Sunit Roy

Ambuja Cement: From Khali to Gulzar

Ambuja Cement has changed lanes from humour to emotion. Triton Communications creates a 4-minute-long video that captures the soul of India's rooftops. Gulzar has penned the script.

Do you remember Ambuja Cement's famous 2015 campaign that featured 'The Great Khali', popular WWE wrestler? Publicis' hilarious award-winning video in which Khali throws his weight around - quite literally - for the cement brand, tickled many a funny bone. They parted ways last year.

Cut to the present: Triton Communications has created a long-form video for the brand titled 'Chhatein' (Hindi for rooftops) that captures the slice-of-life moments that typically take place on the roofs of desi, semi-urban homes - bonding over chess, stealing moments to admire the neighbourhood heart-throb and flying kites to name a few.

Ambuja Cement: From Khali to Gulzar

'Chhatein': Ambuja Cement's latest ad film

Replete with local nuances that bring out the importance of the 'chhat' in the home and heart of a small town Indian, the video is a lyrical montage to India's rooftop life as poet Gulzar would imagine it - or glean from real life, actually.

Ambuja Cement: From Khali to Gulzar

Ambuja Cement's digital ad featuring 'The Great Khali'

Gulzar has also done the voice-over for this film. The branding element is visible only towards the very end.

This video is the third in the brand's 'Chhat Pe Milte Hain' campaign for its premium 'Ambuja Plus Roof Special' offering. A few months ago, Triton created films titled 'Gupta Ji Ki Kahaani' and then 'Salim Aur Shankar Ki Kahaani' for the brand, albeit as projects. These are also chhat-themed stories set in semi-urban India. The current film is the first ad the agency has created as Ambuja's on-record creative partner.

Ambuja Cement: From Khali to Gulzar

'Gupta Ji Ki Kahaani': The first film of #ChhatPeMilteHain campaign

In conversation with afaqs! about changing not just agencies but the creative track - from snappy humour to soulful storytelling - Vivek Deshpande, head of brand and marketing strategy, Ambuja Cement, says, "Our core customer is one who builds his own house in a small town. He has always featured in our ads. This video and the previous two films in the series are aimed at building deeper engagement with the consumer by rekindling his memories of 'chhat.'" Deshpande has spent 30 years at Ambuja.

Ambuja Cement: From Khali to Gulzar

'Salim Aur Shankar Ki Kahaani': The second ad film of #ChhatPeMilteHain campaign

His agency partner, Ullas Chopra, national creative director, Triton Communications, says, "Ambuja is a brand that's always been about 'giant strength'. Their most popular and loved spot is still the 'Bhai-Bhai' commercial (with Boman Irani, created by Grey and directed by Abhinay Deo in 2002), which the client continues to run! Our task is to keep that certain 'Ambujaness' of the brand alive as we reinterpret the proposition of 'giant strength' in different ways for Ambuja's speciality brands like 'Roof Special' and 'Cool Walls'. We intend to do this by exploring both emotion and humour. The challenge is to retain strength, draw attention to the specialist product and not confuse things with the mother brand."

Ambuja Cement: From Khali to Gulzar

Vivek Deshpande

Ambuja Cement: From Khali to Gulzar

Ullas Chopra

The film was shot in Udaipur, Lucknow and Varanasi. Speaking about the challenges of shooting the film, Triton's Chopra says, "It was a long and strenuous 12-day schedule - six days of shooting and the rest for auditions, location checks and travel. The biggest challenge for us while doing this film was local casting. Secondly, we climbed 400-odd rooftops for location hunting. But the film feels more real because of that..."

Ambuja's Deshpande adds, "The 'chhat' idea came out of two things: the simple insight that almost everyone in our target group has some attachment with this part of the house and the fact that we have special cement for a roof/slab."

Traditionally a TVC-led brand, Ambuja has begun to explore the online media space of late. Several memes and viewer-generated content, built around Ambuja's strength, are floating about online. But the brand team is keen on creating deeper engagement and not just revelling in the pleasure of giving people a momentary chuckle through this platform. Deshpande's team has been using social networking platforms such as YouTube and Facebook to gauge the response of the audience in real-time and has been noting their comments and reactions to his ads.

"Being a video-driven campaign, YouTube and Facebook were an intuitive fit. With YouTube, it was more about gaining quality reach. However, what we found was that these films were being shared heavily over WhatsApp as well, which was a pleasant outcome for us indeed," informs Deshpande.

Further, the brand plans to explore Instagram and Twitter and will continue to invest in social media.

Ad Review

We asked the experts if a change of creative partners works, in terms of amplifying the brand proposition and if the film succeeded in making an impact in the consumers' mind.

Sameer Aasht, founder director, Alma Mater Biz Solutions and ex-strategy head, Taproot India, feels cement is a challenging category to create communication for and that both Publicis' 'Khali' ad, as well as Triton's 'Chhat' ad, are genuine efforts to make a cement brand exciting and relevant. "Both ads are impressive in their own ways as they are entertaining stories to watch and are well produced. The business impact, by way of brand growth, is likely to be positive, but not exponential," he says.

Ambuja Cement: From Khali to Gulzar

Sameer Aasht

Ambuja Cement: From Khali to Gulzar

Harish Bijoor

Aasht goes on to point out that unlike paints where colour, texture, finish quality, and overall service quality ensure the consumer journey has more 'proof points' for a brand to exploit in its advertising, these are lacking in categories like cement and steel.

"This makes the promise of strength difficult to prove..." he says, "...and most brands resort to giving a metaphor or emotional touch to their promise by creating life demonstrations, exaggerations, stories, poetry, music, scale, etc. Both kinds of ads make for good brand entertainment, but despite the best intentions and very visible efforts, products from these segments often run the risk of missing exponential brand growth or business impact."

On the other hand, Harish Bijoor, a brand-expert and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., feels this is story-telling for the digital era. According to him, the execution is long and laborious. He says, "Even in sheer story-telling terms, I would expect a version that is crisper and more to the point. This will not sell a single bag of cement, but instead, does a good generic job of building the story of the rooftop - the great Indian rooftop."


Brand: Ambuja Plus Roof Special

Script & narration: Gulzar

Creative Agency: Triton Communications & Digimo

Production House: Mojo Media LLP

Director & Editor: Vipin Parasher

Music Composer: Arjunna Harjaie

Have news to share? Write to us