Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Road To Recovery

A road trip to an OYO room…

OYO’s latest ad campaign ‘Road Trippin’ urges customers to go on a road trip while the hotel chain assures a sanitised COVID-safe OYO room.

‘Road Trippin’, the latest ad campaign from hospitality chain OYO, is a soft nudge urging Indians to hop into their cars, take a road trip, and eventually have a carefree stay at a sanitised OYO hotel.

A road trip? But why? Simply because it does not require one to travel in public transport, like flights, trains, buses, etc. A road trip means travelling from the safety of your home, in the safety of your car, to a safe OYO room.

Also, the promise of hygiene is a major inclusion in the brand’s existing core propositions, like affordability and availability. The brand has partnered with food and travel enthusiast duo Rocky & Mayur for the campaign launched under the larger theme #DekhoApnaDesh.

The hygiene factor (the big Lifebuoy sanitiser dispenser) is being prominently highlighted in the brand’s communications.

“Current circumstances dictate that hygiene and sanitisation take prominence in all our communication and actions. It gets hardwired into the larger proposition and needs to be implemented. It’s immediate and also needs long-term action,” says Mayur Hola, head of global brand, OYO Hotels and Homes.

“Current circumstances dictate that hygiene and sanitisation take prominence in all our communication and actions"
Mayur Hola
Mayur Hola

The presence of the Lifebuoy brand in OYO’s new ads has its roots in the recent partnership between OYO and global FMCG giant Unilever. Select OYO properties now have Unilever hygiene kits for guests, and also use cleaning supplies from Unilever brands, like Lifebuoy, Domex, Sunlight and Cif.

Hola mentions the results of the association as “very very positive,” with most of the brand’s global geographies taking part.

“We watch our consumer sentiments closely across channels and it has seen an uplift. Users are doubly reassured, since we were already offering sanitised stays. This is an additional layer,” he adds.

Among other things, what stood out about the new ad film was the copy. Instead of the mainstream Hindi, or the largely regional languages like Bengali, Tamil, Gujarati, etc., the film has a Haryanvi voice-over. We wondered if it was about narrowing down to a specific target audience.

"The current years have taken away language as a definition of who you’re talking to"

Hola’s response, “The current (recent) years have taken away language as a definition of who you’re talking to. The ad, in fact, could have been made in any language. The films from the ‘Come to OYO’ campaign were made in various languages. In our head, it is just a detail that we add in for quirk at times and to tell the fact we’re a brand for everyone.”

He expresses strong disagreement with the advertising and mainstream cinema in India, which he says, “still behave like there is only one language and there is one India.”

“The Indian audience is very layered and nuanced. The kind of work we actually understand isn’t something that we see on content and advertising. Our brand and content talks to a young audience across the country. We make sure that the films that we make can be virtually seen on mute. The films can be completely understood without hearing, or reading a thing,” he adds.

OYO’s research suggests that 56 per cent of the consumers are inclined towards taking road trips as lockdowns ease. In a recent interview with afaqs!, Vivek Srivatsa, Tata Motors’ head of marketing (passenger vehicles), also stated that in light of the COVID crisis, car buyers saw personal vehicles as a 'safe bubble'.

The majority of OYO’s social audience also selected road travel as their top choice. Survey results also say that 50 per cent Indians will choose to travel within a motorable distance of 200 kms, or neighbouring towns or states.

A few weeks back, in a similar move, Airbnb, OYO’s rival (in a way), launched its ad campaign ‘Go Near’, which also urged people to take trips to nearby locations “that are a road trip away.”

"People feel safer in their own vehicles"

Elaborating on the current situation, Hola says, “A friend who works (at an ad agency) on a leading two-wheeler brand says that sales have gone up by a significant percentage. The reason is simple. If public transport is open and you have the means to purchase a personal vehicle, you would buy it to protect yourself. Our consumer surveys tell us this. We have seen this all across our global geographies. People feel safer in their own vehicles.”

Being a travel and hospitality-focused brand, OYO is among the worst hit by the COVID pandemic and the ensuing lockdown. On being asked about the recovery, Hola says that European markets (especially Northern Europe) are recovering well due to better crisis management. The US has had steady occupancy throughout COVID, while India is recovering steadily.

In India, OYO is currently operating in over 20 states and union territories, and has managed to reach 30 per cent of the pre-COVID occupancy levels. Bookings are being led by millennials, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

"We’ll continue to see a fairly strong recovery, maybe not now, but certainly next year"

“A lot of (our) partners are coming back, which is a great thing. Our core customers continue to return. As a value brand like most others, we will recover faster. More people are added to the value funnel, especially in these times as they are careful with their spending. We’ll continue to see a fairly strong recovery, maybe not now, but certainly next year,” Hola signs off.