‘Whenever there is a challenge, creativity has come up with solutions’

Manish Bhatt, Founder-Director, Scarecrow M&C Saatchi, says challenges of the lockdown period have thrown up new aspects of marketing and communication, which is an opportunity for brands

e4m by Srabana Lahiri
Published: Jun 11, 2020 8:48 AM  | 8 min read
Manish Bhatt

Manish Bhatt, Founder-Director, Scarecrow M&C Saatchi, is spending the lockdown period deeply exploring his own creativity – not necessarily limited to his work. One outcome is ‘Lockdown’ – an experimental film he created without taking anyone’s help, teaching himself the technical aspects as he went along.

“I have experimented to create a fusion of many art forms – poetry, Indian classical music in psychedelic genre and motion graphics in Devnagri script combined with still images to come up with this film,” he says, adding that had things been normal and had he been in office, he would have delegated a lot of the work to his team, but has done it all by himself now. Bhatt’s latest lockdown thought is that the coronavirus has already invaded three out of five human senses and “the only senses left for us to explore are sight and sound, and we can develop the sixth sense of touching hearts”.

Bhatt has also gone back in time to revisit his own earlier work. For instance, he sent out to industry associates a 14-year-old ad – ‘The story of Kamta Prasad’ – that he had created with Raghu Bhat while at McCann. It depicts isolation, which is a relevant thought today.

Meanwhile, Scarecrow M&C Saatchi has put out a series of digital films for Wagh Bakri Tea, using innovative approaches that work around the production crunch. These include a film for Mother’s Day, another for Wagh Bakri’s frontline sales team, that makes sure tea reaches stores across the nation despite transport challenges, and a third one for International Tea Day - #PositiviTea, that celebrates a future where life, work, school, shopping, socialising and even hugging will be back. The film uses multiple visual techniques like double exposure, illustration, kinetic typography along with an inspiring narration to drive home the message, no doubt inspired by Bhatt’s experiment. The latest one in the series is a digital film embracing the spirit of Eid in the times of social distancing, reminding us to be thankful for what we have rather than what we don’t.  

Here are excerpts from a conversation with Manish Bhatt:

You have been doing a lot of experimental creative work in this lockdown period, following your mind and honing your own skills… can you tell us about them?

While the usual Zoom reviews or presentations to clients continue, the entire pandemic effect has thrown up new aspects of marketing and communication, which is an opportunity for brands. Personally, I have been virtually exploring a lot of things. I had written something for one of my brands which for some reason was not used. So I used the poetic part of it and experienced with the fusion of poetry, Indian classical music and psychedelic genres. I added motion graphics in Devnagri script and put a lot of art forms together to create a 5-minute video film called ‘Lockdown’. It’s on my YouTube channel which has around 20,000 subscribers. 

Another thing I do is a knowledge-sharing initiative called Method of Madness or MOM. Under it, since 2011, we have done reverse internships. We go to colleges such as NID, MICA or Sophia and spend three days with the students. I am doing a part of it virtually now. I am also doing a small exercise of digging out award-winning or critically acclaimed campaigns from our own portfolio and also those of friends like Aggie (Agnello Dias) and Prashant Godbole. We share one ad and ask people to reconstruct fundamental elements of the ad. They have to come up with their own version and after four days, I play the full ad. That is the MOM challenge. 

I spent a few days of the lockdown in conducting interviews and have finally shortlisted candidates to hire from art colleges for the agency. Now, I train those freshers for two hours each morning. I start my day bird-watching - our family is lucky to have an inclination towards nature and we have been able to nurture that in the last few weeks. I have a personal interest in watching documentaries and have a fairly big collection of these. I also help in household chores.

Has the lockdown given you the opportunity to do more meaningful work… would you put it that way?

You can introspect on what you're good at. I found time to look at a lot of our old campaigns and share them with people. In 2008, I had done a project to create a State anthem for Gujarat with the financial support of Tata Indicom. We had got 25 celebrity Gujarati singers and that was very well received; the Gujarat anthem literally put me on a pedestal. This year, I recreated that anthem on Gujarat Day, which was May 1, adding the current coronavirus context. I added a stanza and got in touch with 13 prominent Gujarati artistes who improvised that stanza with a new rendition in their own way and I shared it with some people including TV9 Gujarati and they aired it. It was more about boosting Gujarati people's morale during this pandemic as it is one of the highly affected States. Initiatives like these, which are actually very personal, were what I wanted to revive. 

What is the difference that you experience as a person, working from home and being at home all the time…

You have to be more disciplined when you go to office every day. Your time is very clearly bifurcated. Mostly the family or personal work doesn't intrude in your work routine though work often extends into personal time, and everybody respects that including my family and loved ones who have supported me for 25 years. This is an opportunity - like a vacation in life. At home, you have a routine and you have to keep in mind the time for doing household chores, talk and spend family time. That way, now you have to be more disciplined than you were earlier, which is a good thing. It has put us on track – most people in advertising actually suffered from bad routines and long hours. This lockdown has put us back to a systematic schedule of life. That is going to show, because we will be healthier and enriched because of the time we get to consume and browse through work. We get more time to think. It's a productive time which increases our ‘we time’ and ‘me time’.

One would be really tempted to stretch this routine in some manner. As for me, I spend time with myself, then with my family, and am going into my various collections and books for which I didn't have time earlier. This is the time to refill our creative archives, which have been consumed all these years. 

With consumers geared to spend less, do you think advertising will have to work doubly hard to get results for marketers? What do you expect the new normal to be? 

My observation of creativity is that whenever there is a challenge, we have been fortunate to be like scientists and have constantly come up with solutions. We have so many problems thrown at us by the brand marketers - I think those problems stimulate creativity and give us more food for thought. The other way of looking at the problems arising because of this lockdown - be it economical or brands speaking a new language - all these new things will throw up new challenges that will need new solutions. It will stimulate creative agencies to come up with newer solutions. Over time, the best of writing has happened during wartime or in our history, during Partition time. When I went to Prague, I saw the work of a number of writers and other creative people who had made stuff at the concentration camps, which is brilliant. Drawing from these historical evidences, the solutions we'll get will be much sharper. Good and passive times are not very good for people like us; we have to be stimulated by something. 

You have spoken of the guerrilla way of finding solutions for brands that was required in the industry… are you set to go back to it?

Definitely the guerrilla way, because during lockdown, the one challenge is that brands cannot do a live shoot. In this case, I would be inventing a guerilla or innovative solution. Restrictions also let you express in a newer way, when people are very sceptical and are not spending enough money. Long back, we had thought of an idea for Domino’s - that they should deliver pizzas on trains, whenever they stop at stations. People could call in advance. Such thoughts only happen when you have challenges and restrictions. In a normal scenario, we would have thought of a TVC for Domino’s, but in a challenged scenario, we thought more about how to increase the brand’s business in reality and directly impact their sales. As a creative person, I am not only using my capability to think but I get into the business to come up with innovative solutions. Necessity is the mother of invention.

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Go viral or go home? Why brands need to rethink their approach

Industry experts warn against advertisers losing sight of their purpose in their quest for virality

By Tanzila Shaikh | Mar 24, 2023 9:12 AM   |   6 min read


Once upon a time, all that an advertiser would want is a creative ad campaign that resonates with the masses and creates recall and value for the brand. Today, it's a different story. Agencies have been putting creativity in the backseat to cater to client demands for "viral" campaigns instead.

With technological advancements like improved tools to scale up campaigns and efficient media to reach audience digitally, demands for virality has gotten more and more strident in recent years from the advertisers, much to agencies' chagrin.

In the race to chase numbers and eyeballs with a viral campaign, agencies are being tasked with finding a fool-proof course to make the campaign go viral. But is there a way to predict virality?

Not too long ago, the Zomato-Blinkit billboard campaign became a gold standard in viral campaigns where brands across categories hitched their wagons to it. The sharability and humour contributed to the immense virality of the campaign. Was Zomato privy to an arcane algorithm to ensure that the campaign went viral? Not likely. Can any agency worth its salt make an ad go viral with just enough creativity? e4m asked experts.

Russell Burrett, Chief Experience Officer at TBWA\India, answered, “First off, let’s be very clear that creativity is a tool, a weapon, a solution. Whereas virality is an outcome. No one can deliver truly viral content on demand. But sure there are a few ingredients that can go into the mix to help an idea go viral."

He explained further: "Go to where the people are. That really means talking about things that are culturally relevant, using people who will have a cultural cache. Try and figure out why people will share this content and dial that bit up. It may still not go viral, because it’s still an outcome, but these ingredients can definitely help.”

Ajay Gehlaut, Ex-Dentsu, Group Chief Creative Officer, pointed out the absurdity of clients making such demands. “It's been going on ever since the word viral came up, ‘make a viral video.' You cannot make a viral video; you can make a video and hope it goes viral. You cannot hope for virality, you can make a good piece of communication. Usually what goes viral is the lowest denominator.”

Similarly, Shivil Gupta, Creative and Strategy Consultant, added, “Today everybody wants to be in the news at any cost. But when it comes to a brand we need to understand that consumer always associates themselves with the goodness of the brand. Asking creative people to think of an idea while keeping the virality factor in mind is a dangerous path. Remember there is a thin line between famous and notorious.”

Azazul Haque, Chief Content Officer at Media.Monks believes that demands for virality can often work to the brands' detriment. “In Advertising, creativity has a purpose, it is purposeful communication for the brand to awareness or increase sales. When brands say virality, everything takes a backseat. It doesn’t hamper the creative as much but it hampers the objective. Many times clients say - forget the objective, and then they want any random thing to happen," he rues.

“I think it loses the marketing communication objective more than it loses the creativity because then you’ll have to be contextual, and topical so that it goes viral. I think that brands that have nothing to say, end up saying they want to make something viral. I think the push for virality makes the brand lose perspective.”

It is an important factor for campaigns to reach the target audience and become a part of dining table conversations, brands should not pressure creatives to come up with a viral campaign because as spoken above by the experts, virality is the byproduct of creativity, strategy, medium and many other factors. Experts advise brands to go after creativity than being part of the rat race.

Aalap Desai, CCO Dentsu Creative West and Dentsu Creative Experience, India, said, “The word 'viral' is highly ambiguous. I feel people use that as a crutch to compensate for parts of the brief they can't answer questions for. It cannot be planned or figured out completely. You can only hope that what you create goes viral. You cannot guarantee that it will every time.”

“One thing that is guaranteed is that if we create something that has craft in it, it will be shared and appreciated. Craft might be the idea or the way it's made. But if the idea is made well, people appreciate it. It's a lot like Bollywood. We are not supportive of movies like Shehzada but we are super appreciative of movies like Kantara. Did the filmmakers of Shehzada plan it to be a flop? No. But did they create a flop? Yes. The same applies to advertising. Let craft and creativity breathe and the viral requirement will be fulfilled as an after-effect. You can't start with it.”

Similarly, Barrett said, “We are in the business of creativity. We aren’t in the service industry or the consultation business. Service and advice are very important parts of our business, but it isn’t the core. Creativity isn’t an indulgence, it’s our very reason for existence. Though I want to call out the difference between creativity and the creative department. Every department is in service of creativity. You can’t be In advertising and not be creative.”

Gehlaut wants brands to understand where they stand and act accordingly. He said, “Make sure to be consistent, virality is something to talk about at parties. It builds only conversations, I don't know how it helps. First, know your brand, then build it in every touch point, and put it in every piece of communication.”

Haque says that if the brief starts with ‘let's do something viral’ then the brand has to rethink its purpose. He said, “Virality is a fluke, and one should never run after flukes. Running after such short-term fame won't help a brand in the long run. If ‘Let's do something viral’ becomes your brief, the brand has lost its purpose. There have to be reasons to go after it.”

Gupta rounded it up by saying that if the brand communication is genuine that it will surely have the potential to go viral. He said, “Better we should try to come up with genuine ideas which complement the brand. We are in a business where a real challenge is our talk of the town concept should also be discussed at the dining table among the family members. Idea achcha hoga toh charcha zarur hogi.”

In older times, when data technology wasn’t handy, brands used tactics to measure the success of their campaign through various touch points, and an increase in sales was one of them. Virality may help to create awareness among consumers, but does it really help to spike sales, which is the end goal of any business, is still a conversation out there.

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Lloyd launches new campaign with star couple Deepika & Ranveer

Conceptualised and created by McCann, the campaign is named ‘khayaal jo ghar ko ghar banaye’

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 5:37 PM   |   2 min read


Home is considered the epitome of love and care, it is this “Khayaal’’ by our loved ones that makes us feel cared for, loved, and pampered at home. Building on to this strong emotion, Lloyd has launched new campaign starring Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh. The newly launched campaign promotes Lloyd Grande heavy duty air conditioner range and position it as an enabler of the care and love at home.

Conceptualised and created by McCann, the Lloyd campaign film is focussed on driving differentiation and deliver on its newly introduced brand promise of ‘Khayaal jo ghar ko ghar banaye’.  The storyline of the ad film takes a creative, fun route and tries to build on the ultimate symbol of “Khayaal (care)” and “Khushi (happiness)” – the home. It beautifully depicts Deepika’s gesture for Ranveer when he crashes on the sofa the cool gush of air hits his sweaty face. He looks at the Deepika lovingly and Deepika highlights the core thought of the brand through her gesture ‘Jaan ho meri, khayaal toh rakhna padega na’.  The campaign storyline cements the brand promise by showcasing the superior features of Lloyd Grande heavy duty air conditioner with powerful cooling (even at 60 degrees) and indoor air purification to create a stronger brand connect.

Alok Tickoo, Executive Vice President, Lloyd, said, “We are delighted to launch our summer campaign to further deepen consumer connect and strengthen our presence in the Northern region. Our campaign showcase that the Lloyd Grande heavy duty range offers most convenient and comfortable environment at home even at a temperature 60 degrees outside with plasma protective shield.”

Commenting on the campaign, Rohit Kapoor, EVP – Brand Marcom, Havells India Ltd said, “Our attempt with the launch of summer campaign is to integrate Lloyd air conditioner performance and the emotion of a home with the brand.  The home provides a natural setting for all consumer durables to be used and showcased. Therefore, our brand promise ‘Khayaal jo ghar ko ghar banaye’ resonates with our vision to build greater trust and affinity for air conditioner portfolio.

The mega campaign will be supported with extensive media push. The 360-degree campaign is live and promoted across all mediums – Television, Digital, Print, Outdoor and BTL and retail visibility. It will be aired on Cricket, GEC, movie, news, and regional channels.

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Magicbricks launches campaign, reiterating promise to assist customers find dream homes

Unveils Video trilogy celebrating Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru as real estate growth engines

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 5:30 PM   |   2 min read


Magicbricks has launched a multi-city, omnichannel marketing campaign #OurCityOurHome to celebrate the growth engines for real estate in India and reiterate its commitment to partnering home seekers to find their dream homes in these cities.

The campaign’s cornerstone is a trilogy of long-format videos that tug at the heart, offering home seekers a view into the evolution of each city and showcasing a melange of cultural nuances, heritage, hotbeds of growth, culinary delights, and contemporary lifestyle of Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru as real estate growth engines. The campaign is timely, with residential demand growing throughout the country. According to Magicbricks Research, in 2022, 80% of potential home buyers searched for apartments, up from 67% in 2021, and Bengaluru was the most searched city in India for purchasing properties.

Elaborating on the campaign, Devarshy R. Ganguly, Head of Marketing, Magicbricks shared, "For more than 15 years, we at Magicbricks have been serving customers throughout the country in their quest for a home. As the cities have evolved, so have we, and have grown and gained deep insights into the evolving needs of our customers. Consequently, we are ideally placed to partner with home seekers in making this important decision. This campaign is a reflection of our deep understanding of these cities and how we are best placed to serve as the gateway for customers to find their dream homes.”

A unique element of the campaign is the massive outdoor strategy with bespoke communication for each city. The messaging is tailored to popular neighborhoods, city landmarks, and crafted with local language nuances, featuring more than 40 unique creatives across 355 sites in eight cities (Noida, Gurugram, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Chennai).

To further amplify reach and engagement, Magicbricks has collaborated with over 200 content creators and micro influencers across these cities. The campaign is also active across 10+ digital platforms and high affinity TV channels to reach out to core audiences.




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Navyāsa launches campaign with cricketers from Delhi Capitals, WPL

The campaign recognizes the many roles that every woman plays making them unique

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 4:06 PM   |   2 min read


Navyasa By Liva launched their new campaign, #freetobe with ladies from the Delhi Capitals team of the Women’s Premier League. The ad film portrays and salutes today’s bold, self-reliant women who dares to dream. navyasa by liva is the official principal partner of Team Delhi Capitals for the Women’s Premier League.

The campaign recognizes the many roles that every woman plays making them unique. It celebrates their courage, passion, and, spirit that is letting them #freetobe. The video showcases the players in a new light as they look stylish and fashionable in sarees.  They work hard, but play hard too, and give style goals as they flaunt their glamorous sides.

The campaign film is live on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, and grabbing a lot of eyeballs already.

As a part of the campaign, Indian all-rounder player Jemimah Rodrigues, South African all-rounder player Marizanne Kapp, and Titas Sadhu also visited to the navyasa by liva store in Palladium Mall for an interaction with their fans. The event was hosted by sports presenter and lifestyle influencer Tanvi Shah.

ManMohan Singh – Chief Marketing Officer – Grasim Industries Ltd | Pulp & Fibre said, "We are proud to associate with the Delhi Capitals team of  Women’s IPL 2023. The brand essence of Navyasa by Liva is to cater to the woman of today who can do anything, be anything and achieve everything. This film is a way to honour and celebrate the WPL players who are breaking prejudices and bringing in a new era of cricket in India.”

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Pepsi gets Yash on board for new summer campaign

In the campaign, Yash encourages everyone to challenge the noise around them, follow their hearts and just rise

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 1:19 PM   |   2 min read


Pepsi has rolled out yet another summer campaign with actor Yash.

The campaign aims to empower the youth of India that own who they are without seeking validation through society.

Building on this very philosophy, this allegorical TVC showcases how as individuals we are constantly surrounded by a sea of voices. The sea of voices is constantly telling us what to do, what to like and whom to swipe and if we listen to them to the societal voices too much, they will Judge us, control us, and soon enough drown us. Embodying the persona of the irrepressible Pepsi guy, Yash encourages everyone around him to challenge this noise, follow their hearts and just Rise up Baby.

Commenting on the association, Saumya Rathor, Category Lead, Pepsi Cola, PepsiCo India, said, “The response we have received since we joined hands with the Yash has been nothing short of phenomenal as the country has truly appreciated this epic partnership. As promised, we are back with a blockbuster film featuring Yash, embodying our all-new campaign. He narrates the new positioning in his extraordinary style, empowering the youth with self-expression, self-confidence, and self -belief. The TVC echoes the irrefutable truth that this generation truly is Unstoppable and Gravity has absolutely nothing on them!”
Sharing his excitement on the new campaign, Pepsi®️’s ambassador, rocking star Yash said, “This film is very personal to me as it encourages one to be confident, expressive and a go-getter, despite all odds. It reflects the voice and purpose of the younger generation today. I had a great time shooting for this film and I hope the audience will enjoy and relate to it, the way I did.”

The campaign film was unveiled by Yash as he posted the video reverberating the ‘Rise up Baby!’ attitude with millions of fans over Instagram. The film will be amplified over traditional and digital platforms across the country.

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Apis campaign for Ramadan speaks of personal well-being

The campaign, titled “Ibaadat Ke Iss Mahine Rakhein Sehat Ka Saath”, aims to promote individual well-being by blending the spiritual and personal aspects of Ramadan

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 11:53 AM   |   2 min read


Apis India has launched a campaign during the holy month of Ramadan.

The campaign, titled “Ibaadat Ke Iss Mahine Rakhein Sehat Ka Saath”, aims to promote individual well-being by blending the spiritual and personal aspects of Ramadan through Apis India's range of dates clubbed with other relevant products consumed in the month of Ramadan. Beyond just health, the campaign also celebrates the community bond that Ramadan brings together.

As part of its digital campaign for Ramadan, Apis is implementing a multifaceted strategy that includes a variety of initiatives. In addition to the ongoing social media campaign, the brand has planned a Pan-India contest and an influencer campaign on social media. These efforts are designed to engage with a wide audience and promote the brand's message of overall well-being during the holy month.

The contest invites participants to create unique recipes using Apis dates and other products for sehri and iftar promoting the diverse delicacies of the season through the brand.

As part of Apis India's “Ibaadat Ke Iss Mahine Rakhein Sehat Ka Saath" campaign, the brand's social media strategy includes an online contest that leverages the overarching narrative.

Being a social media contest that engages the community, Apis India is also relying on other factors to reach out to a broader community. Through influencers from the Muslim community, the brand aims to spread awareness, while maximising the influencers by using them as a catalyst to boost the activity. The brand is also focusing on targeted ads during this holy month to amplify its online campaign.

To expand its reach beyond the digital sphere, the brand also includes hoardings, billboards, and banners to complement the social media campaign. In addition, the brand will organise an on-ground activity inspired by its video advertisement which conveyed the message of togetherness across religious lines and promoted the brand as an icon bringing people together.

The on-ground activity will see Apis visiting areas in the national capital with a significant Muslim population and distributing hampers containing Apis Dates and other products to the underprivileged during iftar. Through this initiative, Apis aims to increase consumer awareness about the significance of physical well-being during Ramadan and create a deeper bond within the community. By leveraging its campaign, Apis hopes to make a lasting impact on individuals and communities across the country.

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Viacom18 'hijacks' Google Search in latest campaign for WPL

Search Hijack, conceptualized by 22feet Tribal Worldwide, makes girl name recommendations inspired by the women crickets, each time new parents run a search on Google

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 11:28 AM   |   3 min read


Viacom18 has launched ‘Search Hijack’, the latest campaign from its stable of the thrill-a-minute women’s T20 league. Search Hijack encourages viewers to catch the WPL as it heads into a high-octane play-offs stage.

The campaign features stylish southpaw Smriti Mandhana.

The campaign germinated from the core idea that male baby names in India are inspired by cricketers while parents tend to turn towards film stars for their female baby names.

Viacom18 aims to disrupt the status quo and encourage parents to look at a wider canvas comprising our women cricketers while choosing names for their baby girls. The campaign gives new parents baby girls’ names that will soon go down in history.

Search Hijack, conceptualized by 22feet Tribal Worldwide, makes girl name recommendations to new parents each time they run a search on Google. It uses Google’s retargeting feature to serve up an ad featuring Smriti Mandhana where she gives parents a glimpse of the trendiest names of stars from the future, being that of India’s most popular women cricketers.

“It is not just a wonderful feeling to be the face of this campaign by Viacom18 but also to throw weight behind the thought that drove it,” said India’s Vice Captain Smriti Mandhana.  “These are small steps towards big changes in the way we function as a society and I do hope that somewhere everything we do while wearing the India badge on-field will inspire the next generation of aspiring cricketers to come.”

“Our vision is to develop the WPL into the world’s biggest women’s sporting league. Search Hijack is one of the many efforts we are making along those lines, to grow awareness about our women cricketers and their exploits on the field which will make them household names,” said Viacom18’s Creative Head of Marketing, Shagun Seda. “Our aspiration is to popularize these names to an extent where ‘Smriti’ or ‘Mithali’ are just as much sought after names as ‘Sachin’ or ‘Rohit’ eventually.”

Vishnu Srivatsav, National Creative Director, 22Feet Tribal World Wide, said, "The launch of the WPL wasn't just a sporting event; it was the start of an era and a historic moment in sports made possible only by the endeavours of a long list of heroes. We wanted to celebrate these women in a way that ensures their legacy lives on. We realized that we needed to intervene at a moment that ensures their name is carried on—the moment when parents-to-be were searching for their baby's name. And so, the name search hijack was born.” 

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