Inside: How PhonePe created a cop narrative campaign with Aamir Khan to highlight ease of digital payments

PhonePe campaign

We talk to teams Leo Burnett and PhonePe to delve into the making of the nine-films campaign that was released by the brand during IPL this year.

COVID-19 has led to disruption in the digital space when it comes to contactless purchases and payments. Digital payments have witnessed an upswing in demand and awareness, leading to brands in the category take swift action for user acquisition and aiding adoption. The timing of IPL has come as a cherry on top. To leverage these opportunities in a campaign, PhonePe roped in Aamir Khan and Alia Bhatt for a series of nine films.

The campaign was designed to engage with audiences who are currently not using digital payments. In sync with this thought, the brand aimed to introduce digital payments, explain the benefits and reach out to different user segments in the country, across demographic cuts.

Rajdeepak Das, Managing Director – India & Chief Creative Officer – South Asia, Leo Burnett tells us, “IPL is the biggest event for Indian advertising in a way, so we knew that competition would be high and the entire nation would be watching. While the campaign films didn’t feature any IPL related themes per se, our focus was to create content that would entertain the millions of viewers and clearly standout during the IPL breaks.”

Keeping COVID-19 in mind, one film was specifically created to highlight the message of contactless payments via QR scans in offline stores.

Building The Characters

With nine messages to deliver in 20 seconds nuggets, the team at Leo Burnett had a lot to chalk out. Das explains, “We had to come up with a storytelling format that would be fresh even after the first four or six films were watched and yet all under one campaign thought and treatment.”

They had to crack a solid communication format of the episodic conversation between a sceptic and a user and then design relevant situations and scenarios, which would be tailored to highlight the nice messages they wished to convey to the audiences. Then, small quirks were integrated into each film to drive engagement.

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Talking about the importance of Alia and Aamir in the narrative, Das shares an in-depth perspective: “Alia Bhatt is known for her fun, infectious personality. What’s more, she fits within the typical definition of a millennial (tech-savvy and curious about new things). Given the objective of the brief, we thought having a tech-savvy Alia slowly convert a sceptical Aamir (a bankable star whose final opinion carries worth) would make our pitch more genuine and believable, with the added highlight of some witty banter between the two.”

Behind The Shot

“A film that relies completely on performance is one of the toughest to pull off. So multiply that by nine. What was challenging was the on-set brainstorming and improv that usually happens and adds to the films along the way,” Das tells us while talking about the challenges of creating this campaign for PhonePe during the lockdown.

Having a tightly locked script in place, with every dialogue and nuance finalised well in advance helped them pull it off. Details were ironed out in discussions with the team, including Aamir and Alia. He adds, “Keeping in mind the pandemic, it was imperative that we leave nothing to the imagination and ensure great performances and a great campaign.”

Brand’s Take

PhonePe believes in using a media mix that communicates with their consumers and partners wherever they are and does justice to the audience mix, efficiency and diverse storytelling opportunities of the platforms being used. “This year, our plan has been to further the marketing media mix by expanding our presence on streaming channels and social media platforms to complement our presence on IPL,” Richa Sharma, Director – Brand Marketing, PhonePe tells us.

Dwelling further on the brand’s association with IPL, Sharma adds, “Our association with IPL over the years has been very fruitful, giving us a platform to create visibility for PhonePe. This year it helped us increase awareness around digital payments and build brand recall across different user segments in the country.”

The brand also leveraged the constable’s character from the films to create snippets to communicate the intricacies of PhonePe’s usage on social media.

The grandeur of IPL was one of the most important factors that pushed the brand to optimally use social media platforms to promote these films and increase their reach. They did so to complement their association with the league. With elements of storytelling tailored into an episodic format, PhonePe was able to garner 425 million views for these films across social media platforms.


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