What do you think worked in yourfavour to win the Audi business?
I think as Michael Perschke [director, Audi India] put it, it’s the clarity of thinking that we went with which worked in our favour. We went in saying, “Here’s what Audi is all about, this is the passion we need to translate while actually working on the brand. If we can reflect the same passion with which you make your car in the kind of work that you put out communicating it, then I think we have a winner of a story.” I think they loved our no-bullshit approach.
How many rounds were there?
It took us almost 8 months of meeting one another and coming to a consensus, because we needed a pitch fee. There was this one point where we were told, “You know two weeks ago Sir John Hegarty was sitting in the same chair, asking us for our business?” So I replied, “I have a lot of respect for Sir John Hegarty but unfortunately I’ll never have him, neither will he ever have me. But I’m a homegrown Indian entrepreneur; I understand this market really well, along with 5-6 different markets in Asia and 2 markets in Europe. I’ve studied this brand and understand this brand really well. And I also know if Sir John can open his agency in Bandra, where I have my office, I’m sure one day I’ll open my office in Kingly Street, where he has his office.” That’s what started the dialogue.
Finally when we presented the whole Maslow theory and how we wanted to reposition the car to Srishti Sawhney [head- marketing communications, Audi India], Michael and Clemens Olmert [head of marketing, Audi India] in one of the final rounds, I think that really worked in our favour. They realised this is not just about just launching a car, but this looks like it has a future for our strategy in the Indian market.
Once you got the business, tell us about the first discussion on strategy.
By the time we won the business, it was quite grilling and I was asked a lot of pointed questions. We tackled them very honestly and clearly, and one of the first comments that I got, one week into the business, was, “It doesn’t seem like a new relationship, you guys seem to know this brand really well.” That really put us on the fast track to getting an idea approved.
The brief was very clearly two-pronged: it said that we are launching the most prestigious and luxurious car that we have in this country. One, we want to sell this car. Two, we want this to be the starting point towards building an aura for Brand Audi. That’s pretty much how we interpreted the brief for the A8L. We said, “This is the best that you can offer from your stable. This is pretty much the pinnacle of technology, form and design and what Brand Audi really needs, why can’t we use this to start building the brand aura for Audi?”
How did you arrive at your strategy?
When we looked at Audi, we said it’s one of those car brands that has a legacy, and it’s a legendary brand. It has been cutting-edge as far as technology is concerned: they were the first to bring in Quattro, they’re the first to create an aluminium body for the car, and the first to do the endurance test. Two, they were extremely progressive in their thinking; they’re not one of those luxury brands which are really sedate and for old people. While they’re fantastic with luxury, they also build one of the best sports cars: the R8 is amazing.
So once we understood Audi, we said let’s look at the car market in India, and we decided to take Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory and apply that to the luxury car market here. In Maslow’s theory, Need comes at the bottom, then Status, Form and Design and then Self-Actualisation. When you look at Need, which has things like safety and value for money under it, there are cars like Volvo that fall in that category. Then for Status, the one car that really stands for status in our country, and which is supposed to be at the top, is actually just on the second rung, which is Mercedes. For Form and Design, there were new players in the market, like BMW and Porsche, who were about that. An Audi could fit in any of these three categories, but we thought about what we could do to up the bar. So we decided to create something for the Self Actualisation space, even above Form and Design, and thought that’s where Audi could sit really well. If you look at where Audi comes from, it isn't a flashy car, but it’s one car which is meant for people who are really self-actualised. Today if you look at the Indian consumer, they’re also evolving over a period of time: you don’t see people flaunting brands anymore. There’s a huge chunk of nouveau riche who are all about being understated; it’s the new luxury. So when you get to a point where you don’t really need to show your wealth, that’s really when you probably choose an Audi.
So when we mixed the two, where the car comes from and where the consumer is today, we got a very interesting positioning statement, which is the “Advanced state of mind”, where we said, “Here is a car which is built not just for you, but around you.” So, one of the features is that when you want to relax in the A8L while watching a movie, at the press of a button, the seat starts to sink in, the front seat moves forward, the leg rest comes down so you can put your feet on it, and while this is happening, the screen ensures it maintains the same eye level; so it just dances beautifully in. And if you don’t want to watch the movie, just press it a little further, the screen would start reclining away. It’s almost like magic, you feel it’s like nirvana even though it’s simple things, and only someone who’s self-actualised would understand the importance of some of these things.
How did you arrive at the 3D route?
The best way to get people to become a fan of this car would be to get them to sit inside it. Anyone who would sit in it would go “Wow” and if you had the money, you would buy it. We couldn’t really get everybody to sit in the car, so the next best thing was to make this car almost come out of the screen and see it in 3-dimension. So that was one aspect of making the car come alive in the communication. The second was that Audi is all about technology, and it’s technology not just for the heck of it, but the kind that will make you feel almost magical. So when we looked at what technology is really emerging and cutting edge, we realised it’s 4D and 3D. 4D is something we couldn’t deliver across mediums, but 3D we could. So we thought, why not create a campaign which is in 3D which can be delivered across every single medium that people interact with? So we didn’t start off by saying that let’s create a TVC. We started by saying let’s create a 3D experience around this car. When we decided to use an emerging technology to deliver an experience that nobody has been able to deliver in communication, that’s when the world’s first 3D integrated campaign was born.
Were there any discussion or debates with the clients regarding 3D?
When we told Michael about it, he said, “This is a brilliant idea, but can you execute it is the most important thing?” Not a lot of people associate India with cutting-edge technology. I had to spend a lot of time, thumping my fist and bringing in really good people, to tell them we could execute it. In the end we did manage to convince them, and how!
Tell us about the making of the commercial.
It took us about five and a half months. This project almost didn’t take off because it was not easy to get everybody to buy in and put in the kind of resources that were required. So I got Crocodile Films involved and they started looking at various post-production houses. We’ve had a fantastic relationship with The Mill, they’re almost like an extended family to us after we’ve done three projects together. When I spoke to them, they said it sounds really exciting and let’s see how we can pull it off. We also got some of the best 3D people, including those who had worked on ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Avatar’. We shot the whole thing in stereo, and not just shoot in 2D and convert to 3D, because it wouldn’t give you the feeling we wanted to evoke.
The entire creative concept was done here. We spoke to a lot of coders in London and in India. It was amazing to see a lot of different people come together and for a production in London, 60-80 people on the set is huge (in India, it’s too small for us). There were people who understood VFX and those who understood the web, and others who understood 3D, with everyone sitting together to make it work.
What do you hope the communication will do for Audi and Creativeland?
For Audi, we’ve done two previews now, because we wanted to do it like nobody’s done it before. The media loved it. We invited some of the progressive minds in the industry to come and take a look at it, and they said they’d never seen anything like this before. I’ve had people like Pops [KV Sridhar] say that this commercial has opened doors for a lot of people in India. We had Ramanuj [Sastry] and Sagar [Mahabaleshwarkar] speak about the work as well. The word of mouth has been fantastic.
We previewed the film in Dubai at the launch on Saturday, January 22, and it was a big hit. At the preview of the website in Dubai for 50 very important couples from India, they said they’d never seen anything like it. And they all say, “If this is so brilliant, the car must be even better.” That has really worked for Audi, that the brand came in and made something innovative that was relevant, and made people experience the car better, instead of just showing how creative they are.
For Creativeland, in true Creativeland style, for all the work that we’ve done, we’ve made sure that it’s strategically perfect. Here we wanted people’s jaws to drop, and make them envious and jealous, and it’s delivering all of that. All in all, the campaign has done its job and will continue to.