April 2010
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The Zoozoos come knocking again


Less than a year ago, during the second edition of the Indian Premier League, these alien-like, egg-headed characters invaded our television screens. With IPL 3 this year, all hailed the return of Vodafone's lovable Zoozoos.
They'd taken the nation by storm the last time. And the enthusiasm continues, as is evident in status messages and fan pages across social networking websites screaming, "Zoozoos are back".




Vodafone and Ogilvy India understand the craze well; but are quick to say that it was never the intention to make a mascot out of the Zoozoos, or for that matter, even the pug, which is synonymous with the brand now.

"We've had the pug since 2003, and people still love it. When we first used the dog, it was not a mascot, but became one. Even with the Zoozoos, we wanted to do something new, but not with the intention of making it a mascot. Very rarely can a brand have two 'mascots'. Creating any more is out of the question. It is not that easy. We cannot have so many faces of the brand," explains Rajiv Rao, national creative director, Ogilvy India.

The brand has been particular about using the Zoozoos effectively. There was a lull last year after the IPL, before a new set of films were introduced in November.

"Of course, it is not that we just use Zoozoos for communication. We have continued to use the pug and our brand ambassador (actor Irfan Khan) as well," says Kavita Nair, associate vice-president, marketing and communication, Vodafone India.

A total of 29 films have been planned for this phase of the campaign, for Vodafone's various value-added services. Like the last IPL, a new film will be introduced almost every day.



Rao says that the brief to the agency has always been the same, from the time the Zoozoos were conceptualised -- to create a simple, clutter-breaking thought. With the amount of advertising clutter that happens during the tournament, the Zoozoos were an attempt to stand out.

Delving into the past, Rao says, "We had no clue how to go about it. We knew each brand would be shouting at the top of its voice and we had to stand out. We decided to do a series of one film a day. And we were not even thinking of animation, till we thought of making cartoons look real and tell completely mad, stupid stories. That was the starting point."

All the buzz aside, one cannot disagree that a certain amount of novelty has been lost, and the response this time round may not be what one saw last year.

Rao agrees. He says that it is always a challenge to think of newer ideas with the same characters. He cites the example of comic characters, such as Calvin and Hobbes and The Simpsons. "It is the same thing. You can enjoy the same series forever," he says.

"The first time, anything could become a rage. The response this time might not be the same; but if you sell engaging stuff to consumers, they like it," adds Nair.

The creative agency has introduced newer themes; the one currently on-air is the jungle theme. Others conceptualised for the campaign include a circus, a desert and a space theme, adding more setups, and automatically, more characters. In order to maintain consistency, the team behind the films remains the same.

Besides the films, the Zoozoos will continue to make their presence felt on the internet. The TV commercials, which will run during the length of IPL, will be supported by on-ground activation and a 360-degree campaign.

"We have just crossed the 400,000 mark with the number of fans on Facebook," beams Nair.

The Zoozoo merchandising deal with Shoppers Stop continues, with cricket related merchandise on sale. On the cards is a range of merchandise for students, when schools reopen after the summer break.

Still the darling

Besides enjoying immense popularity among consumers, the Zoozoos are a huge hit within the advertising fraternity too. The number of awards the campaign fetched for the creative and media agencies through the year is ample testimony to that.

And it barely seems like anyone could have enough. However, the fatigue factor is being talked about.



"Not only have Zoozoos further strengthened Vodafone's endearing and helpful personality, they themselves have become a brand. Most sequels to anything -- be it books, movies, or even commercials -- do not have the same newness or surprise element that made them a hit the first time," says Satbir Singh, chief creative officer, Euro RSCG India.

Singh says that while new props and colour have been added this year, it remains to be seen how funny the gags are.

Rajeev Raja, national creative director, DDB Mudra Group has similar views. "The launch of the Zoozoos in a very, very unique manner captured the essence of Vodafone. However, now it continues with the risk of fatigue. The task is harder and the challenge will be to create interesting situations. It is not easy to extend the life of Zoozoos in the same manner," he says.

Fatigue or not, everyone loves Zoozoos; or so it seems. As Singh says, "I might be jumping the gun, but if someone was to write a book on Indian advertising's most memorable campaigns after 50 years, Zoozoos will most certainly find a spot."


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