Abid Hussain Barlaskar

Is this an Airtel ad, 'content', a music video or a cause-led 'brand song'?

A look at the telecom player's timely lyrical ode to the unsung heroes of Pujo...

A song dedicated to sacrifice, an ad film for a telecom company, and fodder for all the content-hungry souls on the internet - 'Missing Stars Of Pujo' is what Bharti Airtel calls its latest 'digital ad film' (that's what we're calling it for now) for Airtel TV. The three-minute-long film is a Durga puja-special, sung by Anupam Roy and created by ad agency J. Walter Thompson.

Is this an Airtel ad, 'content', a music video or a cause-led 'brand song'?

Airtel TV: Missing Stars Of Pujo

The song is and ode to all the people who miss out on their Durga puja celebrations year after year to keep the system running. Yes, the system, meaning the jobs that need to be done when the rest of the world is out celebrating. The ad film looks and sounds no different from a music video, full of close-up shots of the singer, the studio, the mixing deck and a music director. But the visuals and lyrics are laced with stories of 16 kinds of heroes who're making things work out there.

Is this an Airtel ad, 'content', a music video or a cause-led 'brand song'?

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Interestingly, the brand punctuates the song with the famous 'Airtel jingle', that was put together by AR Rahman many years back. The signature brand tune is woven into the music towards the end - and that's what got our attention.

Is this an Airtel ad, 'content', a music video or a cause-led 'brand song'?

Swiggy heroes

With so many blurring avatars - (it's an ad, a piece of content, a brand song, a cause-led brand film, and a music video) - we wonder which one comes through the most. Moreover, at some level, it's a 180-second-long digital film as well. Also, we wonder what aspect will stand out most when people encounter this piece of communication - the 'ad' part, the song, the message or the storytelling?

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Not to forget, the telecom realm has very few players, making it easy to spot and compare the advertising and communication efforts of the brands that comprise the segment. Will this communication effort stand out amid the commercial messages of rival telco brands?

Is this an Airtel ad, 'content', a music video or a cause-led 'brand song'?

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In a press release, Sameer Batra, CEO, content and apps, Bharti Airtel, says, "... At Wynk Music and Airtel TV, we are always eager to collaborate with stars to bring the best of localised content for our users..." promising more such music tie-ups this festive season."

Arjun Mukherjee, VP and ECD, J. Walter Thompson says, "Pujo songs are always about celebrations and festivity. But no one spares a thought for those who miss Pujo gladly, so that we don't miss out on anything. This song is dedicated to all those stars of Pujo, who are lost behind the bright lights of celebration."

This not the first time a brand has rolled out an ad featuring the unsung heroes of society. We got in touch with experts for their take on this initiative.

Rajeev Raja, founder and sound smith, Brandmusiq, a sonic branding agency, maintains that while the concept of unsung heroes has been done, the theme of 'Missing Pujo since...' is quite fresh and impactful.

Is this an Airtel ad, 'content', a music video or a cause-led 'brand song'?

Rajeev Raja

"I think the brand has treated it well. It will touch people and has the ability to stand out amidst clutter. The song is the key to this film and I like the composition very much. It's simple, hummable and the lyrics convey the tribute to these unsung heroes well. What I particularly liked was the way it naturally segued into the Airtel brand tune. It didn't sound like a mandatory brand element has just been added on, but like a natural conclusion to the entire song," Raja says.

Regarding ads vs. digital content, Raja says, "It needn't be either or. There is a place for both and it entirely depends on the marketing strategy of a brand."

"Fewer players could mean it's easier to stand out. But, a brand's advertising is never seen by consumers in a 'telecom only' context. It competes with every other ad out there and therefore should have a strong idea that reinforces a brand's positioning. It's always about the idea. The more relevant the idea is to the brand's ethos and has been uniquely executed to engage the consumer's attention... the better it will stand out," Raja adds.

Is this an Airtel ad, 'content', a music video or a cause-led 'brand song'?

Nishant Jethi

Nishant Jethi, ECD, Publicis India, is of the opinion that although it's a trope used by several brands, it is a sweet idea. "Celebrating people who work throughout festivals to ensure that others don't have to compromise on their celebration, is always heart-warming," Jethi says.

"I don't remember any such campaign that has been done for Durga Puja. It might work well since it will strike the right chord with Bengalis who have an emotional connect with Durga Puja. Having said that, what it lacks is memorability. Instead of doing just a song, if they would have chosen to tell stories of the unsung heroes, it would have grabbed more attention. The brand connect would have been a lot better. However, it is a sweet gesture coming from a brand," Jethi adds.

Jethi maintains, "In today's world where the boundaries that distinguish ads from other communication are blurry. Content on social media can be an advertisement for a brand and vice-versa. Brands need to identify where their audience is and recognise the fact that content that seems like a set-up ad that doesn't engage, doesn't work. This, is a song, content and also an ad for the brand."

"There are enough and more players in this segment, with access to content from around the globe and within the country. But the challenge is just the same. It's still about the art of storytelling and how well it connects to the brand. How efficiently and provocatively that is done, and how much audience mind space it owns," Jethi signs off.