“I am the agency”

Sam Ahmed is Oppo’s new agency.

The Brand Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - By Su­raj Ram­nath su­raj.ram­nath@afaqs.com

Chi­nese smart­phone brand Oppo, has re­cently launched a new digital film to pro­mote its phone, the Oppo F3. The ad ti­tled Oppo F3 - Your Best Di­wali Gift, was launched on Face­book and YouTube on Septem­ber 26. The seven-and­half-minute video up­loaded by the brand on its Face­book page, has gar­nered close to 10 mil­lion views with 8.3 lakh views for the sixand-half-minute long video on the brand’s YouTube chan­nel.

About his ex­pe­ri­ence di­rect­ing the film, Sam Ahmed, who goes by the name of Sam Bom­bay, tells afaqs! Reporter, “It was chal­leng­ing be­cause I was with the crick­eters in Sri Lanka dur­ing the Sri Lanka-In­dia se­ries and had to shoot in the ho­tel they were stay­ing at be­cause they couldn’t come to the lo­ca­tion. The other chal­lenge was - we were given a very ugly place to shoot in. I had to cut it out be­cause it just didn’t suit the rest of the film. I had the crick­eters for only three hours. But Vi­rat Kohli is great; he mem­o­rises the script im­me­di­ately and he is ready to go. Shoot­ing in the heat of Jaipur was an­other chal­lenge. We took three and half days to shoot the ad across Sri Lanka and Jaipur (where the bulk of it was shot). And on some days, we shot for 18 hours...” This film has been pro­duced by Fu­sion Films.

In 2013, Sam moved on from Red­if­fu­sion-Y&R (af­ter spend­ing about eight months there as vicechair­man and chief cre­ative of­fi­cer) to pur­sue ad film di­rec­tion. Sam runs his own pro­duc­tion house called Bom­bay Mati­nee Films. “In ad­ver­tis­ing, life is fun, but with di­rec­tion, you are more fo­cused and sin­gu­lar... and I am not re­ally ‘out of ad­ver­tis­ing’ since I am the agency for Oppo and do most of their cre­ative stuff. A lot of stuff hap­pens in China, but what­ever they do for this mar­ket, I end up writ­ing for them.” For its out­door ads, Oppo works with Plat­inum Me­dia.

In this ad, the glossy, zoomed in prod­uct shots are con­spic­u­ous by their ab­sence. Ahmed says, “The kind of work I do with Oppo is al­ways brand-cen­tric, not pro­duct­cen­tric. When they come to me, I tell them I don’t want to do that prod­uct stuff; there is just no joy in that for me. And the brand was clear they want to make it cricket-cen­tric.”

When Sam and Oppo started out on this film, the idea was to cap it at three min­utes, but the fi­nal re­sult is much longer. “If the con­tent is in­ter­est­ing, one gets the at­ten­tion span to look at it. Yes, peo­ple would pre­fer a 60-se­cond-story, but if the con­tent is in­ter­est­ing, ev­ery­body has time for it,” says a con­fi­dent Sam.

How much has ad film mak­ing evolved since he last sat on the agency side of things? “I don’t think it is evolv­ing at all,” Sam tells afaqs! Reporter, “But there are some smart clients who know what they want to do. I think the smart, savvy peo­ple are now work­ing on the client side; pre­vi­ously, the savvy ones were on the agency side. For agen­cies, it has now be­come de­press­ing... Ev­ery­thing is evolv­ing and no­body seems to have any idea what is hap­pen­ing. But some great minds are still in ad­ver­tis­ing — Piyush Pandey, Pra­soon Joshi, Josy Paul — so there’s hope...”

For this ad, Oppo col­lab­o­rated and di­rected with Sam, there was no cre­ative agency in­volved. When di­rect­ing an ad, does work­ing with an agency seem re­stric­tive? “No,” says Sam, adding, “On the con­trary, I feel re­stricted when I work with Oppo be­cause there is such a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity. Their faith is de­bil­i­tat­ing be­cause if some­body trusts you then you have to de­liver your ‘A’ game. Whereas with the agen­cies, they are the agent be­tween me and the client; agen­cies help with a lot of the hy­giene checks, which makes it eas­ier for me, be­cause they are man­ag­ing the client. But yes, I do pre­fer writ­ing my­self.”

afaqs! Reporter asked the ex­perts if this ad has the ‘X’ fac­tor to break the clut­ter?

Naren Mul­tani, an ad film di­rec­tor and co-founder of Pup­pet Pic­tures, says, “There is a cer­tain X fac­tor with the Ap­sara, time travel, kana Raja, tiger drops, and the In­dian cricket team all wo­ven into the same story. So, in that sense it will def­i­nitely stand out. It is very long and with the kind of at­ten­tion span today’s gen­er­a­tions has, I won­der how many will watch it till the end.”

Gopa Ku­mar, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent, Iso­bar In­dia, says, “With re­gards to this ad hav­ing the ‘X fac­tor’ and break­ing the clut­ter, it does have one thing go­ing for it — it has Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and the In­dian cricket team, so it has all the star power to grab at­ten­tion and cut through the fes­tive clut­ter. Also, it’s an in­ter­est­ing ex­e­cu­tion of the nar­ra­tive which is un­like any other com­pe­ti­tion set in the mar­ket.”

Ku­mar, how­ever, finds the ad lengthy. He adds, “That’s the prob­lem, seven minute ads in this day and age of bite-sized con­tent de­liv­ery needs to be re­ally en­gag­ing and en­gross­ing to hold in­ter­est and at­ten­tion. While the ef­fort needs to be ap­pre­ci­ated, the en­tire story line tends to drop mid­way and it fails to hold any in­ter­est by the end. The Selfie Story seems to be a force fit in the over­all nar­ra­tive.” ■

For this ad, Oppo col­lab­o­rated and di­rected with Sam, there was no cre­ative agency in­volved.

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