Zomato, Radhika Apte, Netflix, #Radflix, and Me-too Marketing

If you have been online around the end of August, and you follow the really cool people online, you must have heard about Netflix India’s love for Radhika Apte – how she seems to be a part of every piece of Netflix India original content, be it movies they produce or shows. The public has been creating jokes and memes about the affinity, and it’s gone viral.

How Netflix India’s social media team handled the attention was just brilliant. They joined in the meme fest. Not just did they appreciate the memes that the public made about Radhika Apte & Netflix, they created their own memes, coined the term ‘Radflix’, made a mock trailer of a mock film titled ‘Omnipresent’, starring Radhika Apte, written, directed, shot, and what not, by Radhika Apte, and went full throttle on having fun with it.

In short, they pwned the internet at their own game.

But this post is not about the larger phenomenon that Radflix was. It’s about a simple series of ‘ads’ that appeared in a short period of time, which shows how most Indian brands cannot think beyond “yeh wala cool hai, hum bhi karenge“.

So, while Netflix was enjoying the attention that Radflix was bringing them online, the witty social media team at Zomato made a simple two-column text format of an ad, which simply said ‘And you thought only Radhika is versatile’. The subject of this ad was Paneer, which, as per the ad is present in so many dishes / everywhere, much like Radhika Apte is.

Simple, cute, topical.

What happened next was nothing short of a masterstroke by Netflix. In 3 hours time, Netflix India just replied to that ad by editing the creative, finding the letters R-A-D-H-I-K-A in the left column, crossing off Paneer and writing instead the name of their mock movie Omnipresent.

Quick, witty, playful, and funny.

The internet imploded! As I’m writing this, both these tweets have generated over 22000 interactions, almost two-thirds of which has come to Netflix’s response. And we don’t even know how many times these tweets were screenshotted and shared on Facebook, LinkedIn, Whatsapp, Telegram etc.

All well so far.

Then, the Indian thing happened. Other brands noticed the buzz. Heads of marketing & CEOs of companies said “This is so cool! I want to join in too!”

So here’s the list of brands which attempted to join the party, and my commentary on each.

Reliance Mutual Funds


This is the first me-too tweet I saw that day. Reliance MF replied to both the handles, “Only if you have the wealth to binge watch and eat whenever you feel like!”, which doesn’t fit the context in any way, placed a weird reading sentence in the left part of the ad, where each word exists solely so that the word W-E-A-L-T-H could be spelled out, and the right part simply sports their own tagline.
Talk about butchering the format.

IIFL

I found IIFL’s tweet in a reply thread to the one by Reliance MF above. It’s clear that they didn’t even try beyond copying the two-column text format. Though in terms of content style, they came closest to the Zomato ad, but sadly nobody paid any notice to create a Netflix style reply.

KFC

KFC came up with a follow-up, with the exact same approach as that of Reliance MF. Left side, let’s spell out chicken over a force-fitted longish sentence, and right side, our tagline.

Union Bank of India

A PSU bank also wanted to join in the fun. They had a strange take though, spelling out U-N-I-O-N-B-A-N-K over an insipid and weird sentence on the left, and the entire logo unit and tagline on the right. The graphic work looks like it was quickly put together on Powerpoint only.

Tata Sky

My favorite DTH service provider ;), Tata Sky, didn’t want to be left far behind. So their social media team cooked something up. But brand visibility is paramount, so they just list random keywords along with the words “Tata Sky” on the left, so that they can spell out R-A-D-H-I-K-A (thank god for small mercies!), and their tagline on the right.

Cashify

Cashify, (who are they?) made an ad, where they wrote a sentence which is just copy for what they offer, force-filled with the earlier brands’ names, just so they look like they are also “in”, and a boring “Cashify now” on the right. Wait, what does the sentence spell out? No R-A-D-H-I-K-A, no C-A-S-H-I-F-Y?

Daily Objects

This hashtag laden copy came 2 days late, where they list items that they presumably discuss on the left, only to spell out their own name, and on the right they have their logo. Narcissism much? The only connection to the original story is the tags Radflix and Omnipresent, almost as if this is their half-hearted entry to a contest called Radflix.

Indigo Nation

Indigo Nation listed its sub-brands on the left, its logo on the right, and spelt out C-R-E-A-T-I-V-E, and its tweet read ‘Creativity is where it all started, and after all humaari creativity apt hai!’, again hashtag Radflix hashtag Netflix. Because how else do you show you are creative, if you don’t write creative three times in your creative?

Fullerton India

Fullerton India, created a starkly orange creative, with an insipid tweet ‘your partner in growth’, the list of things they do on the left, but interestingly enough, instead of circling letters to spell out F-U-L-L-E-R-T-O-N, they use the crossword format. They were afraid their audience would have to be spoon fed the word in one straight line. And on the right (this is my favourite!), they cross out Radhika and write Fullerton India. Guys, Radhika was supposed to be spelt out on the left! Stay with the format!

That’s What Sri Said

Some young individual professional who is presumably just starting off also wanted to use the format to get likes & retweets, and some visibility. Let’s just talk about the creative – it’s a list of issues on the left, and the words ‘Problems after college’ on the right. R-A-D-H-I-K-A is spelt out all right, but look at what words were put in so that it could be done – ‘Kam holidays’, ‘Taunts’, ‘Hormones’! The best part of this one is the tweet ‘Radhika Apte being versatile. We found her too.’ Can someone translate this for me please?

Playgard Condoms

The only thing missing from the mix was a condom brand. Playgard copied the format, replaced the left side with types of positions, and quite ‘helpfully’ wrote Positions on the right, because wouldn’t you really want to know what the things on the left are called? No spelling out words, and no crossing out words. But look what else they have written – “the only time Radhika won’t be present”. How presumptuous! Or on second thoughts, it’s just humble on the brand’s part 😉

Buzzinga Digital

An agency called Buzzinga Digital also made an ad, listing out R-A-D-H-I-K-A over a list of things they seem to offer. Nothing on the right. And the tweet content is a slight change to what Netflix had tweeted.

IFW Web Studio

Yet another agency, but this time from Udaipur. Their ad shows the same – the left column lists out a series of places in Udaipur, spelling out R-A-D-H-I-K-A over it, with the right part saying Udaipur – shooting ke liye apt hai! And the tagline to the logo, and the tweet are little more than implorations to Radhika Apte to visit Udaipur.

Hungry Head

This was the most inane one so far. The left half lists food items (with an all-small case nachos), and the right half just says Maggi. I don’t know how the left connects to the right, and what they all have to do with anything we have seen so far. And I don’t even know why the Maggi is in a smaller type than the others even though it’s alone on the right. The tweet says ‘Not only Radhika can fit everywhere. Our Maggi does too!’ Oh and did you notice the innovative hashtag #scaredgames?

What’s common across all these attempts at marketing are a) an attempt to just exploit the trend using the visual structure and the hashtags with no understanding of why the originals worked, b) tagging Radhika Apte, Zomato, and Netflix India’s handle in an attempt to gather attention and hoping for retweets from them, c) usage of the hashtags #omnipresent and #Radflix to appear in searches, and d) a cringeworthy overuse of the word apt (it’s a wordplay on Apte – do you see how clever all these brands are?) everywhere.

Having said all of this, I came across a funny take on the whole thing as well. A kind of subversion, a tongue-in-cheek ad, by a brand called JOOG. Take a look.

JOOG

Let me know in the comments if you have found any more copies of the concept, and I’ll add them to the post.

The End of 13 Llama Studio – and What I Learnt From It

It has been a year and a half since the transition started, and it just got over around last week.

Prasad’s and my labour of love, 13 Llama Studio, has officially ceased to exist. As you were aware that we had started on our journey of entrepreneurship around five years ago, with an agency named 13 Llama Studio. In the summer of 2016, I decided to end my stint with it, and Prasad decided to pivot to a pure digital marketing agency called 13 Llama Interactive.

Things weren’t looking really rosy for the development part of our business for a few months then. There were a few things we could have and should have done differently. Some time in the spring that year, we took a call that our friendship is more important than a business partnership, and we decided to streamline projects and teams under either of us. Some time around June, I took stock of the situation and realised that I was bleeding at a rate higher than all of our billings combined were able to sustain. If I had deeper pockets, I would have tried to restart everything and take another shot at the kind of company I had dreamt of making.

Sadly, that was not the case. Soon after deciding to shut down the development business, and putting away the name 13 Llama Studio, I was out in the job market looking for openings. Friends were contacted, headhunters I had not spoken in half a decade got calls from me, and resumes on online sites were dusted and preened.

Thanks to many friends, I had interviews soon after, and after converting three of them, I decided to join ICICI Securities Private Wealth Management as the marketing guy. It’s been seventeen months here, and I’m loving every bit of it. The transition was a bit difficult, but owing to the way this place is set up, it wasn’t that difficult. How I have fared here, and what plans I have over here may be the subject of some other post in the future.

Today I would like to share what I learnt from this entrepreneurship stint:

  1. Vision: Every business needs to have clarity of vision — where you want to be in a year, in 5 years, in a decade, and a clear plan of how you plan to get there, not just an industry and a product/service you are going to offer. You can’t wing this.
  2. Being on the same page: No matter how strong your friendship is, your business wouldn’t survive unless all founders/partners agree on the vision and ways of doing business. And constantly communicating with each other about this and whatever you think is important for the business. Skip this step, and you risk your friendship.
  3. Hiring: I had read in the book Ogilvy on Advertising, that if everyone in a company hired people smaller than themselves, it becomes a company of dwarves, while if everyone hired people bigger than themselves, it would become a company of giants. We could not adhere to this principle, despite seeing the merit of it and being awed by the simplicity of it. But to be fair to us, we weren’t spoilt for choice when we first began operations — though I believe that had we acted right back then, it’d have become easier for us progressively.
  4. Hiring the right clients: A small company is eager to survive, to grow, and to thrive. And for each progressive stage, one has to get progressively selective with the kind of projects one onboards and the kind of clientelle one associates with. Through our journey we had a handful of amazing clients, who, no surprises there, are now at the peak of their respective businesses, and are overall happy in life – because they operate out of a sense of fairness and abundance. On the other hand, we had quite a few clients we should have said no to, or should have been careful with while laying down the rules of engagement – these clients operated out of a incessant drive for extracting maximum bang for buck combined with disrespect for what we did for them.
  5. Valuing ourselves: For too long both of us worked at the company with meagre salaries. Either of us still drew more pay than any of the rest of the staff, but that doesn’t say much. This led us to believe for long that we were profitable. We were growing no doubt, in billings, in the size of office we could hire, in getting a coffee machine, and somewhat respectable furniture, but we weren’t valuing ourselves, the founders, at our full cost. The only saving grace was that we began with very little capital, so the return-on-investment seemed respectable optically. But given our backgrounds, and the kind of opportunity costs we both incurred, it was criminal the way we ignored it while doing a health check of the company.

Having run that company we both loved for around three and a half years has left us only wiser. And our friendship remains strong. Whatever we do now is guided by experience and wisdom.

Here’s to the future!

Mono Italia

It was a dream. A recurring one.
I am on a cobbled street. I enter a big stone archway, the other side is a little bit darker. There’s a little water body on the “inside”. It’s very quiet, even during the day, no people around, but it feels safe. I feel calm. It’s lovely.
I have had this dream a few times.

I don’t anymore. Because I think I lived the dream. While walking in the alleys of Rome, I felt like I was where the dream used to take me. Deserted lanes lead to deserted lanes lead to lanes where people are shopping, merrymaking, performing, having their aperitif, and generally walking, lead to piazzas where more of the same happens, around a beautiful fountain, or a cathedral, or some statues. At every turn of every lane, I half-expected my dream to turn real, just as I remember it. That didn’t happen, however, the dream stayed at arm’s length throughout my journey in Italy.

Now let’s turn the dream to black and white. Because dreams are black and white? Or because like Vittorio De Sica’s films, I had loved Italy in black and white the most. The idea to go monochrome isn’t really my own though — Master of None did it with their first episode of the second season — which was the starting point of this idea of a post. They in fact paid a tribute to many Italian neorealist films, the most prominent one being the classic Bicycle Thief — they even named the episode The Thief. I didn’t get anything stolen, not at least in Italy. Yet there’s something in the air of Italy that forces me to relook at everything in black and white. Because black and white is pure, it’s romantic, and it goes deeper than just colours. Much like how Italy is.

On Culling

The last few days have been about culling, processing, processing and culling, stitching panos, and then some more culling. And a few celeb reposts (yaay!) on Instagram while that happened.

Culling for me is definitely a more difficult job than processing, you don’t want to miss some shot that could have looked good after a bit of dusting, and therefore you do a bit of processing during culling, a bit of r, a tap of v, move the sliders a bit, whither goes the curve. And, hey I shot so many shots in succession – I need to see how they look after stitching… and while that happens, let me go brew a cup of coffee.

Sigh, culling life. New post coming up on the weekend, promise!

Mullickghat, Kolkata

I have lived in Kolkata for 20+ years, most of it when it was still Calcutta. The photography bug caught me while I was still living there, but I never got a chance to shoot the city’s markets, which are a favourite subject for photographers, especially street photographers coming to Calcutta.

This changed in 2013, when Abhishek, with his new DSLR, planned a trip to the flower market at Mullickghat. He had been there a couple of times, and thought I’d enjoy it too.

I thoroughly enjoyed the early morning trip, the bustle of the market, the burst of colours, the various facets of everyday life, the cliched, the interesting, the faces, the crowds, the merchandise, the congestion, the energy, and our typical Calcutta breakfast after the shoot – hing kachori at one of the sweet shops.

So here it is, finally, the photo set from Mullickghat, Kolkata, 2013.

500px.com/photo/142258663/the-chaos-that-is-calcutta-by-amit-sharma
500px.com/photo/153709217/old-city-by-amit-sharma ~ recaptured.in/old-city/
500px.com/photo/203802019/the-day-begins-by-amit-sharma ~ recaptured.in/the-day-begins/
500px.com/photo/204456751/priest-by-amit-sharma ~ recaptured.in/priest/
500px.com/photo/209951107/centre-of-everything-by-amit-sharma
500px.com/photo/211530293/calcutta-by-amit-sharma
~ recaptured.in/march-2013-calcutta/

Tanah Lot’s Temple

Hindu Devotees at the Tanah Lot temple, at southern side of the island of Bali in Indonesia.

500px.com/photo/207350013/tanah-lot-s-temple-by-amit-sharma

Buy an A2 print of this picture.

Tatooine

I dream of this place often. I have been there, and I haven’t really been there. Was it the desert planet of Tatooine, or was it closer home, on our very own planet? I remember the Sun shining mercilessly and the winds chilling our bones, especially in the shade, and the magnificent clouds dotting the impossibly blue skies.

This was the day my trip ended, of Ladakh.

500px.com/photo/206288619/tatooine-by-amit-sharma