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Perfetti plays with generic themes

March 20, 2007 11:46 IST

After the success of Lagey Raho for Alpenliebe, Perfetti is looking to play with generic themes and sticky tag-lines for Center Fresh as well.

A car stops on a deserted road. Four men step out, looking to see if someone's around. There are just a few mules crossing idly. The men open the boot of the car, take out a sack - obviously a corpse - and toss it over the bridge.

As they turn around, they see the mule-tender, a witness to their crime. The killers catch him, pulling out another sack, when the dwarf starts crying animatedly, indicating that he can't hear or speak and is, therefore, harmless. The bad guys let him go and walk back to their car. Suddenly, the dwarf calls out, "Bhai saab, aapka shoelace khul gaya hai.

As the enraged thugs turn around, the dwarf realises just how "dumb" he has been. The song in the back-ground plays Jo aaya woh jaayega, while the voiceover says To bhakton, Center Fresh chabaiye, zubaan pe lagaam lagaiye.

This is Perfetti Van Melle's new ad for its liquid-filled chewing gum Center Fresh, the brand with which the Italian candy giant entered India in 1994.

Created by Ogilvy & Mather, it is, in fact, the brand's first ad in 10 years, although a variant, Air-Action Center Fresh, a stronger mentholated gum, was advertised last year. The 60-second commercial was rolled out last month and will be aired across a number of channels with mass audiences such as Star Plus, Sony, Doordarshan and so on through the Cricket World Cup.

Center Fresh is Perfetti's second biggest brand, after hardboiled candy Alpenliebe. Perfetti claims Center Fresh has a 75 per cent share of the chewing gum market and agrees that it is the fastest growing brand in the company's product portfolio.

Besides, it is also the base brand for three others - Center Shock, Center Fruit and Air Action. So why hasn't it been advertised for so long, and why start now? Says Prakash Wakankar, managing director, Perfetti Van Melle India, "The other three have been advertised effectively in the past few years. It was about time we advertised the mother brand as well. Hence the new ad."

To understand the strategy behind the new campaign, first some background. The first ad was aired at the brand's 1994 launch. An international commercial, it showed a man rafting downstream while the English jingle sang on about a fall of freshness. In the next scene, the product split in the middle, showing a similar "fall of freshness". The launch price of Center Fresh was Rs 1.50, almost three times as high as other gum brands.

"We thought we could command a premium for being an innovative liquid-filled gum, a nicely pillow-packed foreign brand," recalls Sameer Suneja, the company's marketing head. Well, they were wrong. While initial advertising and the novelty factor helped push trials for a few months, sales soon declined and in 1995, Perfetti dropped the price to Re 1.

That helped. The real push for the brand, though, came in 1996 when Center Fresh associated itself with the Cricket World Cup. It became the official chewing gum of the World Cup, the rationale being that cricketers like to chew gum on the field.

The brand emphasised its cricket connection - on the packaging, billboards, hoardings and TV commercials. Free samples were passed around outside the stadia on match days. Sales took off and the "official chewing gum" status continued for some years.

The next big push came when Center Shock was launched in 2001. "We couldn't afford to advertise both Center Fresh and Center Shock. Instead, we launched the new product under the 'Center' umbrella, so that there would be a rub off on the mother brand from the Center Shock advertising," says Suneja.

He claims the strategy worked then, and again when similar tactics were adopted at the launch of Center Fruit and Air Action Center Fresh (that ad showed a thin man pushing a chubby girl on a swing). "We have not advertised the mother brand, but still brand awareness and sales continue to be very high," declares Wakankar.

So why a Center Fresh ad now? Have the new variants overshadowed the mother brand, or have new products that have been promoted aggressively - such Wrigley's Orbit or even Prefetti's own HappyDent - affected Center Fresh sales?

That may be the market buzz, but the company brushes aside all such rumours. Wakankar insists the brand is growing at a "healthy" double-digit rate, while Suneja points to the fact that "98 per cent of all chewing gum sales in India happen between 50 paise and Re 1 - and Center Fresh is Re 1."

The reason, then, may lie in the new factory Perfetti is setting up at Rudrapur (in addition to existing facilities at Manesar and Chennai). The additional capacity will need extra demand and Perfetti's drumming up business. "Our philosophy is that when things are looking good, invest and make them better," says Suneja.

How was the new ad conceptualised? O&M Group Creative Director Abhijit Awasthy says there was no formal briefing - just some brainstorming on "what will work best for the product".

For Center Fresh, both agency and client were clear that there was no need to push awareness - the brand has been around long enough and the variants have done their bit to promote the mother brand.

"Freshness as an attribute also came out quite naturally from the product name. Plus, a lot of people have been doing ads for different products on the idea of freshness. So, there was no need to play on the freshness factor, too," he adds.

Which is where the idea of a more generic ad came up, one that plays upon the more indirect benefits of chewing gums - it can keep help keep your mouth busy and shut when it is not required to speak.

Also, since Center Fresh is a mass product consumed by consumers across sections, Perfetti wanted an ad that cuts across audience types. Hence the colloquial tagline.

Says Awasthy, "We hope it will stick in the consumers' minds, as with lagey raho  for Alpenliebe, dobara mat poochna for Chlormint and dimaag ki batti jalade for Mentos [all Perfetti brands]. If that happens, we may use the association further."

Who Did What

Client: Perfetti Van Melle India 
Ogilvy and Mather
: Abhijit Awasthy and Prasoon Pandey

Amit Ranjan Rai in New Delhi