A brilliant stretch of imagination around e-commerce from Thailand

I wrote about one of Zepto’s ads (before the current campaign using singers like Kailash Kher, Shankar Mahadevan, and Usha Uthup) back in February 2022. It had a unique creative device where the vegetable vendor was shown inside a house, and the lady of the house buys from the vendor right in her living room, freshly out of a shower.

My earlier post compared that Zepto ad to a decade-old campaign by Flipkart that used a similar creative device – the shop coming into the house.

If you observe the creative device used, you would realize that they are mixing 2 different realities forcefully. The customers/buyers continue to remain where they are – at their homes. The shop is juxtaposed inside the home to make a point, and to showcase something dramatically intriguing (at first; viewers get it eventually).

The meaning, or reason, behind juxtaposing the shop inside the home is simple – the idea is that the mobile app is always with the customers wherever they are.

A non-e-commerce variation of this creative device is this Alfa Beer ad.

What happens in this ad? The users of the beer are where they are supposed to be – at a restaurant. But what they get to see (and get distracted with) inside a smartphone is shown to us to be hovering near them physically.

But as I mentioned, this creative device is more naturally attuned to the e-commerce industry because the smartphone, as a medium, bridges the 2 worlds – the customers’ world and the shop’s world.

Consider Meesho’s recent campaign to communicate a ‘70% off’ message.

Once again, the people are where they should be – away from a shop because this is an e-commerce ad. But we see rapid change in the products being offered on discount. The simple idea is that you can see/try everything and buy more than you want because of the offer. But the creative device is the same – layer the shopping experience (which used to happen at a shop) at a place where customers are in instead of expecting them to go to the shop and do the same.

Now, let’s turn this creative device on its head.

What happens in this creative device?
The shopping experience happens wherever people are, and not in the shops.

What should happen in a creative device that is the inverse of this idea?
The shopping experience happens at the shop, and not wherever people are.

But you could immediately ask – if the shopping experience happens at the shop (and not wherever the people are), that is simply the offline shopping model. So why would any brand, whether it is e-commerce or an offline shopping brand even bother using that creative device?

That is the premise behind this sparklingly brilliant new ad from a Thai brand!

Thailand’s (offline) Central Departmental store has a mobile app. The agency’s (Wolf, Bangkok) brief is to communicate that people can shop the way they want on the Central app. So they take it to the extreme, in a totally bizarre ad!!

Watch the ad first, pick up your jaw from the floor and then read the following 🙂

Till the last scene, you are not shown what the central conceit is. It gets progressively bizarre and peaks at the last instance which is completely nuts. And then they show what’s happening, only for that last customer. You’d then need to go back (in your mind) and fit the pieces in each of the previous bizarre instances.

What you see is not what you think it is! The clever creative device is to merge 2 different worlds – the world of the buyers who are being themselves wherever they are, and the world of the shopping center where the online app has been intentionally shown as its offline, mall version! The only difference is that, unlike the Indian ads I showcased above, the visual depiction is not the former (wherever people are), but the shopping mall which also has an app!

Interestingly, this creative device is not exclusive to the Central app at all – any mobile shopping app could have used this creative device, but Central is the first! Think about it – even a digital-only shopping app like Amazon could use this creative device – in a way, an app like Amazon is the online equivalent of a large offline mall, right?

So when you see the piss drunk woman entering the store in the first scene, it would be a drunk woman opening the mobile app and being allowed to enter the mobile app (which obviously doesn’t stop anyone)!

The old guy in formals trying women’s inner wear? He could be shopping for lingerie, or trying them through the app’s virtual trial feature, at his home!

The lady with a towel on her head telling people not to buy something? That’s the personification of a product review inside the app!

The guy in winter gear with snow near his boots… and the woman in a bikini trying goggles in the sunglasses aisle? They are in their respective places checking out sunglasses in the app!

A guy walking into the sunglasses section even as a hairstylist is cutting his hair? That’s just the guy at the hair salon getting his hair cut while browsing the Central app on his mobile phone and going into the sunglasses page!

Heavily pregnant woman throwing off many handbags from her shopping trolley and picking just 2 for billing? That’s the woman removing multiple handbags from her virtual cart on the app and taking just 2 for the billing!

Woman sleeping on the escalator with some items near her? That’s just a woman who went to sleep with the app open on her phone!

And finally, THE most bizarre – guy with his pants down shopping for a wedding ring? You see the guy’s real location at the end… connect the dots! This is the only instance where they let you in on the secret.

Even in this instance, there’s a fantastic nuance worth observing! When the shopping assistant (lady) tells him that he can spend Thai Baht 8 more to get free delivery, that’s just the app informing him of this deal since there is no delivery at the mall – you just pick up what you paid for 🙂

Not just that – when he says that he has a promo code, he bends down and reaches for his pants. And you perhaps expected him to pull up his pants finally, realizing that he has them down. But… nope! He is just fishing for the promo code in his pant pocket even as the pants remain down! You fully realize the meaning of this only when you see him seated in his toilet, at home. In that position, since he’s shopping on the phone, even if he were to pick a physical chit of promo code, he’d be fishing in his pockets as his pants remain down 🙂

This is a truly brilliant stretch of the imagination! It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone behind this ad!

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