Taking advantage of a merger

A. J. VINAYAK | Updated on June 20, 2012

Merger Soda’s first teaser ad in Mangalore. This brand took advantage of Tulu drama's hit pair coming together after a gap of several years.

A Mangalore-based soda brand uses the coming together of an erstwhile hit pair of the Tulu stage for its ad campaign.

Time for Merger', read billboards at most busy junctions of Mangalore city recently.

It was a bit unusual for persons tracking the corporate world to see such a billboard in Mangalore. For a Mangalorean, it was the brand ambassadors on that billboard that were a bit of a surprise.

This teaser ad campaign for a local brand – Merger Soda – piqued the curiosity of many Tulu-speaking people in the region.

The reason: The entire creative was based on the separation of the brand ambassadors featured in that billboard, a few years ago.

This creative was apt for a product with the name ‘Merger Soda', which has been in Mangalore since 1984.

Isaac Vas, Managing Director of Merger Beverages Pvt Ltd and proprietor of Jyothi Advertisers in Mangalore, says it took nearly three months for him and his colleague Yatish Baikampady to come out with this creative.

“We came up with many taglines, but those could not meet our expectations. After scratching our heads for almost three months, Yatish came out with the tagline ‘… time for Merger' when on a telephone call. It was then that he got the news that they will cast the leading Tulu drama artistes for this ad.”

To understand this better, one needs to know a little about the Tulu entertainment scene. Many Tulu-speaking people in coastal Karnataka are fond of Tulu drama. It has a good fan following, and some of the artistes are local celebrities.

One such drama troupe of the Tulu stage is ‘Chaa Parka' (named after its famous drama, Bale Chaa Parka, meaning: ‘Come, let us have tea'.)

Devadas Kapikad and Naveen D. Padil were the hit pair in that troupe for many years. They separated a few years ago, making their fans unhappy.

The news of their coming together for a Tulu movie made Vas and Baikampady focus on a suitable tagline for them and for the brand.

Before launching the present teaser ads, they ran a trial on the Facebook page. However, Vas himself, and Manju Pal, the photographer who assisted them in this project, featured there. Many of Vas’ friends on Facebook termed it a prank, until he clarified that the pair in those photos would be replaced by Kapikad and Padil.

Many could not believe this.

Baikampady told BrandLine that some of his friends called him up after seeing the billboards, and wanted to know whether they (he and Vas) were taking a risk by putting the pictures of these two artistes on the billboards. It was quite understandable, as the hit pair of the Tulu stage had not worked together for quite a few years.

Bringing these artistes together was like casting Big B and Rekha in Silsila, he said.

However, the second teaser ad a fortnight after the first one, read “ Ottanda Merger” (meaning: coming together is merger), putting a full stop to all the curious queries.

What made Vas go in for local themes such as this one for his product?

The soda, says Vas, is marketed in only a few locations in the coastal Karnataka districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi. Basically, these regions have a distinct culture, lifestyle, food, festivals and folk traditions that are different from the rest of Karnataka. Added to this, Tulu dramas are a rage in this area.

This is where he focuses the creative effort of his ads, he says.

On another famous tagline, “ namma oorda namma neerda” (meaning: our town's brand from our town's water), in their previous advertisement that was launched a decade ago, Baikampady says they have not been able to come out with any other tagline to match that one. In fact, it has become a generic phrase to express pride in a local personality making it big.

Vas was witness to this tagline's usage in another unexpected place. That was at a local fish market. When he went there one day, he heard one of the fisherwomen marketing her fish as “ namma oorda namma neerda”.

Apart from drama artistes, the brand has been using themes such as ‘ kambala' (slush track buffalo race) and ‘ pili vesha' (tiger dance performance during Navratri festival) to advertise its products. “These themes help me connect with my customers,” he said.

“You won't find my brand in any major club or five-star hotel in this region, though I maintain the quality like any other multinational bottling units do,” he claims, adding that nearly 90 per cent of his products are marketed in bars and restaurants.

“You won't see my products in retail outlets,” he said. Explaining the reason for this, he said his products are still marketed in silicon bottles. A bottle costs him around Rs 12. If he puts them in retail stores, the chances of its being stolen are higher. But in this (bars and restaurants) segment, he gets a set base of customers, and chances of pilferage are very few.

On the name ‘Merger' for his product, he explains, smiling: “It merges well with spirit, that is why this name.”

Published on June 20, 2012

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