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From empty to full – O&M in Seagram’s ‘Fuel’ all the way

24-October-2005
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From empty to full – O&M in Seagram’s ‘Fuel’ all the way

The advertising fraternity is often speaking of the need for agencies to partner with clients in a manner where the best can be achieved for the advertiser’s business. Seagram has extended its partnership with O&M to the level that right from the inception of its brand, Fuel, the agency has been involved with the client – from the naming, to the bottle’s appearance to the final communication.

O&M is the single agency across brands for Seagram. The partnership with the new vodka brand ‘Fuel’ is, however, of a different kind. Seagram’s GM, Marketing, Bikram Basu informed, “We work closely with Ogilvy across brands and they are surely involved with brand building and communication on a continuous basis, but in the case of ‘Seagram's Fuel’, Ogilvy was involved from scratch, including brand name selection, once the opportunity gap was identified.”

Giving a reason why Seagram decided to involve O&M for Fuel in this manner, he said, “Integrating them from a nascent stage made sense as they have a close understanding of our brands and our approach. Also, every time we sat down to identify a ‘target’ for the brand, invariably most names that kept propping up were from Ogilvy.”

Elaborating further on the involvement of the agency with ‘Fuel’, O&M’s Titus Upputuru said, “The brief was simple – we had to have new vodka that stood out anywhere – shops, bars and spoke directly to the upmarket youth and associated with their culture.”

The idea then was to capitalise on the energy factor for the youth TG today using the avenues of clubbing, partying and music primarily in the communication. “This TG is particularly charged all the time, not willing to waste even a second of the day or night. The name ‘Fuel’ was bang on and subsequently, the bottle was designed as a funnel, which would definitely stand out,” he added.

For Upputuru, one of the “coolest” parts was coming up with the valve gauge that was used on the bottle and across all communications. “We designed it in a manner that when the bottle is empty, the consumer is ‘full’. We have worked out a 360 degree campaign around the brand and used it everywhere – from in-bar branding with coasters to all point of contacts,” he explained.

The surrogate used here are cassettes and CDs, while the gauge was used in print, outdoors and TVC of the surrogate advertising. “We used pumped up imagery and the colour red to show the energetic mindset,” said Upputuru.

A point to be noted here is that partying visuals are used in other brands like ‘Fling’ as well. Was there any fear of similar communications for both brands? Basu replied, “Fling is also done by O&M, but by a different team. There was no fear that the communication could be similar as the target consumer group, the basic brief for brand positioning and so on were different.”

Upputuru said, “If the surrogate is music then there will be some amount of overlap, but you have to remember that these brands thrive largely on imagery. After you have completely different imagery, colour combinations and even other factors like positioning – where ‘Fling’ is more on wickedness side, then there is very little left that could be similar.”

Even though quantitative measures haven’t been divulged yet, the client and agency are happy with the response the brand is getting. Giving more advantages of involving the agency from the beginning, Basu expressed, “The brand was conceptualised and put into the market within 100 days, including new bottle designs, development, production and manufacturing nuances. Working together with tight timelines focussed our combined energies towards a result and it helped that the teams do have a winning attitude. Confidence to deliver and attachment with the category are softer issues but benefits considerably. And the first signs of the brand in the market are encouraging.”

As for the agency, it’s an excitement of a different kind, “You aren’t just given a readymade product and asked to work around it. So, this is a challenge of a different kind. More importantly, the product is your baby when you have been on it right from the beginning. This is very rare but a fantastic opportunity.”

On various forums many advertising experts have spoken on the need for the advertiser to trust the advertising agency more than what is seen today. Advertising gurus have expressed concern over the fact that over the years, the relation between the agency and client has been deteriorating. In such a scene, examples like these do have something positive for the industry at large.

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