A still from one of two 30-second commercials launched by redBus, to outline the benefits of online ticket booking compared with offline methods.
Online bus ticketing platform redBus has moved from celebrity-led advertising to a more simple and functional communication strategy in a span of two years. The brand, which was once being promoted by cricketer M.S. Dhoni, is now speaking to travellers from the small towns of India. redBus claims that it has been witnessing traction from a new customer segment, mostly from tier II and III towns, who have found the convenience of booking online during the pandemic.
Now, the company plans to go full throttle to grow this segment by simplifying its service in new quirky ads designed for the festive season when travel picks up in a big way. redBus, a subsidiary of MakeMyTrip, has launched two 30-second ad films as part of the month-long campaign, outlining the benefits of booking on redBus compared with offline methods.
Pallavi Chopra, SVP, brand, and head of marketing, redBus says that the company is attracting a different kind of user segment because of the pandemic.
New set of travellers
“Pre-pandemic, our typical user would be a salaried IT industry employee who is travelling home over the weekend from Bengaluru to Hyderabad. Now, we are witnessing a surge of customers from smaller cities,” she notes.
To be sure, the contribution in terms of booking from tier II and III market has gone up about 10 percentage points post-pandemic, increasing from 56% to 66% on redBus.
“This new user segment undertakes intra-state business travel. The bookings are being done last minute. Given the new kind of target audience that we have to talk to, the company has decided to take a mass approach to marketing,” Chopra adds.
Chopra goes on to explain that one seemingly obvious but key insight that they zeroed in on is that online booking offers users the ability to book a seat of their choice while travelling.
“The offline route, through an agent or booking counter, doesn’t offer this service. This became a key highlight of our campaign,” she says.
Made by advertising agency McCann Bengaluru, the two ads show real-life scenarios (albeit with comic exaggeration) of travellers booking an offline ticket or trying to grab the seat of their choice.
In one of the ad films, we see a theatre setting and a play titled, ‘Hot seat ka natak’. Soon enough there appears a bus in tableau style. Inside the bus, we see passengers racing and scrambling to grab a seat - a scene typical of the pre-digital era of bus travel which still persists where seat reservation systems are absent. The focus then shifts to a person who is in the audience, seated comfortably and amused by the scene playing out. He exclaims sarcastically, ‘Apni manpasand bus seat paane ke liye itna naatak’ and suggests downloading redBus app.
Window seat, please: The Agency view
Talking about the client brief, Dileep Ashoka, EVP, McCann South, says that booking a bus ticket especially that of the State Road Transport bus means having to stand in long queues, braving the elements, and, despite this long wait, there is no guarantee of getting the seat of one’s choice.
"This reality on the ground only heightens the concerns of travellers when it comes to their safety, in this pandemic-affected world. The idea was to amplify the problem of booking a bus ticket at the retail counter and the anxiety to get the seat of one’s choice through the campaign," he notes.
In order to capitalise on and cater to the higher intent for travel during the festive period, redBus plans to run these ads across television, digital and social media platforms. The focus will be on key growth markets in the western region including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan along with Andhra Pradesh. It will also be promoted across our emerging markets in the North and West Bengal.
"Between the first and second Covid-19 wave, we saw 80% recovery in our bookings despite the fact that our core TG (salaried individuals) continue to work from home,” says Chopra, as more travellers switched to online ticket booking.