Mumbai: At first glance, the commercial for Cadbury Bournville dark chocolate looks like something from BBC’s prime time programming. Very Brit, random and extremely entertaining, with a foreign cast, accents and backdrop. But the spot, which looks like it was made in, by and for the British market, was actually shot by Acne Film, a Stockholm-based film production house, for the Indian market. The idea was to give the brand—which was, in a sense, introducing a new category here—an international aura associated with a premium dark chocolate brand.
Marketing logic: Such strategies can help clear confusion about a brand’s identity or positioning.
A growing number of advertisers are opting for ads with an international ambience, established via cast, theme, crafting, humour and location. This creative style enables brands to communicate their pedigree, premium label or nationality and helps them stand out in overcrowded product categories, experts say.
“We wanted to build an aura around the brand (Bournville). Pitch it as a high, premium offering... At the end of the day, you have to qualify it,” says Manoj Shetty, creative director, Ogilvy and Mather (India) Ltd, which handles the Cadbury India Ltd account. “We wanted consumers to think of it like you would (think of) a premium wine, whisky or cigar. Something you would hold out for a special occasion—where you want to celebrate something special.”
But didn’t the brand run the risk of alienating customers who may not be familiar with that brand of random humour? “It’s a very simple story with random humour. It’s not slapstick comedy,” he says. “Worse-case scenario, even if you don’t get it, at least you’ll think it is premium.”
Hard marketing logic backs this creative approach. “In some cases, people believe that ‘imported’ is the benchmark for a category. This is especially true of categories such as personal grooming products or fashion,” says Priti J. Nair, managing partner at BBH India, an arm of the UK-based ad agency BBH.
A fact demonstrated in ads for Hindustan Unilever Ltd’s Axe Dark Temptation deodorant, Garnier’s shampoo or L’Oreal India Pvt. Ltd’s personal care products.
Fashion brands also use international imagery to establish themselves as premium products. Jewellery brand D’damas’ recent Gold Expressions campaign by BBH London for a range of Italian designer jewellery tries to recreate the romance of Italian cinema. Inspired by imagery from Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life), the ad hoped to capture some of that romance.
However, for a category such as gold jewellery, Indian consumers rely on factors such as purity and weight for benchmarking, which proved to be a challenge for the BBH team. “Italian jewellery is not about weight, it is about minimalism, design…you have to qualify the price attached to the product at the end of the day,” says Nair. Which is why it was very important that the treatment and feel of the ad was as Italian as possible. “The ad had to stand out in the crowd and create an aura of international feel and design,” Nair adds.
The overseas route can help clear confusion about a brand’s identity or positioning. Talking about the challenge faced by French glass brand Saint-Gobain SA when it entered the Indian market, K.V. Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India, says: “The brand was mistaken by consumers as a small, cottage industry brand from Punjab as people would call it ‘Sant Gobin’. That is where advertising with very international tones helped.”
In his view, the very British ad for Bournville would ensure the product is not dismissed as another chocolate variant from Cadbury India.
The foreign touch can also be employed to avoid offending consumer sensibilities. Sridhar says the cheeky Axe deodorant ads would never be acceptable if they were shot with Indian models. “Imagine the ad for Axe...where the woman bites the chocolate boy’s bum, being shot with Indian models. It would never work.”
The foreign touch also implies cost savings, important in a slowing economy. Ad budgets are optimized for advertisers who “think local, act global” in their strategy since such footage can run across geographies. If the ad is good, they would definitely consider using it in other markets, says Sneha Iype Varma, executive producer, Nirvana Films.
“More and more brands are wanting to spend less on production. While ad spending may not go down substantially, companies are looking to trim expenditure wherever possible. So in that sense, ‘centralized production’ is definitely something brands are considering,” says Joseph George, executive director of Lintas India Pvt. Ltd which handles the Axe account. “But it’s not like they pick up an ad from a market and slap it on to another to save costs. It’s done with a clear understanding of where the ad is going to run and is put through a consumer filter for factors such as engagement, likeability, relevance, appeal, etc.”