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'Our campaign was honest to the point of self-deprecation'

The campaign

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The campaign
It is never easy to pick an all-time favourite from one’s own work. But if I had to look back over many, many years of ideas, campaigns, films, I would probably pick the last three years of advertising as the best overall body of work I have been involved in, hands on. This is one campaign I look forward to continuing for many years to come.

The entry strategy of the client was very bold — it decided to bet everything on . No doubt, it is a simple proposition, but it had been tried in slightly different forms before and it had failed miserably.

When Tata Docomo entered the market, it was an incredibly crowded field. Thanks to some hiccups caused by the unprecedented growth at the launch phase, there was a perception in some markets that our network was not as good as that of the leaders in the industry. So we needed to make a strong statement that would put this perceived weakness to rest. We had to communicate complete confidence in our network as that was critical to take the brand to the next step.

The creative challenge was to present a simple value proposition and a refreshing new attitude that the brand hoped to bring to the complex world of telecom tariffs.

The launch campaign around the theme of ‘When life can change in seconds, why pay in minutes?’ captured that attitude perfectly. We were the ‘untelecom’ brand-fair, transparent, honest. For the next 15 months, month on month, Tata registered the highest growth in subscriber base among all the players.

The lead-up to the network campaign
A very dear part (to me) of the Tata Docomo story is the track we created for the brand. Again, I wanted the voice of the brand to reflect its youthful, easy-going, approachable personality. did an absolutely amazing job, and once the brand had gone national, we made a television commercial just showcasing the clutter-breaking track — The Friendship Express. I never had any pretensions about it being a particularly new or fresh script. In fact, it was the classic case of doing the expected extraordinarily well. Amit of Crome did a wonderful job making the film come alive.

The problem the client now faced
And then came the campaign that I would personally pick as my best single piece of thinking. That was the phase when one had to do the statutory bragging about one’s network. That is something every telecom player has to do — it’s like category hygiene. The problem was, everyone from Vodafone to Airtel to Idea had already done the superior network story to death.

What we rejected
‘A network that works in the most inaccessible places’ was the standard mantra everyone had parroted till then. And yet, most of the consumer frustration had to do with the here and now, in the course of a normal workaday, when calls get dropped, connections are iffy, and reception is patchy.

The brief was a brainstorm
The leap really came as we were brainstorming with the client team, just tossing ideas around, trying to find a new angle. And I said, ‘Let’s own ubiquity. Our network is so good you can’t get away even if you want to.’ (Tata Docomo head of marketing), the client, pounced on it. And as we talked some more, the ads literally wrote themselves. A phone rings at the most inappropriate time, and the voiceover gleefully announces, ‘No getting away from the network that keeps you always connected’. The whole team loved it, we were all genuinely excited by the simplicity of the solution, and the endless creative possibilities of the route. The campaign kicked off with a series of eight ads directed by . We then seamlessly segued into a promotion with TVCs that were set up almost as more network ads — till a baraat band walks in into the unlikeliest scenarios.

Why this is my best
To me the power of this campaign is in the very real potential it has to own the ubiquitousness of the mobile phone, the bane of modern life. Can’t live without them, and don’t want to live with them. If Mobilus Interruptus can become inextricably associated with the Tata Docomo ringtone, the brand has a property going that can power it all the way to the very top.

Options we tossed out
We looked at a head-on network challenge - prove that our network was superior. The reason we did not go with it was simple — to the consumer, ‘bigger and more established is better’. So we had to approach it from the weakness in the competetions’ strength — which was their congested, over-extended network

Result
Scores on network shot up dramatically with an accompanying increase in new acquisitions. The promotion that was the second part, aimed at increasing stickiness with our existing subscriber base, was a runaway success.


KS Chakravarthy
National Creative Director Draft FCB Ulka

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