Aishwarya Ramesh

Marico releases first Veggie Clean ad; sets advertising 'code' in new category

Mullen Lintas has created the first-ever ad for the ‘vegetable wash’ category for Marico’s Veggie Clean; hinged on DIY solutions.

Take two spoons of salt, add it to two litres of water, add a pinch of baking soda and whisk in the juice of one lemon. Most of us are used to applying DIY solutions, like these, to clean our vegetables. But with the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, consumers might wonder – are these solutions enough to kill germs on fruits and vegetables?

This is the theme of Marico’s new ad for its Veggie Clean product. Marico claims that Veggie Clean doesn’t contain any harmful preservatives, is soap-free, chlorine-free and alcohol-free. The ad by Mullen Lintas was conceptualised, shot and created in (COVID-induced) lockdown.

"As the sensitivity to health and hygiene practices and products heightened, we identified the need for a fruit and vegetable cleanser in the market, which led to the launch of Veggie Clean. Through this campaign with MullenLintas, the objective is to show our consumers the benefits of using a vegetable cleanser as well as ‘the right way’ to cleanse the fresh produce," says Koshy George, CMO, Marico.

Koshy George
Koshy George

George says that the ad aims to show that proxy methods of cleaning such as rinsing it with water or using salt, vinegar or lemon are not adequate and one must use effective solutions like Veggie Clean to rid the produce of chemicals and germs present on the surface.

"In a rather endearing way, the TVC drives home the point by showcasing a fun and new-age relationship between a loving father and his millennial daughter, thereby forging a deeper connect with our audiences,” he says.

Azazul Haque, CCO at Mullen Lintas, mentions that because of COVID, there is a ’new normal’, which has given rise to a hyper-cautious customer, who believes that everything has to be washed and cleaned.

Azazul Haque
Azazul Haque

“The emerging behaviour of consumers is that veggies are getting washed with all sorts of things, like soap, salt, Dettol, etc. When you’re hyper-cautious and don’t have a product that can wash veggies, you turn to these alternatives,” he says. Haque adds that people are more concerned than ever about hygiene and immunity – giving rise to a new category of vegetable cleaners.

Haque explains that the lockdown began in March and the product was created in May. ”That’s the brief that came to us from Marico – it had to be informative because we’re creating an ad for a new category; it has to be explanatory and progressive.”

Haque acknowledges that not many people can afford the product, and the TG is a middle-class family who can afford to purchase the product. “The brief was to communicate that following other methods was not the right way to wash your veggies, and to create awareness about the category, the dos and don’ts of washing vegetables.”

What are the challenges of designing a communication when there are no advertising codes to go by? “The biggest challenge is ensuring that the product does not become irrelevant when COVID is over, say three months from now. It has to create a conversation beyond the virus. We had to make sure that the ad and messaging had a longer shelf life,” says Haque.

He takes the example of a product like Dettol, claiming that if one was to visually show the antibacterial liquid, one could show germs, but that portrayal was out of the question as it would be unappealing in the context of food (fruits and veggies).

“We could not even borrow advertising codes from cleaning agents, like Harpic, or sanitisers – which visibly showcase germs getting killed. We took a conscious call not to go with that type of portrayal,” he says. Haque adds that for products like Dettol, a common advertising code is to show a doctor speaking to the audience to imply that the product is certified by the doctor.

Haque says that it is intentional that a chef, who is closely related to food, is the protagonist and his daughter is the one giving advice. He adds that the reason a father was portrayed in the ad is because of what research showed – that men were cooking more frequently in lockdown as they had more time on their hands.

“The ad tries to throw light on how many people have touched our fruits, or vegetables, before it reaches the kitchen – that’s where the seed of doubt begins. People can surely put two and two together since the virus spreads via touch. We feel this conversation will be valid even post-COVID. But in the future, we may focus on the fertilisers, or dirt, on vegetables. Somewhere down the line, we also wanted to be seen as progressive, as the brand leading the conversation in this category.“

Garima Khandelwal
Garima Khandelwal

Garima Khandelwal, CCO at Mullen Lintas, points out that Marico is one of the first movers in the category, and at this point in time, category generation is happening. She explains that the brief was to create disruption on the insight that people are not following the right way to clean their veggies (by using soap and hand washes, etc., which is harmful).

Khandelwal feels that the ’new normal’ has become somewhat normal right now and you don’t need the Coronavirus to drive communication anymore. “Even a product that’s selling immunity doesn’t need to claim its relevance by saying it’s to fight against COVID-19. It’s understood.”

On the visual treatment of the ad, she claims that this ad wasn’t meant for stylised shots, it’s meant to show how to go about using the product. She adds that it’s refreshing for the brand’s language when a daughter tells her father what product to use, and stuff like that.

“It was an endearing touch and it’s cute for a dad to be told how to do something by her daughter, rather than a housewife being instructed on how to use a product,” says Khandelwal, adding that the intention is not to alienate housewives, but to embrace a better gender balance in ad portrayals.

Ekta Relan, national planning director, Mullen Lintas, says that with the Coronavirus, it was an opportunity to strengthen and create a new category. She mentions that the approach taken in the ad was to talk about the existing behaviour and compare it with the new behaviour that should be followed.

Ekta Relan
Ekta Relan

“Immunity and hygiene are opportune spaces right now. Whether you’re trying to sell a sanitiser, an immunity booster, or a vegetable wash, this is what consumers want. You don’t need to use the Coronavirus as a context to push your product. Consumers are already on the lookout for these products right now,” says Relan.

Expert speak

Ayan Banik, vice president - planning at Grey Group, calls the ad a product of marketing brilliance. Due to the timing of its release, he mentions that Marico will benefit from having first-mover advantage in this category, given the opportune moment that the Coronavirus has created. He adds that the ad is not an emotive communication, but a factual and rational one.

Ayan Banik
Ayan Banik

“That fertilisers, or dirt, on our veggies is not new, but this is a brilliant opportunity leveraged well. Consumers are paranoid about every object that enters their house, since the virus spreads by touch. They resort to methods, like using baking powder or lemon, but these home remedies don’t guarantee sanitisation of the products,” he explains.

Banik adds that without touching upon the virus, they have created a strong frame of reference in people’s minds. “I wish there were more instructions in this communication, though. How much portion should I use? In what quantity of water? What ingredients are used in this wash? We eat fruit with skin, so will this affect the quality of the produce?”

He feels that the treatment with the father and the daughter is a nice slice of life aspect in the ad – where the product is introduced to tackle the fear factor in consumers’ minds. “Remember, it doesn’t matter who doesn’t cook, it’s just that the person who wants to cook should wash the vegetables, since they’re coming from outside,” Banik signs off.

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