Airtel is changing, and you can see the transformation in the new commercials the telecom giant is running on TV. Gone are the days of spots that seem to follow set pieces and make viewers cringe. Today, Airtel is running two riveting spots for its data services that not only sell its products but also receive tremendous positive ratings from their intended audience. The reason for this shift may be the change in leadership in the marketing department.
It is difficult to argue that the improvement in Airtel marketing is not directly connected to the appointment of Enitan Denloye who took over as Vice President, Brands & Marketing in 2016. Before he moved to Airtel, Mr Denloye had held a similar position at Etisalat where he helped design some of that brand’s most iconic advertising campaigns. And, even if you’d like to debate the fact, some Airtel collaborators say, because of Denoloye, creative work are no longer watered down in committees.
“Though there are still many revisions, but the approval levels have been reduced,” says one producer who declines to be named for this story. “Enitan is now in charge. So we fight it out.”
Such debates have resulted in two ads that may qualify as the company’s most memorable adverts of the last five years. Before these, the only creative work with some viral potential was the original Trybe TVC, produced by STB-McCann. But not long that was produced, Airtel fired STB-McCann and retained Noah’s Ark and Centrespread. That, however, didn’t prevent Airtel from unleashing some ho-hum performances such as the last TV commercials for Smart Trybe Junior and Smart Speedoo. Some of the outsiders who worked on the projects blamed approval by committee and fastidiousness for robbing the ads of their creative bite.
Now, things are looking up. Airtel’s first commercial in its ‘Data Is Life campaign’ for its data packages has become, appropriately, an internet sensation. It’s a retelling of Robinson Crusoe, or if you like, Cast Away, the 2000 movie staring Tom Hanks. The difference is that this time around, the protagonist almost dies on a lonely island until he discovers Airtel data connections. The ad is so well liked that several memes have been made from it.
The other spot, quite touching, features an elderly family man who gets to see his grandchild for the first time via Airtel internet. The telco shows how immensely proud it is of this commercial when, at the recent premiere of Airtel Touching Lives Season Three, it played the ad again and again.
Both commercials are made by Noah’s Ark.
Two ads do not guarantee marketing success, obviously, but Airtel is absolutely back in contention. After many months of struggling with its tonal direction and being forced to helplessly react to Etisalat, it appears the company is now defining a distinct identity as a down to earth, mature organisation that now has an efficient creative system. This is a high ground no competing brand currently occupies and what’s more endearing to customers than a relatable brand with a human touch?