Split-screen advertising- Tata Salt

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Splitting the screen to compare (and mostly ridicule) other brands while highlighting one’s own product features was a successful advertising tactic back in the eighties and early nineties. And just like the eighties, this trend died out and faded away. But if movies of a bygone era can return with official remakes and reboots, then how can a hit advertising strategy stay behind?

Tata Salt has released its latest ad that veers away from the currently famous content-centric ad film format and instead, tells viewers to question their salt. The thirty-second ad is titled, ‘Sawaal Kijiye Apne Namak Se’ and features Bollywood actress Konkona Sen Sharma. The TVC has been crafted and conceptualized by Ogilvy & Mather India.

We got in touch with Sagar Boke, ‎head, marketing, consumer products business, Tata Chemicals, to understand why he opted for the old split-screen format. He says, “We believe that messaging should decide the execution and not the other way around. The communication objective behind this campaign is to accelerate conversion and penetration for Tata Salt. Hence, the imperative was to have messaging that is direct and simple yet engaging.”

Sukesh Nayak, group creative director, Ogilvy and Mather India says, “The campaign had to urge consumers to question the purity of their salt. We took simple tests and demonstrated them in a memorable way so that people can easily replicate them at home.”

Boke tells us that the TVC is different from the conventional product-comparison ads, “… the campaign uses a deep-rooted cultural insight that in India, we are punished if we swear by things that are not true. The interplay between two characters in the ad brings this insight to life in a very engaging and intriguing way,” adds Boke.

This ad can be seen as a shift in Tata Salt’s communication towards a more product-centric approach against the brand’s earlier strategy which focused on a sense of patriotism and nationalism. Over the past few years, Tata Salt’s positioning has progressed from ‘Desh ka Namak’ to ‘Desh ki Sehat, Desh ka Namak’. As a norm, brands begin by communicating a product’s functional benefits and later advance to the stage of associating themselves with higher-order concepts. Tata Salt has already advanced to that stage hence, why this regression?

Boke shares that a major factor behind crafting this ad the way it is was to create a ‘New Point of Evaluation for Salts which is purity’. “We have done extensive consumer research to understand the levers of conversion. The research shows ‘Purity’ as the category lynchpin. However, consumer understanding of what consists a pure salt is very hazy. Many feel that whiter the color of salt, the purer it is. This is far from the truth. Our significant learning was that consumer involvement in the category is so low that the biggest insight to work on was, ‘a salt is a salt.’ It was this understanding that made us take purity as the plank of communication. Thus, we created a device of a pinch of salt and a glass of water which is simple yet impactful and at the same time, a big revelation for many consumers.”

Boke also notes that even though Tata Salt is a big brand, the potential is even bigger. “The most significant way to realize this potential is to accelerate conversion and penetration for the brand. This thinking necessitated the current strategy,” he adds.

The split-screen strategy was increasingly used to spoof other brands. Is it the case here? “The intention is not to spoof any particular brand. Also, the ad doesn’t intend to be sarcastic. The undertone of the TVC signifies an honest brand that is a market leader, confident of the superior product it delivers to its consumers. Even the brand protagonist is portrayed, to be honest, and self-assured. That’s the intended tonality,” Boke concludes.