Not about Be­ing Kinky

A chat with Blaze Arizanov, CMO, StayUncle, about the brand’s lat­est video.

The Brand Reporter - - EDITORIAL | CONTENTS - By Abid Hus­sain Bar­laskar abid.bar­laskar@afaqs.com

A chat with the CMO, about the brand’s lat­est video ad.

To the de­light of the LGBT com­mu­nity and its sup­port­ers, the Supreme Court re­cently scrapped sec­tion 377 of the IPC (In­dian Pe­nal Code) that crim­i­nalised ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. Cash­ing in on the news, StayUncle, cult ho­tel book­ing plat­form, now has an of­fer­ing in line with the apex court’s ver­dict. The brand’s lat­est ad is in the form of a minute-long film that de­liv­ers a sim­ple, open-minded mes­sage - its ho­tel-part­ners won’t judge same-sex cou­ples and they can have a ho­tel room and peace of mind, with­out an is­sue. What is the ad?

A cou­ple of guys step into a ho­tel. One makes a me­chan­i­cal 90-de­gree turn to­wards the re­cep­tion, the other (Ashish) meets a friend (Abhi) ex­it­ing the ho­tel af­ter a stay with his girl­friend. Abhi in­quires if Ashish is also with his lady-love, to which he re­sponds he’s with his boyfriend. This is met with a cheeky re­tort from Abhi, “Sahi hai, chal maze kar.”

This time, the brand’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion seems pretty wa­tered down and quite un­like pre­vi­ous cam­paigns. In fact, in an ear­lier com­mu­ni­ca­tion, StayUncle quite lit­er­ally gave a ri­val the mid­dlefin­ger. The brand’s dig­i­tal ad space quite openly fea­tures their mes­sage of ac­cep­tance to the com­mu­nity, ir­re­spec­tive of pref­er­ence.

The brand’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion and of­fer­ing both make a timely land­ing fol­low­ing the 377 ver­dict; not too early when the in­dus­try was abuzz with umpteen brand com­mu­ni­ca­tions and not too late to cre­ate a de­cent con­nect. Even their se­lec­tion of two males in a re­la­tion­ship is a step away from dom­i­nant in­dus­try nar­ra­tives of women part­ners.

afaqs! Re­porter spoke to Blaze Arizanov, CMO, StayUncle and the Mace­do­nian who’s out to solve In­dian so­cial mys­ter­ies. He gave us more in­sight with re­gard to the lat­est ad. “Sec­tion 377 is a mas­sive event for In­dia and the strange thing is, brands didn’t do much about the event. The fact is, a dra­co­nian law like Sec­tion 377 was in ef­fect in In­dia in the 21st cen­tury and af­ter it was scrapped, brands didn’t think to cel­e­brate it enough,” Arizanov states.

About why the ad wasn’t launched right af­ter the ver­dict, Arizanov ex­plains, “I wasn’t aware that the scrap­ping was about to hap­pen, maybe be­cause I was out of In­dia. But pre­lim­i­nary re­ac­tions like posters and changes to the home­page, hap­pened im­me­di­ately. Other brands did that too and it boiled down to just posters. This ad shows that we are se­ri­ous about what we do.”

While the ab­sence of a main­stream ad agency can be un­der­stood, why not a pro­duc­tion house to ex­e­cute the ad?

“It was done by peo­ple from our own net­work. We avoided pro­fes­sional help be­cause we could not spare that much from

This time, the brand’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion seems pretty wa­tered down.

“For now, the LGBT com­mu­nity just wants to be ac­cepted and not beaten up on the streets.”

BLAZE ARIZANOV

our bud­get. We be­lieved that we could do a com­mend­able job and I am fas­ci­nated by the fi­nal prod­uct,” re­sponds Arizanov. But why a soft, toned-down ap­proach to the brand com­mu­ni­ca­tion?

“We have been known for our ex­plicit con­tent and re­marks in gen­eral, but in this case, we felt that it’s a very emo­tional mo­ment for the LGBT com­mu­nity. Right now, it’s not an is­sue of be­ing kinky, but emo­tional. We de­lib­er­ately main­tained the soft­ness in our com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The com­mu­nity will have a lot of time to be kinky; for now, they just want to be ac­cepted and not beaten up on the streets,” Arizanov replies.

Arizanov fur­ther con­firms that there will be an­other fol­low-up ad in the com­ing months on sim­i­lar lines. How­ever, he adds, “There is a good chance that we might be back to our old kinky self in the next com­mu­ni­ca­tion. As we go into the main­stream mar­ket, we have to be slightly cau­tious with our con­tent, but we won’t be a com­fort­ing brand. We started as a cou­ple’s book­ing por­tal and the nar­ra­tive is back with 377. It’s a cou­ple-based event and we need StayUncle to be in the lime­light.”

Speak­ing about the idea of putting a male same-sex re­la­tion­ship in the fore, Arizanov says, “We had a dis­cus­sion, but de­cided to stick with the male idea be­cause, in In­dia, we’ve seen a lot of guys in the lime­light for LGBTQ is­sues and de­cided to do the same our­selves.”

TURN­ING TO EX­PERTS

Anu­pama Ra­maswamy, na­tional creative direc­tor, Dentsu Im­pact main­tains that the ad gains on time­li­ness, but looks like a sorry at­tempt to cash in on the SC rul­ing. “The ex­e­cu­tion is not good, nor is the cast­ing. The use of phrases like ‘Sahi hai ‘ etc. makes the whole film cheap. The sub­ject should have been han­dled in a more sen­si­tive way with bet­ter ac­tors,” Ra­maswamy states.

Navin Theeng, ex­ec­u­tive creative direc­tor, Havas Gur­gaon, says, “Most ad­ver­tis­ing falls flat by try­ing to please too many peo­ple at the same time. The StayUncle ad stands out by be­ing sharp and clear about who it is talk­ing to. So it will get no­ticed.”

Theeng main­tains that mea­sur­ing the ad in terms of ex­e­cu­tion and pro­duc­tion values is bark­ing up the wrong tree. “Its very mes­sag­ing makes StayUncle a very con­tem­po­rary brand. It has a mis­sion­ary vi­sion. It has a point of view on love, free­dom and pri­vacy; one that you may or may not agree with, but is a hy­per-con­tem­po­rary is­sue. It is also well-timed and comes across as a mean­ing­ful ac­tion and not just an empty ges­ture that most brands have in­dulged in. The brand per­son­al­ity is not so­phis­ti­cated; it typ­i­fies the sullen re­sent­ment of the col­lege kid against the es­tab­lish­ment. But it works,” Theeng sur­mises.

Ra­makr­ish­nan Har­i­ha­ran, head of creative, Publi­cis In­dia, says, “I’m a bit dis­ap­pointed with this one. StayUncle’s ser­vice is truly unique and gen­uine in its of­fer­ing, but the TVC fails to evoke the warmth as­so­ci­ated with love. Af­ter all, the in­tent, as far as I can make out, is to cre­ate a pri­vate space for young lovers where they can spend qual­ity time with each other. In that, it falls short in terms of craft­ing.”

He adds, “‘Chal, maze kar’ sounds more to do with sex than love and bond­ing. All in all, it’s a bit too flat for my lik­ing, but I ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­fort. It’s top­i­cal and the ser­vice is clearly com­mu­ni­cated. Bet­ter craft­ing could have made it a beau­ti­ful spot.” ■

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