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AdStand: The IPL Ad Break

Brands are investing big bucks on IPL. There are over 100 brands that are involved with IPL. But are we seeing advertising that can stand up to the stage where they are performing?

Delhi | May 9, 2016

Adstand by Naresh Gupta

Big televised sporting events are the bellwether for advertising industry. Super Bowl in the USA is the most definitive advertising event. Brands create spots for Super Bowl Sunday, tracking agencies track the best of the lot, bloggers and enthusiasts keep spreading the word. If a brand is on Super Bowl, it will do its best to ensure that they don't lose the battle of liking.

IPL is now becoming the Super Bowl for brands in India. IPL is a massive event and is a very large televised event where a lot of brands stake their claim to consumer liking and favour ability. Brands are investing big bucks on IPL. There are over 100 brands that are involved with IPL. Vivo, Freecharge, Vodafone, Yes Bank, Maruti Suzuki and Ceat are on-ground sponsors. Then there is Sony Six and Sony ESPN as telecast partners. And there arebrands like Karbonn, Intex, Gionee, HTC, Videocon, Etihad, Air India, Jet Airways, Kent RO, DBS Bank, Mother Dairy, Haldiram and many more who are involved with the teams.

With so many brands involved, are we seeing advertising that can stand up to the stage where they are performing?


Vivo Mobile Phones is the one that has invested the most in IPL. Vivo has used the platform to really launch the brand in India. To carve a piece of the fiercely competitive mobile handset market, they have signed up with Ranveer Singh. That in today’s time is a sure shot way to market leadership, given his immense fan following. The ad is a fast-paced tale of a besotted fan bumping into Ranveer who tries to take a selfie, but her phone is slow and it’s Ranveer who is fast with his phone and suddenly she is a star. Vivo is a phone that is fast, takes selfies faster and makes you into a star fastest. In the ultra competitive handset market, it looks like the phone’s ability to take a selfie tilts the scale, be it Vivo or Oppo. In the battle of Ranveer, Hritik and Sonam, it's the consumer who is left with a tough choice. To click a selfie or not!

Staying on the category of mobile handsets, the brand that is dominating the airwaves is the Micromax Canvas road roller ad. Why is the white Caucasian male so zoned out in the ad? Why is he driving a road roller crushing phones? Why is he insisting that it doesn't matterwhether you like our phones or not? Is it because we will crush all the competing phones and you won’t have any to buy? Or because the world has taken on to Micromax so much that every other phone has been consigned to the dustbin? I wish the road roller runs out of fuel soon and we are spared of the false revolution the brand is trying to foist on us!

Freecharge deserves kudos for using the platform of IPL extremely well. Freecharge was the brand that gave its subscribers cashback on phone recharge. It has added social transactions to the brand. The #LoDoKhatamKaro campaign is really insightful, funny and memorable. The campaign consists of multiple films, each telling a tale of someone owing money to someone else. Brilliantly acted, casted and scripted. Small nuances of how the two friends have conversation about money in all the ads make them even more loveable. It is difficult to imagine that friends will struggle to split the bill or struggle to remember to clear the ‘outstanding’, and that is where the brand scores big. It makes fun of those moments and does it well. May be Freecharge can launch the service for all loan defaulters and banks can say this to them quietly: #LoDoKhatamKaro.

Vodafone has been the most consistent performer on IPL stage. The ZooZoos they created some years back is still the reference point for many brands. The new Vodafone ad about a Mom at the airport and Son helping her get a window seat through a video call is too trite. It’s amazing that cellphone networks sold 3G services through Video Calls, and now the 4G services are sold through the exact same plank. So if Video Call is the only reason to switch from 3G to 4G, why switch? Vodafone has been master of telling simple tales simply; this time the commercial does seem to have missed the mark.

Ceat is pushing its SUV tyres on IPL, great contextual connect with IPL being a dominant male viewership event. The commercial is about outdoor rugged adventure, climbing on top of mountains, driving upside down, crossing a lake, even meeting the Loch Ness monster and a bewildered school principal. The school principal is bewildered at the amazing storytelling ability of the child. Aren’t children the people with most amazing imagination and ability to tell stories? Just a little twist and the ad would have become smart conversation about outdoors, nature, adventure and tyres. It’s not the principal who should be peering out of the window. The child has narrated a perfectly fine story. Now if the principal had complimented the father for helping the child tell stories, the ad would have changed character completely. Isn’t that what Dads do?

If we have to look at IPL as the bellwether for advertising industry, then the signs don't foretell a happy story. From TVS Jupiter to Amazon to DBS bank ads, there are many that make little sense. Yet, in the morass of indifferent ads are ads for Freecharge and Crompton LED light. May the light shine brighter.

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