Aishwarya Ramesh

This veggie wash ad focuses on customers' paranoia...

It shows unbridled horror on a customer's face as a fruit seller pulls his mask down to blow dust off a tomato.

As the clock struck midnight, announcing the beginning of 2020, the world foolishly celebrated. People laughed, kissed, hugged their friends, touched door handles without gloves on their hands (blasphemy!), and face masks and sanitisers weren’t ’essentials’ (people could leave their home without them, unlike today). To say that the Coronavirus has had a permanent, somewhat scarring impact on a consumer’s psyche is an understatement.

Typing these words is akin to reminiscing an era that was seemingly more fearless than the times we currently live in. Now, noses and mouths covered by masks are the ’new normal’, nobody would dare shake hands, and consumers are paranoid about every surface their hands come in contact with.

In this context, in the beginning of the Coronavirus-induced lockdown, when many people had turned into germaphobes, FMCG companies introduced specialised ‘produce wash’ products, which claimed to kill 99.9 per cent of the germs present on the surface of fruits, vegetables, etc. The newest entrant advertising in this space is Wipro, which introduced a fruit and vegetable wash under its ‘Giffy’ brand.

The ad plays on the fear and paranoia in consumers’ minds to drive the point home. The look of terror as the shopkeeper blows on the tomato is seen clearly, despite the woman's face being obscured by a mask.

There have been ads by the other brands in the produce wash space, but these ads focus on in-home consumption and usage of the product. Wipro's ad is different from other ads as the context is at the point of the purchase of the vegetables and highlights fears and concerns that people have of germs.

We reached out to Abhishek Chaturvedi, vice president of planning at McCann Worldgroup, to comment on the advertising language of the category. He says there are brands that realised the potential that this product can have – and they are riding on this wave in the pandemic and the fear that people have.

Abhishek Chaturvedi
Abhishek Chaturvedi

Chaturvedi adds that in the past, there used to be generic vegetable cleaning solutions available in the market, which a few cautious customers would buy. The others would resort to DIY solutions to clean their vegetables.

"People right now have heightened awareness over sanitisation. It’s a high priority for consumers. That’s why if a product claims to sanitise a surface or an object, customers are interested in buying it. Consumer awareness has shifted and everyone wants to ride on the wave," he says.

ITC and Marico’s ads show a home and cooking setup, and the ad by Wipro references the point of contact – the vegetable shop. Chaturvedi opines that there are brands like ITC and Marico that are in it for the long run, and brands like Wipro and CavinKare could possibly be cashing in on the pandemic.

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

Chaturvedi elaborates on the communication by taking the example of ITC’s Nimwash. It uses celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor - a credible voice in the food and cooking space. He points out that this is a way of properly engaging with the audience. In Marico’s ad, the communication is an educational one and it’s a brand narrative which has been designed to create value, he adds.

"Whereas Wipro’s ad with the vegetable seller is fear-mongering, since it demonstrates a customer’s fear. It is also nullifying the way vegetables are typically washed at home and are creating a need for its product,” he explains.

Azazul Haque, CCO at Mullen Lintas, who created the first ad in this category for Marico's Veggie Clean product, says 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 had to be explanatory and progressive.”

Chaturvedi adds that CavinKare's SaaFoo product is also somewhat cashing in on the pandemic. The company is more well known as a haircare/skincare brand and its value might not necessary translate well into the sanitisation space. Chaturvedi feels that this is the time when brands (including Dabur) are trying their luck in the sanitisation space, even if they don't possess prior equity there.

Chaturvedi adds that with Wipro's product in this space, it’ll likely be that a customer picks up the product when he/she can’t find their brand of choice in stock. He adds that this is a great time for a brand to introduce new products and experiment with what categories of products a brand can or can’t sell.

He recalls that towards the beginning of the lockdown, people were picking up brands they hadn’t used in a while because of logistical issues of stock availability. “That’s why trials of such brands that are entering different categories have increased during this pandemic,” he signs off.