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Tour de India pedals on eco-friendly note

In a matter of a few years, Tour de India has managed to become a multi-crore cycling event spread over three cities. afaqs! takes a peek into the cycling event.

Can cycling in India ever become a serious sport? ID Sports, a Mumbai-based sports management company, certainly thinks so. Within a couple of years of its launch, Godrej Eon Tour de India has become a major multi-crore event. The cyclothon has spread over three cities; has gone from Salman Khan to John Abraham as the face of the event; and, people pay to take part in the event.

Although it’s the official version of Tour de France, the resemblance ends there. Unlike the French event, which takes place over a period of 23 days covering over 3000 km, the Indian version has a different format. Interestingly, ID Sports doesn’t pay royalty for using ‘Tour de’ name.

What started off as a cyclothon in 2010 in Mumbai and Delhi, continued the following year with the addition of Nasik. By 2012, the cyclothon was christened as Tour de India and continued with the three city format, including Srinagar along with the two metros. This year, Jaipur is the third city. In fact, the event also picked up a lead sponsor in Godrej Eon.

The 2013 Godrej Eon Tour de India kick-started on December 15 in Mumbai, followed by Jaipur and concluded in Delhi on December 22.While in Mumbai and Jaipur, the bicycle race runs through the city, the Delhi leg of the event is held on the F1 racing track, Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida.

Track record

Around 11,500 people across all ages registered for the cyclothon in all the three cities, this year. While Mumbai and Delhi received over 5000 (100 international and 50 national professional) participants each, Jaipur recorded over 1000 cyclists.

The event is divided in four categories – Champion (5 km for children and senior citizens & 2.5 km for specially-abled), Green (18.98 km), Half (18.98 km) and Full (25 kms). Participation fees vary between Rs 300 and 2000, depending on the category.

As for the prize, the Full cyclothon winners receive Rs 1 lakh as cash prize, Half category winners receive gift vouchers worth Rs 90,000 in addition to trophy and medals, green category winners get certificates and champion category winners get gift vouchers worth Rs 45,000, with trophy and medal.

Difficult terrain

Dr Akil Khan, chairman, ID Sports and vice-chairman, ENSO Care, a healthcare diagnostics company, admits that it took him time to convince companies to invest in the property.

“Initially, when I had organised the cyclothon, the brand managers used to ask me, ‘Is cycling a sport?’ Initially it was difficult to get sponsors for Tour de India, at times even frustrating to convince brand heads,” recalls Dr Khan. However, he believed that cycling could be promoted as a serious competitive sport in the country, as it was a major sport abroad. Yet, not many people in India know much about it, Dr Khan laments.

In early 2009, after witnessing few bicycle races abroad, the idea began to germinate in Dr Khan’s mind to organise something similar in India. While marathons have become really big in the country, what was left out was swimming and cycling. “Now, I could not push people into the water and ask them to swim. So, I opted for cycling,” Dr Khan smiles and says.

However, he was not in favour of using the name ‘cyclothon’ (although he patented the name). He was afraid that over a period of time, cyclothon would become generic for any cycling event and become what Xerox is to photocopy in India. Therefore, Tour de India is used as the umbrella brand under which various cyclothons could be organised.

Celebrity factor

Of course, the challenges were not to blindly copy the international event and convince people to look up to cycling as a competitive sport. Having celebrity association, therefore, helped immensely.

ID Sports organised its first cyclothon event with actor Salman Khan’s Being Human as a partner. “When Salman Khan partnered with us three years ago, we got 6,000 people participating in the event over a span of a week. The next year, the actor became unaffordable. So, we didn’t have any celebrities. However, the PR value came down by half and even the participation decreased by 30 per cent,” Dr Khan reveals.

The third year, it got a mix of celebrities from across different fields to promote the event. But it still didn’t match up to the response that Salman Khan had generated. Dr Khan also felt celebrities were using it as a platform to place themselves or their causes. So, although the event got media coverage, the focus on cycling was not caught.

So, the 2013 version of Tour de India signed up John Abraham to be its face; he will be associated with the event for the next three years. The decision was ad hoc.

Money talk

Even the marketing of the event has undergone a metamorphosis, this year. Instead of selling the property on its own, ID Sports has partnered with Total Sports Asia, Singapore, to take up the event’s sales.

Initially, it cost a single event Rs 3 crore but this year the cost exceeded Rs 15 crore. Also, the number of sponsors has increased from just 10 sponsors last year, to nearly 25 brand partners, this year. While some are direct sponsorships, the barter deals are in the form of category ownership. “We have packaged the event very well. I have treated it like a movie (in terms of packaging and promoting it to the sponsors),” Dr Khan states.

Godrej Eon is the title sponsor, while Avon Cycles is the associate sponsor of Tour de India 2013. The other sponsors include Performax by Reliance Trends, MoneyOnMobile and Enso Care. Tata Communications is the webcast partner, Renault is the lead care partner, Wipro is the gold partner, Honda is the lead bike partner, Garnier Men (which is endorsed by John Abraham) has been roped in as grooming partner and Ralco Tyres is the tyre partner. Sony Six is the broadcast partner and ABP News is the news channel partner. ITC Hotels is the hospitality partner and Bookmyshow is the ticketing partner.

Brand value

Godrej Eon, which is the title sponsor of Tour de India, said the association would be fruitful for the brand considering the cycling event shared the same philosophy as the brand’s. Ramesh Chembath, associate vice-president, Godrej Eon, says, “As a brand philosophy, we have always promoted ‘green’. We have made products that are energy efficient. For instance, we were the first to make the green AC and the first to shift to green gases for refrigerators. Green is part of our DNA and cycling by itself is a green activity.” Considering most people have grown up cycling, the event merely urges people to switch to a new lifestyle.

From a brand’s standpoint, Tour de India helps the brand to reach out to youngsters. To better connect with this audience, it is essential to create platforms, where the brand can connect, interact and create discussions around its TG, Chembath believes. Since cycling is also not a cluttered sport at this point in time, it gives a brand certain exclusivity to be associated with Tour de India.

Shashank Joshi, managing director, MoneyOnMobile, says, “We have been promoting paperless payment through our service, which makes us an environment friendly company. Since cycling is an event that is energy efficient and environment friendly, we partnered with the event.” MoneyOnMobile is the payment partner and associate of Tour de India. The company has been partnering the cyclothon event since 2010.

According to Joshi, when a person registers for Tour de India, MoneyOnMobile creates an account called MoneyOnWallet for them. In terms of the advantage to the brand, Joshi says that the company’s present aim is to reach out to more people and make them aware of its services.

Yadvinder S Guleria, vice-president, sales and marketing, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India, has associated with the cyclothon for the first time. Stating its reason to sponsor Tour de India, Guleria says, “Globally, Honda is synonymous with challenging spirit and the positive power of dreams. We felt CBR 250R Repsol edition is the perfect partner to lead the participants to glory. Looking at this perfect brand fitment, Honda tied-up as exclusive 2-wheeler partner of Tour De India 2013.” In fact, Honda will reward the overall winner of Tour De India 2013 with a special Repsol edition of CBR 250R.

At the end, Dr Khan says, “For India to be in the bicycle map, it is the sheer power of our population which will make the overturn faster.”

(This article was published in afaqs! on Dec 23, 2013)

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Ogilvy competes with itself

Having stopped participating in Indian creative award shows, Ogilvy India launched its first internal awards, The Envies. An external jury shortlisted 35 out of 350 entries.

To motivate its creative teams to do good work, Ogilvy India started The Envies, the agency’s own internal awards show, at Mumbai on Monday. While announcing the first edition of the awards, Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director, Ogilvy South Asia, said that since the agency has decided against participating in other domestic awards, it needed a show of its own to set creative benchmarks for the agency.

Earlier this year, Ogilvy had refused to participate in the most prestigious Indian award show, the Abby Awards held in Goa. This had come as a surprise since Ogilvy has performed consistently well at the industry awards show. At the time, Abhijit Avasthi, national creative director, Ogilvy India, had told afaqs! that the agency had been mulling over the idea of withdrawing from the Abbies for three years. “We felt that the awards were not energising our people, not motivating them as they used to earlier,” he had said at the time.

Ogilvy is following in the footsteps of Lowe India which has boycotted industry awards for years and has been hosting its own internal awards, the True Show. However, the difference lay in the fact that the 35 campaigns (25 from next year) that won were judged not by an internal jury but by a mix which included people from other agencies. Also, The Envies steered clear of dividing the awards by categories.

The jury included Taproot’s Agnello Dias, DDB Mudra’s Sonal Dabral, McCann’s Akshay Kapnadak, Lowe Lintas’ Arun Iyer, Contract’s Ashish Chakravarty, BBDO’s Josy Paul, Grey’s Malvika Mehra, Creativeland Asia’s Raj Kurup, Strawberry Frog’s Raj Kamble and Wieden+Kennedy’s V Sunil. Amitabh Bachchan was the guest of honour at the event.

afaqs! spoke to Abhijit Avasthi on the sidelines of the award function to understand the raison d’etre of The Envies.

Q. What led to The Envies’ creation? Was it to make up for all the adulation that you missed at Goafest?

A. No. We have been fortunate to produce some fabulous work through the year for all kinds of clients across different media. It’s only fair that the youngsters who produce that work and the clients who help us are awarded and recognised.

For various reasons, we did not take part in The Abbys, so we decided to do our own awards but with the outsider’s true perspective to it. Therefore, we called in pretty much the best in the industry to judge us and help us evaluate our own work. That’s how it all started.

Q. Why ‘The Envies’?

A. There are obvious parameters to judging good work – originality, freshness, bravery and things like that. But, instinctively, it all boils down to this one word – envy. When you see something good, you wish you had done it. That’s the reason we thought of naming it The Envies.

Q. Was the external jury called in order to avoid bias?

A. It’s only fair that once in a while you get external perspective. It’s not good to keep looking inwards all the time. The external jury has an objective view and no axe to grind.

Q. Were you inspired by Lowe Lintas, which has been organising the True Show for many years now?

A. Not really. Our format is totally different and our reasons are different. Our judging process is different too.

While it’s fabulous that they do that (True Show), and it’s definitely applaud worthy, The Envies was something we intended to do anyway.

Q. What is more motivating – an internal award or third party recognition?

A. What would you call today’s event? It’s been judged by people from outside. It’s been felicitated by the best in the industry and by Mr Bachchan no less. All the clients, the partners who helped them make it, are there. So honestly, I don’t see anything that any other award show would offer them.

Q. Why are there no categories?

A. The way we look at it, ideas are of paramount importance today. This is why there were no categories, no sub categories and so on. We chose 35 of the most powerful ideas that, in a way, are worthy of sitting in the Ogilvy India showcase.

Q. Did the clients have any say in the creative works that were chosen? Was there any pressure?

A. None at all. What’s in it for them? They just want good work.

Q. Why have awards at all? Is trophy the only language or recognition a young creative director understands for a job well done?

A. Not really. It’s one of the things. Awards serve different purposes. Recognition for the years gone, that’s one bit. To open your minds to what else is possible and it’s always good to be appraised against what your peers are doing. That’s another bit. You get to learn from the tricks the others are using. So, award shows serve many purposes in honing our craft as advertising practitioners.

Q. Lastly, which was your personal favourite amongst the 35 campaigns selected for The Envies?

A. (Laughs) Sabhi mere bachche hai (‘They are all are my children’). They are all fantastic but the three that stood out were the three in contention (for The Most Envied) – Google ‘Reunion’, Lifebouy Roti activation and Cadbury 5 Star digital films.

(This piece was published in afaqs! on Dec 17, 2013)

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A Gift in the Future

In the first mass campaign ever in its category, LifeCell International has launched a major TV offensive to concept-sell umbilical cord stem cell preservation. To persuade would-be mothers to use its stem cell bank, its next TVC will feature Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

Awareness about umbilical stem cell banking has been growing slowly in recent years. To hasten that and establish itself as the category leader, LifeCell International, a Chennai-based private stem cell banking service, has launched its first television campaign.

The company began its operations in collaboration with Cryo-Cell, USA, the world’s first private stem cell bank, in 2004, with the core business being storing umbilical cord stem cells. If preserved, stem cells can help the child combat a range of diseases – including some forms of cancer – during his or her lifetime.

The TVC titled ‘The Gift’, which has been created by the Chennai-based ad agency 1pointsize, is targeted at soon-to-be-parents. It is a collage of heavily pregnant women, whose bellies display gift wrap ribbons. The voiceover then urges the target audience to gift their baby a ‘lifetime of protection at birth’ by storing the umbilical cord stem cells. The voiceover points out that umbilical stem cells have the potential to protect a child from over 80 medical conditions.

The ad is aimed at expectant parents or couples in the 20-40-year age group who are planning to have a baby. The TVC will be aired on general entertainment, news, lifestyle and regional channels.

Sharad Haksar, CEO, 1pointsize, says the intention was to show that while a baby is a gift in itself, the parents can gift their child a lifetime of protection by opting for this service. “We think the message will resonate with anxious moms who are open to leveraging the marvels of science for their little ones,” thinks Haksar. The agency, which was hired to work on a rebranding exercise three months ago, now has the entire creative mandate for the company. LifeCell is in competition with about a dozen rival firms.

Price Point

Towards the end of the film, the fact that the service is available “Now for just Rs 19,990′ is highlighted. The price point indicates that LifeCell wants the commercial to not only create awareness about the category but also make people realise that the services are now affordable. The company received funding of Rs 35 crore from Helion Ventures early in 2013.

V. Ravi Shankar, chief marketing officer, LifeCell International, says that the price point is being promoted because until now, new parents had to pay Rs 75,000 upfront – plus an annual fee – to avail of the service. Considering the high price, mass communication would have served little purpose.

However, in October, this year, LifeCell changed – thanks to the funding – from a luxury service to an affordable private stem cell bank. Hence the drop of fees to Rs 19,990 plus an annual storage fee of Rs 3,500 per year. “The democratisation of the category offered us the perfect springboard to go direct to the consumer,” states Ravi Shankar.

However, he is quick to point out that pricing was not the focus of the communication. “When you take the effort of category education, brand awareness happens automatically. In any case, to bolster awareness, we subtly encoded purple (our lead brand colour) throughout the campaign. Pricing was never meant to be the lead story. We’ve used it as a penny dropper in the end to highlight on the aspect of affordability by a larger audience,” says Ravi Shankar.

LifeCell intends to roll out its second phase of the TV campaign with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who has preserved her child’s stem cells with the company. Why didn’t they use her for its very first commercial? Ravi Shankar’s response: “Before we unleash the campaign we’ve created with her, we thought we must prepare the ground with a little concept selling and establish knowledge about the category. It always helps to create a little traction for the product before using a celebrity to endorse it.”

The concept and challenges

Mayur Abhaya, MD and CEO, LifeCell International, explains that the company did not have money to advertise in the early years. A lot of awareness about the concept and business generation had to be created through hospitals and gynaecologists. But the science was interesting, so the idea received a lot of media coverage via the use of public relations.

Today, LifeCell International has a presence in 100 cities and about 1,000 hospitals spread across the country. Apart from umbilical cord stem cell banking, the company also provides services in menstrual stem cell banking (a first in India), besides stem cell processing and BabyShield, a screening programme for newborns.

LifeCell claims that 85,000 families have availed of its services until now, making it the largest player in its category. The company is strongest in the South. LifeCell was enrolling about 1,500 parents per month before the price drop.

The company has also established an active digital presence which is now its largest source of leads. It has also undertaken educative events such as pre-natal programmes for expectant couples and also partnered with pregnancy management education courses. These have allowed it to market the concept directly to would-be parents.

(This article was published in afaqs! on Dec 09, 2013)

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Jos Alukkas: Three in One

The jewellery brand’s latest campaign features Tamil superstar Vijay along with Malayalee actor Fahad Fazil and Kannada actor Diganth Manchale. It will be dubbed and aired in all three states.

Gold jewellery is much sought after in southern India and jewellery brands, one of the highest advertisers in this region. Since everyone talks about purity, trust and craftsmanship, brands try to distinguish themselves by using a bouquet of regional actors from across the states. Jos Alukkas, one of the leading jewellery brands from Kerala, is no different. In 2010, the brand rebranded itself and signed up Tamil superstar Vijay as its brand endorser. It also adopted its communication theme as ‘Thangamana uravu’ (relationships like gold).

In continuation of its ‘relationships’ theme, Jos Alukkas’ current television commercial (TVC) features Tamil actor Vijay, together with emerging actors from Kerala and Karnataka – Fahad Fazil and Diganth Manchale, respectively.

In a way, the campaign is unique because this is the first time the three actors have come together. While the brand’s competitors have an equally enviable range of regional actors as endorsers, the brands have never clubbed the actors together in a television commercial to be dubbed and aired in all the three states to connect with the larger audience.

The film shows Vijay and Diganth, who are interns, contemplating what to gift their friend Fahad’s sister on her wedding. Dejected with their low budget, Vijay sells his prized guitar to buy a gold necklace as a gift. While presenting it to the bride, Fahad comes to know about Vijay’s sacrifice and is overcome with emotion. The TVC concludes with the message that true relationships defy differences, be it languages or communities.

Conceptualised by Dentsu Communications, the TVC was shot at Ramoji Rao Film City in Hyderabad. The film was directed by Manoj Pillai of Thinkpot Productions. It took about two months for execution, primarily to suit the actors’ dates.

Jeejo PP, corporate marketing manager, Jos Alukkas Group, says that the campaign’s objective was to strengthen the brand platform and reach out to more people. “All our brand films post re-branding has worked well in building Jos Alukkas. This campaign is another milestone for us,” he says. He adds that the campaign has already started creating a lot of buzz for the brand with people visiting the stores talking about it. “It has helped us to strengthen the bond with our customers. The feedback on social media has been overwhelming,” he further adds.

Why did the Kerala-based brand take a Tamil superstar as its main brand endorser? According to Jeejo, Tamil Nadu is a key market for the brand. “As far as the brand is considered, our entry into the state propelled the brand’s growth story. Today, we are present in 10 towns across the length and breadth of the state. Besides, Vijay is a superstar in the South and has a huge fan base in Kerala, too,” he explains.

Agreeing with him, Saji Jayakumar, vice-president and Kochi head, Dentsu Communications, says that for the current campaign, the brand wanted endorsers in Kerala and Karnataka. “We wanted young stars from these two regions, who would be around Vijay’s age and would do cameo roles as the focus would mainly be on Vijay,” Jayakumar says. He adds that while the audience in Kerala might not be familiar with Diganth and the audience in Karnataka may not know Fahad, both the sets of audiences recognise Vijay, who has an appeal in both states due to the immense popularity of Tamil movies. Besides, the viewers in both the states would recognise one of cameo actors.

In fact, the trend of having male actors endorsing jewellery brands is peculiar to the southern states. While Jos Alukkas does have Malayalee actor Shobhana as an endorser, it is for its sub brand. However, unlike the female actors of Bollywood, their southern counterparts don’t have as much of an appeal or stature as the male actors in the South. As a result, jewellery brands here prefer male actors, says Jayakumar.

Jeejo explains that the nature of the market in Andhra Pradesh is completely different from the other three states; thus, the brand will come out with a separate campaign for the state, led by actor Mahesh Babu.

Interestingly, Thums Up had picked up Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu for its national campaign, last year. It was a surprise move by the brand as Babu, a regional actor, had replaced Bollywood action hero Akshay Kumar.

In a market that is already cluttered with celebrity endorsers, how does Jos Alukkas differentiate itself? “Communication is the key in gold retail, today. We’ve differentiated ourselves on our brand theme of relationships in all our campaigns. Just as the consumer identifies our brand ambassadors, they also identify us for what we are and what we stand for,” Jeejo adds.

Sridhar Pillai, a senior film journalist, says that Vijay has a phenomenal reach in the South, especially Kerala. Hence, it is not surprising that Jos Alukkas has taken him as its brand ambassador. “If you are a jewellery shop, the best way to attract customers is by having Kollywood stars endorse your brand with an added local connect like Fahad. Besides, there is also this one-upmanship game going on among brands in terms of celebrity endorsers,” Pillai explains, adding that Bollywood stars are also slowly making inroads with brand endorsements.

The campaign will be aired till the end of the year. It will be majorly led by TV, followed by print and OOH across Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

(This article was published in afaqs on Nov 15. 2013)

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Old Spice: Manly act goes local

The men’s grooming brand has infused a local flavour by adapting its international ad to an Indian setting. The video has already gone viral like its international counterpart.

After years of the metrosexual man dominating the communication strategy of men’s brands, the overtly masculine image appears set for a comeback. Old Spice’s latest campaign certainly seems to believe so.

Featuring Milind Soman, the ‘Smell Mantastic’ campaign, created by Wieden+Kennedy (the brand’s global agency), was launched on the digital medium on October 9. And, in just two days, the video has already recorded over 7 lakh views, in line with its international counterparts, which were also viral successes.

The brand’s Indian ad is similar to its international counterpart in its message and treatment – a satirical take on masculinity. The Hindi ad is, perhaps, the first time the brand has adapted its communication to give it an Indian touch.

It begins with Soman baring his toned, muscular body, wearing a gold ‘MAN’ locket around his neck. Draped in a white towel and goggles, he sits on a throne and invites viewers to his “humble fort” (the set is a recreation of a palace room). He then narrates how he was under the (wrong) impression that gelled hair and well-maintained (read muscular) torso were signs of manhood. He then asks what it requires to become a true man; and reveals that to be a “Mantasic”, refined man, all one needs is Old Spice.

While Soman is shown promoting Old Spice deodorant in the ad, he doesn’t speak about any specific product from Old Spice. Apparently, the video will be aired on television. It is learnt that subsequent creatives will explore different aspects of what it means to be “Mantastic”.

Old Spice began with this line of communication in 2010, when it launched ‘Smell like a man, man’ campaign in the USA. The campaign became viral and earned over 40 million views on YouTube. In fact, this campaign not only helped Old Spice gain ground in the category but also helped increase its sales, especially its body wash product (the video showed the protagonist promoting the product). Besides, it also made the ad’s protagonist, American actor and former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa, famous.

Interestingly, when Old Spice launched its products in Australia and New Zealand last month, the brand carried out a local ad campaign but retained Mustafa.

Indian entry

Old Spice is part of Procter & Gamble’s bouquet of global brands under the beauty and grooming category. The brand, with its distinct red product packaging and a yacht logo, was launched by Shulton Company in 1837. In 1993, P&G bought over Shulton and Old Spice came under its fold.

However, the brand made its foray in India much before P&G’s acquisition. Goa-based Menezes Cosmetics, which took the license from Shulton, introduced Indian men to Old Spice at the start of 1960s. But after the acquisition, the marketing and distribution of Old Spice moved first to the Godrej group, then to Marico Industries, and finally, back to Menezes Cosmetics in 2002. Last year, the association ended a second time, with P&G deciding to market the brand on its own.

Known for its aftershave lotion, Old Spice was a popular name in the aftershave category three or four decades ago. In fact, in the 80s and early 90s, the brand’s iconic international ad, aired in India as well, showed a man surfing the waves with the background music of ‘O Fortuna’ by Carl Orff. The ad made reference to masculinity with finesse. However, rise in competition and restricted distribution saw Old Spice fade away to the background for several years.

Today, Old Spice has an expanded portfolio offering products under antiperspirant, deodorants, body wash, body spray, bar soap, shave gel and fragrance segments.

Fragrant swing

The male grooming market, in recent years, has suddenly seen a spurt with several brands coming out with ad campaigns to promote their offerings to men. However, the aftershave lotion category has been witnessing a decline, with focus shifting to shaving creams, body creams, shampoos, hair gel and deodorants to woo the male consumers.

Meanwhile, some male grooming brands have been playing on the clichéd perception of ‘masculinity’. Take for instance the recent Park Avenue campaign for its beer shampoo, which was similar to the present Old Spice ad in terms of treatment.

Comparison between women and men’s grooming brands has also been explored with brands indicating how men should use products specifically created for them and not what the woman of the house uses.


Arun Raman, head of strategy, StrawberryFrog, believes that while the brand’s strategy of playing on masculinity and manhood works in the West against metrosexuality in India, the parody of the metrosexual male is completely out of context. “Our culture, if any, has never adopted sissy-masculinity, so this strategy itself is wrongly directed,” he states.

Although he acknowledges the growth in male grooming category, he’s against this kind of communication the brands are indulging in to target the male consumer. “It’s almost creating a new advertising archetype – the male bimbo. The female bimbo didn’t work for women-targeting brands. Why would the male bimbo work for male-targeting ones?” Raman questions.

Vedobroto Roy, executive creative director, Dentsu Communications, agrees with Raman. Besides trying too hard to keep up with its international imagery, it fails to be as entertaining as its international counterpart and comes across as ‘preachy’, he adds. Roy says that by showing Soman wearing a MAN locket or sitting on a throne in a towel, isn’t macho. “They could have done well to take a dig at the Indian concept of macho, instead of trying to be Dos Equis (the Mexican beer brand that launched ‘The Most Interesting Man In The World’ campaign) ,” he opines.

Having said that, the ad does stand out because of Soman, he says. But whether his monologue convinces men to buy Old Spice is something to ponder about. As for the target audience, there is utter confusion. Raman says, “I dare say, I don’t know whom the brand wants to target. Is it metrosexual men? Is it overtly macho men who hate metrosexual men? Is it girlfriends and wives of metrosexual men? There is some confusion in my mind and I do hope, for the sake of Old Spice, I am the only person confused by this,” he states.

At the time of publishing this story, P&G was yet to get back with its comments.

(Published in afaqs! on October 14, 2013)

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Looking beyond India

Unnoticed by most, Indian agencies are increasingly handling overseas advertising. It is early days yet, but the trend could lead to something much bigger.

International ad agencies have been around in India for a very long time, contributing immensely to the global outlook of the industry. Given the background, it is not surprising that Indian agencies have won international businesses as well, while still being based in India. The agencies cater to foreign markets through different working models, including global agencies with specially chosen Indian teams that handle the global advertising of brands; agencies handling brands in neighbouring countries; and those which directly approach brands to handle foreign markets. afaqs! looks at some examples to trace a pattern.

Global hubs

Ajay Kaul, Lenovo

Ajay Kaul, Lenovo

In 2007, when Chinese PC manufacturer Lenovo decided to shift its global marketing hub and centralise its creative communication and strategy with Ogilvy & Mather in Bengaluru, it created a lot of interest. In fact, the brand’s move caused C K Prahalad and M S Krishnan to note in their book, The New Age of Innovation, published the next year, “The Lenovo experiment shows that branding and advertising activities can be disaggregated and all elements need not be culture-specific. Further, this approach may reduce the redundancy and wastage of creative effort.”

So, what led to Lenovo’s decision? In 2005, Lenovo acquired the PC division of IBM. However, Lenovo was strong only in China at that point in time. “Outside China, people did not know about Lenovo. So, it was really important for us to establish Lenovo as the master brand globally and very quickly,” says Ajay Kaul, executive director, global brand communications, Lenovo.

In contrast to IBM’s decentralised organisation structure, Lenovo wanted consistent brand execution throughout the world. The decision was to synergise all marketing activities in a fast, cost-effective manner. Kaul says that to centralise marketing, the brand needed an agency structure that would gel with this model.

Although Lenovo retained IBM’s agency, Ogilvy New York, it made sense to have the brand marketing team closer to the growth areas. “When we looked at the growth numbers, the future of PC was clearly going to be the emerging markets – India, China and Brazil. We had few choices but what became important for an entity like ours was that you needed to be comfortable with the English language,” Kaul says.

Naturally, the choice zoomed to India. Besides, when Lenovo was launched in India as a brand, the marketing team demonstrated intelligent guerrilla marketing to launch the brand in India, creating 60-70 per cent consideration level in consumers’ mind. “It was a big experiment for us and Ogilvy supported us along and set up the Bengaluru hub,” Kaul says.

Today, Ogilvy Bengaluru’s Lenovo account has a dedicated team of 70, which includes account handling, planning, creative and digital functions. The team has come out with five main campaigns and over 10,000 individual pieces for the brand, till now.


Poran Malani, Ogilvy Bangalore

Poran Malani, Ogilvy Bangalore

Explaining how the global hub works, Poran Malani, president of Ogilvy & Mather, Bengaluru, says the brand is handled on three levels – a central team based in Bengaluru, regional teams in Paris, Raleigh, Singapore and Beijing, and the in-country team. Each region or country has a specific team as well as a worldwide team. “Interface is direct with the worldwide Lenovo team. Of course, for this to work, a great deal of process and technology is needed. And, for local insights, we do have the largest and best network to draw on,” he says.

Another example is that of Castrol, which is again handled by Ogilvy. While the brand is handled on a global level, the brand chose Ogilvy Mumbai as one of the three centres of excellence (the other two being New York and Singapore). The Mumbai office of the agency handles the truck and scooter business, a large part of which rests in India.


It’s interesting to note how Indian agencies have also met creative requirements of brands present in the neighbouring countries.

For instance, Marico forayed into Bangladesh in 2002. Three years later, Bates CHI & Partners, which was handling the company’s brands in India from its Kolkata office, opened an office in Dhaka to service the company in Bangladesh. The agency handles Marico’s brands like Parachute hair oil, Hair Code hair dye/colour and Nihar Hair oil in the Bengali-speaking country.

Abeer Chakravarty, Bates CHI & Partners

Abeer Chakravarty, Bates CHI & Partners

Bates’ Kolkata and Dhaka teams jointly work on the account, with the former driving the strategic planning and creative, supported by the Dhaka team, explains Abeer Chakravarty, executive vice-president, Bates Kolkata.

Besides account management, the Bangladesh team provides creative and studio support as well, while the Kolkata team travels almost every month to Dhaka for client meetings, film and still shoots.

Interestingly, the agency also won the Coca-Cola Bangladesh business a few months ago.

Inner Circle Kolkata, too, has been handling Bangladeshi FMCG company Pran for nearly two years, not only in Bangladesh but in West Bengal as well. Headquartered in Dhaka, Pran was set up in 1981 as a company that processed fruits and vegetables. Today, it has products spread across 10 categories, and also exports products to about 94 countries. Inner Circle came on board after the company initiated a pitch process and chose the agency in January, 2012.

Murli Krishnan, Inner Circle Advertising

Murli Krishnan, Inner Circle Advertising

“Pran was looking for a brand partner and not a mere creative design agency. This is where we fit the bill. We understood its markets both in Bangladesh and West Bengal and made a set of strategic recommendations,” says Murali Krishnan, client servicing director, Inner Circle Advertising.

Beginning with three of Pran’s products, the agency now works on the communication requirements of eight products, with two more in the pipeline. The creatives including television commercials are produced in India and sent to Bangladesh.

Direct move

Then, there are the agencies that are warming up to the idea of voluntarily pitching for foreign market businesses of brands.

Ogilvy Mumbai recently won the creative and branding requirements of retail brand Home Centre’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Home Centre, a part of Dubai-based Landmark Group, set up its first retail store in Sarjah, UAE, in 1995. In the last 18 years, the brand has expanded to over 80 stories in countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and India. The stores offer contemporary furniture, home furnishings, accessories, bed and bath and kitchenware.

In India, Home Centre operates through Lifestyle stores, a chain of apparel and accessories store, which is also part of the Landmark Group. The brand has 16 stores spread across various cities in the country. When Home Centre initiated the pitch process for the MENA region at Dubai in January, four agencies approached the brand. And, all of them were Indian agencies – three from Mumbai and one from Delhi!

Ogilvy’s Mumbai office has also carried out projects for confectionary brand Perfetti for some parts of its European market.

Desi brands, global partners

When Indian auto manufacturer Bajaj decided to expand its motorcycle market to Indonesia, Vietnam and some parts of Latin America, its agency Ogilvy Mumbai was assigned the mandate for creative and strategic communication to crack the foreign markets.

Similarly, Domino’s Pizza, which is part of Jubliant FoodWorks, asked its existing Indian agency to help relaunch the brand in Sri Lanka a few years ago.

Sukumar Menon, Black Swan Life

Sukumar Menon, Black Swan Life

According to Sukumar Menon, founder, Black Swan Life, Domino’s Sri Lanka wasn’t doing very well. When the agency was brought on board, it was briefed to reinvigorate the brand based on the work the agency had done for the brand’s India operations.

“Though the brand wasn’t doing very well in Sri Lanka, people knew that internationally it was a great brand with great products. We played on that and re-launched the brand with a campaign titled ‘Domino’s Reloaded’, where we demonstrated how all the good things that Domino’s is known for all over the world is now back in Sri Lanka, too,” Menon explains.

The campaign was a mix of print, outdoor, BTL and catchment area communication. And, the agency went on to clinch an Effie Gold for this campaign. In India, the agency was handling Domino’s direct marketing requirements, which helped the brand gain around 34 per cent redemptions.


While all the agencies rely on technology (like Skype, video and conference calls) to keep in touch with the brands, they also believe that physically surveying and tracking consumer behaviour is extremely important.

Inner Circle conducts monthly visits of the markets and bi-monthly retail studies to garner real time market insights. Cultural and social insights, though, are not an area of concern, as it claims it understands “the pulse of Bengal”.

Navin Talreja, Ogilvy Mumbai

Navin Talreja, Ogilvy Mumbai

Similarly, the Ogilvy Mumbai team, while working on Bajaj’s campaign for Indonesia, took the help of its local office to understand the cultural nuances, traffic and biking culture of the country. “We got to these places to understand the cultural milieu. Social media makes it easier to do research and local offices are a treasure trove of cultural milieu, so we leverage that,” says Navin Talreja, president, Ogilvy & Mather, Mumbai.

Ogilvy Bengaluru’s Malani recalls the initial challenges the team faced when setting up a structure for Lenovo’s global hub. The team had to take into account local ways of working, getting the right inputs, creating a personal service rather than a back office, minimising disruption at the client end, and creating a unique personality and agency culture.

The forte…

With the world becoming a global village, is it true that cultural and local nuances are no more a hindrance for a “non local” agency?

Ogilvy’s Talreja says that he was not surprised to see that the agencies in the fray for the Home Centre account were all from India. “Home Centre could have easily gotten a creative agency in Dubai as well. However, it wanted long term sustainable brand ideas and more strategic partnerships when it grows; the ability to carry brand ideas across markets,” Talreja adds.

Awards apart, there is a realisation across the world that culturally relevant work that leverages specific insights and is emotionally powerful works a lot. “If that’s true, we (as Indians) do exactly that. We are powerful story tellers and that’s our forte,” he says. Besides, work seems to be moving from the West to the East, Talreja opines. So, more clients will leverage agencies based in India. “However, this model will not work if we don’t collaborate with our local agencies. And, it would be foolish not to do it in partnership,” Talreja points out.

Black Swan Life’s Menon has a pragmatic outlook. “Increasingly, in a global village, brands are tapping into universal insights. If we can get a foot in the door, I think the talent is there to deliver world class work,” he says confidently.

(Published in afaqs! on September 24, 2013)

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Mahindra’s SUV line looks at film competitions

M&M has associated with The 48 Hour Film Project to hold the XUV500 Memorable Short Film Festival. Winners get free SUVs.

At a time when companies are increasingly focusing on creating original, engaging content around their brands, Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) took an innovative approach and toyed with the idea of acquiring content that didn’t sound like an advertisement but at the same time, subtly created a brand presence.

Still from the winning film, Deal

Still from the winning film, Deal

M&M associated with the Indian chapter of The 48 Hour Film Project (HFP), an international short film competition where participants have to deliver the film in 48 hours, to organise a brand-based film competition. Titled XUV500 Memorable Stories Short Film Festival, the brand offered the very vehicle as the prize for the winning film.

Speaking on the objective behind the partnership, Vivek Nayer, chief marketing officer, Automotive Division, Mahindra & Mahindra, says, “People today want to go through new and interesting experiences. New experiences are the new ‘wealth’ in today’s world. The XUV500 brand aims to create memorable stories in the lives of our customers. Hence, we decided to create this short films contest to bring alive XUV500’s brand theme of ‘May your life be full of stories’.”

Preeti Gopalakrishnan, India producer, The 48 HFP

Preeti Gopalakrishnan

Preeti Gopalkrishnan, one of the two producers of the Indian chapter of The 48 HFP, says that M&M invited them to ideate and conceptualise a short film competition format to suit the creative brief. The brief was simple – the XUV500 had to be central to the story, not just a prop. To further aid the filmmakers, M&M offered the SUVs during the shoots.

While the competition took place last year, the winner and runners up were announced earlier this year. However, the winning team received their prized vehicle earlier this month.

How it was done? The 48HFP tapped into its talent pool – film makers, who participate in the 48HFP’s competitions across the country. A total of 29 film makers from across Jodhpur, Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai took part in the competition. While some were ad and corporate filmmakers, others included documentary makers as well as film enthusiasts. While six teams arranged the vehicle on their own, the rest got the vehicle for the shoot. But only 23 films were finally submitted.

According to Nayer, the brand theme of the XUV500 was promoted through this short film festival and while the viewer watches these films, the XUV500 remains as the main character in the viewer’s mind. These 23 films have already got more than 1 lakh organic views on YouTube.

“We drew up a concept, planned it, promoted it and executed it within a tight time frame. The complete contest management, managing legal paperwork, logistics of vehicle pick-up and drop, and jury coordination was handled by our team. We reached out to our film community inviting them to take part in an exciting opportunity like making a short film for XUV500, where the company even agreed to provide the SUVs for the shoot. And, the grand prize was an XUV500, a first for any short film competition anywhere in the world,” Gopalkrishnan says. The competition has a large talent pool of filmmakers across the country, who take part in 48 HFP.

Considering the uniqueness of the partnership, The 48 HFP was flexible in its format by giving participants 15 days to work on their short films. “The teams were given five days for script, five days for the shoot with the XUV500 and five days for post-production,” Gopalkrishnan adds.

The films were judged by a jury comprising Shimit Amin, director of Chak De India and Ab Tak Chhappan; Robby Mathew, national creative director, Interface; and Carlton D’souza, chief creative officer, Hungama Digital Media.

All the films including the winning film, Deal, are M&M’s property. M&M has already promoted these films amongst XUV500 owners and prospects and will continue promoting them on social media platforms. The brand will leverage these to promote the brand theme of ‘May your life be full of stories’.

Interestingly, the 48 HFP has done similar initiatives with Tata Docomo in 2011, wherein the brand wanted a TVC competition with the same creative brief as their then on-air campaign. The contest was announced separately during the Delhi and Mumbai legs of The 48 Hour Film Project events, giving details of concept, criteria and rules. Additionally, it reached out to its talent pool through SMSes, posters, e-mailers and FB campaigns and got over 60 creative expressions for the brand in the form of TVCs. There were multiple winners in both legs and they won HTC phones.

Nayer adds that the scope of such an initiative is vast for brands. “Short-formats will continue to play a key role but in tandem with long format in content marketing. It provides numerous ways for brands to communicate and instil their brand theme and ultimately, build equity,” he says.

Yogi Chopra

Yogi Chopra

Gopalkrishnan says that just getting likes and followers is not enough. Today’s users have an opinion on everything and it’s their birthright ordained by digital media to speak out. And, brands need more than paid brand ambassadors. They need story tellers. “We see this as an opportunity to create exciting competition formats and ultimately fresh content using the best talent from around the country. There is a lot of low quality stuff that is coming out on YouTube and managing a good number of views as well. So why not raise the bar, identify quality story-tellers and get great stories!” say Gopalkrishnan and Yogi Chopra, the other producer of 48 HFP.

For the filmmakers, brand-based film competitions add value by giving their films wider reach with brands promoting the films on the digital platform. “For the XUV500 filmmakers, they got a chance to make a road film, and even the car was provided to them. It was a first for everybody – filmmakers, the company and us!” says Gopalkrishnan.

The winning team

The winning team

Anshul Joshi, whose film, Deal, won the competition, says the challenge was to make XUV500 the hero of the film. In the limited amount of time the team had to come up with a story. “We knew we would have a car chase sequence and a game of poker. Poker – because that’s the game we used to play in our friend circle those days. We watched the BMW short films again for their execution style,” he recalls.

(Published in afaqs! on July 19, 2013)


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