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Home > Business > Special

How ads adapt to changing times

Meghana Biwalkar | February 01, 2007

It's a sign of the times. After decades of speaking solely to the lady of the house and then switching their attention to the children, consumer goods companies are realising that men also participate in decisions about groceries.

At least, that is the insight that drives the latest campaign for Marico Industries' Saffola Gold. It kicks off with a 40-second television commercial created by agency McCann-Erickson for the cooking oil brand, which addresses men on healthy heart issues while leaving women in the background. That's a fairly dramatic turnaround from regular cooking oil communication.

The film shows a trendy, typically urban couple out for a stroll when a thief snatches the woman's purse. The man gives chase, but gives up distressingly soon. He gasps for breath and wheezes out empty threats against the thief even as his wife looks on disbelievingly.

The next frame shows the couple shopping and both reach out simultaneously for a can of Saffola Gold. The man smiles sheepishly and it is clear he has realised he is not in peak physical condition.

The male voiceover reiterates that message: "Waqt hai Saffola Gold apnane ka...Dil ko rakhiye jawaan (It's time to adopt Saffola Gold...keep your heart young)".

Says R Chandrasekar, category head, Marico, "The Saffola man, who is always procrastinating activities like exercises or anything to do with health, believes that he is healthy. This commercial, thus, draws the man's attention, and not the housewives' anxiety, to his state of ill-health."

Marico's brief to McCann, which has been associated with Saffola for three years now, was simple enough. Explains Himanshu Saxena, vice president and business director, McCann-Erickson, "In earlier ads, we highlighted physical manifestations of ill health such as obesity, stress and so on. But in this commercial the idea was to showcase symptoms such as fatigue and breathlessness, which are commonly recognised as signs of unhealthy living." He adds, "Here, the husband's breathlessness is an inference of his early heart problems."

According to Marico, Saffola Gold has a 10 per cent share of the Rs 1,800-crore (Rs 18 billion) premium refined oil market. And in its quest to being recognised as a leading preventive heart care brand, the brand has adopted various communication themes. In a sense, the basic theme of communication hasn't changed.

"In the new communication, we are highlighting the moment of truth to grab the attention of the consumer who has been procrastinating or pushing away the moment of guilt," explains Saxena.

McCann's last two campaigns for Saffola Gold also focused on the negative behaviour of the man of the house - procrastination and denial. But those commercials - Kal se June 2005 and Abhi to main jawaan hoon six months later - still spoke with the woman, as the person who made the decisions regarding the family's diet and who was worried about her husband's unhealthy lifestyle.

While the message hasn't changed, the recipient has. And that change was the result of internal, ongoing research across A and B class towns. Marico's findings showed that men are actively involved in decisions about grocery shopping. Of course, that has a lot to do with the evolution of modern trade.

As the buying experience changes from getting the best bargain to one that is more about interaction and participation, Chandrasekar points out that men are becoming more participative. "They are also more health conscious than before and are concerned about basic ingredients like cooking oils," he adds.

And while both agency and client wanted to capture the emerging trends in their communication, they were also clear that the change in tone didn't mean a shift in Saffola Gold's target customers - SEC A men and women from urban areas.

"While we are trying to involve a larger share of the male audience through this new campaign, the trend where men are jointly making the purchase decision is still low key," points out Saxena.

The media mix chosen for the new film only underlines the cautious approach. The commercial has been released across general entertainment channels such as Sony, Star and Zee, as well as the usual bouquet of business and movie channels.

Over the next six months, while the ad will speak to its male audiences between 7 and 11pm, it will also catch women consumers (and the ultimate decision makers) during afternoon slots.

Given the pivotal role modern trade formats have played in the conceptualisation of the new campaign, it is hardly surprising that below-the-line activities at modern format stores feature prominently in Marico's marketing strategy.

Besides the usual danglers and posters adorning stores, in-store stalls of Saffola Gold that dispense both health- and product-related information are also being planned. Given the urban focus for the brand, the promotion activities, too, will be confined to eight cities (the five metros and Pune, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad).

Marico is promoting the brand by cashing in on the current craze for reality programmes. Only, instead of television, it has opted for radio. In association with Mumbai-based FM station Radio One, it has created a programme called the fitness challenge.

This is a five-week long fitness regime for 10 radio jockeys from the channel. A dietician will guide the participants and decide weight loss targets; other parameters like blood sugar and cholesterol levels will also be monitored.

"The aim is to involve the listeners and create a brand image that offers a healthier lifestyle," says Chandrasekar. Marico is hoping listeners will draw inspiration from the RJs' progress and turn to healthier alternatives for themselves.

Adds Saxena, "We are trying to involve not just our core target audience, but increase the mass appeal by creating an aspirational value and inspire people to take positive steps to improve their lifestyle."

The programme was also carefully timed to begin in early January, when many people are fired with New Year resolutions to lose weight.

And Saffola isn't just preaching; the brand is taking the healthy lifestyle initiative in-house as well. The brand has recently kicked off a three-month-long internal campaign, "Fit-test", for its sales team.

The team has been divided into eight groups, each with a dedicated dietician, across India. The groups will compete on measures of weight reduction and attaining an optimum body mass index.

"We want to show that Saffola walks the talk and has a healthy and fit sales team. After this, we will introduce the fitness campaign across all Marico teams," says Chandrasekar.

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