Not sure the Chatpat campaign would’ve had the same effect if the character was called Vishnu: Kartikeya Tiwari, FCB Kinnect

In a conversation with Storyboard18, Kartikeya Tiwari, national creative director, FCB Kinnect, touched upon the inspiration behind the Cannes Lion-winning campaign Chatpat, pros of guerrilla filmmaking, and whether a rose smells just as sweet by any other name.

By  Kashmeera SambamurthyJun 16, 2024 9:29 AM
Not sure the Chatpat campaign would’ve had the same effect if the character was called Vishnu: Kartikeya Tiwari, FCB Kinnect
Kartikeya Tiwari, national creative director, FCB Kinnect, stated, "In the last two decades, names have become important because it helps cut through the clutter. A name which is attractive, unique, and arouses curiosity is critical. If one gets the name right, it lends a lot to the work and to the writing as well. If the character’s name was not Chatpat, we wouldn't have been able to write the line, ‘Banta hai apun Chatpat, Gyaan dega sabko Jhatpat’." (Stills from the campaign)

In 2021, (IPG) Interpublic Group of Companies's FCB Group India acquired equity in the independent digital marketing agency Kinnect. Swati Bhattacharya, who was the chief creative officer (CCO) at FCB India then, had an exchange of mail with Kartikeya Tiwari (then, national creative director, Kinnect). In that mail, he requested if she could conduct a creative workshop at Kinnect and eventually, she did conduct one as a part of KinnectEDGE program.

As the desire to work together was expressed, Bhattacharya connected with Tiwari regarding a marketing brief she had received from SOS Children's Villages of India, a donor-based organisation.

SOS Children's Villages of India work with children who have been orphaned, abandoned, or have run away from home. Bhattacharya asked Tiwari, “Would you like to work with me on this?” The latter was thrilled beyond bits.

SOS Children's Villages of India, who believe that 'it takes a village to raise a child', run shelters where a group of up to seven children of different age groups live together under the care of a `mother,’ like a family. Bhattacharya and Tiwari spent much time at these homes to understand how they function.

Here, the mothers who are employed have a history where they have been rescued from different spaces of life. Most of them have also been rescued from human trafficking.

Each of the kids went to a school depending on where they came from. Their school and their families were decided based on their education background, followed by the language they are comfortable with. The children are educated and supported till they graduate and land a job.

They also realised that all of this costs a lot, and every year, their donations were shrinking. On conducting a strategic research, it was found that most NGOs, especially the well-known ones, were supported by the big CSR funds of multinational companies.

Hence, it was clear that they had to get big Indian companies and MNCs to notice their work and commit CSR funds to SOS. “If they get empanelled with a company, then every year, there's a possibility to draw some funds from them. That was the brief for us, and that became our objective,” said Tiwari.

Thus was born the character Chatpat, a 10-year-old from the mean streets of Mumbai, who dispenses `gyan’ and recreates India's most iconic commercials (shot in a guerrilla way), and offers these for brands to use in exchange for donations to SOS.

Along with the campaign, the name of the character was a big hit. I 2022, the Chatpat campaign bagged eight metals at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. And, as stated by a media report, the brands that have been onboarded so far are Unilever, Godrej, Cred, Tide etc.

Edited excerpts follow:

What was the inspiration behind the name Chatpat?

We started developing an idea around a child who hustles in order to survive. We developed the idea of a kid who recreates famous ads and tells the brands, ‘I've done something for you, why don't you do something for SOS?’”

We understood that we needed to make this person a brand ambassador, and the first name everybody agreed on was Vishnu. We had conducted auditions across various cities, and were to start shooting the next day.

But during my pre-shoot call with Swati, she suddenly said, “Yaar, I don't like the name Vishnu.’’ I was taken by surprise and asked her the reason for this belated rethink when all approvals, scripts, etc., were in place.

Swati said that it did not feel like a name from the streets. Her point was that if the child is really from the streets, and is fending for himself, hustling, and gaming the system, the name should also be something that he’s picked up from the streets, a name that people call him by because of his personality and characteristics. She went on say that she didn’t even like my name, Kartikeya, and asked what my mother calls me at home. Thought it is a well-kept secret called by my family, and despite my best resolve, I told her I was called Chatpat as I was naughty, witty and restless. Swati found the name endearing and immediately decided that that was the name for the character. I was vehemently against it, but she wouldn't let go, saying that the name was unique, unforgettable, and had street cred.

I had no option but to go along. I informed my team and chaos ensued. Everybody was like, “What is this name Chatpat? What will people take away from it?" Most were not supportive of the name, including the client.

I informed Swati about all this, and she said she'll take care of it. We replaced the name in all the scripts. The cinematographer cum director Amit Roy loved the name as he felt it suited the character better.

Right till the last moment, the client was not happy with the name. But Swati said to go ahead with the shoot, and I did. And that's one of the biggest learnings I've had as a creative professional — follow your gut.

Were there any challenges due to the change in name?

Most people are used to looking at things through a logical lens. That's how a lot of new-age marketing and creative people have been trained.

Since the change in name was at the last minute, convincing people was a bit of a challenge. But we managed to pull it off because of our own conviction.

When we travelled to Cannes Lions in 2022, every contingent we met would be like, ‘Hey, you are the guys who created Chatpat. It's wonderful, and what a name. It's such fun to say Chatpat.’

We had put cut-outs of Chatpat all over Cannes, and everybody was loving it and engaging with the character.

We also won 14 elephants for the Chatpat campaign at the Kyoorius awards. I think the idea derived additional mileage from such a fun and unique name.

Do you think the campaign would have had the same impact if the character had been called Vishnu?

I don’t think so. It would still have been a lovely piece of work, but I don't think it would have reached the heights it has.

A lot of campaigns win accolades. But after a few years, one tends to forget them. So, having a name that’s memorable helps. That wouldn't have happened with Vishnu, since it is a very common name, though it is nice.

Vishnu sounds like a good boy’s name, and doesn't trigger an excitement and curiosity to know more about him, unlike Chatpat. Chatpat was the icing on a perfect cake.

Taglines, jingles, or names: which is more important for a campaign?

After changing the name we needed a signature line, and came up with ‘Bantai apun Chatpat. Gyaan dega sabko jhatpat.’ The handle was called Chatpat Ka Gyaan. It was so memorable that people say it even today.

Hence, the memorability of a campaign owes a lot to its name. Back in the day, not many campaigns were known for the names of their characters. Television campaigns would be remembered by their jingles.

Then started the era where we saw work like the 'ZooZoo campaign', the 'Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hai campaign', etc.

In the last two decades, names have become important because it helps cut through the clutter. A name which is attractive, unique, and arouses curiosity is critical.

If one gets the name right, it lends a lot to the work and to the writing as well. If the character’s name was not Chatpat, we wouldn't have been able to write the line, ‘Bantai apun Chatpat, Gyaan dega sabko Jhatpat’.

At Cannes Lions, Americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians would all say the line in their own accent. The right name does help one break a lot of barriers.

Did your guerrilla style of shooting, on a low budget and without major production paraphernalia, help elevate Chatpat’s messaging?

Since we did not have big budgets to work with, we had to go guerrilla style. We did away with whatever was not strictly necessary to the process of filmmaking. Because we lacked the luxury of a typical big-budget ad shoot, our priority was to ensure that the kids and their parents were comfortable. Hence, all our resources went into making sure that they got good accommodation, good vehicles, and good food.

However, this style of filmmaking is unpredictable, because the cops can show up in the middle of filming and stop the shoot. But when high-calibre people work with limited resources, they tend to shine.

If one sees the first five videos of Chatpat, one will not think that this is a branded campaign. If you go through the comments, you will see that people were rooting for the character. This is because he was an underdog fighting for himself, his friends, and his gang. That wouldn’t have happened if it was not done guerrilla style. The style lent a lot of authenticity and worked for the campaign.

How did you find Akul Baduni, who plays Chatpat?

We wanted the actor to be authentic, we wanted people to root for him. We found him through a series of auditions. Amit Roy and his team were conducting auditions with a lot of organisations like Salaam Bombay Foundation, that work with kids who come from an underprivileged background.

We went via them and one of the auditions was in Andheri West. In one of the auditions, we came across Akul.

He is lovely and versatile, with an amazing hunger and ambition for work. We were not very convinced about him at the beginning because he came across as quite polished. But he had this special smile which pierced through the camera and entered the heart. A beautiful and honest smile which people would connect with. Swati felt very strongly about him when going through the audition tapes.

We did two-three workshops with him and he nailed it. It was his first project and he would come on the sets prepared with his lines. He did not fear the camera, and would correct us: `"No KT Sir, this is the line." We are still in touch with him and his family, and we help and support him in whichever way we can.

We never thought of roping in a well-known child actor for the role. If a child actor had entered the scene, the videos would have been seen as advertisement and would not have had the same charm.

Akul became Chatpat and he will forever be Chatpat. This is something a child actor would not have been able to achieve. Now Akul can go on to become a successful child actor because he has the right background and training.

First Published on Jun 16, 2024 9:11 AM

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