Jassi jaisa branding nahi!

Some would say that this particular brand was the turning point for the Sony channel and others would look at it as television's biggest contradiction. The point, however, is when one talks of one of the best packaged shows on Indian television, this brand scores very high on advertisers' radar.

With an overall understanding of the female prosumer psyche and the key insight being 'The birth of the woman as a strategist,' Sony Entertainment Television (SET) launched its first ever tellenovella - Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin. The show is an adaptation of the hit Colombian series Yo Soy Betty La Fea (I am Betty the ugly one).

The challenge really was to create and sell a distinct viewing alternative, going beyond the clichéd family dramas with storylines revolving around family conflicts and kitchen politics, which was and is the predominant fare on general entertainment channels today.

While the content clearly stood apart, the real story is how the channel pitched and packaged this property, which has emerged as a brand by itself. Instead of the platform giving a boost to the property it launches, Jassi… in many ways has elevated the standing, recall value and preference of many a consumer and advertiser.

Interestingly, although the show took off with great number delivery; constant ratings have not come from the Jassi… stable. Despite that, the property has managed to share television's most innovative alliances in terms of advertising. Says Mediacom president Jasmin Sohrabji, "An association has to be for the long haul, for the association and character fit, not just for ratings! Obviously, those who have associated with Jassi have seen the merit, or there would be no advertiser flock."

'Hum Tum' star Saif Ali Khan with Jassi

Brands today have shown a clear affinity to partner with Jassi.. to reap mileage. Some of the brands that have engaged in product placement are Kelloggs, Maruti Zen, Loreal, Satya Paul and most recently VLCC. Apart from that, there was also an association with Yash Raj Films' flick Hum Tum starring Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee. Khan had made a special appearance in Jassi...

Why 'Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahi'?

According to SET officials, the first attribute to touch the chord of advertisers was the fact that the protagonist (Jassi) represented the aspirations of millions of people in India. Also, another point that came across was all the other channels at that point in time had run-of-the-mill saas-bahu sagas, with buckets of tears being the high point. Hence, according to Mindshare Delhi GM Sunder Raman, "Only tissue paper companies could have a brand association with these soaps. Jassi... came as a breath of fresh air and had amiable content which allowed for branding opportunities."

Speaking on the flock of advertisers on Jassi... by way of brand placements, Sohrabji says, "Jassi... has been one of the most successful serials from the Sony stable pre-Indian Idol! More importantly, the characterisation of Jassi is a very effective balance of tradition and independence! A product acknowledgment from Jassi will bring with it values that brands may look for in an association, hence the high interest levels."

Loreal marketing manager Ashwin Rajgopal points out, "Jassi shaped up as a role model for the average Indian woman who could identify with the plain Jane who was able to achieve."

The second was the out of the box, off beat marketing style that Sony adopted. For the first time on Indian television, a TV show had the likes of flash mobs, viral marketing initiatives, merchandise being distributed and moreover the intrigue built around the protagonist, who was never unveiled.

Madison Mumbai general manager Ajit Verghese says, "The sole reason why so many brands have associated with Jassi... is because of SET's aggressive marketing fanfare."

Says SET executive vice president (ad sales and revenue management) Rohit Gupta, "The marketing done for the show has been an absolute differentiator compared to the general marketing norms one followed in the TV space. Most shows in general are hyped during the launch, but if you look at Jassi..., the saliences of the show have been abreast throughout the lifecycle of the show."

Group M's Rajeev Berry believes that Jassi... is an excellent format in the cluttered space of the television soaps. "Jassi... possibly is the only one who looks 'rooted in reality' with a fair mix of comedy and 'turns and twists.' Sony has not only done an excellent job in marketing the serial but deserves full credit for being open to brand integrations with their top show!"

SET Speak

SET business head Tarun Katial says, "One primary reason that Jassi.. has taken to marketers is the fact that it is an upmarket brand and has always delivered in the SEC AB segment. While a lot of SEC B brands identify with Jassi’s persona, many SEC A brands identify with the backdrop of the Gulmohar Fashion House. Also, the execution is very different, it's very top of the line and has the ability to integrate the brand seamlessly."

Pointing out another interesting factor, Katial says, "Jassi... has never been over the top loud, whether its been her character, its marketing or the show itself. The creative root and the brand never shouts for attention. And that makes it even more enduring to advertisers and consumers."

What's in it for SET?

Throwing light on the same, Gupta reveals, "SET does about six to seven brand innovations in a year, essentially providing a value add to advertisers who are strong supporters of the network and have large outlays."

Is there a monetary value attached? Gupta explains, "These brand alliances cannot be valued in terms of a price as the mileage a brand receives cannot be measured. Also most agencies and clients put money in big shows and believe there is life beyond ratings and Jassi... is a clear indicator of that. Today every brand wants to be associated with Jassi... but finally there are only a fixed number of brands one can allow that have a brand fit."

The creative process of brand innovations interestingly is something that the channel initiates. According to Gupta, the whole effort is a combined consensus between the ad sales and programming team and the client. "Every client today is looking beyond the FCT (free commercial time), and that’s were our role comes in as broadcasters."

The whats and hows of brand placements in 'Jassi...'

For probably the first time, Sony along with Intel weaved a special vignette around Jassi... Intel's core brand proposition is that of creating the relevance of computers in the everyday lives of people. An Intel spokesperson says, "Intel's aim is to ensure a bright future for the family and Jassi was a good brand fit as she fights all odds and transforms her life by her sheer hard work and will power. Intel too aims at doing the same - transform people's lives."

Satya Paul already unveiled a special 'Jassi designer collection' last year. Other brands that will see a mention in the coming days are Kaya Skin Clinic and Baush & Lomb, which will play an integral part in Jassi's transformation. Says Verghese, on the association of Kaya with Jassi..., "We were not looking at Jassi... only, instead we were looking at all options where the brand Kaya could have a real time connect and fit. We had approached Sony a year ago asking them if any branding opportunities arise for Kaya, we would be interested in getting the product integrated. And surely, they did when it was Jassi's time to undergo a transformation." Kaya will be looking at giving skin care tips to Jassi, which will be an integral part of her makeover. Baush & Lomb, on the other hand will be providing contact lenses to the bespectacled Jassi.

Another brand - Kurkure, which has the vivacious Juhi Chawla featuring in the ads, is a take off on Jassi..., which has been aired across channels. Kurkure had earlier spun an ad around the character of Tulsi from Star Plus' Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. Says Raman, "Kurkure ads are based on any new hot topic of discussion among people. So it was not only Jassi that we zeroed on, we also tapped the characters of Tulsi and that of Anaarkali from Mughal-E-Azam."

Speaking on product placement on television especially on Jassi..., Raman says, "Product placement on television has been there for a while now. The reason why Jassi... has been seeing more of it is because the channel is aggressive on the marketing front and provides affordable prices to advertisers to integrate content and communication."

Sustaining the buzz post launch

What cannot be ignored is the 'Shaher Shaher Mein Charcha' (Buzz in every city) campaign, which although kickstarted during the launch phase, continued to fuel the buzz on TV and billboards, simultaneously embarking on other unconventional activities like the introduction of Jassi’s Pals club.

In addition Jassi merchandise was made available - the ring tone and the mobile game download being the first in a series of items to be launched.

So much hype was created around Jassi... that in the recent past, the channel actually launched a book on Jassi titled Jassi's 7 Steps to Success as well as Jassi colouring books, which were made available at Popular Prakashan outlets priced at Rs 125 and Rs 25 respectively.

Another off beat publicity innovation was the Jassi... tie up with the Indian Postal Department wherein Jassi branded envelopes and postcards were made available to the public. This was done to celebrate the show's first anniversary.

Having hidden her all this while, the channel decided that it was time to get the viewers to interact with Jassi in character to drive further connect and empathy. Says Katial, "The channel took Jassi to Delhi where she was the talk of the town. She was interviewed live in the studios of Aaj Tak and Red FM, feted by the Delhi Secretary’s Association. The frenzy on seeing her was akin to that generally reserved for film stars."

Each of these initiatives continues to drive audiences and build viewer affinity to Jassi and the show.

Come to the present day scenario and Jassi has gone to Mauritius to work on a VLCC beauty pageant along with Nandini (Neena Gupta). Thus come in two more names - Mauritius Tourism and VLCC.

What is ironic is that while Jassi in terms of ratings numbers is not such a success story on Indian television, its brand equity seems to be one of the highest on the tube today. As Gupta points out, "There is life beyond numbers," this probably stands correct in Jassi's case. With the attention this show has garnered from the day of launch till date, it has definitely proved to be worth the advertiser's while.

Now, it's time for the ugly duckling to take on her much awaited new 'avatar'. Will Jassi... lose its USP (unique selling proposition) of the plane Jane making waves in the glamour world? Katial replies, "The new Jassi will still be very distinct. She will appeal to the Indian woman who is looking for a success story. The way forward will ensure that Jassi remains to be a larger than life figure even after the makeover."

Sohrabji too is upbeat. "Jassi took off really well and had a very good run. It has now seeing a renewed interest with viewers and advertisers with the current story line movement," she says.

While the plain Jane has been a favourite among advertisers, it remains to be seen if she delivers afresh on the ratings front!

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