Writer: Tuhina Anand - Tuesday, Sep 28,2010 8:09 AM

New Kerala Tourism campaign: Copy cat or creativity unleashed?

New Kerala Tourism campaign: Copy cat or creativity unleashed?

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.”

Agency Speak

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.”

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I think Mr. Prathap Suthan has put it succinctly. I beg to differ with the agency person's comment. it is not a coincidental similarity. it is a clear case of straight lift ! c'mon, iam also an advertising professional ! well what is the "extensive research " saying;that kerala is visited only by these experience seekers ! to me these so called experience seekers are small in number and they won't bring in money. these types of tourists are everywhere, when we did a research in Goa, ( many years ago we had also participated in the biennial ritual called presentation !) we found many many people, all of them europeans, coming back to the same beach evry xmas and new year ! they can't resist that ! and some of them visited Kerala once, that is all. Now has this agency been able to bring even 25 % of all those people who go to Goa every year after having spend crores of rupees for the last 20 years or so ? who is accountable ? has an audit been done ? i smell a big dead rat here !
I personally like the Kerala Tourism ad - It's over the top but then the Kerala experience is exactly the same and hence it communicates the same. As for similarities - I found more similarities with the Louis Vuitton Journey Campaign
After comparing both the ads, I have come to the conclusion that imitation is the sincerest form of waggery.
After seeing the long advt. I realised that this is not my Kerala. This advt is done by someone who does not understand the beauty of the state. The advt will not bring any tourism business. I would suggest them to travel to rural areas to see paddy fields, greenery, small river, well managed row houses, energetic farmers, beautiful and healthy girls, etc. Do not kill my state by showing this item. Baburajan
How many of us actually buy a product or service thinking it will be the exact same as shown in an advertisement? That would be downright naive and reductionist. I think the new Keral tourism advert is breathtaking. Why cant we accept a film that does not subscribe to any of the visual cliches associated with Kerela and creates something new? Besides, what ever happened to creative license and intepretation?! From a communication point of view it has high recall value and you certainly can't switch channels when you're watching it. The big dampner is the alleged similarity (and there are quite a few conceptually) with the Mexico tourism advertisement. Plagiarism is a serious offence in my opinion. But look around you, how much originality do you see in film or television? Which is exactly why a Peepli Live stands out.
Dear Friends, this is not about one agency or a director who shot the film, its all about Gods own country, I saw both the TVC's its evident that the reference is from Mexican advt. in short i stongly feel its a cross promotion of Mexican Tourism in Kerala
I think its totally unfair to compare the kerala tourism ad film to the mexican one..i see no similarity at all..out here in kerala its all critisism ..that too from people who have not seen either of the ads...how much more ridiculous can it get...
it is one of the greatest films i have seen, it doesn't matter if similar work has been done elsewhere, this is so true to kerala, and the first time someone had the balls to look at kerala and its true essence...
may be this video has resemblence of many such promotions. however, it has to be understood in the context of where kerala tourism stands today. if we go back to the old video which was a brilliant work by none other than santhosh shivan, it has lived its life and the challenge is to make something different and darlingly different. This is what exactly kerala tourism needs today. The fact that the video has sparked off a debate itself is worth it. i felt a soul in this video and thats what a guest feels in god's own country.

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