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Brand Saga: Vodafone India Part 1 - The pug that taught us to dial

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Sneha Yadav
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Vodafone advertising journey


The pug who became a viral sensation is no other than Chika and Vodafone India advertising journey would have been incomplete without her. We delve deeper into the saga and reminiscence Chika to get the #ThrowbackThursday vibe right.

You and I in this beautiful world. Green grass, Blue sky in this beautiful world...You and I can keep humming these lines for years and they refuse to age.  I still remember watching the advertisement during school days on TV and falling in love with it for the nth time. And believe me, writing this evergreen saga of Hutchison to Vodafone India, I am crooning to the beats of the song out and loud (also inviting a few glaring stares of my fellow workers...but who cares). Yes, this was the beginning of Vodafone Advertising Journey.

Not less than a roller coaster ride, Vodafone advertising journey has been an amalgamation of drama, fun, humor, creativity and extra-ordinary thinking. This week’s Brand Saga delves deeper into the telecom major’s fast-paced ride on the roads of brand building and communication.

From Hutchison

to Vodafone

THE Department of Telecommunications (DoT) granted Hutchison Max Telecom Ltd. (HMTL), a joint venture between Hutchison Whampoa, the license to operate in Bombay in November 1994 . The cellular service branded "Max Touch" was launched the same year.

Later the company ventured into Delhi, Kolkata, and Gujarat in 1999 and 2000 respectively, further building the brand in 23 more mobile telecom circles in India. In a dramatic turn, HMTL was renamed Hutchison Essar Limited (HEL) in August 2005 while having Essar Grup as the major partner In Delhi, Uttar Pradesh (East), Rajasthan and Haryana which was soon replaced by Hutch.

In 2006, HMTL completed the acquisition of Essar Spacetel — A subsidiary of Essar Group and initially focused on increasing business in metro cities like Bombay, Delhi, and Kolkata as the scope for long-term success and robust network was huge. The company’s strategy to targeted business users and high-end post-paid customers helped Hutchison Essar to consistently generate a higher Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) than its competitors. According to Wikipedia, by adopting this focused growth plan, it was able to establish leading positions in India's largest markets providing the resources to expand its footprint nationwide.

Finally, in February 2007, Hutchison Telecom entered into a binding agreement with a subsidiary of Vodafone Group Plc to sell its 67% direct and indirect equity and loan interests in Hutchison Essar Limited for total cash consideration (before costs, expenses, and interests) of approximately $11.1 billion. The Acquisition was completed on May 8, 2007.

And advertising galore...

Often applauded for its quirky campaigning and clean advertising, Hutch established itself as one of the effective communicators with deeper consumer insights. With the mobile revolution gaining pace, all the major telecommunications companies went aggressive in 2003. Hutch too joined the bandwagon and aimed at delivering the message that its network was robust enough to provide coverage in every part.

The magic of ‘You and I’

To execute the above-mentioned idea, the company roped in Ogilvy & Mather, Mumbai to create an advertisement campaign and the results left everyone touched. Helmed by then senior creative directors Mahesh V. and Rajeev Rao, the campaign communicated the omnipresent Hutch network through a heartwarming 60 seconder.

“The first challenge here was how to convert a one-line idea into a 60-second ad?” shares Prakash Varma of Nirvana Films, the director with K.V.Sridhar. (Varma was quoted in 30 Second Thrillers penned by K.V.Sridhar aka Pops).

He received a call from Mahesh & Rajiv Rao and they briefed him a one-liner- A simple film about a boy and his dog. The boy is walking and the dog is following him. And then comes the line “Wherever you go …our network follows”.

The back story of why a dog goes something like this- The creative duo apparently spent a whole night developing the idea and they did not wanted to talk about any technology superpowers and avoided featuring people talking on the phone. The first ad was an idea that struck their minds was to portray a brother and a sister but on second thoughts they finally finalized a dog would look less mushy. That's when the tagline "Wherever you go, our network follows", got the best for when a dog follows a boy in the most unlikely places – whether it be accompanying him to play football to taking a brisk walk to crossroads.

Although the pug wasn’t the first choice. Varma wanted a simple looking dog- one that wasn’t used in advertising before. After trying a million tricks with a Fox terrier, the makers chose a pug who was a backup plan till now. The pug won’t move too. Later, on one of the sets in Goa, Varma saw a crew-member with a guy who was running around with a Pug. When he saw this Pug, Varma realized she was more energetic than the one they had. The earlier one was pretty lazy and he felt a certain spark with this one. Her name was Chika and belonged to a couple in Goa, as mentioned in 30 Second Thrillers.

And the very first TVC from Hutch was shot in exotic Goa greenery featuring an eight-year-old Jayaram and his best friend Chika who followed him everywhere. According to the information available online, the campaign became a massive hit and was soon followed by a print version for newspapers.

Meanwhile,

Chika also earned ₹150,000 for the campaign and appeared in Hutch ads, till the

merger with Vodafone India, representing the network and promoting the tagline

-Wherever you go …our network follows”.

One more magical ingredient of the commercial

was its soundtrack – You and I in this beautiful world- Varma also shares that

the track was done by Roopak and recorded in a time span of two and a half

hours while Mahesh and Sneha Iype penned down the lyrics.

Many ad veterans like Piyush Pandey and Late

Alyquee Padamsee praised the campaign for its simplicity and innocence.

A little birdie also revealed that the popularity of Chika was so much that her wallpaper was most often downloaded by the Hutch customers in 2005 and pugs were the first most choice of many Indians.

Also Read: Vodafone Idea urges people to share #YourWordsNotForwards this Diwali

Hutch is now Vodafone- Change is Good

What was hailed as one of the biggest brand transition exercises, Hutch which was the country’s fourth-largest mobile service provider was renamed Vodafone on September 21, 2007. Vodafone acquired 67 percent in Hutchison Essar from Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa and the company had announced to spend approximately Rs 250 crore on the marketing of the transition.

Hutch’s vibrant pink was now dominated by Vodafone’s red but one

thing that did not change was the presence of Chika in the company’s

communication. This time she said- Change is Good.

A massive marketing exercise was carried out by the teams at Vodafone Essar and O&M  to brand salience and make consumers aware of the transformation. While the overall theme was kept as ‘Hutch is now Vodafone’, it promoted Change is Good’ in a 360-degree campaign including an exclusive deal with STAR India to show the commercials.

Apart from a 60-second film, O&M also created a few 5 and 10-second films for other channels and utilized outdoor, print and other mediums to fulfill the rebranding objective.  

Vodafone and Chika- Happy To Help

In the following year, Vodafone leveraged the growing popularity of Chika to talk about its strong network presence and customer care service. The TVCs featured Chika at his playful self alongside a girl. The video was yet again supported by a beautiful soundtrack of 'Everyday I want to fly, Stay by my side...'.

The objective this time was to highlight that Vodafone is there to take care of all the customer doubts and queries and they can be reached anytime.

The adorable Chika made a comeback in 2012 -- this time promoting 'instant connections' on its network while helping a young boy connect with a girl. A series of TV commercials marked the return of Chika and focussed on the quality of its network.

Later in 2016, the popular mascot was back to announce the launch of Vodafone SuperNet, the company’s 4G data services. The campaign was conceptualized by Ogilvy & Mather and captured the sweet and innocent relationship between the adorable pug and a little boy.

In terms of the brand's other feats, marked as yet another milestone, in 2008, taking the philosophy of 'Happy To Help' ahead, Vodafone created the iconic ZooZoos. ZooZoos campaign in itself is a marketing saga. A saga that demands attention to detail that can't be contained in one article. Hence, we keep the rest of the story 'to be continued' in Vodafone India Brand Saga's second part.

So You and I will deep dive into the beautiful world of Vodafone ZooZoos, the iconic Asha Bala ads, and more such legendary Vodafone campaigns in the coming week.

Stay tuned

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