Cheeka is a pug who appeared in the "You & I" advertising campaign of Hutchison Essar's cellular service in India, along with the child actor Jayaram. The dog follows the boy in unlikely locations, prompting the tagline, "Wherever you go, our network follows." The duo first appeared on TV, billboards, newspapers and bus shelters in 2003 and became instant celebrities all over India. The campaign was created by Mahesh V. and Rajeev Rao, Senior Creative Directors at Ogilvy & Mather, Mumbai. The commercials were directed by Prakash Varma. The dog hails from the United Kingdom and is owned by Vishal and Lisa Bandekar of Goa.
Birth of the idea
In the year 2003 in India, several telecommunications companies were competing for a share of the rapidly growing mobile phone market. Hutch wanted to convey the message that its service was robust enough to provide coverage in every part of its coverage areas. It hired Ogilvy & Mather, Mumbai to create an advertisement campaign focusing on this theme. Mahesh V. and Rajeev Rao, Senior Creative Directors at the agency, spent a whole night developing the idea. "We did not want to talk about technology, and we consciously avoided showing people talking on the mobile", says Mahesh. Their first idea was a little sister following her brother. "On second thoughts, we concluded that a dog would be much less mushy", adds Mahesh. That's when they hit upon the theme, "Wherever you go, our network follows", and the idea for the campaign: a dog that follows a boy in the most unlikely places – school, bath, barber shop, etc. "Man's best friend was the simplest analogy that could represent unconditional support", says Renuka Jaypal, National Business Director of O&M.
The television ad was the first to be shot, a 60-second sequence in lush green Goa. The role of the boy was played by Jayaram, an eight-year-old who had already starred in four other ads. Cheeka was suggested for the role by an assistant at Nirvana Films, the makers of the ad. The campaign became a hit, and was soon followed by a print version for newspapers. Cheeka earned ₹150,000 for the campaign, and appeared in Hutch ads, till the merger with Vodafone India, representing the network. She featured with her pink nose, when Hutch changed its signature color from orange to pink.
The campaign was well received all over India. "To me the magic of this campaign is its simplicity", says Piyush Pandey, National Creative Director of O&M. "It impacts your emotional retina in such a way that you enjoy it while it is happening", adds advertising legend Alyque Padamsee. "There was something about Cheeka that was very enduring and also there was an instant rapport with the kid", says Jaypal. Padamsee adds, "You rarely see pugs in ads because they are ugly. This goes against the grain and that's why it clicks." The campaign was ranked the Top Print Ad of 2003 and among the Top 10 TV Campaigns of 2003 in India by Business Today.
The ad is similar to the approach used by Fido Solutions, a major mobile service provider in Canada. It is also similar to the concept of network technicians following the customer in recent Verizon Wireless ads in the US.
Impact on popular culture
The ad campaign was followed by a rise in the popularity of pugs in India, and the sale of pugs more than doubled within months, with prices shooting up from about ₹10,000 to ₹20,000-60,000. A few other ads also appeared in the following months, inspired by the idea of a dog following a boy. In addition, Cheeka was the wallpaper most often downloaded by Hutch customers onto their phone screens in 2005.
- Mitra, Moinak. Top Dog! Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Business Today, 7 December 2003, retrieved 24 November 2006.
- IIPM Editorial
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- Jaypal, Renuka. Going Digital in India Archived 15 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Viewpoint, May 2006, retrieved 24 November 2006.