#LikeABoss: Rural India plugged in, now HUL's Kan Khajura looks at bringing other brands on board
HUL wowed award juries and rivals alike by creating the Kan Khajura Tesan, a mobile-based radio station for rural India, heavily underwritten by advertising.
KKT is essentially what we call missed-callvertising. Make a missed call and receive a call with free capsules of entertainment that includes devotional songs and Bollywood item numbers featuring Yo Yo Honey Singh sometimes. It's mobile entertainment-on-demand that doesn't care if you are an Airtel or Idea subscriber. But Kan Khajura Tesan is, in fact, a medium to transmit HUL brand communication to places hard to penetrate and consumers difficult to reach. Content on KKT is generously interspersed with advertising and promotional messages from HUL brands like Lux, Closeup and Fair & Lovely, among others.
The campaign has its origins in HUL's need to reach almost 200 million consumers who still live in media dark areas. Especially northern rural territories where traditional media like television, radio and outdoor are scarce and inadequate still and electricity is temperamental, at best. Mobile phones on the other hand are everywhere and with KKT HUL knows exactly who's tuning in. The program was piloted in Bihar and expanded to Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. But we called from Mumbai, in case you were wondering. Since its launch in 2013, KKT has acquired 35 million subscribers across the country and vast amounts of data on consumers who have been hard to access and read in the past. The company now has the capability to push personalised content on the platform. Over the past year, the advertiser has tried to build stronger brand association through various activations. For one such activity on brand Lux, the soap of Bollywood stars, HUL invited entries from listeners to engage with leading movie stars. They received 24 million calls, of which 14 million were unique, they got 10 million entries and Lux delivered 21 million ad impressions. The brand's spontaneous awareness jumped by 800 basis points in one month.
Last week, in The Economic Times we wrote about HUL opening up this popular mobile-radio channel to external advertisers ie brands from outside the HUL portfolio. For instance, and strictly for representational purposes, a jingle for a Godrej brand could play on KKT. Food brands that don't compete with any Unilever products could advertise there, theoretically. Says Jyoti Bansal, managing director, PHD India, the media agency behind KKT, "In the future we will be able to play ads of non-competing brands on the platform. We're having conversations with advertisers to see if this is something they'd want to do. They have a readymade platform in KKT." Some of PHD India's clients include GSK's Horlicks and SC Johnson, by the way.
One media agency head, however, is not quite convinced that this heralds the emergence of HUL as a media owner. "As a media planner there would be a lot of questions one would need answers to. For starters, numbers like 35 million subscribers are ever-lasting numbers. They're like Facebook Likes, with that one Like from 10 years ago which still counts. But can we get a monthly break-up of how many people are actually coming onto the platform. What's their profile? Do they know what to expect or is it blind content? Besides HUL has enough brands to sustain the channel itself. Why is a Rs 20,000 crore company looking to monetise content and a station like Kan Khajura Tesan?" Then there's doubt about the more practical aspects such as holding a mobile phone to one's ear for 15 or 20 minutes straight. (We hear ya!) "It is a mobile at the end of the day, not a radio," quips an industry veteran. The answer to the first question, however, is 25,000 to 30,000 subscribers per month. To the last — loudspeaker button, that is if the listener has the option because we're looking at outdated technology here. Or as the official KKT case-study presentation at Cannes Lions 2014 called it, "rudimentary technology" aka feature phones. Deepa Geethakrishnan, NCD – HUL, Lowe Lintas, the creative agency behind the campaign says, "Everyday we're learning more and more about consumers from when they chose to disengage (hang up) and we learn where to modify content strategy." For instance, they quickly learnt that the way to a villager's heart in rural Bihar is not through Bhojpuri music. Rather what works is Bollywood, especially music from 90s movies, the era by many standards considered one of the worst periods in Hindi cinema.
Product enhancement is a continuous process. But "there's a cost to running everything," says Bansal. The channel is expanding its offering to consumers, it has grown from 15 minute capsules to over 30 minute nuggets of entertainment, and if they can, to some extent, monetise the content they could create a far more compelling, diverse and interactive offering. In fact, they're introducing a skip option, not for ads, of course. Besides riding on a pre-existing platform beats creating a replica of KKT as some advertisers, we hear, intended to do. "However, everything will stem from HUL's needs first," says Bansal. A HUL spokesperson told us the rationale behind the move when BE reached out to the company. "In the journey of taking Kan Khajura Tesan forward as an ever growing marketing platform we are now opening it up for brands beyond HUL's own. This will allow the platform to grow and help marketers reach out to media dark consumers who were difficult to reach before. The nature of the tie-ups will be on a case to case basis as per the requirement of the partnering brands. We have had a similar approach internally as well through which we have helped our brands like Lux, Closeup, Fair & Lovely use Kan Khajura Tesan to connect with consumers and make a positive impact on their equity." Surely you knew the company's intentions weren't of the purely altruistic kind.
KKT @ Cannes Lions
Last year at Cannes, Kan Khajura Tesan, along with JWT's 'Make Every Yard Count' for Nike, salvaged India's creative reputation when the campaign won three Gold Lions in Media and Mobile. R Balki, Lowe's chairman, who has a severe award-allergy, responded from Helsinki to our calls with; "Awesome!! Ya!! Good for ideas!! It's a super kickass idea." Priya Nair, vicepresident at Hindustan Unilever said in our report from Cannes in 2014, "It's always great to have work recognised especially in a well-respected forum…Obviously, we are in the business of business. But while you do that, if the work delights the senses and builds a historical pathway for others to follow it's a vindication of being in the right direction. It helps build an ecosystem of people thinking differently." Arun Iyer, national creative director, Lowe Lintas, said; "Winning at Cannes is a good recognition. But this is a bonus; beyond a point we don't think about awards." And after the Bronze Lion bagged in the Creative Effectiveness category at Cannes this year, Anaheeta Goenka, president - Lowe Lintas, told us, "Effectiveness is the holy grail."
Don't be put off by the barrage of quotes. The point we're attempting to make is this; just maybe the key to winning at Cannes is to not make Lions the objective. We're just saying. Nonetheless, there's a time and place for magnanimity. The fact is Lowe recognised the award-winning potential of KKT early on during last awards season. That's why the network commissioned the best case-study experts to work on the campaign entry. For six weeks, producers in the UK crafted a case study that would enthrall global judges. It's critical to note that Indian campaigns often lose out to other "fancier" and more well-packaged entries because the Indian ad frat severely lacks the depth and expertise to market its entries at international competitions. At least well enough to nab a gold or Grand Prix.
- KKT's predecessor was the Wheel missed call campaign on All India Radio.
- First went live in Bihar, then Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, followed by MP and Rajasthan. KKT is Bihar's most popular radio station.
- Average listenership is 22 minutes per month.
- Reaches out to 35 million subscribers across India.
- Till date, 900 million minutes of engagement with consumers. 450 million impressions in the last 15 months.
- To generate greater awareness of Kan Khajura Tesan and reach more subscribers, the company tied up with the big Bollywood releases of 2014. Content around the launch of 'Singham Returns' and response to it helped HUL set a world record for the most number of missed calls in fi ve days. That would be 17 million.