “This is a no-brainer piece of communication that is using a celebrity to push its brand. I think we can use celebrities much better, even with the limitations of the lockdown,” he says. Citing the Mint Mobile voicemail campaign that features Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds, D'Silva says, “That was innovative. This is not.”

Dinesh Swamy
Dinesh Swamy

In response to these reviews, Dinesh Swamy, chief creative officer, BC Web Wise, the agency behind the campaign, said, "Yes! The influencer engagement campaigns can play a different role, like the one that builds a brand story. However, this is not a typical influencer engagement activity. There are several touchpoints to this campaign. The campaign was not crafted to induce conversations and engagements. The influencers are playing a very specific role here. There is a single point objective in the context of which the influencers give a very direct message to the consumers. The message is to opt for the hygienically packed Madhur Sugar. We believe the goal of the campaign has been successfully achieved with the direct messaging where the functional benefit is endorsed by these influencers."