Back to Busi­ness

How an agency missed the train but then sped past it with the cam­paign #Ker­alaIsOpen.

The Brand Reporter - - ADVERTISING - By Abid Hus­sain Bar­laskar abid.bar­laskar@afaqs.com

It’s prob­a­bly the first time that a lug­gage and travel ac­ces­sories brand has shifted from the cat­e­gory sta­tus quo of the dura­bil­ity/ ease-of-use fash­ion nar­ra­tive to cre­ate an ad cam­paign that’s slightly off-road but, none­the­less on-track. Samsonite’s lat­est ad cam­paign #Ker­alaIsOpen - aims at re­viv­ing the tourism in­dus­try in the state post the dev­as­tat­ing floods caused by heavy rain­fall this year.

While en­ti­ties from around the world and all over In­dia pooled their re­sources and aid, the state gov­ern­ment had to can­cel of­fi­cial Onam cel­e­bra­tions and di­vert funds to­ward re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion

The ti­tle of the cam­paign #Ker­alaIsOpen - echoes like an in­vi­ta­tion from a pop­u­lar and muchloved restau­rant that’s just re­opened af­ter ren­o­va­tion. But here, it’s the state’s tourism in­dus­try that has thrown open its doors; an in­dus­try that ac­counts for around 10 per cent of the state’s GDP. This year, tourism was dras­ti­cally af­fected by the del­uge lead­ing to a ma­jor spike in can­cel­la­tions thus af­fect­ing all things con­nected to the tourism in­dus­try.

The ad opens up with Mr Nam­biar, a guest­house owner, await­ing guests and is soon fol­lowed by Jancy, a cab­bie wait­ing to pick peo­ple up at the air­port. The film also cov­ers oth­ers sto­ries like that of one Mr Nair, a Kathakali dancer long­ing for ap­plause and Fa­tima who needs cus­tomers for her Karimeen (fish) fry, a Ker­ala del­i­cacy. Fi­nally, in a dra­matic turn, it’s Fa­tima’s son who breaks the news - ‘They are com­ing!’ - i.e. tourists. And all of this hap­pens in just 1.40 min­utes.

Apart from the sub­tle brand­ing and the glance of a Samsonite Evoa suit­case at the end, the ad mostly high­lights how tourism gen­er­ates em­ploy­ment, com­merce and op­por­tu­ni­ties in the state.

So how did the cam­paign hap­pen? afaqs!Re­porter spoke to Anushree Tainwala, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Mar­ket­ing, Samsonite South Asia, to find out more about the cam­paign. “The dis­cus­sion be­gan some­time around World Tourism Day (Septem­ber 27) when we were plan­ning our yearly com­mu­ni­ca­tion. We were ideat­ing about what can be done this year; some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent, per­haps. The agency brought up the Ker­ala idea. In­sights were two-sided - one was about Ker­ala as a travel des­ti­na­tion in re­cov­ery mode, where tourism ac­tu­ally drives the econ­omy. We were try­ing to cap­ture that. On the other hand, there were char­i­ties and dona­tions by big cor­po­rates and oth­ers. Our cam­paign is about how ev­ery­body can bring Ker­ala back on to its feet with­out char­ity or preachy mes­sages,” Tainwala says.

“More­over, the hol­i­day sea­son is just around the cor­ner, with peo­ple al­ready plan­ning hol­i­days around Di­wali, Christ­mas and other fes­ti­vals. The cam­paign aims to make Ker­ala a part of their plans and not let it be for­got­ten,” she adds.

What’s also quite in­ter­est­ing is the back­ground story of how the ad agency missed the brief but still made the best out of it. Bodh Deb, vice pres­i­dent and branch head at Au­tumn World­wide, the agency that crafted the cam­paign, tells us how.

“I have been read­ing re­ports of how Ker­ala’s tourism in­dus­try was af­fected and busi­ness was down, with peo­ple can­celling their trips. I just felt that in a time like this, the last thing one should do is can­cel on peo­ple. And in such a sit­u­a­tion, peo­ple can­celling on ‘God’s own coun­try’, doesn’t add up,” Deb out­lines.

“We also had a lit­tle bit of luck. One, we had a travel-based brand like Samsonite by our side and two, we al­ready had a month-old World Tourism Day brief which we were un­able to crack; I even got an es­ca­la­tion call about it. But then, the news re­ports, the tourism-day brief and the es­ca­la­tion call - all the dots con­nected and it clicked,” Deb ex­plains ex­cit­edly.

“We made it a point that this wouldn’t be an­other prod­uct cam­paign, but the mes­sage and the thought would be at its core. Since the story is about Ker­ala and its peo­ple, apart from a few mem­bers on the team, most of the work­force was from the south­ern state. It’s a peo­ple’s cam­paign first and we are happy,” Deb con­cludes.

EX­PERTS SPEAK

Nima Nam­chu, chief creative of­fi­cer, Havas World­wide, con­sid­ers the cam­paign a great idea; es­pe­cially

The ad high­lights how tourism gen­er­ates em­ploy­ment, com­merce and op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“Our cam­paign is about how ev­ery­body can bring Ker­ala back on to its feet with­out char­ity or preachy mes­sages” ANUSHREE TAINWALA

for a brand to take it upon it­self to sup­port Ker­ala on its jour­ney back to re­cov­ery.

“I like the quiet, un­der­stated and dig­ni­fied mood of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The only thing I would change is - re­move that shot of the Samsonite lug­gage. While it fits in per­fectly with that shot, it just felt too much like a plug,” Nam­chu says. “It’s a very smart move on the part of the team to wait for the noise in the me­dia to die down be­fore re­leas­ing this film. While other brands seem to have for­got­ten Ker­ala and moved on to other more lu­cra­tive causes of the week, the place­ment has def­i­nitely made Samsonite’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion stand out,” Nam­chu adds.

About the ben­e­fits the brand would reap from the cam­paign, Nam­chu states, “For the peo­ple of Ker­ala, Samsonite will move from be­ing seen as just a mar­keter of lug­gage to a sin­cere and ma­ture mem­ber of the com­mu­nity con­cerned not just with the im­me­di­ate but the long-term well­be­ing of the com­mu­nity that they are a part of. You want brand love? This is one of the ways to win it,” Nam­chu signs off.

Jaideep Ma­ha­jan, na­tion creative head, Red­if­fu­sion Y&R, says, “While Ker­ala picks up the pieces and re­builds it­self, it is clear that re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion will take more than just money. A sense of nor­malcy or ‘back-to-busi­ness’ is needed. This film is a small but pow­er­ful step in that di­rec­tion. The mes­sag­ing is crisp, the tone of voice is hon­est and the call-to-ac­tion is clear. The cause is much larger than any brand or strate­gic in­tent and this re­flects in the ex­e­cu­tion of the film. The hash­tag could have been dif­fer­ent as it is very sim­i­lar to a pop­u­lar over­seas cam­paign from 2016.” ■

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