Diwali is a season when brands and their ad agencies race to capture consumers’ attention and wallets with everything from saccharine scripts to straight up sales pitches with mouth-watering offers. But online food and grocery app Swiggy did something different this season. It zagged when everyone zigged. It added a touch of mystery by not talking about the festivities at all. Confused? Well, the internet was scratching its head too when the brand plastered a kind of creative puzzle on billboards, on social media feeds, and in print. A creative that almost transports users into a different yet familiar outer-space world with references to crypto and images of Swiggy’s beloved character, the gulab jamun uncle.
Swiggy released the creative and asked all its users, “Why is this a Swiggy ad?” The brand asked users to explore every corner of the ad. The best theories would win Rs 1 lakh in Swiggy money.
What made the brand team and its agency, Talented, take this out-of-the-world route? What gave them the confidence that millennials and Generation Z will stare at a post for more than 10 seconds and take the time to come up with theories and share them with Swiggy? And, what really is the theory behind the creative? Storyboard18 finds out.
One for the fan base
PG Aditiya, co-founder of Bengaluru-based creative shop Talented, says, the germ of the idea comes from the place that, “people don’t hate ads. They just hate bad ads.” He is of the opinion that if a creative piece is genuinely interesting and immersive people will notice it. “There is a good reason why there are YouTube ad playlists. We strongly believe there is a fan base for really good advertising. We wanted to prove that people really love ads if it is done well,” he explains.
Aditiya thinks at the core every human being thinks they are creative and that was the starting point for his agency to pitch the idea to Swiggy’s marketing team. “Swiggy is an impactful brand that has at some levels changed the cultural fabrics of many cities in this country. No other brand would have trusted us with this idea. Mainly because a brand needs to have the confidence that people know them well enough to buy into a whacky ad like this one.”
People don’t hate ads. They just hate bad ads.
The brief in a nutshell was to understand how much consumers know about the brand and what they feel about them. That was the springboard for team Talented to build on the idea.
Playing along with consumers’ imagination
Saurabh Nath, head of brand marketing, Swiggy, says his team is welcoming of “mad ideas.” He says, “In the beginning, the creative will not feel like an advertising piece but it is. That’s the beauty of user generated content. When we heard the idea first, the instant thing we thought was this one will need a lot of brand love and imagination to work, which we were confident about. It may look like a piece of abstract art but it is not. It is well thought through work.”
Viren Noronha, senior marketing manager, Swiggy, says, “Today, opening Swiggy to browse through food items is the new way of opening your fridge and seeing what’s there to eat. The brand is a part of many consumers’ daily lives. A user generated campaign like this just added to the brand’s confidence.”
Satisfying creative greed
Pooja Manek, creative and founding member of Talented, says, working on the campaign built up the team’s "creative greed". The campaign took the right form and shape because the brand team gave them the freedom to make it nuanced. Teresa Sebastian, who collaborated with designers, is also a creative and founding member of Talented. She says this kind of design style is unconventional in advertising. “The use of illustrations was a conscious decision. We wanted people to stop and stare at it. As the idea was growing, so did the design,” she adds
Sanket Audhi, another creative and founding member of Talented, says the response they got on social media surprised them. “We spotted a few posts saying that Swiggy’s marketing team is bored, that's why they are making us do the heavy lifting. That kind of awareness in our audience is great,” he says.
The brand collaborated with a select few influencers from stand-up comedians, gamers, and key voices in the advertising and marketing industry. Noronha says there was no brief given to them. The team simply sent them the poster and asked them to share their reactions and theory. The reason behind that was, “how do you really give feedback to someone’s imagination.”
Today, opening Swiggy to browse through food items is the new way of opening your fridge and seeing what’s there to eat.
So…why is this a Swiggy ad?
Is Swiggy going to Mars? Metaverse? Is the brand going to accept crypto? Delivering samosa to Elon Musk or to outer space? Will the gulab jamun uncle get a new avatar? All the answers could be right. It’s open-ended. It is a Swiggy ad because it made you think about the brand all along. Watch the video to know what the brand means.
Around 800,000 users participated with their own theories, livestream debates and online discussions. “Why is this a Swiggy Ad” was one of India’s top searched questions during the peak of the campaign week on Google.
The film that revealed the winners features the gulab jamun uncle. Aditiya says, “He is a pop-culture phenomenon. This is a kind of homage to him. There was no better ambassador who could help us pull this off.”
Nath further adds, the key performance indicators set for the campaign were simple - generate conversation for the brand. That’s it. “All we wanted to do is bring the child in the consumers alive. Give them a chance to play with their creative wires and sort of prove to the world that consumers love us,” he concludes.