Suraj Ramnath

"An agency partner should not just be conversant with, but live in, the online world": Pallavi Singh, MG Motor

MG Motor has released its debut ad campaign for the India market. We spoke to Pallavi Singh, head of marketing, MG Motor India, about the effort.

British car maker, MG Motor (Morris Garages), a fully owned subsidiary of Shanghai-based SAIC Motor Corp, has recently launched its first digital film 'Come and explore MG with us' for Indian audiences. The ad has been conceptualised by Happy mcgarrybowen. The brand plans to launch its cars in the Indian market by 2019.

Although the digital film is visible on MG Motor India's YouTube page, viewers will notice that there is not a single shot in the ad that makes it look like it's for the Indian market. It is very slick and cool, but it looks markedly international. Was this a strategic decision?

"An agency partner should not just be conversant with, but live in, the online world": Pallavi Singh, MG Motor

MG Motor's digital ad - Come & explore MG with usPallavi Singh, head of marketing, MG Motor India, says, "MG is an international brand at the end of the day. Of course, when it comes to pillars like communication, products and services we are going to bring a differentiated and unique brand experience to India, crafted for India and Indian audiences; but at the core, we remain an iconic British brand which has a 93-year legacy along with futuristic innovations, in the present scenario. To add, even the audience in India is increasingly more global - be it their outlook, how they dress, what they consume (Netflix), the destinations they are travelling to - and to connect with them, we need to speak their language."

"An agency partner should not just be conversant with, but live in, the online world": Pallavi Singh, MG Motor

Pallavi SinghThe brand's communication for the year 2018/19 would mostly be led by digital/social channels which would further be led by high focus on video content. MG Motor's approach is targeted at creating emotive stories in the initial brand building and awareness phase. "As we near towards the launch of our product in 2019, we would have a deep dive into our media mix. Print and TV continue to grow in India and shall definitely be a part of our way-forward strategy", Singh adds.

It hasn't been long since Singh worked with Harley Davidson India as director, marketing (till July 2017), so we asked her about the marketing challenges in MG Motor and how they are different from the challenges at HD. She says, "The great opportunity and challenge with MG is that the brand is a blank canvas. We are building everything from scratch and consumers do not have pre-conceived notions about MG. There is a lot of legacy that can be channelised while showcasing the future-forward brand that MG currently is. Once our product is launched, the actual cost of ownership, dealership experience, price competitiveness and product value will deliver the promise on-ground."

A point to be noted here is that Harley Davidson is a known brand, but Indians may not be familiar with MG Motor.

While looking for a creative agency, MG Motor had called for a multi-agency pitch. Talking about getting Happy mcgarrybowen on board, Singh says, "When MG was on the lookout for a creative agency, more than big brands, we were looking for a partner that would understand the great heritage of the brand and have great creative thought process and execution capability. Happy mcgarrybowen was able to meet all our expectations as they are a hybrid agency."

She adds, "For the automotive category, where about 90 per cent of the consumers do online research, it is important for the agency partner to not just be conversant with the online world but also live it. We are glad we found the right partner in Happy mcgarrybowen. The team has been helpful in envisioning ideas and executing them hands-on."

Adding about what the brand expects from the agency in the future, Singh says, "Going forward, we expect the agency to help build strong engagement with consumers, irrespective of the medium. MG is an iconic brand and it is important for us as a team, to translate its values for the Indian market."

Singh had been with Harley Davidson right from the time it launched in India and then joined MG Motor in August 2017 and is building the brand. We asked her if she sees herself as a 'brand launch specialist' when it comes to international companies foraying into India.

Singh says, "Behind every brand, product and communication, there are a lot of people at work. Brands are not built in a day or by one person. Yes, as the Marketing Head for MG Motor India, it is very exciting to get to work with a team and partners who are as passionate and enthusiastic as I am."

"An agency partner should not just be conversant with, but live in, the online world": Pallavi Singh, MG Motor

Kartik IyerTalking about the ad, Kartik Iyer, CEO and co-founder, Happy mcgarrybowen, says, "It's a video created to launch the digital handles of the MG brand in India. It's a first-look, of sorts, for MG, an iconic British brand with a rich heritage. As an automobile brand, MG has delivered many firsts to the world. It has also been a much-loved muse for the fashion industry thanks to its design sensibility. We wanted to capture this aura and create a sense of excitement for the many things to come from the house of MG."

He adds, "We knew we wanted to keep the imagery international. But we also wanted to keep the treatment very contemporary and hence, the nature of the edit and the sound design. People know MG as a brand from the past, but we were quite clear we wanted to showcase MG as a brand of the future."

Experts speak

"An agency partner should not just be conversant with, but live in, the online world": Pallavi Singh, MG Motor

Samit Sinha

"An agency partner should not just be conversant with, but live in, the online world": Pallavi Singh, MG Motor

Sunila KarirSamit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, says, "I was left underwhelmed by MG's campaign, something I was looking forward to seeing with great anticipation, given the almost cultish and iconic stature of the brand. While somewhat slick, I found it verbose, boring and full of advertising clichés. There is nothing wrong with looking international, as such, as long as the campaign contains a strong creative idea, which unfortunately this doesn't. I think it will neither thrill the existing MG enthusiasts nor create any new ones. The brand MG deserves better advertising, unlike this particular example, which is more like a corporate AV."

Sunila Karir, founder and creative partner, Boing!, says, "By promoting it so much in advance, it may seem like it's creating a buzz. When actually, what they are doing is creating a future demand. They are slowly but surely working themselves into the consideration set of their future customer. All brands that are breaking into a new territory have done this in some form or another. So yes, it is great that they are promoting it from now itself."

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