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How Airtel Willed Small Businesses to ‘Bounce Back’ from the Pandemic


Ogilvy Kenya’s Ruchir Bhatt and director Mark Strydom on the campaign which showcased real African businesses in the most authentic way possible, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

How Airtel Willed Small Businesses to ‘Bounce Back’ from the Pandemic

Small businesses and small business owners in Africa suffered during the years in which the covid pandemic meant their work came to a standstill. In an effort to support small businesses across Africa, showcase the perseverance of business owners and encourage people to support smaller companies, Airtel worked with Ogilvy Kenya to create its newest campaign, titled ‘Bounce Back’.

Playing on the name of the piece, the campaign features the opening and closing of several genuine businesses as they welcomed back customers and opened their doors once again. Using an extensive process to scout and identify businesses that are seen across the region, the spot was made to represent various markets across the continent. With a carefully planned shooting schedule, the vision from the beginning was to create the ‘bounce’ effect which referenced the duality of businesses as they reopened. Working to get the campaign completed within six weeks, Airtel wanted to showcase real businesses and stay relevant to the current economic climate.

Ogilvy Kenya’s group account director Ruchir Bhatt and the campaign’s director Mark Strydom speak to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about creating the spot.

LBB> What was the initial starting point for this campaign? 

Ruchir> Small businesses probably suffered the most due to the pandemic. Airtel has always supported small businesses and actively tried to provide services that would ensure continuity. As the pandemic eased, Airtel wanted to show their support with the hopes that other brands/individuals would also join. 

LBB> Was there anything the client was keen to include? Tell us more.

Ruchir> Showcasing real businesses in Africa. The client didn’t want this to be staged in a studio or use stock footage and we were all for it!

LBB> Where did the ‘Bounce Back’ concept come from and how did you decide to incorporate it into the piece?

Ruchir> Small business owners are relentless, despite being beaten down by the negative effects of the pandemic, their resilience to get back on their feet was unyielding. We wanted to highlight this and celebrate it while offering our support. 

We took a leaf from the boomerang effect we see on social media and ‘Bounce Back’ came to life. 

LBB> How did you choose all of the different businesses to feature?

Ruchir> The commercial was created for multiple regions in Africa, we chose to make each scene unique to these regions. We focused on representing small businesses that are common across specific regions, it was important that there was a true representation. It took some time to get it right from script to location scouting. After a major scout of different spaces, and meticulous vetting, we found the ideal ones. Within the right space, we could build the world in the frame through thoughtful art direction.

LBB> All of the shots work harmoniously together. What was the inspiration behind the styling and lighting for the spot?

Mark> The whole concept is based on duality, the same shot having two meanings. Opening and closing. We applied this to our lighting. We had practicals turning on in the shot, slowly transforming the scene as the story progresses. Characters turn the lights on or off, lights turning on signifying something positive and giving hope to the scene.

We used moving light to show the sun rising, personifying a new day beginning or the day ending. The lighting added an extra dimension to the story. We created shadows to emphasise the mystery and the reveal of each story. 

Our approach to the styling was to stay true to the characters we were creating. We used colour to add personality to the frame so that the audience was immediately drawn to our characters. We further embraced colour to celebrate diversity for the multiple regions in the story. 

LBB> What was the editing process like? Were there any challenges you had to overcome?

Mark> Most of the editing was done before we even shot. We planned each scene scrupulously – the shot or scene had to have two meanings or it was redundant. The edit was where the most fun was had – we played and tried things that were not planned. 

The real hard part was choosing the music. We don’t have massive music budgets. We have to search every library website to find the right track. The whole commercial was relying on this elusive track. The track needed to be inspirational, positive and work with our bounce-back effect. It was a high order and It seemed impossible after the 1000th option. But filmmakers never give up and of course, we did find it. After getting the right music and editing the footage to perfectly match the beat and scratches we had a beautiful seamless film.

LBB> How long did it take to create this piece from ideation to final delivery?

Ruchir> About five to six weeks from ideation to final launch, since this was culture hijacking, we worked very hard to put this piece together as quick as possible and launch it while the topic was still relevant, giving it more meaning. 

LBB> Is there anything else you’d like to add about the campaign?

Ruchir> What ultimately made this piece is the team. From the point the creative director, group account director, producer and film director discussed the final script and brief, it seemed like everyone was on the same page and could picture exactly what the final piece should look like. 

LBB> And any final thoughts?

Ruchir> It’s time we recognise the importance of small businesses. We need them as much as they need us. Support them whenever you can.

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LBB Editorial, Mon, 18 Jul 2022 14:33:00 GMT