Please consider retiring the kids who play adults, Flipkart

When Flipkart first launched the now-popular kids-as-adult ad films, the year was 2011! The first ad came on the back of a fairly unsuccessful debut ad campaign that was indulgently shot in South Africa.

More on the storied history of this campaign (from Flipkart’s own website: Flipkart Stories).

In 2011, and in the context of the cute banter between the 2 kids in the coffee shop, it was universally loved.

The idea was so charmingly simple: frame online shopping (e-commerce) as child’s play. And since you cannot show an actual child shopping online given the involvement of online payment (and the fact that you enter an online contract to purchase, even using Cash on Delivery), the next best option was to use children dressed as adults. The result is the same – it is so easy that even kids could do it.

The scripts were very good back then, and given the high media push for these ads, even those marketing communication that was static and without a smart script did not seem out of place. We all saw it in context and assumed that this kids-as-adults was from Flipkart, effortlessly.

Eventually, Flipkart took this basic idea, of kids-dressed-as-adults as their mascot of sorts. Not ‘a particular’ kid as mascot, but broadly, kids-dressed-up-as-adults.

But, with decreasing media spends by the brand to promote this mascot’ish concept in everything they do (they have also started using a lot of celebrities), offering this kids-as-adults idea in unconnected media increasingly starts to look awkward and even creepy.

Take a look at Flipkart’s social media feed. A couple of examples that are so far removed from the clever scripts of early-2010s:

The trouble is on multiple dimensions:

1. There is no need for category education around online shopping/e-commerce anymore at all. We have all been adequately educated in the 9 years since the first campaign’s launch, and Flipkart’s effort is a very big reason for this. Flipkart did that to expand its own market, but in the process, it also expanded the overall awareness and interest in e-commerce in India as well. So using kids-as-adults comes across as an outdated, forced idea now, in 2020.

2. Flipkart’s timeline is a mix of adults-playing-adults, and kids-dressed-as-adults! The tonal shift is jarring. This was not the case when this idea was used first.

3. Removed of all context and clever narratives, seeing kids painfully made-up and dressed as adults is at once creepy and sad. Not just putting them in adult clothes and make-up (white in the hair, goatee, saree etc.), but also putting them in adult situations like ‘pyaar’.

I do understand why the brand has mounted this basic concept into their mascot – it gives instant recall to the brand. One could argue – doesn’t the little Amul Girl not have a say on so many topics every single day?

But there is a difference – Amul’s mascot is a cute cartoon character. It is not a real child. It is drawn by illustrators. The trouble with Flipkart’s kids-as-adults mascot usage is that these are real children, made to look, act, behave like adults.

I sure wish the good folks at Flipkart and/or its agency would consider dropping this idea finally. It served a pointed purpose in a very time period in India, was enormously successful and well-loved. But now, in 2020, it has outlived its purpose and is increasingly looking terribly awkward and out of place.

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