Abki baar, loads of election-themed advertising

30 Apr,2014


By Delshad Irani


Last week, just off Peddar Road Bridge in South Mumbai, Bimmers, Bentleys and taxi cabs passed a giant billboard, standing in the shade of posh high-rises that are home to Mumbai’s wealthiest citizens. It featured a tub of Fevicol with these words in blue ‘Abki Baar, Fevicol’. Of course, ‘Abki Baar’ are the now famous (and extensively parodied on social media) opening words of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s general election campaign. So what does glue have to do with it? It’s a simple strategy deployed by brands time and again ride on the coattails of a topical event that has countless masses in its thrall.


Fevicol, a Pidilite brand and its agency Ogilvy also produced a commercial featuring a conversation between a chaiwalla and a slightly kooky carpenter about three peculiar chairs. A lotus shaped one, an adjustable chair shaped like a hand and the hotchpotch seat that’s the result of different sizes and shapes of kursis glued together. In other words, BJP, Congress and the Aam Admi Party.


The last time chairs were prominently featured in an ad it was for Facebook’s ‘Chairs’ commercial. However, while the social network’s ad was an ode to chairs, or Ikea perhaps (still a mystery that one); Fevicol’s all about seats of power in this cheeky spot. While most thought the campaign a refreshing and amusing commentary on the elections, it also put the cat among the conspiracy theorists who have suggested this is a surrogate campaign for Narendra Modi-led BJP.


They also point to the fact that Ogilvy’s chief Piyush Pandey was instrumental in the creation of the party’s campaign. On social media like Twitter some have fielded tweets such as, “Does the new Fevicol ad obliquely suggest that BJP is most likely to win?” which refers to the perceived bias in the commercial.


However, the point of the ad, according to Anil Jayaraj, chief marketing officer of Pidilite Industries, was simply to put a smile on people’s faces. He says, “Over the years, Fevicol’s advertising has striven to capture a slice of life while reinforcing our core proposition of strong bonds in a contextual situation. We didn’t think about the campaign from an election point of view.” But if you do, it’s highly advisable to exercise a fair amount of common sense when ad plots involve topics like elections, parties and politics. “But the ground rule is to make people smile with these humorous takes,” he says.


The 2014 Lok Sabha Elections has seen the most high-decibel campaigning in the history of India. It’s no surprise then, that the world’s biggest democratic exercise has prompted marketers to do the poll-ka too. Don’t be fooled, it’s a tricky dance. There’s the finest line between the good samaritan brand which encourages viewers to cast their ballot and the preachy bore which only provokes viewers to draw their mallets. And one could just as easily, consciously or not, colour a piece of communication in certain party hues.


Brands like Tata Tea have built and sustained the momentum of purpose-driven movements over many years. The Tata Group’s Jaago Re initiative is structured entirely on social causes and issues of citizen responsibility. Meanwhile others temporarily latch on to elections by broadcasting passive reminders.


Berger Paints did its bit to prompt viewers to be the change they want to see. The brand’s latest commercial has people trying to wash corruption off India’s walls, literally. So did innerwear brand Rupa, with its spot featuring Hero No1 in his white vest and gundas who keep voters away from poll booths; an ad that apparently inspired another similar commercial from innerwear brand Dollar.


Brands as diverse and tangential to polling as Wagon R and Finolex have thrown their khadi topis in the ring. Looking for a slightly more lasting association, sportswear maker Puma tied up with MTV for its ‘Rock The Vote’ initiative to help further the cause. Says Rajiv Mehta, MD, Puma South Asia, authenticity is key. “Besides we are not telling people who to vote for, we’re just saying vote.” And never spam people’s inboxes with messages and reminders to exercise their democratic right and do their duty for change and country, that’ll just piss people off, is Mehta’s advice.


For marketers, to join the clamour of election-themed brand campaigns is easy enough, to get viewers to vote is the hard part. Now, all they can do is hope that abki baar is in fact the right time to hitch their wagon to the poll. After all, it’s hard to be heard when noise from the parties’ party drowns out every other campaign online and off.


Source:The Economic Times

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