Deepashree Banerjee

"Ad films can change thoughts and behaviour": Kedar Apte, Castrol

As Castrol releases an intense, election-themed campaign, we chat with Apte, vice president marketing, Castrol India, about the campaign - and what it means to head the marketing function of an engine lubricant.

Castrol Activ, the automotive and industrial lubricant manufacturing brand, an Indian subsidiary of British Petroleum, has rolled out its recent marketing campaign titled #NonStopDemocracy set against the backdrop of the upcoming Indian general elections. The film uses the topical window catching early conversations of the elections.

"Ad films can change thoughts and behaviour": Kedar Apte, Castrol

Conceptualised and developed by creative agency Ogilvy, the campaign was rolled out across multiple channels

We spoke to Kedar Apte, vice president marketing, Castrol India about the ad and the segment.

Edited excerpts:

On the new voting-related advert...

The target audience for the campaign is young bikers in their twenties. Today's youth are responsible; they stand up for what they believe in and want to make a positive difference in society. We're positioning the bike as their trusted ally.

"Ad films can change thoughts and behaviour": Kedar Apte, Castrol

The 30-second ad film marks the brand's return to ATL marketing campaign and plays around the consumer insight of 'protecting what is precious'

Several people have strong views and engage in debates and discussions on topics regarding administration, but many shy away from voting. We decided to promote voting. I feel ad films have the power to shape thoughts and bring about a change in behaviour.

On the media mix...

A few years back, our communication to consumers was largely uni-directional through TV advertising; we would get responses from consumers only through our on-ground engagements. But with a sharp increase in internet penetration, communication has become more two-way. The digital medium provides an opportunity to interact with consumers regularly and understand trends in their behaviour. We get an instant reaction to our campaigns and can respond to consumer queries faster.

On marketing efforts...

"Ad films can change thoughts and behaviour": Kedar Apte, Castrol

Kedar Apte

We invest in strengthening loyalty for our brands by focusing on both rational product benefits as well as on emotional affinity with consumers and influencers. The lubricants category is one in which an engine or a machine consume the product. The consumer has limited interaction with the product. Therefore, marketing engine oil to a consumer has its own challenges.

While digital has continued to grow rapidly, TV, with its unparalleled reach and impact, remains the lead medium for us. Mobile is now an integral part of every campaign. We also use the element of on-ground activation, especially for our tracker engine oils segment - to target farmers.

Online, we have two social communities - Castrol Cricket and Castrol Biking. We create special content for these communities. We have been associated with sporting properties like ICC, FIFA, F1, MotoGP, and Kabaddi.

On the TG in the consumer market...

In terms of demographics, youth continue to drive growth in most of our segments. While the auto category has predominantly been a 'male category', the usage by women has been on the rise, especially in the gearless scooters and cars space.

On challenges in the segment...

Consumers are seeking more information and getting more involved in the servicing of their vehicles. For instance, several bikers read manuals and research online to better understand things like the right viscosity (of engine oils) for their bikes. Car enthusiasts want to know the benefits of synthetic products for their cars, the best engine oils available etc. Several truck drivers have shifted to new generation engine oils and farmers seek the best engine oils for tractors - their lifeline.

While some consumers are involved in the purchase of the product, others rely on experts - mechanics or service advisors. We also engage with these influencers.

Influencers play a key role in this category. There are times when the shopper may not be the same as the consumer. For example, while a significant proportion of riders of gearless scooters are women, very often they rely on their male family members to get their scooters serviced. Therefore, our target audience comprises people who choose an engine oil brand for their vehicles or influence that decision.

On the engine oil segment...

The lubricants market is a largely fragmented space with more than 2,000 players, including national as well as multi-national oil companies.

"Ad films can change thoughts and behaviour": Kedar Apte, Castrol

Keeping in mind the posture-related health issues the trucker community faces, Castrol teamed up with 'The Yoga Institute' for TruckAasana campaign, which helped truckers with customised yoga moves that they could perform before, after or while driving
Click on the image to enlarge

In the context of engine technology, we are seeing a shift in demand towards premium, thinner, synthetic oils in the four-wheeler segment. The immediate change will be the transition to BS VI (an emission standard that will bring much-needed changes in the Indian automobile industry in terms of pollutant emissions) in 2020. With OEMs focusing on getting ready for this transition, we are working on new products too.

In the commercial segment, there is a move towards more fuel efficiency, extended oil drain intervals and the 'last mile segment' (movement of goods from transportation hubs to final destinations) propelled by a rise in mini/ light commercial vehicles.

We're expecting growth in the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors and hence, see a good opportunity for growth in the industrial and heavy-duty segments.

The lubricants market in India is expected to grow between 2-4 per cent over the next few years, driven by robust vehicle sales assumptions. This growth will be led by the personal mobility segment - two-wheelers and cars - while growth in the commercial/industrial segment will be much lower.

With Indian households generating higher disposable incomes, there has been a significant boost in vehicle sales for personal mobility. There's growth in first-time users of personal mobility vehicles and in the usage of two-wheelers in small towns and rural markets. The emergence of gearless scooters driven by an increasing number of women riders has also led to significant growth in two-wheeler sales.

We also see the top end of the market growing as is evident from the growth in the premium bikes/cars segment.

The engine oil brand jumps onto the 'cause' wagon. Over to experts:

"Ad films can change thoughts and behaviour": Kedar Apte, Castrol

Karthik Srinivasan

"Ad films can change thoughts and behaviour": Kedar Apte, Castrol

Viren Razdan

Communications consultant Karthik Srinivasan finds the film largely laboured and painfully stereotypical. He thinks the brand is right at the periphery of the cause, with no real stakes or context in the film.

The film, he says, is an example of content that reminds one of the run-time, despite it being only 1 minute and 40 seconds. "There are films that make you forget the run-time because they are so engaging, and then there are films like this that take their concept so seriously that they overstay their welcome and squander that attention," he shares.

The fact that he was able to guess the inevitable outcome within the first few seconds of watching the ad, was another pain-point.

Viren Razdan - managing director, Brand-nomics considers elections the new event window and we have brands joining the bandwagon. Here, the brand is just being topical. As far as the cause association is concerned, he says, "If this is a cause, it missed. Causes have depth and it shows," he concludes.

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