“Aiyyo! Doesn’t feel like advertising only!”

Much like Danish Sait (I had written about his branded content earlier), I have been a big fan of the ‘content’ shared by Shraddha Jain aka Aiyo Shraddha as well.

The similarities are uncanny – both are in Bengaluru, both have had stints as RJs and actors, both go multi-lingual in their content, both have a steadily running shtick using multiple personalities with different accents and attitudes that they started getting regular with during the lockdown last year, and most importantly, both work with brands to create some of the most interesting and engaging kinds of branded content that hardly seems like advertising (even though it most definitely is)!

(But there are stark differences too – I’ll come to that later in this post.)

Take, for instance, the latest branded content from Shraddha, to promote ICICI Bank’s Orange Book (it is clearly called out as a collaboration).

The tone is very Shraddha – a woman (or many women!) next-door, talking about her family, friends, and life and gradually infusing the brand’s narrative into her own perspective. It is engaging content that she is very well known for – thoughtful commentary on the many things about life and everything with a charming dash of humor layered in.

We go in expecting ‘what Shraddha has to say today?’, instead of ‘let’s see how Shraddha will sell this product!’ (since the collaboration is so clearly called out in the text). That’s the essence of advertising these days when they cannot afford to merely interrupt – people consciously choose to watch (or, consume) advertising.

‘It doesn’t feel like advertising’ is not something to be ashamed of anymore. When uttered in the pre-internet days, it may have, because the primary objective of advertising is to sell a product or a service. That continues to be the primary objective, but in an incredibly crowded media ecosystem, the primary goal of advertising is to be noticed. Only after it is noticed, can it proceed to perform the primary objective of selling something.

Content creators like Shraddha and Danish get that point mighty well. They are a combination of a media channel, celebrity endorser, creative advertising agency, and people-like-us, all rolled into one.

Consider this branded promo by Shraddha for Nimyle.

The puns come thick and fast, but also take a mildly self-deprecatory tone (questioning the coronavirus protection with ‘floor cleaner hai ya vaccine?’) that most advertising agencies would actively avoid using.

Or this promo for Hero Vired that uses the same template as Danish’s famous multi-personality conversation played by one person that Shraddha too has aced with people (in the comments) taking sides with one or more characters she plays, like Mrs. Kulkarni, Malathi Akka, Reena Dalal, or school teacher Nandini Rao.

But the best part about such content creators is that these branded content pieces are interspersed amidst a regular stream of content that otherwise go massively viral, not just on the platforms they are originally shared in, but also in secondary modes, like WhatsApp forwards.

Tell me you have not received this Engineer’s Day video from Shraddha on WhatsApp more than once (I did!).

Or this video on ‘Zoom Classes’ by one of Shraddha’s famous characters, Ms. Nandini of Bulbul Vidya Mandir 🙂

Of course, some of the branded don’t work, in my view, but much like one middling episode of a series, steady audiences don’t seem to mind those.

Take this early 2020 branded content for Bumble:

There is her wit, no doubt, but the Bumble context seems too labored, I thought.

Or this recent video for Pepsodent:

I felt it went out of her usual cache of characters (which could add newer set of audiences, on the other hand), and the tone too seemed very different by making the brand plug explicit.

But the most enjoyable content makes the brand almost as an undercurrent – that is, the context for the video becomes a pitch for the brand in itself and the actual brand is plugged only in the end. The ICICI Orange Book video above is a great example. Here’s another for UpGrad.

The biggest advantage of being Instagram-first is that most people don’t even realize that a piece of content is a branded content until it is made clear; in Shraddha’s examples, the best ones reserve it for the end and you’d notice the comments that share the sentiment around, ‘Hey, I never thought this was going to be a video for X!’ in a pleasantly surprised way (and not an upset/annoyed way).

The flow of experience on Instagram is video/visual first, actual copy next, if at all. Assuming this flow on other platforms (where the flow is inverted – copy/text first, video/visual next) has led to some awkward results, as Deepika Padukone realized some time ago.

Between Danish and Shraddha, in terms of differences, I was very interested to notice the channels preferred and used by both.

The primary channel for both seems to be Instagram where Danish has 1.2 million followers and Shraddha has 315K followers. The platform allows their video-first content to proliferate amidst different lengths – shorter 1-minute videos, and longer videos that run for 3-4 minutes and more, when needed.

Facebook (Shraddha | Danish) and YouTube (Shraddha | Danish) seem to be an Instagram+ extension for both and do get them a lot of shares and comments.

For Danish, Twitter seems useful enough since he has over 300K followers. But Shraddha seems uninterested in Twitter, with occasional content reposting (from Instagram, possibly owing to video time restrictions) and under 20K followers.

Both don’t customize their videos to suit the platform (in terms of web or mobile). They are always mobile-first.

Shraddha seems to take more active care about her language and ensures that it is family-friendly, while Danish’s content is relatively less family-friendly and more ‘youth’ appropriate. But the zones each have pitted themselves in works wonderfully for both of them.

While Danish pushes the envelope just a bit more, Shraddha’s content decidedly takes on the family/parent perspective on most occasions. For example, this Valentine’s Day video earlier this year is the point of view of the mother, but without disparaging her daughter’s perspective and only making it seem matter-of-fact.

Both use their vibrant creativity to offer a steady flow of hugely engaging content, and the RJ-style non-stop talking seems to be a very big plus for people who aspire to create such content. It’s great to see brands utilizing such content creators confidently and this can perfectly exist alongside more explicit advertising – both serve different purposes, but together they address different mindsets of their target audiences.

Much like Danish, what would truly work for brands is to trust smart content creators like Shraddha and allow them the freedom to frame the communication in a way that benefits them first.

Consider this Ola promo by Shraddha. The basic idea seems to be to make people realize/remember that Ola Autos are safe (in a post-pandemic situation; this was from January 2021, before the deadly second wave).

Shraddha’s primary focus is on her style and format, and Ola’s perspective is very subtly relegated to the background where there is context (she plays an Ola Auto driver, herself). This is the anti-thesis of advertising that insists on putting the brand right in the center of the story-telling. That is mainly because the content is being shared on media vehicles that do not adhere to any particular kind of content and play/showcase any/everything (print and TV). But when the platform is as sharply focused as Shraddha’s own channel (or Danish’s), the audience too is primed to expect their favorite star’s style first. Any deviation from that would not only jar the experience for the star, but also the brand.



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