Abid Hussain Barlaskar

New OLX spots caution users against digital fraud

The new three-ad 'customer safety' campaign from online marketplace OLX aims at educating its users. The ads target flaws in the ecosystem and address issues like online fraud and conducting physical transactions post discovery on the platform. Launched in 2008 in India, the platform now boasts 50 million monthly active users in the country.

However, unlike OLX's usual communications, these ads are not aimed at acquiring new users. They are educational in nature and they deliver a message on how not to use OLX. The first ad tells users to conduct physical transactions in public spaces. The other two ads deal with online transactions. They also highlight features like blocking suspicious users and reporting them. Apart from the educational messaging, the ads maintain OLX's core message that anything and everything can be bought or sold on the platform. The ads have been crafted by Enormous Brands, OLX's creative agency on record.

OLX conducted a survey in February with 26,000 respondents across India to reveal their attitudes and perceptions towards safety - both online and in general. The survey revealed that a majority of netizens neglect cybersecurity best practices in their own personal lives, and do not monitor the content their kids view online.

Fifty-seven per cent respondents showed negligence towards their own safety – both online and offline, while 60 per cent admit to not monitoring the content their kids view online. Sixty-seven per cent said they skipped the 'terms and conditions' or other safety/legal guidelines while signing up to a website or using a product. Fifty-four per cent said they had not changed the password to their social media accounts in the last 6 months, while 31 per cent said they cannot even recall how long it had been since they had last changed their password. Fifty-six percent have also freely shared their mobile number on their professional or social media profiles.

The characters in the ads are - an easy-going guy (Chaurasiya) who doesn't venture out much, a shopaholic woman (Bubbly Aunty), and (Mohtarma), a frequent female user on the platform.

Not so long ago, online messaging platform, WhatsApp in its first India-specific TVCs tried to address the issue of sharing fake news, a growing menace on the platform.

Speaking about the campaign, Khurram Haque, senior creative director, Enormous Brands, says, "While there is penetration of digital platforms, services and payment methods, there is also a lack of awareness about them among users. A lot of fraudsters were taking advantage of such situations. Eventually, OLX would get a bad name as users would hold the platform responsible. The brief was to put out a communication that users have to be careful, like they normally are off the platform. We usually have our reservations while dealing with strangers, users just have to carry that on to the digital world too."

Khurram Haque
Khurram Haque

Haque informs us that the selection of the characters was a conscious decision. "The guy is on OLX because he likes to deal with people who live close by. Bubbly Aunty likes to stock up and shop in advance and the third character is always on a lookout for deals. We first had the demographics and the habits handy and then did a mix and match. There was a conscious decision to reach out to a SEC B/C kind of an audience. Such frauds are more prevalent in Tier 2 and lower towns," Haque says.

However, OLX has been around for over a decade. So, why would such a communication make sense now?

"With today's internet boom, there are more users coming in. Also, the introduction and acceptance of UPI payment methods has given rise to a new problem. Fraudsters disguised as buyers share a payment link with sellers, saying they want to pay in advance. The link is actually not for paying but receiving payments. Sellers would end up paying fraudsters as they were clueless and had not paid attention to details. There has been a spurt in such incidents and hence the campaign," Haque responds.

The campaign is active on digital mediums and will run for seven to eight months. The brand had also conducted a similar campaign last year with four ads targetting four separate problems.

The brand also underwent a rebranding phase recently, introducing its new tagline 'Set Hai'.

Here's what the experts have to say about the campaign:

Samir Datar
Samir Datar

Samir Datar, head of strategy at Hakuhodo India, thinks that such customer education is required and the campaign should make people cautious. "Most things are moving online and buying used stuff is also becoming popular. However, unlike the offline world, in the online space, we deal with absolute strangers as the buyer or seller. I also liked the way the ad focuses on all the stuff you can buy/sell on OLX. A quick search about OLX fraud or scam would tell you why this campaign was important," Datar expresses.

Speaking about the next phase of the brand's communication, Datar opines, "A stat mentioned that 90 per cent of stuff for sale on OLX is mobile phones and electronics. In that case, perhaps OLX could show us the way for e-waste disposal, a huge issue around the world."

Kartik Smetacek, executive creative director, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, says, "Honestly, it’s a tough brief to educate buyers about the pitfalls of transacting on OLX, without scaring them away permanently. The ads have been pitched nicely, with the rhyming VO softening the message. Although, I believe the filmmaking could have been slicker."

"Keeping their users safe and protected is definitely a priority for any brand. More importantly, for a platform that sees many first-time users, setting the guidelines for what is safe behaviour is vital."

Sharing his views about the next phase of communication for OLX, Smetacek says, "Isn’t that the million-dollar question for a brand that has said just about everything there is to say? The biggest challenge remains convincing Indians that using pre-owned products is nothing to be ashamed of."

Kartik Smetacek
Kartik Smetacek
Pradyumna Chauhan
Pradyumna Chauhan

Creative consultant Pradyumna Chauhan maintains that despite being well-made and one that puts the message across, the ad seems as if it were made in a tried and tested safe zone. Chauhan says, "It has ended up in a predictable area. It is a good ad, there is no doubt about it, but does it stand out? There seem to be too many words and too much of safety talk. It should have been done in a shorter moment. It is educational advertising and requires simpler messaging. When the strategy is to help the consumer, a simpler delivery would have been better."

Such a campaign could also earn respect for the brand and send across a message that the brand cares about its users, Chauhan adds.