I have always been an admirer of Fastrack’s advertising. Let me take you back in time to the launch of the brand. Titan Industries, as the market leader in the adult watches category, thought it appropriate to target the youth segment. Hardly earth-shattering given the size of the youth market in India and the enormous opportunity it presented then and continues to present even today. The fact that it had great genes and was an offering from Titan were great factors working in its favour. The brand leaned heavily on its lineage and the initial campaign (if my memory serves me right) had a series of four TV commercials featuring hip, sexy-looking watches in the backdrop of things that were really cool, like a bottle of Sprite, a girl in a bikini shaking water off her back to a can of Cola with the tag line “Fastrack cool watches from Titan”. The signature tune of Titan that people had started to hum by then was whistled as the background score to the commercials. The brand was launched with a bang and started carving a niche for itself.

Great watches but …

And yet the brand was finding the initial success difficult to sustain as it leant credence to the strong perception that building a youth brand in India and sustaining it is easier said than done. Promiscuous young customers found the watch, however good-looking, expensive and looked at cheaper Chinese options. Post-liberalisation, youth were exposed to a mind-boggling array of choices and Fastrack began losing out.

The breakthrough came with cheaper and better material which made the watches affordable without losing out on looks and arguably one of the most striking ads for the brand was created. For Indian youth, the commercial “Yes sir” was right up their alley, set as it was in a metro college. It is a typical class and attendance is being taken. As the teacher calls out names, a good-looking young man sporting a new Fastrack gets a lot of attention from the girls in his class who alternately moan, sigh and groan “Yes sir” on his behalf to his obvious discomfiture and the mirth of everyone else in the class. The message was clear that these watches were head-turners and could attract and cause girls to ogle.

Having grown up in an age when guys used to ogle at girls, this phenomenon had me shaking my head in wonder. But then I was hardly the target audience and my second son who was loved it. The same theme continued with sunglasses as well featuring John Abraham.

Moving on boldly

The commercials were soon getting a little more explicit, depicting today’s youth in all their emotional finery. The watch commercial showed a guy and girl splitting up, returning all the gifts they have given each other, including the watch she has given him and the sunglasses he has given her with the line “move on”. This was today’s youth, matter of fact, realising that there is life after a relationship and moving on effortlessly to find greener pastures with no emotional baggage. The brand started to market bags and the commercial that followed with Genelia and Virat Kohli were on the verge of being outrageous as they showed the young couple in an office cubicle doing what young people do so easily and spontaneously. When she spots the camera, she nonchalantly uses her voluminous Fastrack bag to cover it and move on with the expressions of people who have done what they wanted to do.

What the perky Genelia finds in the punk celebrity is not the scope of this piece. There is another commercial too in an airlines counter where Genelia, tiring of Virat Kohli, makes eyes at the smart airlines counter assistant indicating that the guy lost in the iPod is “baggage”. Even as I admired her good sense, I was wondering at the brand’s breezy and almost brazen attempts to be what it so easily is.

And now a Fastrack girl

The latest Fastrack commercial has even got a liberated man like me wondering if it is appropriate. The alarm bell goes off in a hostel, and a young girl hastily wakes up from a guy’s bed. Even as the guy sleeps on, she quickly wears her short skirt and long jacket and runs past surprised and envious guys, jumps over the hostel wall to safety even as the line ‘move on’ comes after a racy jingle which describes the girl as a kind of person that some people might want to be and boys might want to have in their hostel beds. A few thoughts struck me. The brand was clearly targeting girls and the commercial also signifies the importance of bags, accessories and the plans of the company to be a lifestyle marketing company. The plot was risqué but the treatment was not. It was not making a statement, the girl was saying “this is me, “take it or leave it”.

The brand is not being judgmental, merely depicting a kind of person. Did the ad make for good viewing? Yes. Would you flip the channel while it was in progress? No. Would you talk about the ad? Yes, love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it. The Fastrack girl has attitude. Whether she is your cup of tea or not is purely subjective.

The ad got me thinking. Is this representative of young urban India? Is young India aspiring to be like the Fastrack girl? I anxiously asked these questions to a class of young MBA aspirants after showing them the ad and I got the answer from one of the girls in my class. “It happens,” she said matter-of-factly.

As always I have been ahead of time for all the wrong reasons! Time to move on?

Ramanujam Sridhar is the CEO of brand-comm and a Director of Custommerce.

http://www.ramanujamsridhar.blogspot.com

(This article was published on June 27, 2012)
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