Decoding Hotstuff's quirky hit campaigns for BFSI brands

CEO Arun Fernandes says the only challenge is the lack of face-to-face clients meetings

NEW DELHI: With the digital domain growing at a magnificent pace, brands across categories are looking towards it for marketing their products. In the past year, several businesses have admitted to increasing their digital ad spends and investing more time and energy to make the most of the medium. In fact, many legacy brands have adopted a digital-first approach to reach out to their potential customers. One such category, that is continuously growing on digital platforms, be it for marketing or customer services, is the BFSI sector. 

Hotstuff CEO Arun Fernandes estimated that the BFSI sector is annually spending Rs 2,000 crore on digital advertising and is the second-largest contributor to the digital marketing industry after e-commerce. “The BFSI sector has been showing great growth on digital platforms, not just for advertising but also product development because of the growing awareness around digital media,” he noted. “That’s also because a lot of transactions are now happening digitally and even the government is spreading awareness about it. The top spenders in the category right now are SBI and HDFC, along with Kotak.” 

He added that he expects an eight to ten per cent increase in expenses by the sector on digital platforms. “The primary focus is going to be on the hybridisation of their services, followed by product development and improving the convenience for the user. Additionally, a substantial amount is going to be diverted towards educating the consumers.” 

Fernandes is willing to make the most of this vast pool of opportunities that lie in the sector with Hotstuff – a more than a two-decade-old agency known for its marcomm solutions. 

“We started with Hotstuff in the year 2000 and currently, 90-95 per cent of my business is coming from the BFSI sector. It is a growing segment, yet, we see that not many specialised agencies are there to cater to their unique needs. For example, most of the big agencies have started creating specialised wings for the healthcare sector. So, we are the only player right now in the mid-size agency category doing this work and I see great opportunities out there for us,” he shared. 

The agency is currently planning to become the one-stop-shop for all the creative and marketing needs of the BFSI sector. “We want to position ourselves as a content-driven company that creates meaningful stories and can educate the customers on investment opportunities, help them do better in their financial and saving capabilities, and convert them into permanent customers for our clients,” Fernandes said. 

According to him, the biggest strength for Hotstuff right now is the strong domain knowledge that the entire team has, and their ability to tell impactful stories in the financial space. “We have a strong video production team that understands the conversations and the formats. Additionally, we have an incredible digital team and an activation & events team, so the clients do not have to look anywhere else.” 

While digital is the core focus of the agency, it also helps the brands leverage other ATL and BTL mediums too. In the past few months, Hotstuff has worked on many incredible projects; one of their best ones being the ICICI Prudential SIP-hop campaign. The campaign beautifully utilised the desi hip hop genre to educate the customer about SIPs. 

“Over three weeks, the radio campaign targeted listeners across seven markets, with spots on the top three stations in every city. The client limited the plan to the morning time-band only, to have a higher frequency during prime time, further amplified reach during these hours through music streaming platforms like Spotify, JioSaavn and Gaana. Over and above running regular advertisement formats, the song was also listed organically across various platforms. Besides being able to serve relevant content to a targeted audience, we were also able to rack up over 10 million complete 30 second listens, at a very effective cost per spot, in a short period,” elaborated Fernandes. 

Another interesting campaign that came from the brand was Star Union Dai-ichi Life Insurance (SUD Life) attempting to educate people on why insurance is a prime need and induce people to inquire about insurance and the adequateness of their cover. Hotstuff worked with adman Prahlad Kakkar to recreate the sets and music of the 70s in order to position Life Insurance as the fourth basic need after Roti, Kapda Aur Makaan. The campaign that ran across television, cinema, OOH, and digital platforms received great attention. 

While the path ahead looks quite promising to Fernandes, the only immediate challenge he sees on the way is the new work-from-home system, wherein the face-to-face meetings have drastically reduced. “I feel it's easier to close the deals and get clients to know our work and team better in personal meetings. We have done just two physical meetings in the past year, that too while we were sitting six-seven feet apart from the client. I really want to change that,” he rued.  

However, he is positive that 2021 is going to be a good growth year for the agency. “We had clocked a 25 per cent growth in 2019. While 2020 did not turn out to be a good year for numbers, we definitely grew in our skills and popularity. So, I am expecting that this financial year will also bring at least 25 per cent growth for us.” 

He is quite excited about some of the projects that they are working on and is also planning to pan out the offerings. “We are also willing to take up some co-partnered media projects with our clients and I am quite excited about that too,” he signed off. 

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