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Adstand: Does honesty work?

Two campaigns this week – Airtel and Finolex fans – have been the most talked about campaigns of the week. Both have been blazing away on social media. Honesty is a difficult virtue in both categories

Delhi | June 28, 2016

Adstand by Naresh Gupta

Two campaigns this week have been the most talked about campaigns of the week. Both have been blazing away on social media. Both have had reactions of bewilderment. One is for a leading telecom brand, the other for a brand of cables that makes fans.  Honesty is a difficult virtue in both categories. Let’s look at what they are doing.

Airtel’s honest campaign

Airtel has run a sustained campaign building itself as India’s ubiquitous mobile telephone network. The 4G girl has more followers on social media than many brands. For that brand to release a campaign that says “all networks are same” is a fairly brave move. It on one swoop it has done away with all the muscle it built and goes lean.

Aitel has released full-page ads across the country promoting its open network initiative. The TV campaign builds on the usual lament of consumers, poor network and reception, call drops, etc. These are complaints that all network operators face. The commercial then becomes an extended product demonstration of what the tech backend is, how the network operates, how the towers can be seen or not seen. This is how brands used to do product demos in the past; Airtel has rediscovered it. The campaign offers no solution to the problems; it seeks participation from every subscriber, it hopes to solve a problem.

The campaign has stirred the hornet’s nest. There are comments on both sides for the campaign. Early comments (possibly seeded by the brand) seem to indicate that the campaign is loved, but the later comments are all about how the network is dysfunctional. Either ways Airtel has succeeded in generating interest in how it runs the brand and acknowledges the problems the network faces. The campaign is possibly more of a PR campaign, but does have an honest undertone. That is a radical departure from the 4G girl campaign.

The Fan and rocket science

There is a very famous brand of cables that has just launched a range of fans. Chances are you have caught this really over the top long film about space station, about mom’s love and about pickle. What has it got to do with a fan? Almost nothing or everything. If you get taken in by the over the top narrative, then everything. If you look for logic, then nothing. If you haven’t caught the ad either on your social feed or as a Whatsapp forward, then here it is: [youtube][/youtube]

Building a narrative for a category like fan is not easy. If the aperture of evaluation is honesty then fan ads will be mundane, boring and utterly forgettable. This is a category that needs a slightly involved storytelling. Creative licence is not a bad thing to use to craft a tale. In that narrative there has to be a modicum of product truth. In crowded categories, completely suspending belief gets chuckles, even memorability but not intention to buy.

Finolex has a bizarre tale of mom’s love, pickle, space station, anti-gravity, scientists, politicians, socialites, news anchors and even a loving servant who sings lullaby. How does all this work for a fan brand? It whips a tornado that makes a man fly to space. Escape velocity finds a new meaning in this TVC!

Honesty and brands are not to marry. But in today’s persuasion economy, consumers do look for a certain sense of brand truth. Airtel has made an interesting use of honesty, may be it works better than hyperbole of fan that induces tornado and servant who sings lullaby.

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