Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Road To Recovery

“We are careful with ad spends, but we can’t be quiet”: Mayur Hola, OYO

While the hospitality brand navigates one of the worst phases in its journey, it has maintained steady advertising across channels.

Folks at OYO India recently started ‘Project Hello’, an in-house initiative where team members have to call 10 people each and have a conversation with them about their experiences. The 10 people could be OYO customers, partners, or even people who may or may not have come in contact with the brand. What separates these interactions from regular surveys is that these are conversations, and not preset questionnaires.

Mayur Hola, head of global brand, OYO Hotels and Homes, tells afaqs! that the brand’s latest digital ad film ‘Pahad’ was based on the diverse collection of consumer experiences. “We spoke to consumers to understand their aspirations, worries and concerns about travel and understood that travelling for leisure was something they were looking forward to.”

Mayur Hola
Mayur Hola

“It wasn’t a question-based survey, but a conversation about travel, experiences, their destinations of choice, choice of transport, etc.”

The almost two-minute-long film is a song in the backdrop of a WhatsApp conversation on a group called ‘Chaddi Buddies’.

“Like most others, I too have a ‘chaddi-buddy’ group from school (which includes select mates and not the whole class) on WhatsApp. The inspiration is fairly obvious from that point. It’s a combination of our real life experiences like our ‘chaddi-buddy’ group, and then the thorough deep dive conversations with consumers,” Hola says.

While the execution of the film seems fairly organic (apart from the only OYO mention, and some visuals), what stands out is its cost-friendly nature. We asked Hola if it was a conscious decision to keep advertising expenditures low, considering the difficult time that the travel and hospitality sector was going through due to the COVID pandemic.

“The cost does help in these times, but here, the idea came first. When you write something like a ‘pahad’, it pushes you into that relatable space. There are those great tourism films where you could show Leh (Ladakh), or the hills from down south. We wanted it to feel like a conversation between friends. And we wanted to be a friend among all of those friends. It’s just like saying, ‘guys, let’s get going, we’ve been trapped in our homes’.”

Despite the severe impact on the brand and its business, OYO hasn’t been quiet. The brand has launched a series of advertising campaigns over the last few months, and has even added a bunch of new seasonal propositions to its offerings.

The ‘Raho Mast With OYO’ campaign burst from last year (2019) was soon taken over by the COVID era campaign of ‘Sanitised Stays’. OYO also highlighted its partnership with Unilever’s hygiene and cleaning brands like Lifebuoy, Domex, Sunlight and Cif to enhance its ‘Sanitised Stays’ initiative.

Soon after, as India gradually started ‘unlocking’, the brand initiated its recovery-oriented campaign of ‘Fir Badhega India’ (in early August).

Next was ‘Road Trippin’, a nudge for Indians to step out and travel to nearby destinations in their own vehicles. The ‘Chal Pahad’ campaign is, in a way, an extension of ‘Road Trippin’.

“Are we conscious of spending on advertising? Yes, we are, especially in the traditional form. We haven’t been quiet at all. We can’t be quiet, we have a lot to say and communicate. We have to keep engaging with the consumers. The way to do it is via the mediums that the consumer is on,” Hola says.

"Being careful and actually reaching the audience works well with each other."

With the consumers staying indoors, OYO is focusing on “finding them where they are”, on mediums like YouTube and social media. “We have to be careful, but our consumers are on these mediums. Being careful and actually reaching the audience works well with each other. I have no complaints in this regard.”

In a previous interview with afaqs!, Hola revealed that OYO’s business in India is recovering steadily 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).

The OYO team expects speedy recovery during the upcoming festive season and winter months. “You’ll also see us a little more active around traditional mediums. The brand is being noticed and whatever we have done in the last six months has served us well, in terms of brand and the organic traffic,” Hola signs off.