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IPL Ads By Startups: Will The Race To Become Household Names Work? At present, the most talked about ads are not from well-established brands but from two startups, and they have got people talking

By Debarghya Sil

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"Yeh mein kar leta hoon, aap jake Dream11 pe team bana lo' (Let me do this, you make your team on Dream11)—a simple sentence that has now managed to be at the lips of millennials, ready to be used to take a dig at their friends. The solo dialogue in the ads has even made the cut into the political discourse, with Aam Aadmi Party taking a swipe at both BJP and Congress with the one-liner in a tweet, further proving the massive impact it has made.

Another series of ads that has taken over Twitter by storm and continues to trend is by a two-year old startup CRED. These series of ads have made its viewers nostalgic by casting 90s popular faces and voices.
Indians have always held ads very dearly. It is a common belief that ads are a true projection of society and companies use it to tout their products to masses.

Today, there are various mediums for ads such as television (TV), over-the-top (OTT) platforms, social media and websites. With proper balance between creativity and catchy jingles, over the time ads have ruled Indian hearts.

From Action School Time to Trivago

Let's take a dive into the memory lane to understand how few ads are still so close to us.

Every 90s kid will remember "Action ka school time', in which a curly-haired boy shares his school day, where he is helping his friend behind teachers back, annoying the peon during the physical training class and running across the corridors after hearing the school closing bell.

Who doesn't remember the melodious tune of "Vicco turmeric ayurvedic cream"? Or washing powder Nirma's "Hima, Rekha, Jaya and Shushma' all wearing startling white dresses.

Bajaj, the leading two-wheeler manufacturer with its "Humara Bajaj' showed that though Indians have modernized but they haven't let go of their traditions. This classic ad has clearly rode on the back of the country's sentiment.

Lyril and Santoor with their captivating jingles, never had to change their ad premise to show Indians how to stay fresh.

Even today, the evergreen whistle tune of LIC's TV commercial (TVC) can be recognized even when you are asleep.

In the modern time, Trivago has etched in the mind of customers with a typical guy with a not so deep voice, peculiarly that reminiscent of the telemarketing channels describing how to book a hotel. The ad had nothing compelling and instead became the meme material for netizens, that will make one wonder that the advertisers got it all wrong. However, the company continued with the same person, why? He made the country talk about Trivago and became the Trivago guy.

Apart from these there are numerous ads featuring John Doe, celebrities or sports person who have helped the brands to become household names.

With time, now startups have managed to pull off new-age creative ads to catch the already short attention span of today's millennials thus making big brands run for their money.

Betting High During IPL

The two month long IPL is a tournament which is seen by at least one member of every family. The tournament where the stakes are all always high is packed with breath-taking catches, out-the-stadium sixes, nail-biting finishes and of course on-field feuds, handing over a full entertainment package.

This year, the viewership was more as there was dearth of cricket action for seven odd months due to the COVID-19 outbreak. On top of that, this season, which is scheduled in the UAE and does not allow viewers to enter the stadium to keep social distancing in place, has propelled the stadium-goers to sit in-front of their TVs or laptops, further contributing to the already high viewership.

The viewership of IPL for the first week of IPL saw a 15 per cent growth from last year, with total viewing minutes of 60.6 billion, according to a BARC report. There was a 21 per cent growth in average impressions per match, 39 million compared to last year. A total of 269 million viewers watched IPL in its opening week, 11 million more per match compared to 2019.

Apart from TV, the rising popularity of OTT platforms have caught the attention of brands to advertise. With lockdown in place and more spare time in hand, screen time for Indians increased. A report by Ericsson Mobility reported that average Indians screen time increased by 2 hours during lockdown.

When it comes to the IPL fever, Disney+Hotsar enjoys all as it has the rights to telecast the matches, thus contributing to the viewership for the tournament. It alone boasts of more than 200 million downloads and is adding more viewers every year as people start switching to OTT platforms for more fresh and relatable content.

The brands anticipated all of the above and flocked to the tournament when the dates were announced after five months of delay as advertisers. Around 150 brands had shown interest to become advertisers for this year's IPL tournament.

Brands have to brainstorm new ideas to stand out in the surfeit of ads.

Most Popular Ads

This year, ads from CRED and Dream11 have caught viewers attention and have compelled those in the brand management industry to turn their heads.

Fantasy sports platform Dream11 which spent INR 222 crore to get the title ownership of IPL has come up with two ad campaigns. In one of them, popular cricket players such as Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Kartik, Rohit Sharma and others can be seen interrupting bored millennials who are either bursting bubble wrap, or repeatedly switching lights on and off and are asked to make a team on Dream11.

These ads touch upon a typical Indian phenomenon of timepass that means unoccupied and unproductive, and instead ask viewers to play Dream11, which the company claims is productive and will earn you cash, sensible, right?

The other ad series features an almost similar set of faces that aims at the cricket fan base while striking the chord of nostalgia by displaying rules of gully cricket (street cricket) that everyone knows about. In one of the ads, Rohit Sharma who plays for Mumbai Indians and also the opener for Indian cricket team is not allowed to open, because it is not his bat and the rules say the owner of the bat is privileged to bat first. In another scene, Shikhar Dhawan despite taking a catch can be seen disparaged by teenagers as he failed to follow the "one tip one hand' rule proving that everyone is equal in street cricket, thus in line with the jingle "yaha pe sab same hain, yeh toh apna game hain' (all are equal in our game).

These ads did contribute in Dream11's milestone of registering more than 5.3 million concurrent users on October 14. The startup claimed that it has experienced a surge of 44.4 per cent traffic volume as against the final match of IPL 2019.

Kunal Shah's CRED has taken the ad game a notch higher by bringing 90s celebrities such as Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Bappi Lahiri, Alka Yagnik, Udit Narayan and Govinda. The ad generally shows these icons auditioning for CRED's ad in front of young jurors and finally not able to make the cut, with one of the jurors eventually suggesting for a simple voice over for the ad.

The ad has been hailed one of the best particularly at a time when there is a pool of ads begging for viewers attention.

The reason behind CRED's success is we have not seen or dared to demean these celebrities. Faces of these 90s celebrities seem to have given a break to the viewers who are inundated with players run ads.

The final line of the ad says "Not everyone gets it', which signifies their USP, i.e, users with high credit scores can only become part of the Cred community.

The startup is said to have registered six to seven times increase in daily sign-ups after the launch of IPL campaigns, according to Shailendra J Singh, managing director at Sequoia Capital.

Expert's Opinion

While it is clear that these two startups have burnt a lot of cash to execute their ad campaigns and have also managed to get people talking on social media, but more importantly have they managed to crack the code of becoming household names which the decade old companies with high turnover did?

Dhruv Sachdeva, founder of Humour Me Pvt. Ltd, a creative agency praised the ad campaigns by both the startups. However he is unsure whether it is the "best' use of their advertising spends in the long run. According to him, during the commercials viewers simply mute their TVs. While Sachdeva agreed that IPL is the fastest way to reach masses, he said that these ads will be forgotten eventually.

"For an ad to be remembered, it needs to compete with the most engaging and entertaining content on the Internet. Brands need to think of themselves as publishers and not advertisers and cater to their audience's consumption patterns at the same level as their favourite YouTube creator or Netflix show does. This is both the largest challenge and opportunity for creative agencies and the industry as a whole," he concluded.

Prathap Suthan, managing partner and chief creative officer of BangInTheMiddle, a communication agency, who considers IPL as a "manna' for cricket lovers and brands said he is not part of the audience that these brands are wooing. He said he has never liked over the top advertising and celebrities demeaning themselves. "When you spend tons of money, even the worst advertising will become palatable. But I sincerely think that the voice over they use ought to be less constipated," he added.

Suvajyoti Ghosh, managing director and chief creative officer, Brandmovers, said CRED with its ads have done well in catching people's attention and spreading awareness. He described these ad series as an out-of-the-box approach which worked better than most well scripted ads. Ghosh claimed that Dream11 ads were more relatable and brought back pleasant memories for him.

When asked whether these brands will become household names, he said, "To become a household name, both the brands Dream11 and CRED will need to continually invest more to keep up their creative commitment, both in terms of media and in terms of creative thought over a longer period of time. However, users who do engage with the current set of ads are more likely to remember both these brands and also recommend the brands if they find them useful."

He further said that CRED did not mention anything about the app in the ad, leaving people intrigued and talking, which according to him is the first step to become a household name.

Anjali Malthankar, national strategy director of Tonic Worldwide, said both the startups have consciously spent money for their ads during the IPL. She liked Dream11's how to download follow up as it tackles the complicated user experience and cited CRED's ads as a good example of an entertaining launch of a new brand and product category.

She agreed that both the brands have built awareness but noted that nothing lasts. "In today's fast changing world nothing lasts. You are as good as your last campaign. However, looking at 5 million-plus downloads for CRED, just at the launch, is an admirable achievement for a startup," she concluded.

Debarghya Sil

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Correspondent

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