Idea Cellular’s latest ad campaign talks about a philosophy it mastered, but seems to have lost its magic touch

By: | Updated: January 3, 2017 1:56 PM

There’s what you do best. And then there comes a time to evolve. Idea Cellular, in its latest communication, champions a philosophy it mastered a long time ago but seems to have lost its magic touch

Idea’s campaigns stretched the fabric of the brand beyond its telecom offering. But it exists in a very different environment todayIdea’s campaigns stretched the fabric of the brand beyond its telecom offering. But it exists in a very different environment today

It seems like a while since a phrase like What an Idea, Sirji! crept its way into the common man’s vocabulary. Earlier there was Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola, Shock laga kya or something like a Dimaag ki batti jala de. Over the years we have had a few other popular taglines that the audiences warmed up to, albeit to varying degrees.

It is undeniable that some were more popular than the others but what Idea did with What an Idea, Sirji! or a No Idea — Get Idea was what communication successes are made of. With lines like that, the widespread acceptance of the language a brand used took precedence over how much inventory moved off the shelves, so to speak.


The What an Idea series of ads continued to have high recall and brand association and in the years in which they were launched, propelled Idea into the consumer’s consideration set with its pro-public stance.

The Education for All campaign is another example of the days when Idea was optimally utilising its communication to build a unique brand identity. Sashi Shanker, CMO, Idea Cellular, notes how the social peg in messaging has worked for the brand, “The telecom category in India is characterised by a plethora of drivers such as tariff, network and customer service expectation. The challenge is always to break out of the commoditised environment and resonate with a diverse target audience.”

Clearly, Idea’s campaigns stretched the fabric of the brand beyond its telecom offering. But it has been a while to that, and both the consumer and the brand in question exist in a very different environment today.

Its No Ullu Banaoing campaign picked up awards for its fresh and imaginative yet socially relevant approach to consumer’s problems. This was when the brand had not demarcated its audiences sharply into rural or urban. With its latest 4G campaign however, the brand is looking to bridge the rural-urban divide — neat ‘idea’ — but it feels like something is missing. In concept, the brand is bringing the reverse migration thought but it just doesn’t seem to do what it earlier could.

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Santosh Padhi, co-founder and CCO, Taproot Dentsu, points out that what has always worked for Idea is speaking the language of social relevance. “However, it has lost the plot now. The latest campaign lacks emotion in execution. As a script, it has a lot of potential to move the consumer. But in the storytelling, it doesn’t do enough.”

Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting is of the opinion that while the message seems to be in continuity with the brand’s earlier themes, the tonality seems like a departure from its earlier campaigns. “The current campaign, while clear in its intent, is less impactful and less memorable than some of its earlier campaigns, missing an element, which to me has been a defining aspect of its brand personality and communications so far — that is quirky humour,” he notes.

Some analysts feel that although the recent ad is a throwback to Idea’s earlier style, this one looks like a step back in time. “Normally, the Idea execution is very to the point, but this one is forced and plays out like a bit of a soap opera,” observes Alagu Balaraman, MD, India operations, CGN and Associates. Given that Idea has spelled out its aim to focus on the rural consumer more than ever, the recent film is an effort to that end. The challenge then, Balaraman states, is that of creativity.

Over the last few years, Idea’s communication strategy has involved building the mobile internet category by highlighting its transformational abilities by reaching out to the masses. Shanker notes, “Even in our current 4G campaign, we are showcasing how the high-speed wireless broadband service can bridge the rural-urban gap in India by empowering rural citizens with 4G.”

It may be a case of too early to tell or judge how Idea wishes to take the socially relevant line of thought from here given its clear focus on the rural-urban divide. But perhaps it could add some freshness to the communication, enough to not want us to hark back to old ads so much?


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