Spotify gets it right, but Airbnb & Coca Cola falter

Global music app Spotify is new to India.

Published: 07th July 2019 01:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th July 2019 10:16 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

Global music app Spotify is new to India. Well, relatively new. But it is proving to be a quick learner. Recently, Spotify rolled out its first television campaign in India. The campaign features actors Anil Kapoor and Ishaan Khattar. Kapoor plays Khattar’s ‘cool’ dad in the film. He’s seen cooking breakfast for Khattar and his gang of friends who are headed out to see a match. The speed of dad’s cooking, the friends figure, is proportional to the tempo of the song that is playing. So, young Khattar and his friends play peppy numbers to quicken the process of the cooking so that they can have breakfast faster … only for dad Kapoor to get too involved in the dance steps and drop the food! 

The ad is really cute. And real. And young. It has attitude. Which therefore gives the brand an attitude too. And personality. Pleasing. Friendly. Fun. Spotify has done well with its debut communication and deserves a round of applause. Airbnb, another global brand trying to enter India however still seems to be struggling with its advertising. The latest two ads feature Berlin and Goa as destinations.

There are two young girls featured in ‘Together in Berlin’ while ‘Freedom in Goa’ features a family of four.  The ‘That’s Why We Airbnb’ campaign is supposed to narrate real stories of real travelers, celebrating in the process the uniqueness of the bed-and-breakfast way of life, the concept of non-conformity, and the early adopters who swing to their own music.

But both the ads in the new campaign are kind of mundane and listless. Which is really a pity. Created by the global creative powerhouse, Wieden+Kennedy, the ads are just very ordinary and very predictable. Yawn!Airbnb has been immensely successful all over the world. But in India, somehow, it just hasn’t been able to strike the right chord with Indian audiences.

The concept of ‘truly authentic travel’ which globally translates into unique experiences and plurality of choices has just not got effectively communicated in our country. The brand started out its advertising journey in India on the wrong note. For some ill-advised reason, the first advertising campaign of Airbnb in India featured celebrity couple Saif Ali Khan and his wife Kareena Kapoor. That itself was the first mistake. It was difficult for ordinary folks to believe that the richie-rich Bollywood couple would prefer a bed-and-breakfast option over 5/7 star hotels they could easily afford and the ones all superstars frequent anyway.

That entire campaign despite the celebrity quotient kind of fizzled out. In the current campaign, again, Airbnb has just not figured out that what they need to sell to young and upwardly mobile Indians is convenience of location, comfort of the accommodation and cost effectiveness of the BnBs. That basic task of communication, the basic benefits of Airbnb over regular hotel accommodation has still not been properly done. In the ad with the girls in Berlin, to Indian audiences the centrality of the location, the safety of the accommodation and the thoughtfulness of the facilities would have made the film far more useful both to the brand and its potential customers. Instead, the entire ad is a jumble of cuts with no clear advantage of choosing through Airbnb getting communicated.

Sometimes, global brands just do not get it right. Airbnb needs sharper strategic thinking and far far more incisive creatives. I would at best give the new campaign 2 stars out of 5.This week also saw a new campaign featuring Radhika Apte and Rana Daggubatti who were hired by Coca Cola to sell a premium new water brand, smartwater. Yes, smartwater with a lower case ‘s’. Well, professedly, the client wanted the unique manufacturing process of the water (which apparently is inspired by how clouds are formed and then ‘rain’ water) to be the hero of the advertising.

The ad agency decided to move the communication from a technical rendition of a process to romancing how nature creates products in its own unique way ensuring purity and premiumness. Apte and Daggubatti are supposed to epitomize the role of nature in the creation of smartwater. Frankly, the entire campaign is a wasted effort. The celebrities are completely irrelevant to the communication and to the brand. A big big zero.

Which gets me to wonder how global brands like Coca Cola can get a brand introduction so completely wrong and why would they blindly hire niche celebrities like Apte and Daggubatti to launch a water that is supposed to be premium, unless ofcourse the belief is that obscure and obtuse equals sophisticated and upmarket.So, this week the advertising story is about global brands and their attempt to win India. Spotify seems to be off with a flyer. Airbnb and smartwater however need some serious help. 
(the writer is an advertising and media veteran)

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