Tuesday, August 12, 2008

BBF: Ad critique 5 : Customer Care

Appeared in the August 2008 edition of the Bangladesh Brand Forum magazine.


One of my favourite ads in the last few years has been the Vodafone India’s Customer Care series. You know, the ones with the dog and the girl. I always found it ingenious how Hutch (the predecessors to Vodafone) had initially introduced the dog (a pug) during an ad to talk about network coverage and then adopted him as a mascot. I was sure that when Vodafone took over the network they would kill off the dog (it was a casting issue as well, since the original dog actor was getting old and a replacement was proving difficult to find). But, to my utter joy, they not only found a new mutt but also used a girl in the series of ads for the customer care function. The dog, representing the customer care, helps the “subscriber” who goes through the day nonchalantly needing subtle interventions. Like the original network ad, it showed how the relation between the two intertwines without need to call out for help. Brilliant. And a very hard act to follow no doubt. Two of our own telephone operators were brave enough to attempt it.

grameenphone customer care: I like the insight. It is simple. The gp customer care operators are “one-of-us” and hence they know exactly what we need and are there to help. After all if your grandson or shali were the customer care person you’d never have problems solving a, well, problem! It’s one of those undeniable Bengali traits; we look out for a family member or a friend whenever we need a problem solved. You know I’ve been asked so many times if I know anyone at a hospital or an airline or a bank who can help out with that little issue that has cropped up. It’s the need to have that inside track to things. Primarily this grew from the failure of businesses in Bangladesh to focus on customer care and therefore needing to rely on “contacts” to get issues resolved. gp has addressed it effectively. They basically turned to their customers and have said, “hey look, our care service is staffed by people just like you and hence your problems are our problems.” Given gp’s large pool of customer care associates, it so believable.

Here is where I start having problems with the ads. The stories are so real. A wife, a grandson, a sister, all in everyday situation helping out in ways that could happen in any one of our lives. But then why do the ads look so unbelievable? They look like ads. They have actors who are obviously models, in places that are obviously staged, and are positioned in situations that are obviously contrived. Given the above-mentioned large pool of customer care associative, why could gp not use one of its own, talking about a real life situation in a real life world? Or better still, have their husbands, grandfathers or nieces talking about how Ms. so-and-so, the gp customer care person, has gone out of her way to help them do small little everyday things. That would have been a winner. And would have turned a good idea into a great ad.

Production quality-wise, they should have abandoned the glossy, highly produced look, for a more gritty real-life handheld docu-drama feel. With the busyness and the chaos of real life. That everyday person who has to juggle so many roles, and do so many things, but still remembers that today is your aunts 30th wedding anniversary and buys her flowers on the way to work. You know, like we do everyday.

For the series on production value I’ll give it a 5 on 10. (I have no issues with the production per se but like I mentioned I think it’s the wrong look-feel for this series). On originality and insight: 8. On translating the idea into a TVC: 4 and Overall: 6 (it could have been so much better).


Banglalink customer care: the TVC made for the launch of their customer care campaign was one that is very predictable. Ask any person to come up with a customer care ad and this is most likely what would have been done. A customer care associate helping the sad boy with a balloon, the lady with her shopping or pleading for the lost ball. And end of the day putting her hand on her heart and promising (kotha dilam) to give you better service. It left me saying – “so?”

Now I am not a Banglalink user so I do not know how far they have gone to live up to, or what else they have done in the customer care end to cement this promise. But I am reminded of another telco whose strap line was “because we care” and the reason I left them was that it took me ages getting through to their customer care line and when I did, they were not helpful! So as a person whose not using Banglalink, this doesn’t do much to convince me they have good customer care. After all in today’s hyper competitive telco market a good customer care is not only essential, it is a pre-requisite. And basically to me the Banglalink ad says that they are just telling me that they will do their job! Okay. But I need more.

Having said this I think the Banglalink’s ad will be more popular (which does not necessarily mean more effective) than gp’s. Why? Well first of all they don’t pretend to be anything other than what they say they are doing. True that it seems they are not using an actual customer care associate either but then the whole thing has this overtly we-want-to-be-a-sugary-sweet-TVC feel. Viewers like that. The jingle is soothing and the TVC’s payoff kotha dilam well entranced. Overall the production has taken a bad idea and made it better. Reminds me of something I believe David Ogilvy said, “If you don’t have anything to say, sing it!” I might be wrong but this ad wasn’t.

Can I ask for a favour? I haven’t understood the follow up Banglalink customer care series at all? There is a dust storm and I look up to find a Banglink centre? Or I get pick-pocketed in the bus and find a Banglalink centre? Do they mean the robbers have gone in there? I know they are trying to say these centres are everywhere but what’s with the rain and tears? Can someone please explain this lot to me?

Production value I’ll give it a 5 on 10. On originality and insight: 3. On translating the idea into a TVC: 6 and Overall: 5

Folks can I be indulged for a few minutes more? I’ve received a few queries to ask me how I actually grade. Is it a panel of viewers? Do I benchmark? Is it a weighted mean? Why does a TVC get x or y on some parameters but then z on overall? Should there not be fractions? So on and so forth. Well frankly this is not a scientific gradation. It’s not statistically correct (I think I still hold the record for the lowest marks in any Statistics paper in Delhi University). It is basically the same scale on which I judge food – the Kachchi scale. On a scale of 1 to 10 (where 10 is a hot plate of Fakhruddin’s Kachchi and 1 is shobji bhaji) I decide to give depending on how much I want to eat it or not. But now there are some people who like shobji bhaji and hate (oh my god no!) biryani. To me, closer you are to mouth-watering biryani the better! It’s that simple.


Nazim Farhan Choudhury is an advertising professional with a love for biryani. Being a connoisseur allows him to judge things according to his taste. This means at times he is shooting of his mouth and critiquing other people’s work. Luckily for him being in the business for 14 years allows him to trump quantity over quality. He strongly believes that even Fakhruddin Baburchi needed years to perfect his recipe before attaining kachchi nirvana. We too need keep cooking up ads and people criticising our creations before we reach perfection. If you have any critique of these critiques (or any mouth watering recipes) feel free to write at farhan@adcommad.com or visit his blogsite http://nazimfarhan.blogspot.com


Links to the Ads:
grameenphone customer care
Banglalink customer care

2 comments:

sabbir ahmed khan said...

why citycell is missing? so, overall: 5 >> ;)

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