By: K.G. Sreenivas Photo Credit: Teena Khan Dated: February 01, 2014
Rajiv Rao, National Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather, who masterminded the landmark, clutter-breaking ZooZoo campaign for Vodafone, reminisces about what went into their making...
Creative Brands: The ZooZoo campaign marked a clear departure and ruptured the clutter. How did you strike upon the idea?
Rajiv Rao: We had to do something clutter-breaking for IPL. Vodafone is a big spender on IPL (co-sponsor). At the same time, a lot of other brands were on IPL. There is so much advertising during IPL that it gets irritating to watch. Vodafone wanted to talk about their value added services. In one of the brainstorming sessions, we came up with the idea of doing one film every day and that opened up a lot of possibilities.
It sounded scary and challenging but at the same time exciting too, because, nobody had done a film every day. IPL is aired for 50-60 days, so we thought it would be really cool to have a new ad every day. My brief to my team was to think of a series — a character or a similar setup. I thought it should be as simple as stick figures or simple cartoon characters or egg-shaped characters with stick-like hands and legs. And, I thought, instead of animating it, we could actually get people to do it.
Refreshing! Abused word, but the attempt is to do something which is not being done by brands in the same category. There are times when it may not work out... the client may not buy it. But I try to do that. The second aspect is to be effortless in our communication. You see it and you smile. It need not be complicated but presented in a manner that connects with people...
It took a couple of rounds of presentations and character developments to get the client in sync with the idea. We started writing scripts for these characters. Honestly, it sounded very exciting but no one was clear what it was going to look like. You can’t really blame anyone for that because it was something that was never done before. There was no reference point. But the client had faith in us. They said ‘these guys are excited, so obviously there is something good in it’. That’s how we got an okay from the client and we started working on the characters.
But, there was one thing very clear from the beginning that the characters won’t speak in English or Hindi. Mostly, the communication would have no language. Since we were not animating, we couldn’t portray change of expressions on an egg-shell face. So, we kept changing the expression after each shot.
CB: When was the moment you decided that this was the route you were going to take — the stick figure? Where did you say to yourself that this was what the brand could do with?
RR: The first time I thought about it, I was super excited. The very next day we went in and just chatted with the client and they also got excited. I think the more I started working on it the more I was sure that this was the way to go. Like I said, we didn’t get the approval on day one. So, we had to go back to them a couple of times. Every time I went back to them, it became clearer to me.
CB: You contextualised the ZooZoo campaign in the IPL background. When you adopted the same language for another campaign, did it work?
RR: Right after IPL we did a smaller campaign with the ZooZoos towards the end of the year. It was the second season of ZooZoos, but it was launched too close to the earlier one. It didn’t do so well, because I think IPL was the best platform to launch something like a ZooZoo. So, it did okay and the next year we had the next season which also did pretty well.
CB: Earlier, Vodafone had the pug. They don’t use it any longer?
RR: Whenever there has been a brief that suits the pug, we do. We used the pug two years ago for a campaign on network clarity and customer care service. We called it ‘happy to help’. The pug is the mascot of the brand. You could do anything with the pug.
CB: What is central to your aesthetic universe which applies to any of your campaigns? What is that drives you in helping the brand communicate itself?
RR: Refreshing! Abused word, but the attempt is to do something which is not being done by brands in the same category. Of course, there are times when it may not work out. The client may not buy it. But, from my side, I try to do that. The second aspect is to be effortless in our communication. You see it and you smile. It need not be complicated but presented in a manner that connects with people.
CB: To your mind, what is that single most important defining characteristic of a brand?
RR: I’ll give you an example, which is I think the best example — Apple. The character of the brand, the personality of the brand is so true — whatever you see in advertising — to how the brand really is. Apple makes products that are so easy to use and look so gorgeous, and yet it is friendly and very human. Although it is technology, they understand you so well. They are so human in their approach! Everything about it is absolutely practical, honest and upfront. You see that reflecting in their advertising too. They never try to oversell, bullshit, or hide anything. They may not be doing the best advertising; they never win awards for their advertising... [but,] they did the most awarded commercial ever till date — the Apple 1984 commercial: the girl with the sledge hammer.
So what I’m trying to say is that a company has a philosophy or the man heading the brand has a philosophy. We should try to bring that in our communication. It is sometimes very difficult to find that thing. But that way, a brand can be different from any other brand. There are so many brands and everyone is selling the same thing. How do you differentiate?
CB: When you talk about advertising, to our minds, ethics play an important role. When the client comes to you with a brief and makes tall claims, how do you moderate those claims? How do you press that fine line saying: Look this is what you stand for! You cannot say this is what we offer and do, etc…
RR: That is always our effort. We always go back to the client and say, ‘listen this is what your brand is and this is what you should be saying’. It is never about saying some bullshit. There could always be a little exaggeration, but not too much. The consumer is not an idiot. You can bullshit him once, but you can’t do that again. And all Ogilvy brands have been brands that have been in the industry for a long time. The brands are institutions that people trust, whether it is Fevicol, Asian Paints or Cadbury’s. Though Vodafone is a young brand in India it’s the oldest telecom brand. So, I think with these brands there is never an issue. But there is a need to educate new brands and new clients to ensure they don’t overpromise and then under-deliver. As far as we are concerned we make sure that we say things that are not misleading and untrue. And the fact is, we always call it creative liberty — you can’t be so straight forward that you start sounding like a client. So, it has to be entertaining, but never misleading.
CB: ZooZoo has been a great creative idea. Do you see it travelling a long journey?
RR: It is up to us. I think very few brands have mascots. So, we would never want to part with that property. It’s iconic. We would like to continue with the ZooZoos. It is a property that can go on for a long time. There’s a lot you can do with it. The other thing is that we have two mascots. There is a pug which is equally loved. Tomorrow if I do another campaign, I am sure people will equally love that campaign.
CB: Do you think the long form is returning to our narrative?
RR: Yes, absolutely! Long form allows you to tell a bigger story. In a 3-minute ad, there is enough scope to build emotions. You can’t do that in a 30-second ad. But here you fall in love with the characters, get to know them so well. There is enough time to establish the story. And with people downloading and watching ads on their smartphones, this is the right time to go with longer forms. I am sure that today 5-minute ads would also be downloaded and watched.