Mumbai: It may be an advertisement for Bajaj Avenger, the lean and mean bike from Bajaj Auto Ltd, but rats steal the show in the commercial.

The campaign, created by Mullen Lintas and shot by director Richard D’Alessio, is based on the basic insight that life has become all about competition and that people are too busy running the rat race to actually stop and reclaim their life. The ad film shows how people—actually played by real rats—are in constant pursuit of time, fame, money, and that coveted corner office, often losing sight of the bigger picture. The new campaign hopes to serve as a wake-up call, especially to the youth, by holding up a mirror to this life and urges them to break away and discover life with the Bajaj Avenger, to help them ‘Feel like God’.

The ad, shot partially in the beautiful Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada state, shows a biker break away from the rat race to reclaim his life with the Bajaj Avenger. But it’s not just the beautiful landscape and the bike that stay with the audience. It’s actually the other stars in the film, the rats, that walk away with much of the attention. The filmmakers chose to use about 50 real, trained rats for the campaign. The rats were sourced in the US itself along with their trainer.

“With enough time and money, you can computer-generate anything. But we adopted a more purist approach and decided to shoot part of the ad with real rats," said Shriram Iyer, national creative director, Mullen Lintas.

It’s one thing to keep it as real as possible, and quite another to shoot a film with so many rats. “Luckily, expert trainers made it look easy. No computer graphics, no effects, just great actor rats," said Iyer. He said the animals were so well trained that they would pretty much follow basic commands by the trainer, making the experience fairly easy.

The trainers identified the animals that did the more difficult actions involving everything from standing on a paper weight, to hanging off a safe. “The uncertainty of it all was the exciting part," said Iyer.

To be launched first on the digital platform, the integrated campaign borrows from the successful theme of ‘Feel Like God’ which made the Avenger a highly sought-after bike when it was launched more than a decade ago. In keeping with that original philosophy, the latest campaign shows the Avenger man traversing a “break-free" journey yet again and sees him giving up certain choices that would have otherwise impaired his freedom.

“We launched three new variants of the Avenger—Cruise 220 and Street 220 and 150—which have been successful from day one. The bikes not only serve well for daily city commute, but are also perfectly designed to take long weekend and adventure rides…several Avenger riding communities have also come up which celebrate the feeling of liberation this bike offers. Our brief to Mullen Lintas was to dramatize this sense of liberation but with a context to daily life," said Sumeet Narang, vice-president of marketing at Bajaj Auto.