After helping end Finnish firm Nokia's complete domination in the Indian market, mobile handset maker Micromax has turned its attention to another multinational Goliath, Apple, through a cheeky advertisement that takes a jab at iPhone.
The latest print advertisement for Micromax's Android handset reads, "i (can afford this) Phone". While the overriding message is a play on the world's most popular smart phone's steep price tag in India, the ad talks about features offered by the new phone.
Micromax is the latest to join a rising list of advertisers who have opted to tease a rival product to promote their brands. Over the last month or so, UB's McDowell's, Dabur's Hajmola and HUL's Vaseline have resorted to spoofs or tried to piggy ride on the popularity of a rival brand or to cash in on a controversy.
It seems the era of potshot advertisement is back with a bang!
"Brands resorting to such form of advertisements are talking to younger consumers, and the tone of their cheeky advertisements goes down well with this section of population that has a good sense of humour," says Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO of brand consultancy firm brand-comm.
Micromax, which has around 10% share of the Indian mobile handset market and sells over 40 handsets every day, says its advertisement is not meant to take on the iPhone.
"We wanted to challenge the notion that innovation comes at a price. The advertisement conveys to the young consumers that here's a smart phone that you can afford," says Pratik Seal, the company's marketing head.
While experts find the advertisement smart and witty, some say it sidelines the Micromax brand and draws attention to iPhone.
Jagdeep Kapoor, chairman and managing director of Samsika Marketing Consultants, says there was no need for Micromax to do this.
"Micromax is a popular brand, is rapidly gaining market share, and has a good brand positioning and a great brand ambassador. So, why use iPhone stuff in advertisement?" he says.
"iPhone is still an aspirational brand and the advertisement just reinforces its brand equity."
Sridhar would not agree. He says the return of spoofs, potshots and teasing ads are deliberate. "The chances of success are far greater when brands target younger generation with cheeky stuff. Whether it's McDowell's No.1 or Hajmola or Micromax, their spoofs or teaser ads connect instantly with the youth."
This strategy works because it's meant for short term. "The main motive is to create instant excitement in the market and move on," says Sridhar.
A SPOOFY REWIND
Once the domain of Pepsi and Coke, spoofs certainly seem the flavour of the season. Recently, UB Group took jibes at cricketer Harbhajan Singh through its McDowell's No.1 Platinum spoof of rival brand Royal Stag's 'Make it Large' advertisement for about a month.
Late last month, Dabur's Hajmola candy spoofed Perfetti Van Melle's Chlormint 'doobara mat poochna' ad by coming up with a tagline 'bar bar poochna'. Says Dabur India category head (digestives), Rajeev John: "Most ads speak to the same target consumer; at times even their communication objectives are similar."
And consumer goods giant Hindustan Unilever made the most of the 'Vaseline' row stirred by former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan by timing its print and Facebook campaign for its petroleum jelly brand with the start of the third test match between India and England.
AD MEN NOT AMUSED
However, advertisement experts are unanimous in denouncing such form of communication.
Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director (South Asia) of Ogilvy India, says: "It's not a trend, but a coincidence of a few lazy creative people working at the same time. Such advertisements are a waste of money."
Spoof is a very difficult thing to do and one must think 150 times before doing it, says the ad guru.
Agrees Josy Paul, national creative director of BBDO: "Spoofs are old-fashioned. They are more of a PR idea and less about creative advertising."
Samsika's Kapoor believes such advertisements tickle, but can't make one laugh. "Advertisements should attract, and not distract," he says.
"In short-term, a brand may score a few brownie points, but it's definitely not a long-term brand building strategy."
Draftfcb Ulka executive director and CEO Arvind Wable says the return of such form of advertising means that marketers are desperate to cut through the clutter in order to grab eyeballs. But in the process, they end up building the equity of the rival brand.
"It's a lazy creative when you start borrowing from other brands. And instead of building your own brand, the advertisement ends up reinforcing the message of the brand that you are taking a potshot at," says Wable.
Brand-comm's Sridhar, however, argues that such advertisements connect instantly with the people as long as a brand is consistent in attacking its rivals.
Take the case of soft drink brand Sprite, which till a few months back had been consistently spoofing its rivals.
But if a new brand does it, the ploy is likely to boomerang. So, one must exercise a bit of caution, says Sridhar. "Such form of advertising is a double-edge sword, and one must use it carefully and sparingly."
Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, brand – comm.
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