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A Maruti ad with a difference
Meenakshi Radhakrishnan-Swami
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September 13, 2005

A sleepy voice demands chai as a young woman looks out of the window at a wet morning. She shakes her head exasperatedly and places a cup at the bedside table.

Her husband reaches out lazily, but there's no tea in the cup, just a bunch of car keys. "Let's go," she says, nodding her head to the lovely weather outside. The disgruntled young man gets the message; he follows his wife out to the car and they set off on a drive.

The young woman revels in the beautiful weather and the scenic drive, playfully teasing him out of his bad temper. The man's grumpiness slowly eases and by the time she asks him to stop in the middle of a tea garden and points, "Your chai", he is as relaxed and ready to enjoy the day as she is.

The Maruti Saga

The film closes with a shot of the couple leaning against the car, sipping tea and enjoying the view.

The new Maruti Alto ad is as much a celebration of the monsoon as it is of the upgraded car. It took over a month to shoot the 60-second ad, as the production crew chased the rains across Mumbai, Lonavla, Ooty and Polachi.

Shot by Red Ice Films (which also produced the earlier Alto ad), the ad is the work of Lowe India, which has been associated with Maruti Udyog [Get Quote] for close to a decade.

Lowe created the Let's Go platform for the Alto in January 2004; this is the third ad in the series. "When we got the brief to promote the upgraded Alto, we had the choice of either doing straightforward, features-driven advertising, or dressing up the changes in the 'Let's Go' style," recalls Virat Tandon, vice president for Maruti business at Lowe India.

Shooting the ad in the rains was premeditated. The new Alto was to be launched around August, during the monsoon. The rainy season is also the time when two-wheeler owners think seriously of the advantages of driving a car -- and the Alto is targeted at young, entry-level buyers.

Importantly, there is a strong emotional connect with the rains - a time for new beginnings, and also a time for letting your hair down. The ad, then, had to convey a sense of freedom and spontaneity as well as play up the changed features of India's best-selling car.

Interestingly, this is done without dialogue or a voice-over - the car in the ad is in one of the two new colours, and the 40-second made-for-TV ad has supers that highlight new features of the car such as a new front grill, changed tail-lamps and new upholstery; the 60-second cinema ad doesn't even have that.

Instead, the ad has a film-like quality, complete with a "rain song" sung by Shubha Mudgal, set to music composed by Vishal-Shekhar, who scored the tracks for Jhankaar Beats, Dus and Salaam Namaste.

The new ad is more reminiscent of the first Let's Go ad, which showed a young couple suddenly deciding to drive off to Jaipur. By the time the stripped-down version of the Alto was introduced in April 2004, research by Lowe and Maruti showed that people in smaller towns didn't really connect with the stylish, modern tone of the campaign.

So, while the next ad also featured a stylish couple, it showed the girl upset at her parents' departure, and the man taking her on a drive to cheer her up. The family angle was played up in that ad. "Our goal then was to go deeper into the market. This time, with the new Alto, the style quotient is very high, so the ad must reflect that. But it remains within the 'Indian' domain, thanks to the music," points out a spokesman for Maruti.

The 360-degree campaign broke early last month with all major television channels. Cinema ads, radio spots, press and outdoor and point-of-sale promotions will continue until November, while the TV ad will switch to a 15-second edit.

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