Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vodafone does it again!

Vodafone with the ZooZoos campaign really proved how effective marketing and brand building is not only about the large, expensive ads with big stars.

I just saw this new Blackberry ad - and it is perfect! Wonderful way to get across the message about Blackberry not being for the old office boys anymore. What is even better is that Vodafone has still stayed with the simple ad shoot -- one room - lots of people - simple dance moves - a nice jingle and very simple - precise - lyrics. See for yourself and tell me what you think.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Strange encounters of the Mumbai kind

In a big city like Mumbai where everyone is always moving, where the mode of address starts and ends with the jarring 'tu' (तू), where everyone is at once wary and unaware of you, the kindness of a stranger seems so out of place and bizarre. In this past year, I have had amazing experiences with absolute strangers who have helped me. I wanted to write two encounters that have stayed with me so I don't forget one of the many ways in which coming back home has been absolutely worth it.

About 6 months ago, I was stuck in an auto at the Juhu circle traffic signal near my house and a couple of hijras (eunuchs) came begging. I liked them a lot - they were dressed to the nines with a lot of attitude and were speaking in Tamil and passing hilarious comments on everyone. I understand Tamil and was enjoying their humorous swipes, especially at the men not paying them. When they came to me, they started commenting on my shades and how I looked like I thought I was a heroine (for my Tamil friends - Kallakitte -- was prominently used :) ). I started laughing and responded in my broken Tamil that they looked the same way and that their lipstick was REALLY kalaka . They stopped speaking for a whole 2 seconds and the auto driver just burst out laughing. Pretty soon they both broke out into excited exclamations and said that I didn't look Tamil. When I told them I was Kashmiri - they almost died! It was hilarious! They were so sweet to me! One of them got into the auto and started chatting about 'Sennai' and when I mentioned I studied there for 4 years - they just loved it. The auto driver was enjoying the entire conversation. Pretty soon they were asking me how I liked Mumbai and I said I did but I found it lonely here. They were super sweet to me and then as the cars started moving they both blessed me and wished me wonderful things. I know hijras are supposed to bless you only if you give them money - but this one was so heartfelt and genuine - the encounter made my day.

The second and most recent encounter was with the most interesting person I have met in Mumbai thus far. Just this past Friday, I had a meeting at 10 am in Worli and the skies opened up in Andheri around 8 am. At 830, I was not able to get a single auto and all the local taxis at the stand were booked. I was sure I would be very late to an important meeting and returned to the taxi stand to ask the drivers where I was likely to get a cab. They directed me and as I turned around it suddenly started pouring. My blow-dry had long since wilted from a respectable CEO-type professional into a geeky engineer and now my clothes looked like I had ironed them in vain. I was not looking forward to going into a swanky office late and looking like that! One of the cab drivers then called me back and offered to drive me to the next available cab for free. He was jovial and just said that he couldn't bear to see me in the rain trying to get to work on time. I was of course super grateful and just happy to be out of the rain and moving in the general direction of the meeting.

After about 3 Kms of not finding a single cab and me nervously wondering when the favor would run out - the cab driver just turned around and said he would just take me to the meeting if I came back the other way with him as well. Since I needed to get back home right after the meeting I was happy and extremely grateful for the offer. He actually requested a friend to take his previous reservation and shrugged off my gratitude with a 'I could not see a young lady in the rain'. I mean -- wow! does anyone think like that anymore?

I had noticed he had spoken in Gujarati to his friend and I asked him if he was from Gujarat. He said that he was a 'Gujarati-Marathi'. I asked him a little facetiously how that was and if the MNS let him use terms like that. He said that his father had lived in Mumbai for 50 years and after getting hassled by the MNS goons one time he had gone home and calculated all the tax that his father had paid to the Maharashtra government. According to him, the combined taxes paid were around 40 Lakh rupees. He also said that since he regularly paid his own taxes including the car tax, road tax and petrol tax he had more rights to call this city his own than some dude who had maharashtrian parents. It was flawless logic and quite awesome to hear after all the MNS jingoism.

I noticed a VCD of the movie 'Khuda Ke Liye' jutting from his glove compartment and asked him if he had seen the movie. He proudly said yes and said that he always keeps the VCD in his car for the times he meets radicalized muslims. He said that he always gives them the movie to watch so they understand how muslim youth are being swayed and fooled by radical elements. It was amazing to hear him expound on the qualities of media and how he wished there were more films made in India that better communicated these messages in a classy and real manner in India. Not to play into stereotypes - but here was a Gujarati muslim taxi driver claiming to be part maharashtrian and wanting to fix basic issues of understanding religion through media and education. And to top it all - he said that he loved reading and was currently reading Chanakya's Arth-Shastra!!! .. and that his favorite book was Osho - Volume 2! It was just the most wonderful taxi ride I have ever had and Irfan-saab's number is of course saved for any future long distance commutes in Mumbai.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Say it isn't so! ... now Desi Twilight!

I have been following Star One for a couple of weeks now as I think they are the only channel in India that is doing a good job of understanding their target audience and sticking to content for them. It is my belief that in the race to become the highest rated Hindi GEC (general entertainment channel), the broadcasting companies are making a major mistake of generalizing their enormous and diverse audience and losing out on opportunities to capitalize from proper segmentation. But - more on that later - in a more serious post. This one is about a promo I just saw ...

There is a very nicely done promo doing the rounds for a new show --- with a predictable tagline - 'dark luv story' (yes, they spelled it like that). The show description on the website reads "A contemporary, visual, and visceral Romeo and Juliet story of the ultimate forbidden love affair - between a non human and a mortal". I thought - good for 13-30 types looking for romantic, guilty pleasure -- suitably stern looking hero -- flighty looking heroine .. etc etc...

This promo was a little generic, but the new promo makes it look suspiciously like 'Twilight' !!!! I couldn't find a link to it yet -- but essentially our 'slightly' more buxom bella is walking around with her internal voice wondering why 'he' keeps following her but never talks to her. Our hero is meanwhile shown in various brooding poses that all look suspiciously the same..... enter car and bad cgi and hero saving buxom bella.... this might even end up being Ed-Wood-esque fun .. :)

[Finally found the new promo -- check it out and tell me if you think this is Twilight ]

Okay - so besides the fact that we have absolutely no mythology around the vampyre or concept of immortals walking amongst us (unless you count the saptarishis which have long since gone away from popular lore) -- it will be damn interesting to see how this show plays out on desi toob. I have to say - at least the pouf and the lipstick that poor Rob Patz has to put up with is missing here....

You can even rate if you think Vivian DSena will make a good vampire on his fan page:

But seriously will there be any sunlight issues -- or garlic -- or the cross ??? all of this is based on Christian lore -- or perhaps this is a jain vampire -- no garlic --- lol! OOOH! and will they introduce werewolves? I am very interested in how the creative team works with this. It will even be more interesting if this ends up doing better commercially than the real Twilight. The books and the series have a HUGE fan following in India, but unfortunately the films are always released with absolutely minimal marketing - really sad.

Just from a purely personal perspective though -- I wish they hadn't chosen twilight to showcase some super-natural fantasy content. There is so much fantastic regional lore to tap into in India. It would have been so cool if they had created the story around a region and built characters from the lore there -- I mean -- the Northeast, Kerala, Jharkhand, Bengal ..... so much opportunity and the potential of creative content might just get limited to teenage sighs for a desi vampire :). I cannot help but see the business potential being missed here -- imagine a teenage supernatural romance with characters built on regional Indian lore. As long as the writing is good and the show keeps the audience coming -- the potential for alternative revenue streams -- comics - weekly magazines - fan fiction - merchandising - content in regional languages .... so much opportunity... well! am going to wait and watch how this one goes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Becoming Indian .... from milk to 'milak'

I was talking with my uncle last week and in his dear Kashmiri accent he was asking me if I at least got a Dairy 'milak' for raakhi from my miserly brothers. It made me think about how mithai has been replaced by the chocolate bar and especially the Cadbury's Dairy milk bar. Of course the reasons are obvious -- when was the last time you bought one or two pieces of sweet? Chocolate is cheaper, easy to carry, has better packaging and some might say is even healthier. But - keeping these practical reasons aside, just the jump from mithai to chocolate is pure marketing magic.

Cadbury's is one of the few brands that has taken a generic product like chocolates and truly crossed over to make it an Indian brand. The entire concept of presenting chocolates as a replacement for the ubiquitous sweets in India is genius! Making Cadbury's a part of the Indian culture and specifically festivals is something Amul chocolates have never been able to do - or perhaps they have always had the constraint of cannibalizing their other milk products which fit in better with the traditional sweets like Srikhand.

The new Cadbury's 'Shubh Aarambh' (meaning a blessed beginning) marketing series is just fantastic! It is a perfect culmination of all those years of 'kuch khaas hai' and 'kuch meetha ho jaye' series. I was thinking about growing up with these ads and how well the dairy milk bar has been represented --

from our national obsession with cricket (and according to this ad - celebration after the match more than the match :) ) ....

to the wonderful ad about mehndi -- something every Indian girl understands ...

.. the 'Celebrations' boxes for festivals - especially advertisements that always come out for Raakhi and Diwali:

and the brilliant Shubh Aarambh campaign -- just pitch perfect! The two ads - one about the cheeky but adorable teenager asking the girl out with a purely indian line (and bringing his mum into it -- aww!) and the other about the middle aged lady wearing jeans for the first time. For me - the second ad is perfectly done - and hits the right note across middle class India where I am sure there are women in every house who would like to try a pair of jeans and this ad just brings out their apprehensions about walking out and their idea of spousal support .... my ad for the year!

The campaign by Ogilvy India has hit the right note in using the concept of something sweet in anticipation of something good that is about to happen. For the Indian ethos this translates into almost everything - from the sweet we eat before we embark on a journey (tie-ups with travel industry perhaps) to the sugar my mother makes me eat before I leave for every exam to the check-up .... so much opportunity ... and such a nice concept!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The NRI audience VS the Single screen

Having been assaulted with marketing for the two big movies releasing this month - Karan Johar's We are Family and Arbaaz Khan's Dabangg -- I am actually very interested in how successful each is going to be. The way I see it, Family represents what the Chopra / Johar camp farm as 'urban-sensibilities' - aka - 'What NRIs want to believe the Indian urban sensibilities represent' and Dabangg represents a no-apologies milking of Salman-bad-boy- status along with corny and probably tired story.

While Karan has officially bought the rights to the Stepmom story and adapted the screenplay - a first - I am just not excited about the movie. I am willing to bet that each and everyone of the characters is uni-dimensional - Kajol probably plays the mother who is about to die (Kajol will give another example of strong 'natural' and 'instinctive' acting with her crying into the screen --- didn't we just see My name is Khan?) and Kareena the hot girlfriend (er.. ok just think of the past 5 movies) with Arjun probably with no room to emote in his sometimes cool boyfriend and sometimes cool dad (this is easy -- think ALL his films besides Rock On and Don). But most of all I actually shudder to think about the kind of dialogues the Johar camp will force the kids to spout --- ewwww! --- probably either saccharine sweet (think Kuch Kuch Hota Hai) or WAY beyond their years. The Indian film industry's inability to depict children properly is an entire blog posting by itself..... (right now I'm imagining 'sexy' from Cheeni Kum) ... shudder!

Dabangg on the other hand has Salman wearing a thin mustache in a cops uniform which screams 'corrupt' , a lady love who looks very cute and very 'innocent' and who is already spouting 'no exposure' lines in the media and a kick-ass Malaika rubbing Zandu balm on her sexy ahem! ... I mean .. ok call me regressive - but I am SO going to see Dabangg. Hell! give me the zandu balm over jailhouse rock anyday!

Just look at the marketing!! I have no doubts that Family will make some money, specifically from the NRI junta -- but a case in point is the film posters -- while family screams 'boring!' -- Dabangg screams 'watch with friends and popcorn!'

While Karan is coming to 'Entertainment ke liye kuch bhi karega' with the 'family' and they're dancing to 'let's rock' ... (seriously?) and having tete-a-tetes with Kajol and Kareena on his talk show .. (is there really something we HAVEN'T heard before?) .. Dabangg I have to say is really employing smart marketing.

Just check out this Sallu promo for him on Emotional Atyachar yaar! -- that's a match made in heaven! ... Great way to reach out to young punks in cities who get their guilty-pleasure updates from the show ... just mouth-watering marketing ... :)

And ... brilliant! Sallu maama will make an entry in Colors' show 'Laagi Tujhse Lagan' to save the damsel in distress! Nice! The show itself is getting good TRPs and the story has also been written to accommodate this guest appearance. A very nice win-win for both the show and the movie with Sallu again reaching out to des and generally tapping into a lot of the single-screen audiences without leaving the multiplexes behind.

A Case in point -- just check out the promos for Sallu promoting Dabangg on 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa' and Karan-Kajol-Kareena chat....' --- very clear indication of the sort of audiences both movies are targeting. Even the website for Family has overseas showtimes listed :) I am sure the NRI audiences are going to come running, but as for me -- I am also glad that there is a movie that is looking to the single screens and employing smart marketing to reach out to all audiences. From what I see Dabangg is not hiding behind a veil of sophistication and understanding urban India. I mean seriously -- forget Hollywood remakes, just watch 'Wake up Sid', 'Rocket Singh', even 'Mixed Doubles' and 'Metro' to get a clue about movies that can attempt to show slices of urban life in a manner that does reach out to diverse audiences.

While with a title like 'We are family' - the movie marketing ironically is keeping away standard audiences with the high school popularity brigade --- Dabangg just screams 'come hither - bring friends' ... and I think audiences across India are going to take up Dabangg on it.

For me - it is case closed! -- I am buying advance tickets for Dabangg with friends :)