The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
Bricks for brand-building

The icon of intelligence, the symbol for everything a housewife wanted to be. That was Lalitaji. For 10 years, the woman in the white blue-bordered sari and big bindi was the ad-break entrant into homes, selling the clever woman’s choice: Surf.

From ’84 to ’94, the premium detergent relied on this now legendary creation. Its “principal architect” Usha Bhandarkar is in town to pass on some of her brand-building insights to ad and brand brains at a campaign-planning workshop called Brand Chords.

“You’re a pro at singing. Now learn how to create a symphony” is the punch line for the three-day meet, organised by the Advertising Club of Calcutta, in association with The Telegraph. Co-facilitating the sessions designed to guide 20 young executives to get to the heart of the consumer-brand relationship is Sumit Roy, brand consultant and founder-director of Univbrands.

There is no “magic formula” for a memorable and effective campaign, warn the brand builders. But rigour and relevance are the stepping stones to success, explains Bhandarkar, now the group planning director at Lowe. An insight, reflecting brand personality, tailored to reach out to a target group may increase the strike rate. “The problem with so many campaigns is that they try to follow the pattern of what has worked before, so they don’t offer anything new,” says Roy.

It is the cookie-cutter approach versus the clutter-cutter breakthrough that makes the difference. “A cookie-cutter ad would be the same old thing we have seen before, while a clutter-cutter would present something that grabs attention because it is fresh,” explains Bhandarkar, who also gave a talk on Striking the Right Chords at Grain of Salt on Thursday.

That was one thing that worked for Lalitaji according to her maker. “Back then, all the ads were about smiling housewives. Here was a woman in control,” recalls the Mumbai-based Bhandarkar. “Smart women don’t get taken for a ride”, was the soul of the campaign, billed as one of the most successful in India. The day-after recall was “astounding”, as was the involvement viewers felt with this fictitious character, played by Kavita Chaudhuri. “People knew what her mother was like, what her husband was like, what she was like,” smiles the ad veteran. An educated woman, in charge of her outside world, with an eye on everything. Lalitaji was the value-conscious woman who had to take on a much cheaper competitor, Nirma. “Men thought her husband would be henpecked. Not the women,” she laughs. Attempts to change her look were also not welcome. “We tried to get rid of her curls, but people wanted them back.”

The participants of the workshop, which started on Friday, were given a “live” campaign to work on. They will have to crack the campaign for low-cost batteries yet to be launched in the Calcutta market. If Eveready likes any campaign, it will “buy it” from its creator.

Notes from Hamburg

Six years ago, a little harbour town in Germany had welcomed an Indian popstar as its bahu. But the shooting locale for sequences in The World is Not Enough — Hamburg — was not enough to tie her down. So Mrs Clemens Brandt, better known as Shweta Shetty, returns to India periodically to cut an album. And her latest offering is Saajna.

Saajna is my baby. It has just the kind of music I wanted to do,” says the sultry siren playing her fingers through her cascading curls at The Park. “As I had the support of the music company (Universal) from the outset, I kept bugging my composer (DJ Moody) and arrangers (Naresh n Paresh) from Germany, so that they knew exactly what I wanted.”

The album released on May 2 has hit the top 10 in the MTV World Chart this week. And the MTV Apna Artist of the Month (May) is not surprised. “There are too many remixes in the market. So this was the perfect time to come out with original music.”

Shweta has hit the road with her album, with Calcutta being her second stop after Mumbai.“I know that my audience is the MTV generation. I want my fans to dance along. So I wanted to play it safe,” she smiles, explaining how she was in two minds about including Dhola Re, a light classical song. Though Shweta has a classical music training from her mother, a Carnatic vocalist, her calling card has been floor-blazers like Deewane to Deewane Hain.

Shweta has not severed ties with Bollywood. Recently she has done a “beautiful song” for Himesh Reshmaiya in the Abhishek-Bipasha-Ajay starrer Zameer. “Dilli ki sardi is a challenging song. It is not a jhatka number,” states the husky voice that used to get identified with Raveena Tandon’s, courtesy a string of sizzlers — Kale Kale Baal (Ziddi), Pichoo Pade Hain (Salaakhen)...

Shweta has lent voice to two international projects —for opera singer Sarah Brightman and for Frankfurt-based band Jam N Spoon. Both albums are due for release. But at present, it is Saajna, her dedication to “the two most important men in my life — Lord Shiva and my husband”, that is keeping her on song.

Screen message

It is a film on the holocaust, and the story of a journey of a couple returning to their homeland after half a century, having left in the midst of violent upheaval. Way Back Home is a documentary filmed by Supriyo Sen on his parents’ recollections of the holocaust in Bangladesh during Independence and Partition, and their return trip, in a bid to find their homes, families and friends. It has now been recognised at an international level, and is on its way to many a film festival.

First up is the Commonwealth Film Festival in Manchester, from June 6 to 15. The “only Indian documentary film” to be featured is part of the category Screen Peace: Make Films, Not War, where it will share the spotlight with Aparna Sen’s Mr & Mrs Iyer, an Australian and an Irish film with the themes of non-violence and anti-racism. Also part of the British Council-sponsored trip to the UK is a screening of Way Back Home in London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies, followed by a discussion with eminent feminists. And in November, Sen is off to the Amsterdam Film Festival. The film is slated for release on July 11 at Nandan. “At the end of the day, I want to share this experience with the ordinary people, many of whom have faced similar situations,” Sen signs off.

Chip of the style block

Samsung Electronics India Information and Telecommunication (SEIIT) will intensify sales efforts in town with “style and prestige” positioning of its customisable personal computers (PC), BuildURpc. It has also drawn up plans to pump in fresh investments to expand its manufacturing capacity in Bengal.

“We have been focusing on the east and the Northeast for quite some time and have already garnered 10 per cent of the branded PC market in the region. With our metro launch, we expect to raise it to 30 per cent,” says Princy Bhatnagar, national sales manager, SEIIT, the Indian IT and telecom subsidiary of the Korean electronics major, which has a tie up with Webel.

Priced at around Rs 50,000, the PCs come with a sleek TFT LCD monitor, slim chassis, high speed and high performance processor, multi-functional keyboard, 52x CD-ROM drive, 40GB 7200 rpm high capacity hard disk drive, new stylish speakers, special subwoofer and optical mouse. And customers will have the freedom to choose configuration based on their needs.

“The growth rate in the Calcutta market is around 12 to 15 per cent, which is higher than the national average of eight to 10 per cent. There is indeed a market for speciality products and people want value for money here,” said Bhatnagar.

Song and dance

There’s a lot happening in town this weekend for a music buff. You could start off by attending a Rabindrasangeet workshop by Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta at Nehru Children’s Museum from 2 pm on Saturday. Later in the evening, drop in at the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, at IB Block, Salt Lake, from 6 pm, for Lok Nritya Samaroha, featuring song-and-dance forms from eight states of India.

On Sunday afternoon, catch the conclusion of the Rabindrasangeet workshop at Nehru Children’s Museum, with a performance by the participants from 4 pm. And the evening offers two musical options. A Chandrabindoo concert in aid of Mukti Rehabilitation Centre, at Madhusudan Mancha, from 6 pm. Or, applaud actor Indrani Dutta as she choreographs Rituranga to mark the first anniversary of her dance troupe Sristi. The programme also features Mumbai-based choreographer Kamalnath’s A Love Story. All this at the GD Birla Sabhagar, 6 pm. Further south, at the Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Three Cheers Inc presents a vocal recital by Shirshendu Mukherjee, a student of Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty, from 7 pm.

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