The new CRED ads – an autopsy

After their first print ad in January 2019…

…and after the TV campaign starring Jim Sarbh in October 2019…

…it looks like CRED has finally hit gold, at least in terms of buzz, during the current IPL season, thanks to its new TV campaign.

It is being hailed as the best ad (series) of an otherwise tepid IPL season as far as advertising goes.

‘Not everyone gets it’, goes the brand’s caption at the end, to denote the fact that they are members-only. It could well be the line to denote the ads too – I’m everyone/one of everyone they are referring to.

Before I explain the reason, let me first add my confusion around CRED ad’s CREDits!

The brand’s official announcement says, “The campaign has been conceptualized entirely by the in-house team and brought to life by Ayappa KM, Co-founder, Early Man Films, the production agency”, and this has been reproduced verbatim in multiple media outlets.

But ex-All India Bakchod folks like Devaiah Bopanna and others have also been taking credit for writing the ad campaign on social media! How did ex-AIB folks become CRED’s ‘in-house team’? And why this glaring contrast and omission in credits in the official note while the actual writers are taking credits openly on their own?

Anyway, the CREDits part is for them to solve, but there is a connection I could fathom, with the ads’ script and AIB, now that I’m aware that they may have been involved (that I explain later in this post).

Allow me to first perform an autopsy on the ads. I apologize for breaking these ads down to this level.

The 3 ads in the series star Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, and Bappi Lahiri. The one featuring Bappi da is absolutely hilarious and much more natural than the other two.

What happens in the ads’ template is that it is implied that, for some inexplicable reason, famous film stars are auditioning to be featured in CRED’s ads. Instead of CRED paying them and politely requesting them to star in their ads – which is the truth, in reality.

What’s even more bizarre is that the ads imply that the actors and a music composer are probably given some lines to perform, with no instructions on what the script is… and so they are performing in a way they think is appropriate for their on-screen/well-known image. On their own, using their own imagination!

The 3rd layer of bizarreness, as if this is not enough, is that we’re shown that people from CRED are annoyed and bored of these performances and decide that a simple voice-over of ‘Download CRED’ is better than these over-the-top performances.

Now, all these, put together, are adequately curiosity-inducing and mirth-inducing. There is no doubt that the ad draws on your curiosity of ‘What the heck is going on here?’.

Anil Kapoor is singing while dancing his tapori steps,
Arey hey ho… credit card bills here need OTP to clear
Download CRED and you will be… what a pair!
CRED Download, CRED Download

Are you supposed to follow what he is singing? Is there a message in the OTP-related lines? I’m not sure.

And it looks like his rejection has been communicated to him, since he clearly is ‘acting’ pissed with the last dialog, “I’m too big for these guys anyway”.

Madhuri Dixit is singing while dancing,
My OTP has come. 123651.
Credit card bill is done
Download CRED. Download CRED.

Are we supposed to follow the lyrics, again? I pay my credit card bills via net-banking of that bank itself and I get the OTP too while paying. I’m not entirely sure what I’m missing or learning from the lyrics that is probably intended to communicate something and is clearly not gibberish.

She too seems annoyed after being ‘rejected’ going by her action in the end.

Bappi da is the best! He sings,
Baby you’re my CVV. I’m your OTP
When we come together love payment is easy
Download CRED baby, download CRED
Credit limit will go down when we do zorazorey
We will never default on our love story
Download CRED baby, download CRED

Again… OTP! I’m now reasonably sure that CRED folks intended to communicate something around OTP and credit card payment, but the exact point escapes my comprehension.

Bappi da doesn’t seem to care if he is rejected and continues singing,
Our love has no expiry date, no late payment fine
I’m your only cashback and baby you are mine
Download CRED baby, download CRED

Now, for the AIB connection. It is clear that the stars, who have been hired by CRED at a substantial price, are being trolled by the brand itself. AIB is one of the few groups that can pull off such trolling, going by the history of India’s most famous (and by-now much-controversial) Roast session.

The stars, on their part, seem very, very sportive. After all, they are actors – at least Anil and Madhuri Dixit. If they are told that the script is such that being rejected is the focal point, they being professional actors, would simply saunter into the sets, enact the tomfoolery they have been asked to and collect the cheque.

They also extend their sportiveness to the way they shared the ad on social media. And it looks like CRED founder Kunal Shah realizes what they have done to his brand… and offers this consistently to all three of them!

The script’s humor is in the fact that it is all done tongue firmly in cheek. We, the viewers, are expected to go with the edgy humor where the stars are being trolled and CRED folks act as if they are horrified by the buffoonery on display.

Should we (viewers) question about who asked the stars to indulge in this buffoonery? And answer our own question with, “But… but… but, wasn’t it the CRED folks who would have asked these stars to act this way?”.

This reminds me of the ‘leave your brains at home’ logic that was famously used for Hindi cinema masala potboilers. Every David Dhawan-Govinda film’s review had a line to this effect. That, for a movie, where our takeaway is entertainment… where we are not supposed to think.

In the case of CRED, the takeaways would be different. At a rudimentary level, they could be,
1. Be curious about CRED
2. Search for CRED online to know more
3. Ask around about CRED, with your friends or family
4. Download CRED

The ads, where the entire point of CRED is being explained hurriedly in 3 seconds (0:21-0:23 in the Anil Kapoor ad; 0:18-0:20 in the Madhuri Dixit ad; and 0:25-0:27 in the Bappi Lahiri ad), are expected to evoke one or more of the 4 above reactions. It looks like the entire objective of the ad campaign was to be noticed and in that context, the ads perform well. However, the idea to get noticed is usually at the service of what we call in advertising parlance as RTB – reason to believe. Removed of a convincing RTB, getting the attention may not be that useful, though one could argue that in the case of VC/PE funded organizations where even app downloads (and not app usage) could add millions to the valuation, just getting the attention is good enough.

It definitely got my attention, but after holding my attention for 30 seconds, I was left more puzzled than wanting to know more. Your reaction could be completely different, and that’s perfectly fine.

And since only the brand can reveal the data about the efficacy of this ad campaign in terms of one or more of the above takeaways (and more – people who installed the app actually using it for a reasonable period of time, people telling their friends, and family to also install it… and so on), there is no point in using effectiveness as a yardstick to form opinions about the ads we see (unless we are involved in that ad campaign, of course). We can form an opinion based on just what we see, and not based on what we do not know or what we are forced to predict on behalf of the brand.

If I pause, after being reasonably entertained by the first two ads and hugely entertained by the third, and think about what I just saw, I recall Anil, Madhuri and Bappi’s tomfoolery. I, personally, do not get a reason for knowing more about CRED or the holy-grail… to download CRED. But that’s just me. Your reaction may vary.

Also, the stars of an ad simply being trolled is not the problem. For context, here is Ryan Reynolds trolling Hugh Jackman in an ad campaign.

Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman have had many public ‘spats’ already, while also promoting each others’ brands – Aviation Gin and Laughing Man Coffee.

This new ad film for Laughing Man Coffee, owned by Hugh Jackman, was made by Ryan Reynolds’ marketing agency, Maximum Effort, the company behind his campaigns for Aviation Gin.

The ad’s voice-over is by Ryan Reynolds himself and he not only narrates the ad but also literally trolls Hugh Jackman in it! And that’s why the ad works – it’s hilariously irreverent 🙂

Not only that, Ryan, the agency owner, also gives the ad a push on social media channels… and even here, he is trolling Hugh Jackman, his ‘client’ 🙂

And Hugh, being the client and brand owner, also sportingly goes with it, in the service of the communication’s tone.