By Malay Desai
From: India and Belgium
To promote its night calling plans, Airtel staged a prank with a young man who ‘distress calls’ some of his friends at 4 am. After being told to rush to a spot with cash, some friends back out while one turns up. He is promptly greeted with orchestrated spooks, culminating in his friend being hoisted in the air. The prank is revealed with a crowd of people emerging and congratulating him. In March last year, beer brand Carlsberg unveiled a campaign based on a prank called ‘Friends To The Test.’ Here, the prankster calls a friend for help from a poker table deep inside a spooky warehouse with intimidating characters, only to share a beer after revealing the prank.
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Har ek inspiration zaroori hota hai,’ is probably how Airtel’s agency is explaining the coincidence that their latest web film, #4amfriends bears a striking resemblance to a Carlsberg campaign of 2013. It seems the creative guys didn’t go beyond the first Google page while thinking of ideas as the beer brand’s prank had gone viral on social media (its video has over six million views).
Yet, to be fair, let’s look at it like we don’t know and pretend Airtel has the good fortune that Anu Malik and RD Burman had – of the internet not calling their bluff. The premise is superb – to devise a prank with the ‘spooky hour of the night’ as hero, it furthers their ‘all-night calls and internet’ campaign, depicted cutely in a recent TV commercial.
The problem however, is that the prank seems totally staged. Everything in the three-minute or so film fits so much into place, it deprives the commercial of any real edge. Secondly, all the props used to ‘scare’ the victim are right out of Google’s first page again – prancing vagabond, rolling cradle, falling street light... even MTV Bakra had better tricks up their sleeve in the 90s. Lastly, this tale is only about one guy. If multiple friends were shown fooling their respective buddies, it would have made for a more impactful (albeit more expensive and finely edited) film.
Brands such as Carlsberg and Heineken have dominated this ad route with some outstanding pranks in the past two years. The former’s ‘bikers in the cinema’ and latter’s ‘The Candidate’ were particularly hilarious and well thought out. Carlsberg’s version of this 4am ad is more bad-ass, with intimidating characters, multiple victims and a noir film like approach. Airtel on the other hand, has dished out a Zee Horror Show.
We hope there are more prank installments that salvage lost pride, and more original ones at that. For a brand that is also pushing for internet connectivity, it will be ironic if our C-towners learn of this inspiration through Airtel 3G.
As Abhishek Bachchan and the rivals at Idea Cellular would say, ‘No Ullu Banaoing!’
(To watch Airtel’s film, feed this link into your browser ~ bit.ly/Airtelprank)
Shrink your brains – Buzzfeed India is here
In case you haven’t noticed already, all the content on your newly designed Twitter profile and your Facebook timeline is beginning to look and sound the same, especially with all your friends sharing content like “21 signs you have become an aunty”. List articles, hitherto a forte only of some inside pages of tabloids, have made it big on the internet, thanks to one Buzzfeed, which takes pride in compiling them. Now Buzzfeed has an India account, and threatens to spam our timelines with custom-packed dollops of inane lists. (“26 traditional Indian foods that will change your life forever,” one of the first few posts reads.) Worse, we already have half a dozen of wannabe Buzzfeed sites such as ScoopWhoop (which has adapted well, must admit) and mensxp.com. Enthusiasts of long form reading, let’s hope Buzzfeed has a Longreads section for us too, else keep calm and head to scroll.in.
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Modi’s PMO page hard at work too
The official page of the Prime Minister of India took shape a little before the election results, and post Modi’s landslide win, already has 1.2 million fans. An avid affinity toward social media and the internet has underlined Narendra Modi’s communication strategy of late and it will be interesting how this sarkari account differs from his personal Twitter account. The PMO India page on Facebook has so far only posted pictures of Modi hard at work (including the cover picture), i.e. shaking hands and receiving bouquets from heads of state and other guests. While we’re not expecting earth-shattering antics on this page, it sure will be the official, first-hand source of seeking information about how the country’s toughest job is shaping up.
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The social election in numbers
Finally, even though we gave you regular accounts right since last year about India’s first election on social media, we must wind up with some finale numbers of engagement: 1) Modi now has five out of the 10 most RT-ed tweets in India, the top one being his victory tweet. 2) There were 58 million election related tweets between January and May, the BJP getting highest mentions on its manifesto release day. 3) 29 million Indians made 227 million election related interactions from election announcement day to last day of polls. 4) According to Social Bakers, the most interactive politician was Modi, followed by Kejriwal and Digvijay Singh. And finally, 5) it was also a digital windfall for our favourite psephologists NDTV as they received 11.6 million unique visitors on election day, the highest ever. PS: Can anyone tell us how many million inked finger selfies were uploaded too?
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