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What an Idea sir

Last updated on: July 14, 2009 

What an Idea sir ji

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For a long time, only those who spent hours in front of the television set, gorging junk snack food, qualified as couch potatoes. It was an unhealthy lifestyle, a sure recipe for disaster.

Equally bad, it is now realised, is the lifestyle of those addicted to their mobile phones. It has made them forget the virtues of a workout. The answer is to walk while you talk -- exercise and indulge at the same time.

This is the latest message from Idea Cellular delivered by its brand ambassador, Abhishek Bachchan.

Text: Byravee Iyer, Business Standard


Image: Idea Cellular's latest advertisement takes the health route.

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Two weeks ago, Idea Cellular launched the 'walking and talking' campaign. In it, Bachchan plays a doctor who advocates how people can stay fit by simply walking while talking and seeds this idea in the public domain.

It all begins when a journalist asks him if technology has made people lazy. The doctor has a brainwave that all people need to do is walk while they talk. The message spreads like wild fire. The doctor begins to lose business.

For the campaign, the brief to the company's agency of six years, Lowe, was to come up with another exciting idea with a telecommunication connection.

"The idea is to set up a problem and provide a solution to it," says Ashwin Varkey, the creative director of the campaign. Idea Cellular executives claim that the campaign has been well received.

The ad, which took about two months to make, was shot by Chrome Pictures and will run for about six weeks. There will be a 360-degree campaign with radio, print, outdoor and digital communication.


Image: An Idea Cellular ad.

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Ideas that work

The market for mobile telecommunication services is overcrowded, to say the least.

Each circle has at least half a dozen service providers and more want to join the bandwagon.

The service is nothing more than a commodity -- features offered by the various companies are somewhat similar. In this scenario, any differentiation can be created only through brand-building.

Idea Cellular, which belongs to the Aditya Birla Group, is only too aware of it. "This category is crowded.

"All mobile companies have similar features. Even if I'm good in one particular aspect, a competitor will be better in another area. That's why communication plays the differentiator," says Idea Cellular chief marketing officer Pradeep Shrivastava.

Thus, for the last two years, Shrivastava along with Lowe has bet big if not wholly on its advertisement campaigns. "We needed to look at ideas that have the power to change society while having a relevant mobile connection," says he.


Image: An Idea Cellular ad.

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To move it forward, he roped in Bachchan as the brand ambassador. Though not as charismatic as Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan or Sachin Tendulkar, he is known as a good actor and an effective communicator.

Also, unlike other celebrities, he is not overexposed. This has helped Idea Cellular cut through the clutter.

The first ad in the series had the setting of a village ridden with caste wars, till Bachchan steps in.

He suggests that instead of names, which reflect the caste, all individuals should be known by their mobile numbers. This would get rid of the caste system.

Though it was too simplistic a solution for a problem that has plagued the country for centuries, it did connect with the audience. 'What an idea, sir ji,' was the punch line.

The logical next step was to build on the theme -- how a good idea can reshape the world.

"The reason we've stuck to this theme is because we've had much success with it," adds Shrivastava. "We've got excellent responses based on our brand health monitor."


Image: Idea Cellular new campaign on the company web page.

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Thus, the company brought out the campaign of a deaf and mute tourist in Agra where Bachchan plays the role of a guide and uses SMS to communicate with her. The next ad saw Bachchan as the head of an educational institution.

The ad shows how children, especially girls, face education barriers. Bachchan suggests lessons on the mobile phone to universalise education. The fourth ad in the same series broke this January, close on the heels of the nation's general elections, and showcased the use of mobile phone for democratic decision-making. The 'walking and talking' ad is the latest avatar of the campaign.

Striking a connect

Some brand specialist says the campaign is a tough act to follow -- the ideas need to be innovative. Otherwise, they fear, it will fail to deliver. The challenge for the creative team is clear. The benchmark has been set and no slip-ups can be allowed.

On his part, Shrivastava says the campaign has begun to pay dividends. Idea Cellular claims it is the fastest-growing mobile telecom service provider in the country with new subscribers between 1 million and 1.5 million signing up every month.

However, its overall subscriber tally of 45.5 million is way below Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance Communications.

Idea Cellular began life in 1995 as Birla Communications. A year later it was rechristened Birla AT&T and then again in 2001 it was renamed Birla Tata AT&T, informally called Batata.

Three big names had joined hands to ride the promising Indian mobile telephone market.


Image: Actor Abhishek Bachchan is Idea cellular's brand ambassador.

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However, shortly after, the much-talked about joint venture fell through and Birlas bought out the entire stake and finally in 2002, Idea Cellular was launched. Along the way it has acquired smaller operators like Escotel and Spice.

The journey ahead could be tough. Rivals like Airtel and Vodafone have worked on their brands for several years now. (Airtel in fact wants to become the country's most admired brand.

A recent study had put it second only to state-owned Life Insurance Corporation.) Reliance Communications has upped the ante and signed style icon Hrithik Roshan as its brand ambassador. Aircel too has Mahendra Singh Dhoni to endorse its brand. And the Tata Group has joined hands with DoCoMo of Japan to launch GSM services in the country.

The growing threat perception does not seem to perturb Shrivastava at the moment: "I have great respect for rivals like Airtel and Vodafone but it is commendable that we are the fastest growing company both in terms of subscribers and revenues," says he.


Image: An Idea cellular ad.

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