Kerala Tourism has come out with its new international campaign – ‘Your moment is waiting’ – which is evincing some extreme reactions. While some have loved it, there are those who just abhor it and find it appalling. The campaign (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFedfnR5seI), targeted at foreign tourists, was premiered in London recently. Far from the usual accoutrements of the backwaters, beaches, boathouses, and colourful Kathakali dancers dotting the umpteen Kerala Tourism advertisements, the latest ad has a surreal feel to it, almost mystical and even eerie. The ad tries to bring out a moment that a traveler experiences while visiting God’s own country, which is almost magical.
But the ad has also drawn a lot of flak for its experimentation, as some feel it’s not the Kerala that they know of. Also, there have been parallels drawn with another campaign, incidentally for Mexico Tourism, Estrellas del Bicentenario (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuLK7TYdXt0&feature=related).
The concept of the ad
Stark Communication is the creative agency for Kerala Tourism, while Prakash Varma of Nirvana Films is the director of the film. Speaking on the campaign, Varma explained, “The campaign is based on the concept that Stark Communication came up after their extensive research. Many travelers to Kerala feel that they have experienced moments while exploring the state, which cannot be explained. These experiences – be it in the silence, amid nature or the spiritual part of it – could not be put to words, yet they were very powerful. Hence, it was a difficult task for me to structure the film as it’s not about houseboats or backwaters. There was a rawness that we wanted to capture and not just some good looking visuals.”
As Varma further explained, the film’s music had to be different and something that would compliment the mood of the film. The music has been composed by London-based band One Giant Leap and sung by Senegalese singer Baaba Maal. “There are no lyrics and its pure music that sounds different and completely complements the magical and surreal theme of the ad.” The ad features an international model. These are also facts that have not gone down well with some. The ad, they said, was similar in its look, feel, sound, and even some shots, to that of the Mexico Tourism ad.
Dissecting the Kerala Film
Reacting to the ad, Prathap Suthan, National Creative Director, Cheil Worldwide, SW Asia, said, “Let me congratulate the agency for selling a 3-minute ad to the client in an age where even 30 seconds is luxury! I wonder how many of us will ever be as bold to suggest 180 seconds. I also wonder if they have such deep pockets to run the original edit on global media movies and the net notwithstanding. Without the length, the drama of ‘your moment’ will die.”
He further said, “The film makes me uncomfortable, it’s spooky, eerie and definitely not the Kerala that I would sell or the world would buy. Why is Kerala so dull and washed out? Is this what sophisticated travellers are looking for from Kerala? I doubt. All these years, Kerala has been vibrant, green, welcoming. Why go away from that basic plank? There are a zillion ways of preserving the brand essence of a land. And no matter what one does, you cannot have advertising that gnaws away what the truth of the land is all about. You can’t have people landing in to see a fresh verdant land full of greenery and proud coconut palms. God’s own country looks as though it’s been possessed by some forest spirits. The one that really kills it for me is the music. Why does it sound African? I am not saying you can’t import music. But not when Kerala has its own signature. The foreign accent takes me away and makes me expect to see another country. The logo comes in as unexpected. This film has no soul because the soul doesn’t belong to the body.”
KV Sridhar, National Creative Director, Leo Burnett India, too, echoed the same sentiment. He said, “It’s appalling to see that what the ad tries to sell is not Kerala, but some other country as it has no resemblance to the place we know as God’s own country. It defies all things that make for good advertising. There is no relevance, no product truth, it’s not original, not simple, but is an obsessive piece of work where it is well produced and the colouring is good.”
Comparison with Mexican films
On the allegations of the work being ‘inspired’, we sent links of both the ads for comparison. Suthan observed, “On the Mexico films, yes the resemblance is very strong. Either this is the coincidence of the decade, or this is foolish plagiarism. You cannot have the international fraternity and the tourism industry ridicule my state. I can understand that if inspiration was borrowed from the automobile category and pumped into chewing gum category, or stolen from a fashion brand and put to use for a fast food brand. But this is suicide. Look at the giveaways – the 3-minute format, the girl right through the film, sequences, pace of the film, slow motion, the girl and her encounter with headgear and dancers, the girl and her relationship with the animals. In fact, most of the sequences, too, have their inspirations among the many films in the Mexico campaign and of course, there’s the music! The thing is that as an advertising professional from Kerala, I feel that I have been cheated, and my credibility compromised. I do hope this is a coincidence and not a deliberate heist.”
Sridhar (Pops) added here, “There is no denying that there is similarity in the tone and the overall look of the film. I am not appalled by the inspiration bit, but more with the fact that the spirit and rich culture that Kerala is known for is given a complete miss.”
On a different note, Josy Paul, Chief Creative Officer and Chairman, BBDO India, was all praise for the Kerala Tourism ad. He said, “Kerala is a sensorial experience. Words cannot describe it. The sights sounds and images are as fertile as the soil. There is a powerful sensuality to the experience. All this has been brilliantly captured by the film. The poetry is riveting. The land is truly inspiring. It does not require inspiration from any place else. The film does come close in form and style to another ad. I don’t know the background, so I find it difficult to comment. In spite of that, you can’t help enjoy the Kerala film. It’s the purest form of love.”
When pointed out the similarities, Varma of Nirvana Films said that he was not aware of the Mexico Tourism ads, though he did say that it was good that people were talking about the ad, which meant that it was being noticed. On the part of the agency, Prem Mathew from Stark Communications, said, “I couldn’t find any similarity. The Mexican one is a colourful wildlife promo film. There are a whole lot of films in the world where the protagonist hugs or caresses animals.”