Mumbai: On 4 September, the 10pm news bulletin on TV9, a news channel from the Associated Broadcasting Company Pvt. Ltd in Andhra Pradesh, was interrupted by a group of people in white coats. Armed with vacuum cleaners, mops and even an electric toothbrush, the motley bunch barged into the studio and proceeded to clean everything in sight, as a flabbergasted newsreader looked on. Then, just as abruptly, they disappeared. The tag line—cleaner images, coming soon—flashed on the screen, followed by a hurried delivery of the late night bulletin.

Lacking impact: Aegon Religare Life Insurance Co. Ltd recently came out with its K.I.L.B. campaign in an extremely crowded life insurance market. Some experts say many teasers are too complex to grab attention.

The entire incident was part of a teaser campaign to introduce the Godrej Eon XLCD television (with the cooperation of a television channel willing to lend its newsreader and sell some seconds of its news bulletin as airtime). “The idea was to draw attention to the fact that it (the LCD TV) used technology that could actually deliver a cleaner and clearer image," says Kaushik Mitra, senior vice-president and brand partner at Orchard Advertising Pvt. Ltd, which created the TV spot. This was communicated through mass media and ground activities, where the group would go around cleaning car windshields at petrol pumps and traffic signals as part of its product promotion drive.

In the current era of high media fragmentation and ad clutter, experts say it is imperative for a brand to have an interesting and intriguing preface to its story—even before it begins telling that story. “Else, often the best told stories go unheard or under heard," says Ambarish Ray, assistant general manager at TBWA India.

That could explain why a number of brands across categories are using teaser campaigns to grab consumer attention. So, whether it’s mobile service provider Idea Cellular Ltd, that used its Yeh Mumbai ka Nahin… (Not from Mumbai) campaign to launch its services in Mumbai, Aegon Religare Life Insurance Co. Ltd, which recently came out with its K.I.L.B. or Kum Insurance Lene ki Bimari (roughly translated as a tendency to take a lower insurance cover) teaser ad to launch its product in an extremely crowded life insurance market, or Planet M, which got people talking about UFO, or unidentified flying objects, sightings in Mumbai, the idea was to cut through the clutter and grab attention.

“Life insurance is a high decibel (ad) spends category and we needed something that would cut across the clutter and tweak consumer interest," says Pradeep Pandey, director, branding and communication, Aegon Religare Life Insurance Co. Ltd. The company spent Rs10 crore on the campaign featuring actor Irrfan Khan.

However, some experts say many of the new teasers are too complex to grab attention. Their opinion is that teasers should pique viewer interest before a brand’s launch and not irk or bore viewers.

A typical teaser campaign will often carry a cryptic message which succeeds in grabbing some amount of viewer attention. It could be a classic teaser—which is clearly an advertisement and only one step removed from the outcome, as in the case of Idea Cellular’s “Jiska number Mumbai ka, Woh Mumbai ka" (The person who has a Mumbai number actually belongs to the city) campaign.

A teaser campaign can also masquerade as a mysterious development, such as in the case of the Planet M campaign, which started off with emails and was followed up with videos on YouTube that generated at least 27,000 hits. In the case of the Godrej XLCD ad, the teaser campaign leads consumers to a website,, where a bunch of animated scientists clean up the website.

Still, teaser campaigns, which are cost-intensive considering the hype that has to be created in a short time, may not necessarily deliver the desired results. There are a number of factors that come into play, such as the duration of campaign, clarity of thought and choice of media, among others.

And they can be hijacked also. In 2005, a long-running teaser campaign to launch the Daily News and Analysis (DNA), an English daily, in Mumbai was hijacked by the Maharashtra Times, a Marathi daily published by Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd. The Marathi daily used DNA’s imagery and tag line: “Speak up: It’s in your DNA" to their advantage by tweaking the tag line to say: “Speak up: It’s in your DNA— Maharashtra Times".

Finally, while teasers can work beautifully if done well, there is always a risk of backlash if the revelation fails to meet consumer expectations. “Or worse, when they (consumers) find out that they’ve been lied to," says K. V. Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India.