Spinny – Gone too far?

Spinny, the pre-owned car retailing platform (industry jargon for ‘used car buying and sales’) launched its first national brand campaign during IPL 2022. The campaign, called ‘Khushiyon Ki Long Drive’, had 2 versions featuring Sachin Tendulkar and PV Sindhu, respectively, and was conceptualized by Spring Marketing Capital.

Considering this was the brand’s first-ever national campaign, and that it was taking expensive inventory during IPL, it made perfect sense that the narrative was straight to the point.

It showed Sachin and Sindhu as the ‘sutradhar’ of the narrative – this is a creative device that usually means the celebs sit around customers (who are models, of course) who do not notice that super-celebs are seated right next to them. The customers don’t hear Sachin and Sindhu speaking to us either. It usually feels almost like the celebs are ghosts inhabiting the customers’ world in service of explaining what the customers are doing and gaining from the brand that is advertising.

This ‘sutradhar’ is a good device to use without diluting the use of the celebs into making them enact a character that may make the pitch seem implausible. It does not make the celebs themselves play a customer either and this too may stretch credulity if there is no match between what the celeb could afford and what they are selling (Ajay Devgn selling chappals, or Shilpa Shetty selling dish wash bar, for instance). If the narrative caricatures the entire set-up, that works on a different level (Akshay Kumar cleaning toilets, or Alia and Ranveer’s exaggerated acting for Makemytrip).

So this narrative was actually helpful. Sachin and Sindhu explained the many features that make Spinny a useful and helpful platform for people wanting to buy a pre-owned car. The ads did not show Sachin and Sindhu wanting to buy pre-owned cars – a notion that would seem preposterous given that these super-rich celebs can afford the latest and greatest cars and never need to bother with what we, lesser mortals, would need to worry about – selling and buying used cars.

The agency took care of the nuances well too, between the 2 variants – Sachin’s ad featured the husband getting an increment and wanting to buy the car, and the little daughter is delighted with the car delivery, while Sindhu’s ad featured the wife getting an increment letter and the young son is delighted at the car delivery. That both Varun Sharma and Ramya worked for the same company ‘Rajaram Legal’ is an amusing coincidence 😉

The level of detailing in explaining the platform’s features was simple and instructive – something that would make anyone take a serious look at the platform for a future/current need (and perhaps compare notes with other vocally advertised brands in the space – Cars24, Cardekho, OLX, etc.).

So far, so good.

The brand’s second national campaign was later in the same year, during the Asia Cup – August-September 2022.

This campaign’s narrative seemingly extended the first campaign’s ‘Khushiyon Ki Long Drive’ narrative in unwieldy ways – it was now called ‘Go Far’. ‘Long Drive’ became ‘Go Far’?

The brand’s narrative was a bit less direct and a lot more philosophical. The media release explained that Sachin, who is also a strategic investor in the company, was keen on going far on an ‘inward journey’, back to, and in his first car – a Maruti 800 in Bayers Blue color.

For some odd reason, the brand ‘Maruti’ is completely missing everywhere – they simply call it ‘800’. Brand-related legal complications?

Anyway, Sachin wanted an inward journey to Go Far, Spinny recreated a Bayers Blue color ‘800’, and he takes it on a spin… or drive. I thought there was still a plausible brand connection here – Spinny could be implying how well they refurbish old cars through their platform making them ready to be bought again with confidence.

Unfortunately, there was no such personal journey story for the Sindhu variant of this campaign. It was just a set of cars going on a family trip of sorts where they could all be driving their own new cars and not necessarily used/pre-owned cars.

I observed this Sindhu variant as a starting point of the brand’s narrative going farther away from what the brand’s premise stands for – a platform for buying and selling pre-owned cars.

I also couldn’t find out which agency did this second campaign.

That brings me to the brand’s third, and latest, campaign, meant for IPL 2023. The campaign is on air now and can be bothering you during every other break during IPL.

The new campaign features Sachin along with Anil Kumble and Yuvraj Singh. It has been conceptualized by Tanya Mahendru, Spinny’s creative partner, and made by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti’s production house, Tiger Baby.

From ‘Long Drive’ to ‘Go Far’… to now, ‘Go Far for your squad’.

To be honest, I do like the Dil Chahta Hai vibe in the ad. But that’s more because I love Dil Chahta Hai and not Spinny (though I have nothing against Spinny. I’m just indifferent to used car platforms right now in my stage of life, that’s all).

To see 3 other middle-aged men feel young’ish near the beach, again, after Dil Chahta Hai was nice to watch.

But my head was spinning (poor pun intended) about what these 3 cricketers are selling in the latest iteration of the campaign.

Are Sachin, Kumble, or Yuvraj the kind of people who may want to buy a used car? Hardly seems plausible.

Would they sell their old cars online? I’d assume they can find better use of their time (which can be monetized wonderfully) than trying to sell one used car online by themselves – they would rather ask their managers to do the job for them.

Are they showcasing one or more features of the platform? Nope.

If you remove the Spinny branding and add BMW branding, for instance, the ad would still make perfect sense. In fact, it may be a bit more appropriate given these cricketers’ standing.

So what exactly is the new campaign communicating?

Here are 3 different explanations from the press material.

I couldn’t fathom what 3 super-rich cricketers driving off to have some boys-time implies for a ‘pre-owned car retailing platform’.

One way I would perhaps rationalize the new campaign’s narrative is far outside anything related to functional communication: I’d perhaps say that since the brand has already done the functional communication in IPL 2022, the 2nd and 3rd campaigns are now banking on the assumption that people already adequately know the many benefits of Spinny. And it’s now time to simply register the brand name in people’s minds without bothering about practical, functional messages. So, show something memorable and add the Spinny logo at the end, and that does the trick. Or, something along these lines.

For instance, I wouldn’t be surprised if Spinny’s 4th national campaign has Sachin driving (a used car, of course) to popular tourist spots in India drive. He could be driving from Mumbai to the Statue of Unity… and Spinny logo.

For the 5th campaign, he could be driving (on a used car) very fast on some of the newer highways of India, like the ones in Uttar Pradesh… and Spinny logo.

Even if I say so myself, those don’t seem like bad ideas at all IF I buy into how Spinny has moved the narrative.

But, I’m not entirely convinced about the rationalization above.

The jump from ‘let’s explain the many benefits of the platform’ in early 2022 to ‘let’s talk about the end-end-end benefit of owning a/any car’ in mid-2022 and early-2023 seems too fast and abrupt. This notion of haste seems accentuated when you see rival pre-owned car platforms harping specifically on pointed user benefits, like the one featuring Sharman Joshi for OLX by Lowe Lintas:

Or Cars24:

The Cardekho campaign featuring Akshay Kumar as a middle-class father buying a used car to please his daughter does not fit the bill though, for a very different reason. It’s still selling functional benefits, but it does what the first Spinny campaign cleverly veers off from doing – instead of using the celebrity in a plausible role of a sutradhar, it plonks the celeb as a character/actor/model.

But the larger point remains. Used car platforms in India are largely selling functional benefits – hassle-free experience, pre-checked vehicles for peace of mind, range of cars available, best price for your used car, and so on. To communicate that in one (first) campaign and promptly move to the aspirational benefits of car ownership (regardless of whether it is new or used) itself seems like a stretch to me.

At least on one level, it benefits Spinny, possibly – by not talking about functional benefits it stands out from other used car platform communication. While every other used car platform is advertising about the things that are top of mind for someone intending to buy a used or sell one (which are very different for someone wanting to buy a new car), Spinny’s communication seems totally new and fresh. But this is only plausible when we fully buy into the prospect that everything that needs to be communicated about Spinny has already been done and that it’s time to move into higher order benefits of just owning a car (Spinny’s campaign focuses, for now, only on buying cars, not selling one).

But at the same time, this shift in narrative pits Spinny with every other car company communication considering they all showcase long drives, happy driving experiences, and so on. That, in itself, is not such a bad idea provided you buy into the same prospect again – whatever we had to know about Spinny has already been said in the first campaign.

The shift also probably doesn’t address the mindset of the buyer of a used car vs. a new car. For the former, the primary concerns of trust and reliability of where they are buying the used car from. For the latter, it may move to car-centric concerns – mileage, post-sale service, cost of maintenance, etc.

It’s possible that Spinny, by showing happy celebrities driving near beaches, implies that its used car platform is so trustworthy that you can buy a used car with the confidence of buying a new car. This was possibly hinted at in the 2nd campaign too where they had refurbished the ‘800’. This is a solid message to convey. Does that come out appropriately in the new campaign? Personally, I’m not so sure.