Chaayos was one of the early movers in 2012 in the cha-bar space. As a brand, however, it did not invest much in above-the-line advertising over the years. Last week, it launched its first ever TV campaign, #MentalAboutChai, and plunged headlong into controversy. Trouble started with the hashtag itself which uses the word ‘mental’. Both advertising experts and social media panned the usage of ‘mental’ pointing out that the soon-to-be-released Kangana Ranaut movie ‘Mental Hai Kya’ too has been forced by the courts to change its title to ‘Judgmental Hai Kya’ because the word ‘mental’ is disrespectful, insensitive and derogatory to those with disabilities.
The two films in the campaign too received much flak. The first one is shot at a shok sabha (funeral). A trayful of chai is being carried around by one of the lady relatives. One of the mourners helps himself to a cup. But one sip later, he loudly asks why the tea has no adrak (ginger).
Everyone at the gathering freezes in disbelief that at such a sad and solemn occasion this guy is getting worked up about the ingredients of the chai? The lady relative is not sure if she has heard right. She asks him if he really wants adrak in the chai? Well, what he gets instead is a massive wallop from the lady that leaves behind a big black-eye! The second film has a similar plot.
A young couple troop into an old uncle’s home late one baarish ki raat because their car has stalled. The old man is very welcoming; makes them comfortable; gives them towels to dry themselves; then goes into the kitchen to fetch garam chai for them. One sip later, the visitor vomits out the chai haranguing the host on why he put elaichi (cardamom) in the chai and actually orders him to make the tea all over again minus the condiment. The old man gets out his walking support and hits the guy on the face!
To be honest, if there was intended to be any humour in these ads, it just escaped me. As it did most viewers. Social media just roasted the brand for being insensitive and irresponsible. In trying to be irreverent, the creators of the advertising have gone overboard. Seriously astray. The funeral ad is just inexcusable. Cultural insensitivity has been stretched to an extreme. The brand-owners are said to be defending the creatives saying the ads target ‘chai-vinists’ (whoever they are?!) and millennials (the brand’s core target audience) do enjoy such black-humour; but to me the entire communication is senseless, and in very poor taste.
Meanwhile, Vodafone has brought back the elderly South Indian couple - Asha and Bala - for its latest ad campaign. The campaign shows the launch of Asha’s Kitchen and the ease with which the old couple who were last featured travelling the world, and in similar such (and exotic) situations, continue to use mobile technology to enrich their world back home too.
One film shows the duo on a video chat showing off the restaurant, while the other film shows them using a young photographer to click pictures of the food to make it more noticeable on social media.
While I fully understand that the new campaign captures #LiveMore moments from the life of an old (but young at heart) couple who continue to achieve their dreams of getting more out of life (this time by setting up a new and seemingly successful restaurant) but I am really puzzled by what Vodafone is really up to. Post the merger with Idea, Vodafone jettisoned its famous pug from its advertising, bringing in two industrious but really boring network engineers.
Then, this IPL, for the first time in nearly a dozen years, the zoo-zoos ran dry (basically abandoned). So, there has been a pro-active attempt to distance the brand from its past (irrespective of past success or equity) in preparation for whatever will be the successor brand to the merged Voda-Idea brands.
But then why bring back Asha & Bala? What’s so special about them that wasn’t special about Cheeka, the pug, or special about the much-loved zoo-zoos? Obviously the brand folks at Voda-Idea still haven’t quite figured out the do’s and don’ts for the brand going forward, and this latest campaign has literally slipped through the cracks in the merged entity’s decision-making organogram! Sure, the earlier Asha & Bala ads were cute and endearing but they were surely not a patch on either the pug or the zoo-zoos. So if you pressed the ‘delete’ button on the brand’s two most powerful advertising symbols, why then bother to resurrect this old couple? Management indecision is what I would attribute it to, without mincing words. I would much rather the pug and the zoo-zoos return.
(The writer is an advertising and media veteran)