Sohini Sen

DBS Bank: Click and engage strategy

DBS Bank launches Part Two of the Chilli Paneer campaign, created by SapientNitro. The interactive film changes course depending on the options the surfer clicks on.

Digital 'innovation' in India is nothing but ad films that are lengthier and cheaper than TVCs. Putting all such accusations to rest is the new digital campaign from DBS Bank, a Singapore-based bank. Created by SapientNitro India and crafted by chief creative officer K.V. Sridhar, the second leg of the bank's Paneer Chilli campaign (the first leg was released over four weeks in September this year) works hard at interacting with consumers. The current campaign features the same couple in the earlier one and takes their story forward.

DBS Bank: Click and engage strategy
DBS Bank: Click and engage strategy
DBS Bank: Click and engage strategy
is designed like a game. The film opens where the last Chilli Paneer film left off - the protagonists had opened a restaurant and decided to get married. While in the first film, surfers could see what Asha, an Indian woman, and Ken, her Singaporean better half were up to, the new video lets the surfer enter the protagonist's world through Ken. The camera angle lends a first person view of the world, as seen through Ken's eyes.

The film starts with the couple deciding to go for a holiday to Goa. Here, the video freezes and requires the surfer to pick (by clicking) one of two choices that appears on the screen (see image) to take the story forward. Each option takes the story ahead on a different track. In this manner, the surfer is required to select one of two options at several stages in the story. Thus, after a certain point in the film, the story that surfer-A watches could be entirely different from the one surfer-B watches.

In all, the film has at least eight different conclusions to offer. What makes it even more fun to watch - or shall we say 'play'? - is the psychometric analysis of the surfer that shows up on the screen post the whole film. Verdicts include 'a charm', 'a brave heart', 'a budding showman' or 'cautiously ambitious'. The result depends on the kind of choices the surfer makes through the course of the film.

Conversational gambit

DBS Bank: Click and engage strategy
DBS Bank: Click and engage strategy
DBS Bank: Click and engage strategy
Explains Sheran Mehra, head, group strategic marketing and communication, DBS Bank, "Every medium has its role to play. But this gets aligned with our objectives. We wanted to be a part of everyday conversation, rather than overtly put our products out there. And to do that you need a medium that allows you to interact with people. Instead of a monologue, we wanted to have a dialogue which is possible only through digital."

Says Sridhar, "We had to look at involving people... and secondly, the story had to have a moral. At the same time it had to be entertaining. And, we had to keep the bank's role alive. The bank plays a silent role in the movie; it is not in the face. We wanted to make it like a story and not an ad. It is fun, yet it shows the surfer what kind of balance between work and play he/she is comfortable with." The film has been directed by Nitin Parmar (under the guidance of Ram Madhvani) and produced by Manoj Shroff of Equinox Films.

"I have been quite frustrated with the linear, soft storytelling format, with the way we are still using television and the way we have abused YouTube by making it another television channel. Why is it that we do not take part in digital-social interactivity? That's when Pops came up with this idea. While shooting, I realised - from a directorial point of view - that you are lost because there are no other characters nor is there a real end to the story. It was like jumping off without a safety net. But as long as you are able to emotionally navigate the story, it is good," says Madhvani.

Ninety per cent of DBS's ad spends is earmarked for digital, according to the company. The current campaign is supported by outdoor and radio communication. As opposed to last year, the brand has reduced its TV spend this year. "The budgets are pretty much similar. Last year, we advertised more on television. This year, the ratio has changed," adds DBS Bank's Mehra, about the increased focus on digital this year.

Does it work?

Quite a few brands have tried their hand at interactive digital campaigns in the recent past. A recent international example includes the Halloween leg of the famous 'Dumb Ways to Die' video by Melbourne Metro that gave surfers an option to choose whether to 'trick' or 'treat'. Rewind a bit further and the Magnum campaign (Pleasure Hunt, 2011), in which a girl runs across your computer screen, comes to mind.

Indian examples include NGO Nanhi Kali's interactive digital film titled 'AGirlStory', in which every time a surfer clicks to keep viewing the film, she is presented with an option to donate; Fastrack's 'KeepTrippin' film in which the surfer can click and buy accessories worn by the people in the video and Café Cuba's interactive website that requires the surfer to click a few keys at irregular intervals.

According to Saket Vaidya, regional head, North, Indigo Consulting, Publicis Groupe-owned digital agency, agencies often toss up such ideas for interactive digital campaigns during pitches. The trouble is that clients are often not confident enough to take a risk.

He explains, "Brands, in some cases, can be quite conservative. However, this is a brilliant example where the execution, the direction - everything falls into place. It is also clearly distinguishable from TV. However, the messaging perspective could have been better. The way the brand is tied back to the film should have been stronger. I may remember the film a few years from now, but since there is no specific feature of DBS being portrayed, I will not remember the bank associated with it."

Engaging, but...

DBS Bank: Click and engage strategy
DBS Bank: Click and engage strategy
Vineet Bajpai, group CEO, TBWAIndia feels that it is a peek into the future of digital filmmaking ideas. "The film is exciting in terms of its overall construct. We have seen some global brands use this 'twin-outcome' kind of digital films, but I think this is the best attempt in India so far. The concept and execution is absolutely delightful. The feel-good slice-of-life storytelling is heart-warming, and keeps the viewer interested right till the end," he says.

According to Bajpai, there were three aspects where the film seems somewhat sub-optimal. The DBS brand is hard to recollect after all the fun of watching the film. In fact, every time a credit card has been used in the film, the VISA logo stands out more than DBS. Secondly, he feels that Ken's voiceover could have been better and more with 'feeling' instead of coming across as someone who seems to be reading a script. Lastly, the option leading to Ken getting punched by Chef Pedro was not really fun or value adding, unlike all other aspects of the film.

Venkat Mallik, president & head
, RAPP India (a data-driven marketing communications company), agrees that the film is an engaging piece of work that has been shot and directed very well. However, he has a few questions. Is this meant for short-on-time consumers that the world is increasingly made of? Or is it too elaborate as a story and does it demand too much of time and attention from the consumer - an amount of time that few consumers will be willing to invest in this kind of content?

"If," says Mallik, "we are living in a world where we are competing as much for the consumer's time and attention as we are for their wallet, I think this campaign will need some serious amount of PR and media support to give DBS the results that it seeks. I hope the Singapore offer works for this campaign or the PR around the point that the campaign is innovative works for it or for that matter the sharing works for it to get a viral effect."