Ogilvy’s Sukesh Nayak on fortifying Asian Paints’ campaign strategy during lockdown

Sukesh Nayak, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy India
Sukesh Nayak, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy India

Asian Paints’ latest ad campaign – Toy Car – is high on emotions, even as it gives the dual message of a father’s willingness to leave no stone unturned to provide for his family as well as Asian Paints’ various initiatives to support the painter community during these tough times.

As India unlocks and various establishments open, there are heightened concerns about one’s safety and protecting oneself from getting infected by the virus. In such a scenario, people are hesitant to let any outsider into their homes, hence painting jobs have come to a standstill.

Conceptualised by Ogilvy India, the ‘Toy Car’ film assures people that the painters provided by Asian Paints go through strict procedures such as sanitisation, donning PPE kits, masks and maintaining high hygiene standards. The film narrates an emotional father-son story to highlight how the painter community has been affected by the pandemic and how it is time to support them by driving their livelihood.

In conversation with Adgully, Sukesh Nayak, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy India, talks at length about Asian Paints’ campaign strategy during the COVID-19 times, the making of the ‘Toy Car’ film, creative ideation while working from home, and much more.

Please take us through the conceptualisation of the Asian Paints - Toy Car ad – from the brief stage to the creative ideation and the final execution.

This is a part of the ‘Painter Reassurance Program’ that we had started in the beginning of the lockdown, where a lot of people needed help and support. We had to think about the fact that as a brand what am I doing for my painters? In the campaign we’ve tried to reassure the people who matter, especially the painter’s wife. It’s the same concern we would also have about the safety of our loved ones once they start going back to work. The idea was to highlight all the necessary measures that the brand has taken for the safety of the painters, and that was the first leg of our reassurance campaign. This film is an extension of that campaign, where we wanted to tell a story about the manifestation of the support and help that the brand is providing to the painters and what it means in their lives. While I was writing this, I focused on the struggles that people have during this time, when they have children with them and the responsibilities that they have and how they have to fulfill them. At times of trouble, I feel hope is all we have. With hope and a little help something really meaningful comes out of it. That was the journey.

What has been the communication strategy for Asian Paints during the lockdown period? How are you propagating the brand communication during this time?

During the lockdown, we were the first ones to come out with a campaign, called ‘Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai’, which was the beginning of our campaigns during the lockdown. It was very clear for us to understand the importance of homes for people during the lockdown, because that is what makes people feel safe during this time. Given the response that the first film had received, we came up with a sequel to that campaign.

Now that we have entered Unlock 1.0, we have tried to communicate with the painters and contractors and talk about the responsibility that we have towards them. Even our customers needed assurance from the brand to understand the precautions taken while painting homes. While one was the painter reassurance campaign, our earlier film ‘Nosy Neighbour’ was the customer reassurance campaign. We wanted to pass on the information in a way where people remember what we’ve done. Building on the fact that neighbours are very interested in what’s happening in other’s homes, we wanted to communicate the procedures and the new way of house painting that will be done in the current times. I think we’ve been holding the hand of the customer through this journey ­– from Lockdown 1.0 to Unlock 1.0.

Apart from this film, which focuses on helping out the painter community and contractors, are there any other CSR efforts made by Asian Paints to help out the community?

Of course, at the end of the campaign we’ve mentioned how upskilling of the painters is needed, wherein they will now be using machines to assure the safety of our customers as well as the painters. We also addressed the need for insurance and business leads for our painters. There are a lot of things happening on different levels, which are the things that the painters and contractors need to keep moving on. Asian Paints has an amazing relationship with all the people working for them.

How were all these ads shot, given the restrictions during the lockdown?

It’s been a great learning experience for us and we’ve been working remotely. Throughout the process I was at home and was looking at what was being created with all the feasible permissions given to us.

The first film – ‘Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai’ – after we wrote it was recorded by Piyush Pandey, who then sent it to us on Whatsapp. We actually had no clue what to do next and how to move ahead since it was all new for us. We initially thought of using stock footage from our old Asian Paints ads. But we soon realised that won’t work. With Neha Kaul from Corcoise Films, we reached out to all the people we know who then got involved and sent in some pictures and videos. If you look at the first ad, it doesn’t follow the normal style of art direction. There was no looking into resolution or type of pictures used, some were horizontal and some were vertical. People just shot what they could and we created the campaign in four days flat.

By the time the sequel came around, we had learnt a lot over the month and had storyboards with us and reached out to people with proper guidelines to follow for shooting their videos. Hence, the sequel is much better in terms of art compared to the previous one. For the painter reassurance campaign, we had a real couple who shot the film and we would guide them from the computer screen we had set up. For ‘Nosy Neighbour’, we again had a real couple, Manoj Pawha and his wife, who were guided by Piyush Pandey as they were in Goa.

It was a great learning for us and almost like putting the jig saw puzzle pieces together.

Where and when the market opened, we followed the guidelines provided to us and worked with what we had. We could only use actors from the area where the shooting was happening, but the director worked remotely. The credit goes to the entire team and we as creators have learnt a lot. You can create whatever you want as long as the intent and will exists. You can shoot a film from your cellphone camera and still create great works of art.

Could you tell us about the casting for the ‘Toy Car’ film?

The cast had to be from a place where they were allowed to work, which is Goa in this case. Places like Goa, Kochi and Bangalore have opened up with strict guidelines for safety and minimal crews.

The music in the ad film has played a key role in enhancing the emotional quotient of the film. Could you give us some details as to how the music was created for this film?

The lyrics have been written by Nilesh Jain, who also wrote the ‘Google Reunion’ song and is a brilliant writer who works with us. Once I wrote the film, I think it needed the soul which only Nilesh could provide. The music has been composed by Abhishek Arora, with whom I’ve worked with a lot. I think he is one of the brightest minds of the industry. The vocals were given by Divya Kumar, who is an amazing singer. Everybody was working remotely and recorded from their homes. Wherever we were, we still came together to create something meaningful.

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