Human Cause Key To Wunderman Thompson's Creative Strategy

From ‘Salaam Namaste’ for Pepsi and ‘The Washout’ for Tata Steel to ‘Mask India Movement’ for BCCL, Wunderman Thompson upped the human insight focus in crisis year

Ad land went through reinvention in the year of crisis. Agencies continually looked at not only different ways of doing business but also explored newer avenues of engaging consumers. BW Marketing World looks at the journeys of some of India’s creative powerhouses in our series, #AdlandUpclose, beginning with WPP’s Wunderman Thompson.

Crisis called for solidarity and work that encouraged people to stay safe. The creative champions at Wunderman Thompson South Asia produced a series of work to inspire others with important messages underlying this.

Whether it was the ‘#SalaamNamaste’ campaign for Pepsi or ‘The Washout’ film for Tata Steel or the ‘Heartwork’ campaign for Lays, Wunderman Thompson produced work to elevate and celebrate the human spirit. In the agency’s own words, they looked to serve their “brand of creativity for humanity”. Identifying opportunities in challenges, they looked at creating work that could change consumer habits.


Rooted In Human Insight

The most powerful ideas are rooted in human insight, reminded Senthil Kumar, Chief Creative Officer, Wunderman Thompson. According to him, there’s never been a better time than now to stay rooted to the human cause and come up with ideas that serve humanity in every way we can.

“The human race reacted to the pandemic in different ways, and we have to use the power of creativity to communicate best practices and create our own defense mechanisms. It is certain that there is no longer a place for empty ideas but a desperate need for creative solutions that are as powerful as the elusive vaccine itself,” he said.

Kumar pointed out that communication has to move beyond the primary purpose of selling to a higher purpose of a human resolution to the situation. “Brands which win human favour will be the ones who can serve up the human purpose,” he added.

Brand messaging has shifted from “reason to believe” to “reason to purchase”. “Brands are highlighting ingredients that serve up immunity and therefore reaching out to humanity. They are adding new ingredients to their mix to elevate care and protection. They are dropping prices and pushing family packs to reduce frequency of purchase and increase their relevance in these tough times. Almost every brand is highlighting availability on online platforms hoping for their share of the ecommerce boom. Brands are innovating with their product lines to include designer masks and generating new shoppers. After all, what use is brand equity if it cannot serve humanity,” Kumar explained.

Among the more noteworthy work that saw the brand co-create during Covid, was the ‘#MaskIndia Movement’ for The Times of India. The agency launched the ‘Make Your Own Mask’ campaign on the front page of The Times Of India on April 6. The campaign involved the power of print, social media and a national activation along with effective editorial. Millions of Indians responded with their own versions of homemade masks and posted their Mask Selfies and DIY How to Make Your Own Mask Videos with the #maskindia hashtag on social media. Several homemade masks went viral across WhatsApp Groups.


People First

In its pursuit, people remained at the cornerstone of the agency’s journey through the pandemic year. Tarun Rai, Chairman & Group CEO South Asia, Wunderman Thompson informed that the organisation responded to the crisis with the speed and the agility that did not disrupt work. 

“People are our only assets. When faced with the crisis that we have been through it was critical for us to focus on our people. They needed to be productive, they needed to be supported and they had to feel motivated to continue doing their best for the brands they work for. I am proud that our people and our leadership team managed this difficult period extremely well,” Rai stated. 

He singled out ‘collaboration’ as “one aspect that improved dramatically”.

“With geography having become completely redundant and technology enabling ‘meetings’ literally at the click of the touchpad, I noticed our people collaborating across cities and across our various group companies. We were able to get our best talent to work on brands and assignments without the constraints of where they were based. It helped that the clients themselves were working remotely and did not expect to ‘meet’ the people working on their brand, across the conference room table. I am going to encourage this collaborative way of working even when we get back to our physical offices,” Rai said.

Wunderman Thompson’s 2021 play is going to be on similar lines. As businesses and economy looks to get back in action, they agency will continue with its plan of rooting its work in the new consumer behaviour while also navigating how growth drivers can kick back in. 

As we navigate this new reality, there is going to be a constant battle to balance the digital and ‘traditional’ worlds. Indian ad land is responding fast to the next normal, allowing for some good work to shine through in tough times.

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