"The most challenging part was to handle 30 Pugs": Prakash Varma on new Vodafone campaign

By Suraj Ramnath , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising
Last updated : January 12, 2018
The campaign #StrongerTogether has been conceptualised by Ogilvy India.

Vodafone India is back with its adorable mascot 'Cheeka' the Pug in a recently launched TVC #StrongerTogether. This time, there are multiple Pugs featured in the ad. The ad has been conceptualised by Ogilvy India and directed by Nirvana Films' Prakash Varma.

Talking about the challenges he faced while shooting the film, Varma says, "The most challenging part was handling 30 dogs. When you are handling one dog it is much easier, but when it comes to 30, at the end of the day, they are animals and won't walk in straight lines and will be all over the place; but they were trained very well."

Prakash Varma Prakash Varma

We asked him how different the shooting challenge was compared to the first film he shot with a Pug. He says, "When I shot the very first film, it looked difficult even though it was just a single dog. Now, after shooting this film and when I look back at that film, it was definitely easier the first time. I had to cut and re-take shots many times because of specific things. There is a structure in the film. It starts with one dog, then two, then four; the number keeps going up and the multiplication of the dogs was very important for the communication of the story because the film says that 'we are adding a tower every hour'."

The dogs were recruited by a coordinator and the trainer who trained them for two weeks. It took the production house three days to shoot the film.

Varma tells afaqs! that it was much easier to convince the Pug owner in the first film compared to the current scenario. "Fortunately, in this particular film, each and every dog owner was very supportive and they were all excited because we gave them a lot of time to relax and take care of their dogs, so they were all fine. It wasn't difficult at all", he adds.

So, were the Pug owners comfortable? Varma says, "In the early stages, the owners had no clue, but we gave them a clear storyboard in terms of what exactly happens in the film. Each one of them came through a coordinator and a trainer and that's how we managed to get the dogs. They were all very excited when they came. Initially, I thought there would be a problem, but it was taken care of."

Kiran Antony Kiran Antony

Rajiv Rao Rajiv Rao

Last year Vodafone introduced the Dhananjayans (Asha-Bala) as their new mascots. They already had the Pug and Zoozoos in their kitty. We asked Kiran Antony, executive creative director, Ogilvy India, how and when do they decide to use the Pug and how much of that decision comes from the client?

He says, "The decision to use the Pug is never pre-planned. It always depends on what is right for the brief and the key message that is to be delivered. And it's a collective decision by both client and agency. There is no timeline set for any campaign. Ideas are developed and chosen basis the task at hand."

Readers will know that Rajiv Rao, former national creative director of Ogilvy India, had introduced the Pug when the brand was still known as Hutch. So, we asked him about his reaction to the film. He says, "It is a fantastic film and very refreshing after such a long time. It's a treat for the eyes and a joy to watch every single time and at the same time, the messaging is done so beautifully - making the network stronger - which is shown by multiple Pugs. I think, overall, it is a fantastic campaign. Every shot is beautiful and I love the part when all these Pugs look together at the boy when he stops."

Expert views

Saji Abraham Saji Abraham

Luv Kalla Luv Kalla

Saji Abraham, executive director, Lowe Lintas, finds the ad very clever and watchable. He says, "They have used the old mascot of the Pug quite well and in fact, have built on it cleverly. It draws upon the memory structures Vodafone has built in the past and uses them to good effect. Is it as endearing as the first set of Pug ads? Perhaps not, as the uniqueness of the concept is not as strong. Regardless, it has been used well."

He adds, "I think using multiple characters can work well for Vodafone as long as each one has its own unique associations and are used for specific purposes. Like the Pugs have been used for network and the elderly couple has been used for roaming services. In fact, using multiple characters is better than stretching one across all the services that they offer. This way, 'mascot fatigue' is avoided."

Luv Kalla, an ad filmmaker and director at Bubblewrap films, says, "Be it the Pugs, Zoozoos or Asha-Bala, every single one of them has caught peoples' imaginations and rightly so. It's like the Vodafone creatives at Ogilvy have a hidden 'charm-dial' that they turn up as and when they please."

He adds, "The commercial makes W.C. Fields' famous trope "Never work with children or animals" seem witless by capturing such lovely moments and making it all look so effortless. It must have been a real challenge to shoot this film, I mean 30 Pugs, but the team has clearly overcome all those challenges."

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First Published : January 12, 2018


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