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Get real: Is the new ad mantra

January 24, 2011 14:58 IST

The use of employees, CEOs or ordinary people is growing in advertising.

"We are the ones who help organisations gain business advantage by converting data into intelligence' screams an ad for IT major Capgemini. But it isn't the headline alone that draws your attention. The picture of an individual in the background catches your eye too.

You look closer, and the person in the frame is Venkatkrishnan Iyer, an employee of Capgemini. The IT major has been running a series of such ads in print, outdoor and online for the last few months.

But it isn't the only one to be doing so. Capgemini joins a growing list of advertisers who are using their employees, chief executives or ordinary people in their campaigns.

K V Sridhar, national creative director at ad agency Leo Burnett India, describes this as part of the growing trend of realism in advertising.

"Instead of plastic faces, which appear artificial, why not use real people?" he asks. "They are compelling brand ambassadors, who can lend an air of authenticity to the communication exercise."

This point is corroborated by Sangeeta Sundaram, marketing head at Capgemini India. She says, "There is no better way to showcase your expertise than to have your domain experts featured in your campaign. It's a powerful message. For us, it was also the best possible way to put forth our new global positioning - People Matter, Results Count." 

Capgemini's international campaign, which began in mid-October last year, has been adapted locally in 10 different countries including India. So far 60 people including 10 from India have been featured in country-specific campaigns, says Sundaram.

"It's a great morale booster, motivating teams and team-members within," she says.

The case is no different with Telenor. The Norwegian giant, which has a majority stake in Indian telco Uninor, has been running print and TV ads over the last few months featuring employees from its Asian offices.

The print ads, in particular, are a study in unity in diversity - Indian, Bangladeshi, Thai, Malay and Pakistani employees all sharing a single frame.

Called 'Built Around People', the campaign, according to Telenor company executives, uses its people as brand ambassadors.

"We wanted to reinforce the message that people are at the heart of our business. More so, that we understand local needs and can be a part of the society where we operate in. What better way to do it than to have our diverse Asian personnel featured in our campaign.

This is also our first corporate branding campaign that has been launched in the Asian region. The latter is an important market for us. It made ample sense then to feature our Asian workforce to communicate all of this," says a Telenor executive on condition of anonymity.

While Telenor was keen on portraying the importance of Asia in its campaign, for another IT major, Dell, the need was completely diffferent - to speak to the small and medium business (SMB) entrepreneur - a market where it wasn't particularly strong about two years ago.

This led the Indian unit to conceptualise the 'Take Your Own Path' campaign in the autumn of 2008 featuring popular real-time entrepreneurs such as Neeraj Roy of Hungama and Raman Roy of Quattro BPO.

"The idea was to feature users of Dell products, who had a story to tell on how IT had transformed their business," says P Krishnakumar, marketing director, consumer & SMB, Dell India. It didn't stop at that.

Besides above-the-line activities such as advertising, Dell used the entrepreneurs in below-the-line activities such as events too, where they were invited to speak to budding entrepreneurs in different cities.

Predictably, the 360-degree campaign grew to become popular featuring as many as 11 entrepreneurs in 2010 from five in 2008.

The campaign has also been taken to 12 international markets in the last two years including regions such as the US, Germany, Japan and China, says Krishnakumar. Dell's share in the SMB segment has also grown in the last two years - from 4.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2009 to 12 per cent in the third quarter of 2010.

"We won't stop here," says Krishnakumar. "We are evaluating how to take the campaign forward this year," he says.

Interestingly, that is a mantra that even Hindustan Unilever (HUL) executives are chanting these days following the success of its Dove 'Real Women' campaign in 2009 and '10 respectively.

Two years ago, HUL came out with a face test campaign involving the Dove cleansing bar to drive home the message of moisturisation and prevention of dryness.

Ordinary women were asked to try out Dove and write what they felt after using it. The ones with the best testimonials were featured prominently in the Dove campaign that year.

HUL followed this up with another campaign in 2010, this time focusing on the Dove shampoo.

It began dramatically, however, with HUL taking on rival Procter & Gamble's mystery shampoo teaser campaign in July.

But ad agency Ogilvy & Mather didn't stop there, following it up with a 'Real Women, Real Celebrities' campaign featuring happy customers of the brand.


Viveat Susan Pinto in Mumbai