While centered on the general elections, the ad depicts a rural woman with her voter ID in hand, while the body copy alongside exposes the typical false promises made by politicians during elections.
Print ads that make use of provocative body copy were believed to be a thing of the ’80s, but with United Colors of Benetton’s latest print campaign, the brand proves that words clearly haven’t gone out of fashion. While centered on the general elections, the ad depicts a rural woman with her voter ID in hand, while the body copy alongside exposes the typical false promises made by politicians during elections.
The ad promptly reminds the electorate that in saying so, politicians seem to project rather wrongly, that they have the power to give the public what it needs, while also deciding what the common person should “eat, wear and believe in”. Benetton, with its line, “It’s time to tear down the lie and show them who has the power”, has cemented its own advertising manifesto, with the tagline, #UnitedForVote.
The print effort, mostly targeting metros through English dailies, is complemented by a digital campaign as well. UCB is not a new contender to latch onto matters that concern the public. Globally, the apparel major released its United By series of commercials in 2016 as a part of its association with social causes like women empowerment, anti-racism drives, etc. The creative idea has seen topics like women’s safety and regional diversity feature prominently in its Indian iteration since then, with campaigns like #UnitedByHope, #UnitedByFaith, #UnitedbyHalf, #UnitedbyHer, #UnitedbyDonts, etc making the rounds. Its latest #UnitedByVote effort, focussing on the elections, is the 10th campaign in the series.
“With this, we want to reach out to the rather large electorate base in the country and encourage them to not be deflected by the things happening around them,” Sandeep Chugh, MD and CEO, Benetton India, says.
“We want them to make their own choices and exercise the highest power granted to any citizen — that of voting.” The United By series, according to him, has historically been about picking up relevant topics to engage society and nudge people to have “an optimistic outlook about solving the issues at hand”.
Across its top stores in metros, Benetton has also lined up eye-catching display materials that prompt consumers to evaluate whether they even know the candidate in their constituency, what are the parameters they are considering while voting (health, education, etc), and other relevant questions to figure out the top most priority for India’s electorate. Towards the results of the elections, the brand could plan more activities around the findings of such on-ground engagement. “We will conclude the campaign around May 24 or 25,” Chugh says.
The brand, however, has consciously avoided television advertising this time, considering the magnanimity and duration of the elections conducted in seven phases, which make it tough to keep the message unique on a mass medium for long. Furthermore, more brands are using digital to create engagement around the current election as opposed to the past editions, for obvious reasons. “Digital is the most happening medium right now and with the #UnitedByVote idea, it is a natural extension of Benetton’s brand voice to a social campaign,” says Ajay Gahlaut, chief creative officer and MD, Publicis Worldwide. “No brand is backing one political party over another; they are just asking people to vote. Unless creatively done, it may be tough to stand out.”
Apart from Benetton, brands like KFC, Flipkart, Swiggy, BookMyShow, Zomato, Castrol Activ, Red FM, Samsonite and Thomas Cook India have also latched onto the brouhaha surrounding the general elections this year. They are either encouraging people to go out and cast their votes, or are taking a satirical view of the promises made by netas in India in an effort to increase conversations of national interest.
According to branding mavericks, the general elections pose yet another opportunity for brands to latch onto, much like issues to do with racism, women empowerment or occasions like Women’s Day or International Yoga Day. Except that with the elections, brands have a larger opportunity to take a stand about the Indian democracy and showcase their point of view.
With so many brands exercising their own rights to ‘advertise’ around the elections, is there a risk of polarising audiences or venturing into controversial territory? That would depend on what the brand’s stand is, say experts. “Elections in our country are dramatic—a tamasha, so to speak,” says KV Sridhar, founder and chief creative officer, Hypercollective. “While in the 2014 elections, the focus was on a change of government and the previous editions had largely issue based propositions including a focus on the common man, this year there seem to be only personality-led debates, with the chai-wala versus nepotism narrative.”
Therefore, in the ‘absence’ of solid issues/propositions, what advertisers are left with in terms of messaging is either encouraging people to vote — much like UCB — or poke fun at the election ‘tamasha’— similar to what BookMyShow resorted to, with its #ChooseWisely campaign that is a satire on ‘keeping the drama for the movies’.
Having said that, it is important that the brand’s messaging around elections should be relevant and in line with its DNA, usual tone of voice and brand personality. Otherwise it risks being seen as forced and could add to the cacophony. “Don’t be preachy and don’t take sides,” Sridhar cautions.