Airtel's 'When I'm Gone' spinoff is a throwback to 'Har ek Friend Zaroori...'

By Deepashree Banerjee , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising
Published : May 10, 2019 04:27 AM
Well, at least it's a break from the brand's 4G girl, Sasha Chettri's ads!

The buzz that Vodafone's ZooZoos, its Pug or Idea's 'What an idea, Sirji' created has proven unmatched for the respective brands. The 'Har ek friend zaroori hota hai' campaign, by Indian telecom operator Bharti Airtel, also holds similar recall value for consumers when it comes to the service provider's category. A handful of ad veterans consider the 'Har ek friend zaroori hota hai' (released in 2011 and Taproot Dentsu's first piece of communication for Airtel) commercial the best that Airtel has expressed in a long time.

The new campaign highlights the exclusive benefits Airtel customers get as part of its #AirtelThanks program. The campaign takes a new sing-song route and as the brand claims, has been inspired by the "When I'm Gone" number (popularly known as "Cups") by Anna Kendrick from the 2012 film 'Pitch Perfect'.

Airtel India's re-launched customer program #AirtelThanks has now rolled out a new brand campaign across TV, radio, digital, outdoor, and cinema.

Conceived by Taproot Dentsu, the campaign highlights the exclusive benefits of the provider as part of a three-tier system - silver, gold and platinum. As shown in the ad, the app, re-named - Airtel Thanks - uses data-science and segmentation algorithms to customise the user experiences based on their interests and profiles.

Agnello Dias Agnello Dias

We asked Agnello Dias, chief creative officer and co-founder, Taproot Dentsu, what made him zero in on the popular "Cups" song as an inspiration for the ad. "The 'Thanks Program' consists of many benefits - some tangible, some non-tangible, some experiential, and some that money cannot buy. We knew we had to cover them all and yet launch one single thought. We had already decided to use a dance step and a song that would allow us to present a list of things in an engaging manner. While looking for execution references, we stumbled on the Anna Kendrick Cups song and thought it would be a good fit. We tweaked what we already had to match it and bought the original rights, then re-choreographed the step to our needs," he recalls.

He adds that it was a brief that evolved together with the client (Bharti Airtel) team over a couple of sessions. He shares, "We wanted to put out a bright, cheerful, positive, optimistic world to break from the visual context around us. A spot of good cheer, slightly unreal but relatable for its acoustic simplicity and joy, while communicating a core product offering was what we were aiming for."

The brand's 2018 campaign, which took a fresh approach with a bold and direct theme - "Sab Kuch Try Karo, Fir Sahi Chuno" - called on customers to decide which network is the best by trying all options and not going on the basis of hearsay.

Interestingly, Sasha Chettri, the quintessential 'girl next door', who has been convincing everyone to switch to 4G as the 'Airtel Girl', is still quite fresh in our memories. So, what made the telecom brand opt for the #AirtelThanks campaign (giving us a throwback Thursday to the Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hain at this juncture?)

Dias says that it's an internal call by the team whether to use her (Sasha) or not, as the face of the campaign. He adds, "There have been theme song-based campaigns before and after Har Friend Zaroori Hai. Airtel has not used Sasha for all campaigns; many recent campaigns - Open Network, Airtel Promise or Airtel TV - didn't feature her."

This new commercial, with it's potential feel-good, catchy musical, highlights the benefits Airtel customers get and says "Thanks" in an endearing manner.

But, does it have the potential to stick?

Santosh Mutalik Santosh Mutalik

Karthik Srinivasan Karthik Srinivasan

To Santosh Mutalik, co-founder and chief creative officer, Haapus Creative, the "Thanks" commercial comes as much-needed relief. "At last, Airtel breaks away from the same old 4G and hardcore info-based communication route which almost started becoming a blind spot," he opines.

"Execution, however, could have been better. They could have shot it in different places rather than restricting themselves to a restaurant. It's not a cup, it's a mobile phone," he states raising an interesting point.

"Anna Kendrick's voice could have made this commercial a legend," he adds. Nevertheless, depending on exposure, he feels this new film carries the potential of becoming as popular as Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hai.

Although the song comes across as catchy, communications consultant Karthik Srinivasan feels that's possibly owing to the familiarity of using an already-famous song.

"It aims to create a new viral action of doing the cups-like hand action and showing the phone screen at the end (which is the Airtel customisation). But the success of the 'viral' is directly dependant on the amount of money Airtel throws at showing the ad in repeat. The Trivago man and Sasha Chettri films were not 'Liked' and 'Famous' - they were shoved in people's faces in high frequencies on TV and they were too visible to ignore. The amount of jokes and jibes about the Trivago man and Sasha are perhaps the real feedback of those films."

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Similarly, the action and song combination in this ad, he says, is mildly entertaining at best (unlike Har Ek Friend, which was genuinely likeable and actually spoken about/quoted a lot as a pop-culture reference). The communication is functional, featuring a very good set of rewards and benefits. "The film falls short of communicating the value proposition of those offers (like three months Netflix free, one-year Prime free etc.) and instead, goes for a so-called 'youth' appeal tone that perhaps, doesn't do appropriate justice to the crux of the communication," he explains.

"The tone too, is starting to seem adequately fake given how unnaturally beaming all those people are and the obviously false notes the actors put on just to create a perception that they are normal people trying to do the 'Airtel' Cups-equivalent action with great difficulty and interest. That fake-ness is also very similar to the over-the-top enacting in the 'try everything' campaign where three 'young' people are talking about something as functional and commonplace as their mobile connection as if they are speaking about their first kiss. It's time telecom brands realised that users don't adore or remember them with such deep interest or devotion. It's simply a service and the more it is up, the less we remember the brand. The minute it goes down, we remember it and abuse it by name," he says signing off.

Film Credits:
Agency: Taproot Dentsu
CCO: Agnello Dias, Santosh Padhi
Creative Team: Apoorva Jain, Agnello Dais
Account Management Head: Abhishek Kalzunkar
Production House: Equinox Films
Director: Ram Madhvani
Producer: Rhea Prabhu
Original Music: Anna Kendrick
Adapted music: Roshan Machado

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