Campaign Trail

By: CB News Bureau             Photo Credit: Teena Khan             Dated: February 01, 2014

Reunion is the latest video campaign by Google in India. Abhijit Avasthi, National Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather, talks to Creative Brands about they sought to transform a “cold technology brand” and help it establish a “warm” connect with the ‘mobile’ Indian

Abhijit Avasthi

Launched on YouTube in November, the 3 minute and 32 second-long video, Reunions, is seen as the return of long-form storytelling. Centred on the theme of the India-Pakistan Partition of 1947, it is a story of two childhood friends, separated for long across the India-Pakistan borders, being brought together by their grandchildren with a little help from Google. In less than two months, the video garnered over 11 million views on YouTube. Abhijit Avasthi takes us through the creative process that went into the making of the campaign.


Google, as a technology brand, in fact, a cold technology brand, is pretty much synonymous with search in India... Yet they were aware of the fact that people were getting on to the internet bandwagon in India in large numbers, and that most people were accessing the internet through the mobile platform. So, they needed to be told about this phenomenal search engine.


Today, if you ask somebody ‘what do you use Google for’’ chances are that they would be using it for slightly more knowledgeable applications: for my kid’s homework, I am looking for a definition of the Theory of Relativity, or if I want to find out something about some film that was made in 1927, I’ll do that. A lot of practical information can be accessed via Google — about flights, weather, restaurants, etc. And, it’s not that if you put it into the search box it will take you to some link and that link takes you to the site... They have something called ‘onebox’ where, for example, if I say ‘weather in Mumbai’, then it will immediately drop a box, below the search bar, displaying weather in Mumbai. It was the practical information we wanted to tell people about. Most importantly, Google as a brand is a warm brand. It is a technology product but it is a warm brand.

Different brands have different personalities. For example ‘5 Star’ is a demented brand— it is irreverent, wacky. ‘Idea’, if I can say, has a social angle in its mind. Worldwide, Google has decided that it wants to be a warm brand — a very human brand. That is their positioning. That is the way they want to be. So, the idea was to bring brand Google closer to the man on the street. This was the basic purpose of the brand.


Google ReunionSo, when we were having a discussion on what kind of story needs to be told, we needed to think of two-three things. One was it had to be a story which helped us incorporate those ideas of search information that we could plant in— looking for weather, flight timings, meanings of certain words—so, obviously it needed to be a story which allowed plugging in of the various kinds of searches that you could possibly do. The second, Google was such a familiar brand that if I did something ordinary people wouldn’t register it. So, we knew we had to do something big, something really epic whereby you could have conversations in homes about Google. And, as Google was an emotional brand, we explored different emotions that could be rich in texture. Then, one of my group creative directors, Sukesh Naik, who has actually worked on this commercial — the line we had for Google was ‘Find what you are looking for’, and ‘find what you are looking for’ works both as a literal piece and as a lateral piece — he had this thought: ‘what if we say Google can help you find a long lost friend.’ And then one thing led to the other and we thought Partition; and what if it was a story of two grandchildren who got their grand-dads together. It was a very rich backdrop. It was relevant to so many of us and that’s how the whole thing happened.


I would say I am not so much of a believer that because people’s attention spans are shorter, therefore, you should make only shorter things. I generally think content is king. If it is good enough it will hook people no matter if it’s a 10-seconder, or 30, 60, or a 5-minuter. We knew, to tell this story, and to bring out this deep rich emotion — so many textures and layers to the film — we needed that. And primarily because this was a digital exercise we had the luxury of time on our side. Therefore yes, we knew we were going to make a long film, especially because if we wanted to insert some of the searches we needed time, but we never felt that we were against people’s short attention spans. If your story is powerful, I think, people see it.


A big credit to Amit Sharma, the director of the film. He put his heart and soul into the film. The brief was that they (the cast) should have character on the face, as if almost they had themselves experienced the pain of Partition. And it had to be slightly unfamiliar faces. So, we had the legendary M.S. Sathyu, the granddad on the Pakistani side, who was the director of the iconic Garam Hawa (1973) — a much applauded film on Partition, and Vishwa Mohan Badola, a famous theatre person. Both great actors and look at the results!


Increasingly, because of the way the society is going, it is going to become tough for the marketing guys to come up with a one-size fits all communication. Today, for example, a typical banker in south Bombay can afford a luxury car as opposed to an orthodox, conservative trader sitting in small time India. So, a Mercedes or an Audi would want to sell to both, but, because their sensibilities are totally different, what turns them on is totally different too. I think it is going to be difficult to come up with one piece of communication that is going to appeal to both.

Worldwide, Google has decided that it wants to be a warm brand—a very human brand. That is their positioning. That is the way they want to be. So, the idea was to bring the brand Google closer to the man on the street. This was the basic purpose of the brand...

The second thing is there is an increase in the number of people who are getting on to the digital bandwagon. There is no escaping that as increasingly more and more brands will need to adopt and not just look at it as a stepchild, saying, ‘Okay! I have spent 95 bucks and I have 5 bucks remaining, and let me give it to digital for the sake of participating in the digital revolution.’ The fact is it is important to make an impact and brands can’t deny that and they’ll have to relook at life, for sure.

I think the biggest thing we will be struggling with is the fact that today because media has proliferated all over India — there is internet presence all over India — I think the aspirations and the desires of small towns and middle towns are no different than, say, a Bombay or a Bangalore. And therefore, how to manage and straddle them will be a challenge.




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