Alokananda Chakraborty

Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin: Lessons in marketing

Sony’s prime-time show has been in the news for its marketing and promotional efforts. How did the channel go about it? A blow-by-blow account

Ugliness is a trait not exactly appreciated in the day and age of artificial implants, cosmetic surgery and expensive treatments. Beauty is, still very skin deep, and if a character pops out of our television sets with its decidedly ungainly looks and manners, heads are… well, bound to turn.

One character, which has, in recent times, caught the attention of the cubbyholed and television-gorging middle class, is the affable Jasmeet Walia aka Jassi, a less than ordinary-looking woman, who is intelligent and talented, and, above all, desirous of improving her lot, much like the middle class, she represents.

In the serial Jassi Jassi Koi Nahin she joins a fashion house and works her way up battling all prejudices, to finally emerge the winner. However, if one is under the mistaken impression that this is the end of the story, well, it is not. Indeed, it is only the beginning. Taking a cue from Jassi's life, Sony Entertainment Television (SET), the channel carrying the show at 9.30 pm prime-time, unleashed a marketing campaign, which, if nothing else, made the lay consumer sit up and take a long hard look at the ugly duckling with a big heart.

July onwards, the channel unveiled its marketing campaign bit-by-bit, spanning a plethora of media. "The concept was unique and compelling," says Albert Almeida, senior vice-president, marketing, communication and on-air promos, SET. "As a new show, we would always promote and support it, but the challenge here was, how are we to promote a character, who is less than ordinary-looking, especially at a time when television has a surfeit of ice-candy stars."

The plain and simple route of pasting a face on billboards or playing a scene from the show with the name and character was ruled out. Endless rounds of brainstorming with agency Euro RSCG, which handles the advertising for the channel and its shows, resulted in a three-stage process, which would unveil the star, in this case the character and not the actor, as well as throw light on the show, in no uncertain terms.

"The first phase," explains Suman Srivastava, executive director, Euro RSCG India, "was centred at creating excitement and buzz for the character. Who is Jassi? What does she look like was the essence of the pre-launch campaign," he says. The execution took the form of anonymous thought blurbs talking to each other about Jassi. "There were no faces in the campaign," says Almeida, "just blurbs in conversation with each other."

Unveiled six weeks before launch on TV and 15 days before launch in the outdoor medium, the print communication was essentially a preamble to the mainline campaign running in the other two media. Also used were offline-activities - such as flash mobs, PR, email marketing, radio, SMS, leaflet messages, phone-in messages - which saw a steady build-up from pre-launch to post-launch.

In the second stage, which followed soon after the launch of the show on September 1, the on air as well as outdoor campaign focused on the allied characters of the show. "If the pre-launch campaign focused on creating buzz around the central character, almost teasing the viewer to watch the show at 9.30 pm, the second phase post the launch took it a step forward, focusing on the other characters populating the show," says Srivastava.

Creatives zoomed in on Jassi's family or her boss Armaan or her rival in office, the glamorous Pari, and showed a face with a blurb giving details about Jassi, in the process making a statement about himself or herself. "For instance, in one promo, Pari remarks, ‘Jassi ke pass itni sari degrees hai, jaise mere pass lipstick'," explains Almeida.

The third phase, which began a month-and-a-half ago, focused on situations around regular viewers. What are they saying about Jassi? Why is Jassi like no one else? The idea, according to Srivastava, was to reinforce the buzz. As Almeida puts it, "To establish a realistic connect with the viewer". Apart from metros, van activities were carried out in key towns to create awareness for the show.

Of course, the biggest mystery of all has been the identity of the actor playing the part. In a strategic move, SET took great pains to create a veil of secrecy around the actor playing Jassi, and lent a generous hand in fuelling media speculation about who the girl is.

Alongside, on the channel's hit list were industry representatives, clients, advertisers and planners. "To address this community, we had people holding placards for Jassi at the domestic airports of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata at the time of key flights in the mornings and evenings," says Almeida.

In short, a mix of conventional and unconventional media, has combined to present Jassi in a compelling manner to viewers, enticing them to view the show. As Almeida opines, "Our objective from the very outset was to build endearment and intrigue for the character."

At this point, more than three months after launch, when a slackening of habit is a potential threat, the channel's objective is "to keep the buzz alive". "The time is just right to form Jassi pal clubs," says Almeida. "We did initiate the process by sending out 35,000 invitations on our website and around 3,000 people have responded to it," he says.

Walkabouts around different metros are also on the channel's priority list. "Jassi visited Delhi on December 10 and 11, and the response was overwhelming," claims Almeida. "The presence of the character in flesh and blood took the connect to a new height," he adds. © 2003 agencyfaqs!