It’s time for national brands to invest the time, money and energy on South India: Deepan Ramachandran, Mind Your Language!

This agency was born after national brands reportedly struggled to connect with the south Indian audiences

e4m by Akshata R Murthy
Updated: Dec 7, 2017 8:41 AM

With vernacular or regional languages gaining a lot of importance these days, brands have begun to focus on the South Indian market. Their need for relating to the regional audience is increasing. Deepan Ramachandran, Founder & Creative Director, Mind Your Language! talks about how brands and audience are now helping advertising foray into the Southern markets.


Can you tell us something about Mind Your Language! Why that name?

On our prior stints at large network agencies, we realised that national brands were/are struggling to connect with the south Indian audience. The brand managers in Mumbai and Delhi were in need of someone this side of India to help them understand the market. There was a huge vacuum. There was (and still is) the need for a giant bridge to connect national brands with South India.

That was the birth of Mind Your Language! - An independent agency that exclusively focuses on communicating to the south Indian consumer. Mind Your Language! as a name is self-explanatory.

The era of ‘Translating’ Hindi to Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada should stop. The era of thinking that national insights ALWAYS work for South India should stop. We want brands to ‘mind their language’ when they talk to south Indian consumers.

How do you differentiate yourself from the other current agencies?

In the last few years, Indian advertising has seen many people quitting their big agency jobs to start their own shop. We were part of that attrition as well. However, we did not want to be just another kid in the block. We wanted to have a niche for ourselves. Just like products and services we advertise for, we needed that core USP. We believed that an agency that specializes in South India specific communication will be that differentiating factor for us. There is hardly anybody around doing something that we do.

Another important point is that we are not just consultants giving brands a point of view on South India. We are a full-fledged advertising agency that cracks briefs and executes it across print, radio, film and digital.

How is the industry of advertising changing?

Big agencies will find the going tough as clients are going to ask for specialized skill sets and they need to find the wherewithal to address it. And mostly, they realize that just by having a local branch office, the network agencies don’t get the support that is required.

The task is not just to write in the local language, but rather THINK in the local language. There is a big difference.

Clients are going to ask, “How will you market this for us around Pongal in Trichy and Coimbatore?” “Who do you think can be the brand ambassador that can represent our brand in Rural Tamil Nadu?” “Why do you think Angamaly Diaries is a hit in Kerala?”

Clients are going to need specific answers to specific problems. That’s where agencies like us with a clear specialization come in to the picture. We just don’t have advertising guys on board. We have assistant film directors, graphic novelists, authors and everyone actively involved with the pop-culture of South India, conversing and consulting with us. As hard-core advertising people, we tap in to the knowledge and distil human insights and advertising ideas out of it.

What are some of the latest trends in advertising that you have noticed?

Firstly, advertising is going to become more local. India is regional in its competition. National brands have to fight battles on local turfs. A brand like Rin Bar has to fight out a battle in Tamil Nadu with a strong local player like Arasan Soap or Discount soap. To fight that battle, they to need to fight it with local expertise, using the local language and with a sharp street level understanding of the local people.

Secondly, today brands are less about positioning and more about taking positions. That’s why we see an explosion of human stories on digital and elsewhere like standing for LGBT community, working women, against harassment and so on. When we try to tell human stories, we need to tell them in a language humans understand. That’s where Mind Your Language! can help when it comes to South India.

We managed to do a digital film for OLX for Madras Day. It did go viral at that time and even when we play it to audiences today, it always invokes a smile. The smile that translates to ‘Ha, some Hindi brand has thought of doing something for us’

Have you noticed any changes in advertising between the north and south?

The truth is that not much has been done in South India recently, that you can feel ultra-proud of. North India has done way more powerful, beautiful advertising. No doubt about that. We think, it’s time for national brands to invest the time, money and energy that they usually would, to create something similar in South India.

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