Has pre-exam time become a 'season' for advertisers?
Exam-time may bring a chill down every student's spine, but who knew that a day would come when brands would also feel the exam season pressure! Beverage brands Horlicks and Mirinda have recently released digital films dealing with the topic of teenage-depression, parental pressure and stress-management. While the video released by Mirinda is a follow-up to the brand's earlier campaign 'Release The Pressure', Horlicks has been coming up with an 'exam-copy' every year in the month of January. Interestingly, another beverage brand, 'Tata Tea', last year, crafted '#ItsOk' ad film which revolved around similar issues and was released during the board results/ college admission time.
Though it is endearing to see a brand's effort in addressing these sensitive topics, are we missing the bigger picture? Has exam-time now become a part of an advertiser's mandate? Just like Diwali, Mother's Day and Valentine's Day's creatives have earmarked advertising budgets and compulsory campaigns; is exam-time communication the new season in the advertising calendar?
"Will call it more of contextual communication and not seasonal," says Vikram Bahl, area marketing lead, nutrition and digestive health, GSK Consumer Healthcare India, when questioned about the frequent burst of student-related communication by the brand, around exam-time. He adds, "Exam season is a time when children face immense performance pressure as well as expectation pressure from parents. Horlicks, as a brand, has always been associating with the kids during exams; helping them by providing the benefits of clinically proven, adequate and balanced nutrition."
The Horlicks video titled 'Fearless Kota' takes the discussion toward mental health and brings to light the rising problem of teenage suicide in Kota. "We wanted to help mothers understand the requirement of 'emotional nutrition' for their children, especially during exam-time, so that they can face exams fearlessly. The campaign is a way in which the brand can build the emotional connect with the audience, thereby enhancing their love for the brand," informs Bahl.
The two-minute-plus film has been crafted and conceptualised by FCBUlka. We got in touch with Swati Bhattacharya, chief creative officer, FCBUlka, to understand how she ensured that the imagery is fresh and devoid of clichéd storylines since the theme has been discussed several times before. She says, "We were the first guys to do it; we started with talking to psychiatrists and counsellors. This year, we wanted to talk to mothers; we wanted to do an activation that explains how we can make our children fearless and that's where the story of emotional nutrition was born. While the activation touched the lives of 50 mothers personally, the wider message is for all parents. "
The video, which portrays mothers visiting their children in Kota, does not feature actors. "For 80 per cent of the mothers, it was their first time in Kota. Intimacy is the true algorithm of creativity and this piece of work is just that - all heart, all real!" is how Bhattacharya puts it.
No more 'pagal-panti' for PepsiCo's Mirinda?
PepsiCo's aerated drink brand, Mirinda, has for long flourished under the 'pagal-panti bhi zaroori hai' tagline. When a brand which positions itself as a funky property focuses attention to the dark side of student life, it calls attention to itself. A quick recap takes us to the brand's first video in its 'Release The Pressure' campaign which narrates the ordeals of students reeling under exam pressure. The new video, which has been developed by BBDO India, takes the narrative forward by targeting the specific issue of constant peer-comparison, commonly undertaken by parents.
But is the differentiation enough? Can one spot the difference between the two videos or are all these films fighting the same cause in their respective year of release? Josy Paul, chairman and chief creative officer, BBDO India asserts that the video is not an ad. "It is news; it is the truth! We collaborated closely with psychologists, psychiatrists and their insights and stories were the source and influence of our work. Mirinda was the first national brand to raise the hidden issue of depression among teenagers. The movement to raise awareness began in February 2017. This year's work is a continuation of that commitment. It's great that other brands are also in this space. When more brands join the movement, it's even better for the ecosystem," explains Paul.
Gaurav Verma, associate director, flavours marketing, PepsiCo India, tells us that Mirinda’s vision is to be an ally to teenagers. He adds, "Mirinda’s core TG is teenagers in the age group of 14-17 years old. The idea behind the campaign took shape last year when we met these consumers and heard the stress-points in their life. The launch of the campaign is timed in such a way that parents have ample time to course-correct and motivate their children in the right way."
Speaking about the media pie of this campaign, Verma informs, "The 360-degree rollout plan will include on-ground activations and a robust radio and print campaign. Over the next few months, Mirinda will also encourage the idea of taking-a-break and help ‘Release the Pressure’ through a series of online and offline partnerships. One medium through which we will encourage the idea is through the Mirinda-Fortis helpline, which will enable people to connect with a counsellor and discover constructive ways of encouraging teenagers."
The video, directed by Shoojit Sircar, had its own set of challenges. Paul states, "How do you capture the student voices with total authenticity? How do you create empathy? How do you release the emotional truth buried inside the student, particularly when you have professional cameras and big equipment between you and the student? Shoojit has a way of transforming a looming-zooming watchful machine (camera) into a warm near-human listening tool. The students spoke from their heart." Taking a step further, Paul labels the experience as "creative therapy for change."
Pass or Fail?
While the intent is noble, do the recent videos of Horlicks and Mirinda rise above the ordinary? Naresh Gupta, managing partner and chief strategy officer, Bang in the Middle, questions Mirinda's decision to attach itself to a cause which has no significance to the product. After all, since when did aerated drinks become the ideal consumption beverage for teenagers?
He says, "Of the two, at least Horlicks has some relevance to studies and exams, Mirinda has none. Like last year, I can't see a brand connect in the Mirinda video, though the cause is perfectly captured."
However, Sukumar Menon, founder and creative head, Black Swan Life says he really likes the Mirinda initiative. He elaborates, "I feel the Mirinda Initiative touched a raw nerve but Horlicks' video seemed a little forced to me. In terms of execution, I liked Mirinda because it treats the ad like an ad and is not pretending to be 'reality-TV'. Sometimes, that's what is required. One doesn't need to be defensive about being an ad. When the insight of 'comparison' is executed so thoughtfully, then people relate to it and the helpline solution through the initiative blends in seamlessly."
Gupta, though impressed with Horlicks' choice of cause selection, has an interesting analysis on the storyboard. He shares, "IITs remains the most aspired to for engineering exams, but the same exam is also seeing a reduction in the number of students who are appearing for it. The solution, which Horlicks' video offers, is very 'filmy'. Why couldn't the brand be brave and celebrate the thousands who leave the coaching factory of Kota to pursue life? If the brand had identified those hundreds of students who refuse to go through the grind and would have told their story, it would have been far more inspiring. Somewhere, Horlicks would have then become the brand that celebrates individual choices and not a brand that conforms in their own way."