Shraddha Jain spent nine years as a radio jockey and then some time working in the television industry where she learnt how to sell an idea in 20 seconds. Jain, who is popularly known on the Internet as aiyyoshraddha, doesn’t have a category tag. She’s not a comedian. She's not a beauty/travel/lifestyle/culture vlogger either. But she manages to do a little bit of everything and in many languages, playing many characters. Jain calls herself a storyteller. Her videos travel from Pune to Paris through Whatsapp, and brands swear by her.
In an exclusive chat with Storyboard18, Jain talks about aiyyoshraddha and her creations, influencer marketing, storytelling, brand partnerships, her creator's hack and more. Edited excerpts.
Every brand is now focusing on influencer marketing. Do you think influencers like yourself creating content for brands is working better these days than celebrity ambassadors from Bollywood or sport, for instance?
I'm going to say we work better in certain situations. We are not always the better option. We are an option that did not exist until now. If you don't have the budget for a superstar to endorse your product, you'll have to make an ad film without any celebrities. But even to make that ad film the production money is huge. Then you need money to broadcast it everywhere. But now there is this person who will not only bring you the creative idea, but also will shoot, edit and hand you the complete creative. The person also has a certain following of people who may like your product in the part of the world where you are marketing that product. That's why it's such a great option now.
But we still need celebrities to sell your diamonds, perfumes and pan masala. Influencers are not cool enough for pan masala yet, right? You do need celeb power for that sort of thing.
We are bringing a whole new option for brands. For certain categories like electronics, fashion or cosmetics, I would much rather listen to somebody who has earned a lot of credibility in that domain. A person with expertise in tech will convince me to buy a phone more than just seeing Aamir Khan with that phone. But if it is a chappal that no one actually reviews, I’d buy it only and only because Salman Khan is wearing it.
So it is also category specific.
As for me I think of myself not as a domain expert but as a storyteller. What I can do is I can tell a story, and the moral of that story can be your product or your service.
You have worked with a host of big brands ranging from real estate to FMCG to BFSI. Tell us the secret behind creating variety in content?
I started doing variety in content way before brands started coming to me and that was mainly because I get bored very easily. So I cannot do the same thing again and again. Hence I created a Mrs Kulkarni, a Bulbul Vidyamandir, a Rina Dalal and the family arrangements. This was long before brands approached me for paid partnerships. I had created this format for myself because I did not want to do the same thing again. I made sure no two characters appeared consecutively on my feed. Eventually what ended up happening is I had all these formats that in some way appealed to different categories of brands.
For instance, real estate did not really know how to pick an influencer, but then there was Rina Dalal and they said "arre yeh toh bohot sahi hain" (this is perfect for us). Probably, I'm one of the first people to do any content for real estate and that happened because I made Rina Dalal not with real estate paid partnerships in mind. I was very excited with the idea - if Sima Taparia was a real estate agent and not a matchmaker how would that be? I went ahead and did that and real estate brands got so excited that I started getting paid partnerships for that. (Sima Taparia is TV personality and a matchmaker who starred in Netflix's popular reality series Indian Matchmaking.)
Tell us about your favourite kind of brand categories - the ones you love to create content about?I absolutely love working with the kind of brand category where the product is massier. Ideas come faster for that kind of brand. But then a very niche brand poses a very fresh challenge.
More than a category I have favorite people that I prefer working with. The success of a collaboration depends on great communication. So if the client knows why they have come to me and they have clarity on why they've picked me and what they want, I think the work is just so much nicer.
But sometimes they don't know why they picked me. They picked me just because a certain video went viral and they don't know exactly how to use me. Then there is a lot of back and forth and ultimately you lose your mojo.
How much of the script is dictated by the client (if at all)? How much control do you have on the screenplay?
It is not at all dictated actually. The best kind of partnership is when the brand comes and tells me this is who they are, who they aren’t, what it is that they do and what they want me to tell. Then they leave me to sort of meditate on it. It gives me a big playground. I think of who I could use - Mrs Kulkarni or the family scene or something new. Then I present my options to the brand. This is when brands give their go ahead which they usually do because I manage to hit the sweet spot usually and that’s how I create content. It does not take more than two meetings to decide on content. One is the brief meeting, then there's the concept discussion meeting. That's all it takes.
What's the best kind of brand collaboration in your view? And what's the worst you've had to deal with?You should know why you have come to me and you should be 100% honest with me. Full disclosure, full clarity and trust is very important for a successful collaboration. Also, when you come to me you should know what my audiences like. If you don't know my audience, you will have wrong expectations from me. I am not good at changing 50 clothes in 30 seconds with trending background music. Brands trusting your intuition is also important and trusting your experience in making content.
Some brands know the secret of a good creative so well they always prefer not going overboard with branding. But then there are brands who’d want their brand name being mentioned several times in the video. I keep asking them to trust the viewer’s intelligence and not patronize them.
Having fun while creating content is very important. That shows in your work and works best for brands too.
Popular influencers generally have a fixed style and the expectation is to stick to that style. How do you feel about that? Do you sometimes feel trapped in the image aiyyoshraddha has on social media?I also have the power to break free of it. For example, nobody expected Rina Dalal out of me. The only thing that's stopping me is me. If I don't have a kickass idea, I don't want to be a rebel for the heck of it. I need to be convinced of the character that I play in my creative work and I need to be able to do it. Don't simply create a Punjabi aunty character if you cannot pull off a Punjabi aunty accent.
Don't do travel blogs when you don't have the stamina for it. But tomorrow if I feel I can actually do cooking videos that are great and if I can sustain and can consistently pull out one funny cooking video every week, the next thing you know is I'm probably endorsing cooking oil.
What’s your take on the recent guidelines introduced by ASCI for influencer marketing?
If you put it out there that it's an ad and people are still watching it and enjoying it says so much about your creative capabilities. It thrills me when people appreciate my paid partnerships. If you have watched my 30-second creative, laughed and enjoyed it, and in the comments are telling me it was so clever, I guess there is nothing to complain about. In fact, that is the reason why brands should come to you. If you're skippable, why should a brand come to you?
Tell us about aiyyoshraddha and her journey outside of the Instagram grid?
A lot of all the good things about my work on Instagram is because of my training in radio. In radio, your real estate is only audio, there's no video. So, I’ve been trained to communicate an idea in 15-25 seconds using only audio. So the training in content structure, the economy of words, connecting with people, tone of your voice, the smiling voice that people cannot see, is all radio.So when I got the visual medium in my hand, I went a little berserk.
And I have worked in television also. A lot of times when I see content on Instagram, I notice how there was so much effort put into the script but the editing was choppy. So my editing is strong because of my TV career.
My past experiences in TV and radio helped me a lot in getting where I am. Like a lot of SNP rules in TV and radio still influence me. For instance, how to put out a message without talking sex, politics or religion. To inform and to entertain without using cuss words or again politics and religion. I’ve followed these guidelines in my career before this and it helps me a lot till date.
I don’t like to follow statistics and I don’t go by ideas like one should follow trends or put up one video every week to keep the analytics right, etc. My creator’s hack is to not do what's trending. The effort it takes to do that trending video is no less than what it takes to come up with something original. Also, I am in no hurry to put up content. Nobody is waiting for it. It is important for me to put out content only when I think ‘isko dekh ke maza ayega’.