Airtel’s New Friendship Mantra: Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hai

As I waited in line at a bank today, patiently awaiting my turn, out of nowhere there was an eruption of a loud sound and then music filled the air. This startled everyone including me, and as we all turned to look at the source from where the sound had originated, I noticed a teenager struggling to get his phone out from his pant pocket. People at banks always seem to be irate and these groups of people were no different. They continued staring at the boy until he finally managed to yank the phone out of his pocket and put it on silent mode. The loud shrill voice stopped and people returned to what they were doing. Interestingly, everyone in the room started to chatter away about something after this incident and I’m assuming that it had something to do with the song which they had just heard. Also because, the girt behind me in the line, started humming this song to herself.

The song was from Airtel’s latest TVC – Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hai. You might be wondering what the setting had to do with this song. I’m coming to that.

The pace at which this jingle has caught on with the masses astonishes me! Mind you, I was at a local bank in a remote village of Kerala. What this verifies is the influence that the advertising medium possesses today and the speed at which communication permeates/ transcends across diverse cross-sections of the society. This is just a miniscule of the numerous advantages of living in a digitally connected era. However, this is a topic for another discussion. What I wanted to explore in this post is how the message in the latest Airtel TVC has managed to find an instantaneous connect with the masses and why.

Undoubtedly, Airtel’s TVCs have managed to capture the imagination of the public over the years and its jingles have even gone on to become anthems of sorts. But with this TVC, Airtel has hit the bull’s-eye. The concept of the TVC by itself is not new but it’s packaged in a way which appeals to people across age groups. Though the ad was meant to lure the youth, the makers of this commercial have also kept in mind not to disenchant the older lot. The lingo used in the TVC speaks the language of today’s youth and the premise is set around friendship. If there was ever a formula that guaranteed success, then that’s friendship!

Take for example, one of the most popular sitcoms of all times – F.R.I.E.N.D.S. How about ‘Sex and the City’? High School Musical? Let’s look at some examples closer to home like KK’s song “Yaaron Dosthi’ from the album ‘Pal’ or even Ali Haider’s ‘Purani Jeans’. Another fine example is the movie ‘Rock On’, whoever thought that it would be such a rage, even amongst the men in their late 30’s or 40’s! Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and 3 Idiots to name a few more. These are just a handful of the umpteen examples which goes onto prove that the concept of friendship sells. But then why didn’t some of the other mobile operators who experimented with this concept find success? Probably because they made it too superficial? I personally felt that those campaigns lacked a certain degree of earthiness, which is required to connect with the Indian consumer. Also, I think that their commercials seemed too ‘wannabe’.

Going back to Airtel’s TVC and why it has become as popular as it has, is because of the very same reason. In today’s day and age where most of us network socially in a parallel universe called social media, we’re bound to have more friends than what we asked for! We keep adding people from our past, our acquaintances and random strangers to our friends list (FL), but how many of them do we really know? I’ve about 830 people on my Facebook FL, 95% of them I don’t speak to or meet in person frequently. Then why do I need to have them on my FL? It struck me right after I heard the Airtel jingle for the very first time that I had at some point or the other done them a favor or have asked for one. In which case, why shouldn’t I have them on my FL? I know, the very thought of having utility based friends sounds outlandish. But, don’t hate the player, hate the game! Let’s keep aside social media for a moment, let’s talk only about people whom you would term as your close friends and also whom you meet very frequently. How many of the latter category of people would you say are your BFFs? How much do you really know about these people? When was the last time you buzzed them or vice-versa, just to see how they were doing and not to ask for any favors? So, did realization just dawn upon you that you don’t have as many ’real’ friends as you thought you did? You’re not alone. A testimony to this is the response that Airtel’s latest Facebook app has managed to garner – The contest invited people to come up with different type or categories of friends and there were over 8,000 friend types submitted in the first 96 Hrs (37,583 types so far)!

Ek ghadi ghadi kaam aaye, kabhi kabhi call kare

Ek kabhi kabhi kaam aaye aur ghadi ghadi call kare

The lines above seem to be the most popular from this jingle and for a reason – People identify with these categories of friends. This line also acts as a summation of all the other categories mentioned in the lyrics. It’s also interesting to note that there are no instruments used in the jingle. Airtel was apparently very specific about this and had requested the composer to use sounds characteristic of a typical college setting like desk and chair banging, clapping, cheering, and foot tapping. The credit for the jingle goes to Ram Sampath’s (from the Delhi Belly fame) composition and Amitabh Bhattacharya’s (from the ‘Emosanal Attyachar’ fame) lyrics. Having said that, Ram Madhvani (from the Happy Dent TVC fame) and TapRoot India’s combined artistry has added magic to the final TVC.

Airtel has come back with a bang thanks to this campaign and all it needs to do now is to work on its customer service 🙂 I had written about how Airtel is losing its market share in my previous post; expansion of the customer base is just one side of the coin, it’s time they focus on the other side too – retention!

A joke that’s doing the rounds on social media:

Teak hain, har ek friend zaroori hota hai

Par network lagna bhi tho zaroori hota hai!

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