The Drum Awards for Marketing EMEA - Awards Show

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By Amit Bapna, APAC editor-at-large

October 17, 2023 | 5 min read

Fresh from being named The Drum’s Ad of the Day and picking up a Guinness World Record, the team behind the ‘Megh Santoor’ musical billboard tell us how they brightened up the monsoon season for tea drinkers in India.

Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea has won acclaim – and a world record – for the ‘Largest Environmentally Interactive Billboard.’ Located in Vijayawada, in southern India, the ‘Megh Santoor’ installation measures 150 feet wide and coincides with the monsoon season. Every time it rains, the raindrops activate the billboard’s strings to perform a rendition of the ‘Raag Megh Malhar,’ a classical Indian form of music played on a stringed instrument called a santoor, that celebrates rainfall.

Founded in 1966 and today one of India's most well-known tea brands, Taj Mahal has long had a reputation for deploying music in its marketing. Over the decades, it has brought this to consumers in various ways, including live concerts, sponsoring musical events, and brand campaigns featuring many well-known musicians. The most recent shift was in 2019 when it enlisted renowned Hindustani classical musician Nirali Kartik as the face of the brand. Nirali was also the first female Indian musician in Taj Mahal Tea’s endorsers list.

This time, “the brief was to crack a high-impact and high-engagement idea,” says Harshad Rajadhyaksha, chief creative officer at Ogilvy India, the agency behind the campaign. It had to be an idea that would celebrate the brand’s legacy and create positive conversation, adds fellow chief creative officer Kainaz Karmakar. Together, they came up with a concept. Now, they had to make it rain.

When logistics and scale are the drivers, the task can be complex. Says Rajadhyaksha: “When one attempts to do something for the first time, almost everything stands like a stumbling block.”

For starters, he says, “figuring out the mechanism for the rains to play took a very long time.” Then, finalizing the instrument – whether to go for a string or wind-based one – was equally challenging.

Recalling the journey of the last few months, Karmakar adds: “Once the billboard was up, there was a slight delay in the monsoon, making everyone wait with bated breath for the rains to hit the instrument and create music.” Thankfully, prayers were answered, and the entire city of Vijayawada enjoyed the melody of Megh Santoor, she adds.

The instrument was installed outside Vijayawada Railway Station to let people enjoy this first-of-its-kind concert amid the rainy season. The ‘Megh Santoor’ billboard is made of 31 strings and handles, meticulously arranged to produce the charming strains of the ancient rain Raga, ‘Megh Malhar.’ Guinness World Records has already recognized and validated the outdoor installation as being the largest of its kind.

Megh Santoor has been conceptualized as a unique adaptation of the traditional Santoor (a well-known Indian musical instrument) and is designed to be played only when it rains. Deploying smart thinking and a clever arrangement of weights that fill up due to rainwater, it all comes together to musically bring to life the classical composition that celebrates the rainfall.

From a brand consumption point of view, Vijayawada is one of the biggest citadels for Taj Mahal Tea, according to Shiva Krishnamurthy, beverages and foods head at parent company Hindustan Unilever. The tea brand enjoys 90% penetration in Vijayawada, and the city consumes 10% of national volumes, which is no mean feat.

As per Rajadhyaksha: “The majority of households consume Taj tea and have been doing so for decades, and it is not limited to any one economic class.” This, the team says, is therefore truly a campaign for everyone.

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