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Airtel ‘Boss’ TVC: Sexist or Sweet?

Airtel's new campaign by Taproot is creating a storm on digital media, with many labelling it as ‘sexist’ while others are giving it a thumbs up

Sohini Sen | Mumbai | August 1, 2014

Airtel-Boss-TVC Click on the image to watch the TVC.

Bharti Airtel's latest campaign has left some people smiling, and some others, smirking. Love it or hate it, you cannot ignore it, as the campaign is being watched, shared and scrutinised on the worldwide web. Created by Taproot India, the new campaign moves away from Airtel’s ‘celebrating friendship’ theme. The current campaign promotes its data network, leveraging the increase in smartphone usage.

Mohit Beotra Mohit Beotra

“Data is clearly driving the next phase of telecom revolution across the globe. In recognition of this phenomenon, we have made significant technology and network investments to ensure we deliver the best data experience for smartphone users in India. ‘The Smartphone Network’ campaign by Airtel drives this very message in a manner that is intrinsic with our brand positioning,” said Mohit Beotra, Chief Brand Officer, Bharti Airtel (India).

Airtel has always been about building relationships – be it with friends across the border or friends within a group (Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hai). This time, through the professional and personal relationships of a married couple, Airtel shows the ‘superiority’ of its data package and how it brings them closer. The TVC is running on all national TV channels, and also have a strong presence in the digital world. The campaign will be supported by a strong presence on static media, including outdoor and retail.

The TVC opens with a lady sitting in her office cabin, talking to her team. She tells them that a particular assignment has to be completed by the end of the day. The firmness in her voice is evident. She is seen leaving office in her chauffeur-driven car. Later, she calls up her husband and asks him what he would like for dinner. On reaching home, she quickly starts cooking up a meal and calls her husband to coax him to come home soon, while tempting him with the sumptuous dinner that is laid out on the table, via video chat. The twist in the tale is that her husband is her subordinate who is working late in office at her insistence.

Deven Sansare Deven Sansare

Deven Sansare, Chief Creative Officer, Ferry Wharf Communications, had this to say about the ad: “I must say that when I first saw the TVC, I was a bit let down with the ending. Couldn't they have shown her leaving office and then going to a restaurant with friends and texting him something like 'wish you were here'? That would not have taken the story away. But, at the same time, when I thought about it, Airtel has always been about this. Be it from their AR Rahman campaign or making Shahrukh Khan sell SIM cards at a sabzi mandi. They latch on to what is currently trending. And women's rights and empowerment is always in.”

Prathap Suthan Prathap Suthan

Prathap Suthan, Managing Partner & Chief Creative Officer, Bang in the Middle, is more appreciative of the TVC. “Airtel's previous campaigns have all been very young. They featured younger actors because maybe that's who they were targeting. With this they have matured a lot. Because, maybe a college kid would not be able to afford a data pack to let them stream videos like that. Or even afford a high end smartphone. It is a wonderful campaign which shows a typical middle class situation. I wouldn't have been surprised had Idea Cellular done something like this because their campaign tone is usually around these lines. However, Vodafone wouldn't have been able to pull this off. Coming from Airtel, though, the story in itself is not surprising, it makes for a very good campaign,” he said.

However, the campaign has created some controversy on social networking and micro-blogging sites. According to critics of the campaign, it is a ‘sexist’ ad, since the lady comes home and is shown to be cooking. But KV Sridhar, Chief Creative Officer, SapientNitro, calls these comments a hogwash.

KV Sridhar KV Sridhar

“I quite liked the ad, since it is progressive and bold. Portrayal of women in ads has usually been limited to that of a secretary with an iPad in hand. But to show her as the boss, and a firm one at that, is good. And what is this controversy about? If two people are working, either of them will have to cook after reaching home. And, in this case, she reaches early. Had they shown the husband sitting at home all day and she working in office, it would not make much realistic sense. This is real and it is a wonderful ad,” Sridhar said.

The campaign also marks the introduction of a new design element which has been created by Wolf Ollins. The new design strengthens and emboldens the Airtel brand system to cut through clutter, create impact in the Indian communications landscape and give Airtel a distinctive place in the market.

Zia Patel Zia Patel

Zia Patel, Director – India, Wolf Ollins, said, “Around the world, telcos have evolved rapidly to the smartphone revolution – and India too is now a market that is all about smartphones and data explosion on handheld devices. Airtel is one of India’s most loved brands and has been a clear leader in recognising as well as driving this very potential of data in the country. The new design element in Airtel’s branding signals the aspirational data shift and depicts a refreshed approach to engage its customers.”

As we said, opinion is sharply divided, but the brand visibility has been very strong simply because the TVC is being watched, shared and commented upon all over Facebook and other platforms. Perhaps the product messaging has taken a backseat. The jury is still out.

The TVC:



Client: Airtel

Creative Agency: Taproot India

Executive Creative Directors: Agnello Dias, Santosh Padhi

Writers: Agnello Dias, Pallavi Chakravarti

Client Servicing: Priyanka Rishi, Naved Punjabi, Gargi Raju

Production House: Early Man Film

Cast: Madhurima Tuli, Siddhant Karnick

Director: Vinil Mathew

Executive Producer: Swadha Kulkarni

DOP: Din

Music: Amar Mangrulkar

Sound: Darshan Nair

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