On a chilly January evening, inside Taj Lands End’s expansive lawns, Indian advertising industry got its ‘Chak De! India’ moment, when the proverbial underdog edged out the industry giant to claim the Client of the Year award at Effie’s 2018.
Effie’s Client of the Year list is a star-studded affair, with Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) retaining the title for the past four editions of the awards. As winners were being announced and points tallied, everyone was aware of a new player in the game: One97 Communications (Paytm’s parent company). Still, when Paytm walked off the stage with the Client of the Year title, everyone knew this was a moment that would go down in history.
But Paytm’s triumph is not it’s alone. McCann, the agency behind Paytm’s campaigns is to be equally lauded for the same. Of the five golds that the agency won at this year’s Effies, three belonged to the campaigns they did for Paytm. McCann also won Agency of the Year award this year on the back of some very good campaigns.
A casual glance back at the names that have bagged the Client of the Year award at Effies in the previous years should show why Paytm’s win is quite a feat: Cadbury (2011 and 2012), Tata Teleservices (2010), Vodafone (2009), Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd (2008), ABT Associates (2007), HUL (2006). When giants with money to boot and products that cover every category imaginable compete, the tiny players bow out but not this time.
So, what helped Paytm break through to the ranks of HUL and in the end, trump them?
Demonetisation was definitely a factor but Paytm wasn’t the only player in the market when the Prime Minister decided to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes overnight but they were the only ones to publish a picture of the PM, congratulating him, in all of the nation’s leading dailies the very next day.
A cross section of the industry has often termed Paytm as ‘opportunists’ and ‘lucky’ since demonetisation happened right in time for them. But, not to forget that Paytm is not the first mobile wallet in the country, nor was it the only player in the segment when demonetisation was announced. It was only about a quick action, an action taken in time.
Patym was ready, before anyone, to take advantage of the opportunity that had presented itself to them. Paytm proved that a well-placed communication and business strategy can create categories and brands in weeks, something that otherwise would have taken years of efforts.
They weren't afraid to take a bold stand. Their Modi advert did land them in a political controversy as one cannot use the Prime Minister’s picture without prior permission from the government, as per law (Paytm later apologised to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs for the same). Rumors that the company was already in the know of the move were also flying thick and fast but Paytm wasn’t perturbed by the rumors and stuck to their guns.
They also didn’t shy away from spending big on big ideas. Three of their campaigns, 'Helping India conquer note-bandi', 'India's biggest crash course in financial literacy' and 'A sticker that brought hope' won gold at Effies this year. Everywhere one looked, Paytm was there, from the roadside sandwich-wala to the biggest malls in the country.
Paytm was definitely a big gainer post demonetisation, probably even the biggest. The Alibaba-Softbank backed company today, has a customer base of around 5 million and while there are reports of 40 per cent out of the 65 per cent active users for mobile wallets shifting back to cash, Paytm is a name people of this country are unlikely to forget for a long time to come.
And while, HUL will probably come back to take the Client of the Year award next year and we might never see a feat like this repeated ever again, history has been charted ladies and gents and it has a nasty habit of repeating itself.