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Retrospective: a boy, a dog and a hutch

“You and me, in this beautiful world.”

Pristine greenery, a boy spending his day visiting places, green fields and weathered buildings, with an energetic pug following him wherever he goes. Most will immediately recognize the brand that used an unconventional approach to describe mobile phone connectivity.

hutch in india

Hutchison Max Telecom Ltd started operations in India in 1994 and has grown over the years. As telecom companies vied for a share of India’s mobile market, Hutch wanted to show off its superior connectivity. And around 2004, he decided to showcase this connectivity in his pan-Indian footprint with a commercials campaign.

Script a story

The ad agency, Ogilvy, was given a very simple mandate: to tell a story that shows the reach and connectivity of the network.

Mahesh V and Rajiv Rao, creative directors at Ogilvy, were brainstorming various ideas. They were certain of certain things. Mahesh felt they didn’t want to talk about technology and also consciously wanted to avoid showing people talking on the phone.

After much deliberation, they imagined a little boy and his annoying little sister following him everywhere. They further refined this line of thought. Who better than a dog to follow the boy without hesitation and at the same time give him unconditional support.

And so they came up with the basic creative idea. “Wherever you go, our network follows you”. A dog, representing the network, follows a boy representing the consumer, wherever he goes.

The idea was pitched to Asim Ghosh, CEO Hutchinson Max. Renuka Jaypal, who led the Ogilvy team on Hutch, recalls that after explaining why this idea would work, Asim Ghosh stared at her. He asked if the boy would represent the millions of customers and the dog the millions the company has invested in India. Giving his “green light” for the film, he asked Renuka to leave the room before his courage left him.

advertising production

The lush, vibrant backdrops of Goa served as the backdrop for the commercial. The boy was played by eight-year-old Jayaram, and the dog trotting behind him was Cheeka. Cheeka was really the third choice after the first (a fox terrier) and second choice (another pug) refused to budge.

Nirvana Films’ Prakash Verma produced the TV commercial. The agency had stressed that a dog lover should be in charge of the production. Sneha Iype and Mahesh wrote the simple and memorable lyrics, “You and me, in this beautiful world”. Roopak set the score and Suraj Jagran sang the song.

Piyush Pandey stood up after seeing the finished film, congratulating the creators for a job well done.

The result

The commercial was well received and a print version of the campaign soon followed. Cheeka has been recognized as the “Hutch dog” and the most frequently downloaded wallpaper by Hutch customers on their phone screens.

In fact, there has been an increase in the popularity of pugs in India, with more and more people taking pugs home. Cheeka remained in brand advertising for some time, even after Hutch was acquired by Vodafone.

This advertising campaign remains memorable for its ingenuity. The film didn’t show any technology or talk directly about the network, but effectively communicated the message of Hutch’s mobile network reach.

It communicated a utilitarian promise (of network connectivity wherever you go), while still managing to establish an emotional connection with customers. The boy’s youthful playfulness with the diligent and affable dog trotting behind him struck a chord with audiences. The commercial looked a lot like a snapshot of a day in the life of the boy and his faithful companion, the dog. It was the quintessential storytelling.

The author Subodh Tagare is an associate professor at IMT Nagpur, where he teaches courses on marketing. S Vejay Anand consults organizations on business strategy and marketing. The opinions expressed are personal.

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