Aishwarya Ramesh

PhonePe's ad talks about the 'spirit of India' in the face of coronavirus

The ad sees brand ambassador and Bollywood star Aamir Khan in a cameo, do a voice-over. It attempts to salute Indians' spirit as the economy attempts to 'unlock'.

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

― Martin Luther King, Jr.

This quote by the famous African American minister and civil rights activist seems relevant now, at a time when India is attempting to 'unlock' its economy and find its feet, in a bid to make progress, however slow.

This is the theme of PhonePe’s new ad campaign, which has been created by Leo Burnett and OffRoad Films. The campaign attempts to salute the spirit of the people of India and their unstoppable drive in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A press note mentions that the messaging has been inspired by the brand’s philosophy of 'Karte Ja, Badhte Ja'. The film attempts to highlight how PhonePe continues to help over 20 crore users and one crore-plus merchants by facilitating transactions with adequate precautions. PhonePe’s ambassador and Bollywood actor Aamir Khan has lent his voice to the campaign.

The campaign relies on the narrative of the ‘new normal’, which users are still learning to adapt to, as the country continues to open up in phases after months of lockdown. We see visuals of a shop opening its shutter, masks being pulled on, and phones and other surfaces being earnestly sanitised and disinfected.

The press note mentions that the insight is that the Indians' drive for progress has no full stop. One of the lines in the film attempts to reflect that ― 'Rukna toh humein aata nahin' (which roughly translates to ‘we don’t know how to stop’). The ad also emphasises on PhonePe’s offerings, which include contactless payments, easy money transfers on chat, bill payments, fast recharge, among others.

Commenting on the launch, Sameer Nigam, founder and CEO, PhonePe, said, “During these unprecedented times, Indians from small villages to large metros are striving to get back to normalcy and progress in their lives. We see our platform as a trusted partner to those billion-plus aspirations. Our latest brand campaign is a tribute to the spirit of the people of India and reflects everyday stories of progress with PhonePe’s varied offerings.”

Sameer Nigam
Sameer Nigam

A PhonePe spokesperson mentions that the brief given to the agency was to come up with a campaign that highlights the spirit of people, acknowledges their progress despite the pandemic, and how the company nurtures and facilitates this emotion.

The spokesperson added that the core TG for this campaign are PhonePe's merchants and users (both existing and new ones).

The new ad also features Khan, who did a campaign with PhonePe last year (2019), where he dressed up as a grandfather, out and about on the town with his grandson. The ads showed different use cases for PhonePe and aired during the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Russell Barrett, CCO at BBH India, feels it is a good time for an ad like this, given the circumstances of India attempting to ‘unlock’. He points out that it taps into that shared sense of restlessness that people have, and plays on the urge of people to return to normalcy in some form or the other.

“I like the film and feel that it’s well done. The writing is quite evocative and it has its nice moments. However, brands need to acknowledge that there are a lot of different ways in which people are being affected by the lockdown, and they need to find a way to be there for their consumers.”

Russell Barrett
Russell Barrett

Barrett adds that brands need to push messaging that goes beyond ‘we are open for business’ to try and reach out to the consumers. He says that the ad has an extremely compelling point and it would be great if the company would follow up with some sort of charitable cause that goes beyond the selling point.

“That’s not to fault the ad for the message it delivers, but it would be good if they follow up the ad with an act.”

When it comes to Khan's presence in the ad, Barrett says that for a celebrity, more screen time doesn’t equate to more impact. He takes the example of Eminem’s Super Bowl ad for US auto giant Chrysler, in which the rapper’s voice-over is heard and he has a few seconds of screen time at the end.

While reviewing the ad film, Sambit Mohanty, head of creative at McCann South, says that he liked it and its execution. "It’s a very well made film and the music is exceptional."

Mohanty adds that the film is a nice commentary on the 'new normal' and how people are taking it head-on. "We’re all telling ourselves, ‘We shall overcome’, and ‘Phone Pe’, as a brand, is well connected to that sentiment."

Sambit Mohanty
Sambit Mohanty

As far as Khan's appearance in the film goes, Mohanty mentions that in the film, it’s not about him alone. It’s about everyone. "Having him there at the end is a nice, reassuring touch. Especially for this category, as Aamir brings out the element of trust for a brand that has financial transactions at its core."

PhonePe's latest campaign includes a one-minute-50-second master film and five shorter 15-second stories. These can be viewed on digital and social media platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. PhonePe users can also watch it on the app.

Have news to share? Write to us