Sucheta Dalal :SpiceJet hits a creative air pocket
Sucheta Dalal

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SpiceJet hits a creative air pocket   

February 2, 2010

Till the recent past, low-cost airlines have been content with using below-the-line marketing activities. Which are basically emails, brochures and mailers. With the expensive cost of mass media, this route made business sense. And of course, there's the other thing: passengers opt for low-cost airlines to save money, so what can be offered beyond that? However, massive competition within budget airlines has led to a change of mind; now more and more of these airlines are choosing the television medium to try and build a distinctive brand image. Air Deccan and Indigo have already produced their TVCs. Now it's SpiceJet's turn to bite the dust. 

All very fine and dandy. What foxes me is this: Where do these guys get all the marketing dosh from? I mean, they don’t have money to feed us water on board! Plus the airlines are constantly cribbing about being short on funds. And they have been pressurising the aviation ministry for a bailout. Anyway, not one, as many as five commercials have been created by SpiceJet. The ad strategy used is rather interesting, it’s ‘reverse’ advertising, so to speak. All the commercials feature passengers who did not fly SpiceJet, and therefore lost out on the alleged freebies and add-ons the carrier offers. So in one commercial, a honeymooning couple is allotted seats in different rows. In another, a frequently flying dad brings home lollipops for his very pissed-off son, because he blew up all his money on flying. In another one, a broke dude takes his children on vacation to the same destination each year; he is always cash-starved as well. And so on and so forth. The idea being that had these sods flown SpiceJet, life would have been happier. 

I actually like the strategic thought. Because this immediately ensures one stays away from the tired shots of staid hospitality, plastic air-hostesses and beaming passengers. And because the idea is unique, this should help the airline cast out a unique identity for itself in the airspace.

However, this opportunity gets frittered away because the execution and the story ideas leave you cold. They have played safe, and thereby killed a superb concept. Just imagine what fun situations could have been created; we all have our own recollections of the most outlandish experiences with flying. Once when I flew Jet Airways to Delhi, two rather angsty travellers had been allotted the same seat by mistake, and they were beating each other up all through the journey as the crew watched on helplessly, and I kid you not. Totally hilarious. In another airline, I saw two airhostesses involved in a massive verbal spat, a cat fight, much to the amusement of otherwise bored yatris. Featuring situations like these would have given firepower to SpiceJet's strategy. Well, hopefully as the campaign evolves, so will the creative.

In the meantime, here’s an idea for rival airlines: Create an ad where travellers are shown sweating their guts out and going topless on board (this recently happened on SpiceJet). Or where the pilot went missing, leaving the passengers high and dry. That too allegedly occurred on SpiceJet.

Yup, it's time airline advertising took wings!  Anil Thakraney


-- Sucheta Dalal