Shreyas Kulkarni

Who the hell is Donald Joshi?

For the last one week, Donald Joshi has caught the eye of Mumbaikars. He has been seen on billboards, heard on the radio, and has appeared in digital ads too. And in all of them, he is seen enjoying the good life - flying to London, buying a swanky new car, a solitaire for his wife, and enrolling his kid into an international school. Nobody knew who he was, except that you had to visit to know more about him.

We visited the website where I was asked to fill a form. It asked my name, email id, and contact number. The next day, I got a call from JP Infra, a property developer based out of Mumbai. The call was about the brand's new residential project in Mira Road, Thane called 'Codename Now or Never' and whether I was interested in buying an apartment there.

I could never have imagined a real estate developer to be the brand behind the Donald Joshi campaign, which reminded us of Digen Verma and Frooti or Balbir Pasha, campaigns where curiosity about a character is built up and after a while, the brand reveals itself.

Credits: Ajit Kelkar/YouTube

The Digen Verma camapign ran in 2001. Nobody knew who Digen Verma was but he seemed to be a cool guy. He went sky diving, had great career prospects, helped out his friends, the college principal wasn't fond of him but the ladies loved the end, we realised he was just a guy who drank Frooti. If a guy who is so cool drank Frooti, then there must be something in it.

Who the hell is Donald Joshi?

Coming back to Donald Joshi, there were three major reasons why the ad campaign caught people's eye including ours: the name 'Donald Joshi', the ad messaging stating how he was living the good life, and the way he looked - a bobble-head face on a thin body as you can see in the image above.

Who the hell is Donald Joshi?

We reached out to Deepak Nair, head of marketing, JP Infra (Mumbai) to understand why a real estate developer would choose to go with such an ad campaign. He told afaqs! that most real estate companies often use stock images to promote their offerings but JP Infra wanted to stand out and break the clutter. "We thought about the individual who would buy our property and imagined what he would like to do. That is how we came up with the idea of creating a character to talk to people and that's why we created Donald Joshi," he says.

When asked about the name Donald Joshi, he says they wanted a name that's not common, but one that would catch people's attention. He add, "Joshi is an extremely common name and people can associate with it."

About the company's main target audience, Nair says, "We are aiming at young Indians who've just started a family, the millennials and those who believe in the notion that buying property is a solid and valuable investment." He adds that buying a house has never been only a solid financial move but an emotional one too because in this country, owning a home is considered an important step in a person's life.

When quizzed on why the brand used a mix of media communication channels like print, OOH, and digital ads to promote the campaign, he says, "We wanted to reach our target audience from all channels and stand out."

We spoke to two advertising veterans on what they thought of this ad campaign. KV Sridhar, founder and chief creative officer, Hyper Collective, and Priti Nair, director, Curry Nation.

Credits: Tobby Horry/YouTube

Sridhar said, "It reminds me of the old Volkswagen ad 'Keeping up with the Kremplers' - Two neighbours have 3,000 dollars. One of them goes and buys a fancy car worth that exact amount. The other guy, Krempler, then buys a refrigerator, sofa, washing machine, television among other items and also buys a Volkswagen, the most happening car of that time. That guy has bought a car and so many other things. It's all about common sense, you know."

He adds, "It's a Mira Road property. Instead of buying a property in Lower Parel for six crore or two or three crore rupees in Andheri, you can buy one in Mira Road with all the amenities for sixty lakh rupees, and you are still left with over one hundred lakh!"

When asked whether such ad campaigns which try to pique people's interest works, he laughingly states if a brand wants to tease people's curiosity, they should do it well, not half-heartedly.

"Would you travel 10 more minutes on the highway or pay one more crore? I would settle for 10 more minutes and when I go back home, it will be like a holiday home with a swimming pool rather than an old ransacked apartment or a one and a half bedroom," he notes.

Priti Nair
Priti Nair

Priti Nair was one of the folks behind the famous Balbir Pasha campaign which ran from 2001 to 2005, says, "Lots of people thought they would never get AIDS because they never did anything wrong, it was them or 'woh' who got the disease by indulging in nefarious activities. We decided to name that 'woh' as Balbir Pasha and created curiosity about him."

She adds that questions like 'Will Balbir Pasha get AIDS?' spread awareness about the disease and about the importance of wearing a condom. She says that the Donald Joshi ad was on similar lines where there's an eye-catching character with a unique name. People were sure to be curious when they saw it, she says.

"The reveal must come soon because if you wait too long, someone may come and usurp the name," she points out though. "Concerning Donald Joshi, the campaign is witty and will surely get people interested in what it is all about."

Manish Porwal
Manish Porwal

About the campaign, Manish Porwal, Managing Director of Alchemist Marketing Solutions, the agency behind the campaign told afaqs!, "We spoke to the client for an hour and a half and then the Donald Joshi idea was born. Yes, Digen Verma and Balbir Pasha were clear inspirations for it. But, unlike the two names mentioned which ran across the nation, we had the challenge of marketing to a limited geography and creating micromarketing hype is hard."

"TV was out because we were targeting the people from the suburbs of Mira Road and Bhayandar as well as various pockets of Mumbai instead of a mass audience. To reach them, we needed a high-decibel campaign and so we chose outdoor, digital, print and radio as our channels of marketing." He added.