Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Old & beautiful

In May 2008, mobile handset maker Motorola launched a television commercial for its MotoYUVAw270 variant that showcased a father trying to mimic his teenager son’s carefree, freaky way of speaking with his girlfriend on the phone. The TVC opened with the father coming back from work and finding his son setting up a date with his girlfriend via his handsfree. Post his conversation, the son leaves the room and the father is alone with the MotoYUVA. He immediately picks it up and tries to imitate the son by speaking in to nobody on the other end in a sing-song manner alongside making some awkward dance movements. The film ends with his son and wife discovering this wild side of his and he moving out of the room embarrassed.

In May 2011, telecom brand Airtel launched an ad in which an old grandfather is shown narrating a story of his young days to his teenage grandson. The grandfather tells the young boy that a goon called Kanti Lal Godbole from Kishen Ganj had kissed his wife, or the boy’s grandmother, before their wedding. The grandson promises he will help the grandfather avenge Godbole’s delinquency. He launches a search for the man on, where else but social networking site Facebook, finds hims and takes his grandfather to him. The grandfather, on finding the man with his wife goes ahead and plants a peck on her cheeks. Score settled, the duo runs away from the scene.

In August 2012, Prolife Product teamed up with ad agency Curry Nation to launch a television commercial for 18 Again, a vaginal tightening gel. The ad showed a middle-aged woman making sensuous salsa moves to ‘I feel like a virgin’ number, along with her husband. The ad ends with the oldest lady (presumably, the mother-in-law) of the house trying to find out more on the product ‘18 Again’ by typing in the URL – www.18again.com- on her computer while her amused husband looks on.

One can’t be faulted for wondering if these brands, presumably chasing the young and young adults, have changed their strategy and are now trying to woo the old consumers. The fact, however, is that they are not. The use of elderly models in the above mentioned advertisements notwithstanding, none of the products were targetted at the old consumers. All these ads, in fact, were universally aimed at the consumers in the 18 to 45 year age group. That is, in fact, the age group most brands cutting across categories are most interested in. So what explains the presence of old people in these ads? Why throw in old characters in a script aimed at engaging the young?

These, incidentally, are not one-off examples of the use of elderly in communications meant for consumers in an altogether different age group. An increasing number of brands, of late, has been casting old models in their ads meant to reach out to young audiences. In February this year, for instance, Idea Cellular launched a television commercial with a very old couple as the lead protagonists and Valentine’s Day as the backdrop to its creative concept. Created by Lowe Lintas, the ad showcased the old man gifting a red rose to his old-freckled wife in an extremely awkward gait and topping it with an ‘I love you’. It’s the first time for both of them for sure. Was the wife impressed? Not at first. She was rather upset that the husband spent Rs 20 on buying a red rose when he could buy a cauliflower for the same amount. What did the ad achieve? It, for sure, managed to bring a smile on the faces of audiences watching the ad. In other words, the ad not only managed to catch consumer attention but also presented an endearing aspect of a functional brand.

Old charm

An act becomes charming when it is still not a social stereotype and yet, represents the truth of a new world, says Arvind Sharma, chairman, India subcontinent, Leo Burnett. Indeed, old people rejoicing, not feeling old or trying to adopt the lifestyle of youngsters is today’s reality but it’s a recent change and hasn’t been stereotyped yet. So brands find the idea refreshing and it seems to be working well with audiences, too.
On the face of it, the ads with oldies tend to give an impression that the brand is trying to cast its net wide and engage the old consumers. But those in the business say casting old is more about story telling than a shift in their selling strategy. “The simple thumb rule in all advertising is how is the story best told?” says Rameet Arora, senior director, marketing and menu management, McDonalds India. “Older people add charm, humour and even innocence to advertising. And often, the story becomes more endearing by their mere presence,” he adds.Like pets and children in the past, the brands are now grooving towards old, says Ajay Kakar, chief marketing officer, Aditya Birla Group - financial services. “Worldwide, it is acknowledged that pets and children are the most effective tools to create endearment in advertising. In the past, we have seen categories like telecom (Hutch/Vodafone) and banking (ICICI Bank) use pets and children to create an instant chemistry with the audiences. Now, brands are trying to do the same with old people,” he says.
Kakar’s and Arora’s observations sound convincing. Remember the ‘Dubeyji’ ad that McDonald’s released in January this year? The commercial showed an old and rude school bus driver (Dubey ji, of course) being tricked by the school kids, who take him to a McDonald’s outlet instead of their respective homes. It turns out that it was Dubeyji’s birthday and the kids wanted to have a party and they do have one with the driver happily treating them with a McDonald’s burger. Was the film targeted at bus drivers or older men? Of course not, even though the Rs 25 pricing does make it affordable to almost all. But adding old Dubey ji to the commercial did add a punch to the story and made sure viewers were not going to forget it in a hurry.

According to Kiran Khalap, co-founder, Chlorophyll, a Mumbai-based brand and communications consultancy, there are two schools of television advertising—one is the Procter & Gamble and Unilever school where the advertisers are uncomfortable if the target audience, say a housewife, is not the protagonist of the brand story. “The other school, however, says it is not necessary to put the end consumer in the picture. For example, the Volkswagen ad where a kid visits a showroom to choose a car for himself for his eighteenth birthday,” he points out. Was the car targetted at school children? The answer is more than obvious. Why use a child in the ad, then? Well, why not, if the idea is to strike an immediate emotional connect with the target consumer who is most likely to have adorable children?

Influencers /decision makers

It is an oft-repeated reality that in the last quarter of a century, India has seen enormous urban migration followed by ‘nuclearisation’ of families. Consequently, the old style depiction of the mother-in-law or the grandfather being the decision maker of the house is no longer appealing to the new set of audiences. Consistent with this, advertising, too, has been moving away from the 55-65-year-olds. But despite the change, say observers, the basic social values of our society haven’t changed. The old are still an integral part of a family and even if they aren’t living under the same roof, they are part of all big decisions taken in the family.

Sridhar Ramanujam, founder CEO, Integrated Brand-Comm, in fact, argues that many a time, the elderly act as financiers for the young desiring material acquisitions. “A 55-year old may not buy a fancy car but if his/her 25 year old young son, who is all settled with a well paying job and is leading an independent life, wants to buy one, guess where is the moolah going to come from? It will, in all probability, come from the old parents,” he says.

Besides, while the elderly do exhibit the required influence, they could sometimes be the decision
makers, too. A simple example of this is the Cadbury India TVC—released in April this year—titled ‘Milkar Match Dekhen’ (Let’s watch the match together).

Created by Ogilvy India, with IPL as the backdrop, the ad showcased an old granny (played by yesteryear actor Daisy Irani) sitting with her grandchildren and their friends waiting for the match to begin. There is a bowl full of Cadbury chocolates lying on a table in front of them and the moment the games begin, everyone rushes to pick up a bar and the tagline flashes on the screen, ‘Khel Ka Shubh Aarambh’.

The use of oldies works very well with brands trying to penetrate into smaller towns and cities where people still live in joint families and where all the big and small purchase decisions are made by the older members. “For the tier II and tier III markets, the elders, to a large extent, are still the decision makers. Therefore, brands need to talk to them if they are to expand their distribution network and sampling in these pockets,” says R S Suriyanarayanan, associate vice president, Initiative, the media buying agency.

They got money!

When it comes to urban market consumers belonging to SEC A, B and C categories, India can be broadly divided into three segments—the partition generation (above 65 years), the transition generation (the 25-55 year-olds) and the no-string generation (the 15-24 years old), says Dheeraj Sinha, head, planning, South and Southeast Asia, Grey. Culturally, the partition generation has lived very frugally, always saved for the rainy day, built houses, bought gold and made bank deposits and they never forgot to make allocations for their children to provide for their rainy days, too.

But it so happened that their children turned out well and suddenly the partition generation was left with loads of disposable money. Not to forget, since a significant percentage of that generation did not live the life they wanted to, their aspirations had stayed unmet. However quite simultaneously, a narrow sub-part of this generation that witnessed the hardships and yet grew with the economy, was pushed towards extreme exposure, says Ramanujam, adding that they traveled abroad, were exposed to the best of consumption practices and were part of the internet boom.

In this backdrop, say experts, brands need to recognise that there is a large bunch of consumer that is still making or has already made a lot of money and which is in the market for products that are aggressively marketed to the youth and the young adults. A case in point is the car category. “Auto brands keep showing people in their 30s. But who are buying the Audis and the Volvos? It’s the people who are 45 and above because big success and big money comes after a certain age,” says Ramanujam.

Also very interestingly, while lifestyle and fashion brands keep showing young models in a bid to portray themselves as young and youthful, it is the spouses of affluent adults along with the women who are themselves in leadership positions (in their late 40s and 50s) who are buying designer clothes. “And they are buying it by default because they happen to be the ones laden with money. But if brands were communicating with them directly, the impact could be even better,” he says.

And it is not just about the disposable income and the aspirations that they have in mind. This generation also has a lot of time at hand to spend to explore the world of consumption. According to viewership data from television audience measurement reach agency TAM Media Research, in the cable and satellite TV households across the country in 2012, the 55+ year-old group spent as much as 461.05 minutes (8 hours approximate) weekly watching television followed by the 35-54 year old age group that spent around 460.08 minutes. Those in the 15-24 age group and the 25-34 age group spent lesser -- 411.29 minutes and 436.34 minutes, respectively —watching TV.

Grey’s Sinha, notes that since the flavour of India has been the youth, everybody mindlessly went after this age category while the elderly were only meant to bring a a comic relief in the story. “For the last 10 years, the brief from stable or slightly older brands has been ‘make me young and energetic’. And by pretending to be young, we have tried to appeal to the middle aged teenagers—the 45 year olds who want to behave like 15,” he says.

Sinha says that the elderly may be back in advertising but they are back as props. “Brands are scared to directly speak of targeting this age bracket because the entire environment is about targeting the yuppies and the youth. So, its uncool for a marketer to target the older people. But what they are failing to understand is that the older generation is opening up, they have the money and they have the time,” he adds.
Brands may still be hesitant in going all out after the old but as far as advertising and story telling goes, people in the industry say we are going to see more of them than less. “There is a need now to break the clutter, look different and be remembered. And since, elders continue to form an integral part of our daily lives, this means that their portrayal in Indian advertising is only going to increase,” says Priti Nair, founder, Curry-Nation.

No comments: