how it evolved
An irate mob battling riot police amidst burning debris.
A couple seated on a sofa, backs turned, the air taut
with miffed silence. A copy of The Satanic Verses
being consumed by flames. A just-concluded child marriage,
the three-foot something groom looking way out of his
depth. A physically challenged girl painting a canvas,
brush clenched firmly in her teeth...
are many more expressions and renditions of expressions
in the campaign, stretching across media. For instance,
the 'child marriage' hoarding bears just one word: 'Oppose.'
The Satanic Verses hoarding says: 'Provoke.'
Another hoarding has the picture of an anti-abortion
demonstration: 'Debate.' There are short-edit films
as well; the pick of the lot perhaps being the one that
shows a blind boy reading Braille. Suddenly, a big smile
lights up his face lights. A simple 'smiley' appears
as a super.
the sort of images one would usually expect from the
meticulously airbrushed world of advertising. Definitely
not images one would expect to see in the advertising
for a cellular service brand particularly when
category advertising has, so far, been firmly anchored
to feel-good imagery.
course, 'format breaking' isn't the reason why these
images find a place in the new AirTel campaign. There's
a context to everything. Like there's a context to the
images of the bride at the altar or the three women
huddled at a coffee table or the little girl kneeling
by the bedside. And that context is 'expression'
the fundamental human need to communicate thoughts,
feelings and emotions.
the long-edit montage film for the brand opens on a
bride at the altar. 'Say yes,' reads the super. Then
comes the shot of the mob fighting the police: 'Say
no.' The cross couple: 'Say something.' A man standing
by a tombstone in a graveyard: 'Say nothing.' A kid
whispering into an adult's ear: 'Confess.' Three women
at a coffee table exchanging sly glances and giggles:
'Conspire.' A penalised footballer making a fervent
plea to the referee: 'Negotiate.' Children participating
in a vigil holding up candles: 'Speak out.' A little
girl praying quietly: 'Be heard.' The film ends with
the slug: 'Express yourself.'
this is the first time that the brand has delinked itself
from a generic category benefit (like staying connected)
or an arguable value proposition (like better connectivity
or superior clarity) to own a larger value that
of 'honesty of expression.' Once de rigueur,
feature, or value proposition-based communication, is
steadily losing its relevance as the category evolves
and competition multiplies.
from the strength of network to tariff plans is easily
replicated, leaving little space for the consumer to
exercise a rational preference. "Given the parity
in the category, there is no point in selling the rational
story any longer," says K Subramanian, planning
director, Rediffusion DYR, the agency on the account.
"Creating an intangible preference in the consumer's
mind is the need of the hour."
the last couple of years, the market has grown considerably,
with deeper penetration and a wider usage of voice and
data services, accompanied by a much higher competitive
intensity," says Atul Bindal, chief marketing officer,
Bharti TeleVentures. "In this context, differentiating
merely on network, coverage and SMS is just not enough.
You need to go beyond all the rational identifiers
which are prerequisites in any case and connect
at a deeper level.
needed a strong differentiator in an increasingly commoditised
and crowded market. We found this differentiator in
a core human truth that defines our category
which is that there are moments when you need to make
your point, when you need to be heard. Expressing and
communicating are perhaps two of the most basic emotions.
AirTel enables you to make your point in the most expressive
way anytime, anywhere. The campaign is towards
owning this through 'Express yourself.' We believe 'Express
yourself' allows us to connect at a deeper level and
create a long-term platform for the brand."
AirTel, the challenge also lay in presenting a unified
'face' to the consumer. This assumes significance when
viewed in the light of the company's pre- and post-paid
communication, which, in the past, had been treated
very differently. Brand image, as a result, was being
driven in two different dimensions. "Brand AirTel
is a category leader straddling completely different
market segments such as consumer, business and corporate,
as well as different voice, data and payment platforms,"
says Bindal. "'Express yourself' enables the brand
to unify and connect across the entire base of our existing
and prospective customers."
of the most obvious benefits of owning a property such
as 'candid expression' (and 'Express yourself') is the
expansive nature of the thought. "The moment you
have as broad a canvas as 'Express yourself,' it becomes
easy for anyone working on the brand to come up with
new ideas and executions. That's what makes a good campaign
idea," observes Rediff's Prashant Godbole, who,
along with creative partner Zarvan Patel, conceived
the campaign. This is just the proverbial tip of the
iceberg, says Patel. "We will be taking the idea
forward in many different ways in the forthcoming work."
Patel also credits his creative team for "fleshing
out the idea."
Ravi Udyawar has contributed significantly to the final
product on television. Be it in terms of 'montage situations'
(the simple idea of having the little girl praying for
the 'Be heard' thought was his, for instance) or the
treatment. "This was a very challenging campaign
because of the detailing involved," Udyawar recounts.
"Because the campaign thought was 'candid expression,'
my role as a filmmaker was to bring a certain candidness
to what you saw through the camera. The camera had to
play the part of a casual observer of something that
was actually happening."
says he used different types of cameras and processing
techniques to create the impression that each sequence
had been captured at various different points in time
whereas the entire campaign was shot over just
three days. Entirely in Mumbai, it must be added. Curiously,
some of the situations look like stock footage, especially
the 'riot' and 'football' scenes. They aren't. "We
went into detail over every little thing to create an
authentic look and feel," he says.
perhaps, is the wrong word here. Maybe it should read
'philosophy.' Because that's where AirTel can go, if
it perseveres with the thought where AirTel grows
from selling a cellular service to standing for freedom