Ananya Pathak

Cement segment advertising gets poetic, metaphoric

As MP Birla Cement releases new spots for 'Samrat' and 'Perfect Plus', we take a look at the change in communication strategy of the category.

The cement category in India seems to have ditched its boring product feature based communications and has moved on to storytelling. After Ambuja's 'Chhatein' and Binani's 'Parental Love', MP Birla Cement too has gone the metaphoric way in its ads for 'Samrat'. #TajurbeKiTaaqat – a recent campaign by the Kolkata-headquartered brand captures the journey of a family’s rise to success because of the 'secret' ingredient that makes their Kachori (lentil puffs) unique and special.

Riding on nostalgia, the 45-second film set in Uttar Pradesh, tells the story of how 'Bishambar's' khaas (special) ingredients for both Kachori and the construction of his house (cement) remain unchanged for generations. The film has been conceptualised by Ogilvy Mumbai.

Fly ash based Portland Pozzolana Cement (PPC) - MP Birla Cement Samrat is one of the ten cement arms of the 109 year old MP Birla Corporation - Perfect Plus, Samrat Advanced, Ultimate Ultra, Unique (PSC), Samrat (PPC), Ultimate (PPC), Chetak (PPC), PSC (PSC), Multicem (PPC)and Concrecem (OPC).

The MP Birla Group is simultaneously running a campaign for MP Birla Cement Perfect Plus. Conceptualised by Ogilvy Kolkata, four TV commercials have been released as part of the campaign so far.

About the ideation of this campaign, Sujoy Roy, ECD and managing partner, Ogilvy, tells us that the story focuses on the dreams and aspirations of the middle class home builder. “We brought in a slight twist to this by introducing the fact that daughters are equal contributors when it comes to building homes, a fact that has not been captured in the advertising that we have seen in this category.”

Sujoy Roy, ECD and managing partner, Ogilvy
Sujoy Roy, ECD and managing partner, Ogilvy

The brief by the Kolkata-based brand for the campaign was to reinforce the fact that MP Birla Perfect Plus is a special cement for concreting. Roy mentions that the challenge was to go beyond the usual examples - strength of 'dhalai' and strong cement for strong homes which have become table-stakes for the category.

Other brands in the category too have grown from product feature based communications.

About this shift in the communication strategy, creative consultant L Suresh feels emotions, like cement, are a strong binding force. Both of them look raw when exposed to the world, making for interesting advertising.

He is of the opinion that cement is one of those categories that pose a challenge not just in coming up with interesting creatives, but also in identifying the right TG. “'Who are we talking to?' is the question every agency has been asking for decades now. That's because most home buyers choose apartments. And amongst those who build their own house, the choice is based on the leading brand in that region, the cement stock available at their friendly neighbourhood retailer, and most importantly, the recommendation of the civil engineer/ builder.”

L Suresh
L Suresh

He believes that such brands also have an added responsibility - they need to address stockists, distributors and trade through their communication. (This is also one reason why many cement brands have celebrity brand ambassadors. In addition to ensuring brand recall, it also keeps certain sections of their network happy.) Keeping these factors in mind, it's an 'everything or nothing' proposition for cement brands - they either target everyone in their communication (which leads to the tragic 'boring category' tag) or they don't cater to a specific TA and instead keep it product-focused, says Suresh.

“A few years ago, nation-building and all the metaphors of strength were popular themes for cement brands. (Some of them still make an appearance during cricket telecast.) We've also seen humour used by a couple of brands and of course, the celebrity route. In this line of progression, the films by brands like MP Birla Cement and Ambuja Cement have taken the next step, with the emotional route,” he adds.

Harish Bijoor, brand consultant and founder Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., feels cement creatives have been moving from solid style of advertising to liquid. “Binani started it years ago with Amitabh Bachchan searching for memories of fond ones. The trend continues and each of these other brands are attempting the same.”

Harish Bijoor
Harish Bijoor

“The real fact however is the truth that fundamentals of product quality still work wonders in the category. Emotions is a dalliance,” he quips.

Rajesh Lalwani, chief executive officer, Scenario Consulting says, "If you see, the trend of storytelling in cements dates back a few years."

Rajesh Lalwani
Rajesh Lalwani

“You may recall the very popular ad by Ambuja Cement featuring the celebrity actor - wrestler Khali where the mighty one shares his plight - of walls at the village home and neighborhood that kept breaking, unable to take his weight - until he finds Ambuja, that is. That one went viral. Then there was the Dalmia Super Roof Cement ad. The brand had positioned this variant as the ‘roof specialist’; and to etch this message, created an ad with an elephant sitting on a swing inside a palatial bungalow, even as the man of the house played a piano without a care.”

He goes on to say that if you see the category, the HNI urban customers mostly rely upon advice by architects and rarely make the purchase basis any emotional pull.

“The rural, mid-tier and the traditional urban buyers on the other hand, can be influenced by emotion - a first home for the urban couple, a retirement home, a house upgrade for a village/ tier 2 dweller are important chapters of life. The choice of cement becomes a symbolic investment into values dear to this customer – the values of strength and character. These themes have been a constant with brand stories in this category.”