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Spoonfeedin WOrld

Mktg – Survive Mumbai the American Tourister way

Biproshee Das

It takes little time to associate words such as ‘crowd’ and ‘pace’ with a city like Mumbai, with the city’s suburban trains justifying these associations the best. It is not tough to imagine Mumbai’s jam-packed local trains during rush hour, with people willing to fight tooth and nail for that little bit of space.

The new television commercial for American Tourister, created by Contract Advertising, uses this scenario to drive home the message that the brand’s luggage can withstand all that and more.

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Launched in India in 2004, American Tourister positions itself for travellers aspiring to own an internationally renowned, premium brand.

The TVC begins with a shot of the Mumbai CST railway station, where a foreign tourist, with his American Tourister suitcase, is looking clueless. He is caught in the frenzy, as a local train moves into the station during rush hour and the crowd pushes him into a compartment. The tourist tries hard to hold on to his luggage, as the commuters shove him further into the compartment.

He is eventually pushed out of the train as it halts at another station, while his luggage is left behind in the melee. The suitcase is stomped on by commuters, passed on from one to another and is soon thrown out to him, unscathed. As the tourist walks away with a sigh of relief, a super appears, ‘Survive Mumbai, Survive the World’. The TVC ends with a voiceover – ‘American Tourister – The Tough International Luggage’.

The ad captures the flavour of daily local train travel in Mumbai — commuters playing cards, an urchin singing, a eunuch in the compartment, commuters shoving and pushing each other and some hanging by the door — to convey how harrowing the experience could be for those who have never done this journey before.

“When you travel into an unknown territory, you are naïve. The idea was about surviving a place and how the luggage withstands it,” Ravi Deshpande, chairman and chief creative officer, Contract Advertising tells afaqs!.

“Every destination is unique and there is a lot that can happen and catch you unawares. Mumbai, for instance, can overwhelm you with its crowds. LA has no public transport system to speak of; New Yorkers can be rude; and so on. It is in these instances when you need the reliability of an American Tourister,” he adds.

Earlier campaigns for the brand — typically in the ‘feel good’ advertising space — revolved around families travelling overseas. “Nowhere was toughness used,” the creative team says.

“Reliability and strength are the core qualities of the brand, which comes out as a key consumer insight. Durability is a major issue while choosing a luggage brand, which is why we decided to highlight this through our communication. So, our focus is still on the same audience, but we have decided to adopt durability and the brand’s international heritage as a positioning,” says Subrata Dutta, chief operating officer, Samsonite South Asia.

“Our bags undergo stringent quality checks to ensure that they are able to withstand all rigors of travel, such that our customers need not worry about the bag giving way during their journey and they can enjoy worry-free travel. For example, in order to test the handle, it is pulled up and down 5,000 times,” Dutta adds.

The commercial was shot at three levels. A team was first sent to capture “real stuff” at the station on high-definition video. For the interior shots, a set was used; while for the exteriors, shots of people at the CST station were used with some extras.

Deshpande says that much attention was paid to authenticity, particularly in the soundtrack. Bollywood music director, Sneha Khanwilkar composed the music for the commercial; while a child who actually sings in train compartments, was used for the song.

The commercial was completed in roughly 15 days, including post production. “It is the fastest work we’ve done,” says Deshpande.

The creative positioning could set the pace for future campaigns and adaptations.

“We feel we’ve been able to develop an interesting property with ‘Survive Mumbai, Survive the World’. The idea is imminently extendable and has longevity. The future could see us developing executions around different destinations internationally,” Deshpande says.

Deshpande and Malobi Dasgupta have written the copy. The commercial has been directed by Australia-based Jeff Balsmeyer. The production house is Far Productions.

Long-lasting ad?

Experts in the industry have welcomed the creative thought and the concept with the few inevitable reservations.

“Your survival skills are tested most in a foreign land and there cannot be a better endurance test for your luggage than the Mumbai trains. So does the spot deliver toughness? Yes, it does,” says Joono Simon, executive creative director, Mudra.

“The starchy, white-skinned tourist in the labyrinth of CST station adds an interesting clashing quality that gives more texture to the film,” he adds.

Rahul Jauhari, national creative head, Pickle Advertising also gives the commercial a thumbs- up and adds that the soundtrack was “pretty enjoyable”.

“The commercial makes the point of the product being tough. Mumbai local trains are quite an acid test. So ‘Survive Mumbai, Survive the World’ rings true,” Jauhari says.

Prasanna Sankhe, national creative director, Publicis Ambience has a more critical opinion.

“On first impression, the commercial looks to be different and almost black humour to portray India. And the very unusual soundtrack helps to register the commercial in your head. But later, you start questioning whether the strategy of portraying India in this clichéd ‘Western point of view of India’ is actually going to appeal to the people in India, or in fact, alienate them. I fear it will definitely be the latter,” says Sankhe.

While agreeing that the strategy might work in an international market, he expresses doubts over its appeal in India.

“It is a different attempt, but I think the strategic direction is completely off,” he says.

Sujay Shetty, director, Whodunit Films approves of the idea and appreciates the candid looking shots. He, however, is quick to note that the interior shots are on a set and look fake.

“The execution is good in parts. The edit and the music are good. The actor could have been better though. The interior shots of the train look a little fake. It looks like a set, especially the floor on which the bag falls. It looks like wooden plank flooring, which is not seen in Mumbai local trains,” Shetty remarks.

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October 26, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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