For quite some time now the data war by our telcos to conquer more market shares has turned some of them into undisputable humour merchants. In bid to seduce their publics, they have reached into the inner recesses of their creative bags to come up with some of the most hilarious TVCs we’ve missed in a long time.
In fact the welcome trend reminds me of the good old days when commercials would come on TV and every domestic activity in my house was put on hold because we wanted to catch that momentary comic relief while some of us just wanted to karaoke the music accompanying the commercial. With the benefit of hindsight, one is tempted to conclude that TVCs of yesteryears better harvested from the available creative vineyards than what we have now. And this accounted for the gripping effects they had on both the young and old. My opinion may be subjective, but I believe the first mark of a successful commercial or advertisement is the ability to captivate the mind and immediately elicit some kind of unconscious reaction from the receiver of the message. And this was the impact those good old TVCs had on some of us. I have mulled over the likely factors that could be responsible for this trend but I’ll save them for another edition of MarketingMatters.
The recent TVCs on data by Airtel and Glo are rib crackers and easily come tops on the creative ladder. They optimized the deployment of our own Nollywood actors and actresses as well as Nigerian musicians to effectively communicate their messages in our local settings where the audience can relate with.
But what makes Airtel TVCs the top of the range for me is in the manner they were conceived in the first place. My appreciation of the commercial is that they were developed, ab initio, to run as a pack of six series, each story dovetailing into the next. From the way they were creatively plotted, you could see a seamless interrelationship between one video and the next. Put together, you have a bunch of video clips that could pass for short home video series. The sequence of the flow was well thought through from the beginning and that is what separates the Airtel TVCs from the rest.
From start, the story is weaved around a young couple, Segun and Amaka, who just had their first baby and the parents of the bride and mother of the groom comes visiting, ostensibly to tend the new baby and young inexperienced mother in accordance with our African tradition. As they honk the car’s horn to signal their arrival, Segun, fully aware of the rivalry between his mother and mother-in-law, hurriedly ensures that their beddings, slippers, tooth brushes and even their mobile tablet devices were neatly in place. As both women, well in their middle ages, shove themselves up the steps of the block of flats amid Mama Segun’s warning in vernacular that it is her son’s house, it immediately becomes obvious there is an undercurrent of rivalry between the two women. But beyond that, both women were anxious to see their new grandchild and quickly settle down to embark on the next journey which Segun’s data enabled devices can provide them. This is evident when their faces beamed with smiles at the tablets on their beds. But Segun made one vital blunder. He forgot that the two Mamas were techy enough to dictate that data is lacking in their devices. So, when he remembered and finally brought an Airtel modem to serve both of their rooms, they were already waiting at their door posts and the mild scuffle that ensued between the women over who takes possession of the modem is indicative of how they are in a hurry to start browsing. Segun finally succeeded in assuring them that one modem outside their doors can serve them both. The happy chuckles and guffaws of satisfaction that subsequently came from the women testify to the effectiveness of Airtel data. The TVC then signed off with a fitting pay-off- “data is life”.
This concept raises a few queries though. It is curious to note that both women and one of their husbands arrives the couple’s house on the same day and in the same vehicle. Are they living together or did they meet somewhere? More so, both women were sitting behind the car, making Papa Amaka look like their taxi driver. This is un-Nigerian (sic). Mama Amaka should have sat in the front of the car with her husband. Again, if the women really prepared for the visit, it wasn’t necessary for Segun to put slippers and tooth brushes in their bedrooms and bath rooms. Some critics have faulted the rivalry introduced between both women as fanning the embers of ethnic discord. I disagree. These critics just want to manufacture trouble where none exist. Had both women come from the same ethnic group would they have noticed any rivalry? If anything at all, I see the rivalry as adding to the fun and excitement offered by the commercial. These critics should learn to play up things that unite us instead of things that divide us especially with regards to an innocent commercial like this.
The next in the series is the naming of the new born child. Naming ceremonies among the upper and upper middle classes, particularly in the western part of the country where Segun hails from, come with pomp and fanfare. And this is exactly what has been re-enacted in this commercial. The TVC opened with “ekomo” (or naming ceremony) underway and Mama Segun is seen rocking her grandchild to the rhythm of Yoruba talking drums when Mama Amaka and her team of relatives swung into the arena in an SUV, armed with a selfie stick. What happened next was very hilarious. As the party music switched to Small Doctor’s ‘Penalty’, Mama Amaka capered into the party venue with some halting stylish dance steps. Immediately she was handed the baby she loudly beckoned her group to a “selfie time”. Not to be intimidated by her in-laws show of sophistication, Mama Segun flipped out her tablet and equally invited the guests to join her for her own round of selfie photo session. Airtel data demonstrably livened up the party through the instant streaming of the event. In other words, Airtel is telling its audience that its data is indispensable wherever you may be.
The Airtel marriage segment gives a graphic illustration of the drawback Amaka, the young nursing mother, suffered simply because she was offline while at work. She has a loving mother-in-law who has come to care for her baby while she is at work. But because she was not online, all the home items in short supply which her mother-in-law texted to her did not reach her phone until she arrived her door step. As the messages dropped in quick succession, an alarmed Amaka had to drop the unusual heap of files at the door post and raced off to shop to the items.
The commercial is however flawed on two major counts. How come Amaka did not get her messages when she was in her office? Could it be that Airtel’s network is not wide enough to cover her office location? If this is true, it then negates the brand’s claim to having an extensive and reliable network; a good reason to score Airtel low. Secondly, it is rather unrealistic that a nursing mother would cart home such an amount of office files. Could be that Airtel wants to portray her as a hard working mother. On the contrary, this could be interpreted to mean that she doesn’t spend quality time with her baby because her mother-in-law is with her. The good news however is that the video demonstrates how accommodating and rancour-free inter-tribal marriages could be. In the TVC we see Segun’s mother’s commitment in genuinely assisting her young daughter-in-law and the obvious effort on Amaka’s part to learn her mother-in-law’s language and curtsy according to her culture. The TVC, like the previous ones, makes conscious effort to show that Airtel data appeals to not only the young but the old as well.
The other three TVCs launched by Airtel made use of robust metaphorical visuals to communicate how convenient and less stressful life could be when you upgrade from “old school” to the current vogue. It shows how fast your data would be when you upgrade from 3G to 4G. They did a good job of it with the “Gele mi” commercial where Segun throws a 76th year’s birthday party for his mother with Teni performing life. Mama refused all entreaties to wear the ready-made head gear, insisting on tying her scarf the old way. She was eventually embarrassed on the dance floor when her scarf loosened before her guests. It was only then she saw the wisdom in putting on the ready-made head gear to the delight of family and friends present at the party.
She suffered a similar fate during her trip abroad. She insisted on packing her cloths in her good old trunk box (the portmanteau). Not until poor Segun spilled her cloths on the floor of the departure lounge did she buy a more trendy and modern suitcase on rollers.
The 4G blender commercial is another classical comparison between the new and the old doing the same thing. The Airtel TVC successfully juxtaposed the modern way of carrying out a task with the archaic way of doing the same thing in order to deduce which method is faster, better result-oriented and more convenient. The commercial, using local examples, proved that the new way or updated way of doing the same task is more effective and rewarding than the old way. And this, they simply related to their products – 3G and 4G. 3G is like the manual grinding stone while 4G is like the blender. The former is slow, tedious and yields an average result but the latter is faster, easy to operate and gives an optimum result. Same analogy goes for “Gele mi…” and the Portmanteau commercials. The failure of Mama Segun’s Gele(head tie) at the party and the embarrassment she suffered when her trunk box spilled her cloths at the airport departure lounge typifies the setback and inconvenience a subscriber could suffer if he/she fails to upgrade from 3G to 4G.
Finally, I must not fail to commend the creative eggheads in Noah’s Ark Communications for creating such a set of inter woven stories that have been widely adjudged top notch commercials for two quarters running. Who knows… Another communication agency may yet set anew pace in the coming weeks and months.