: McDowell's No. 1 whiskey: TV Makes Friendship With Mobile


Client: United Spirits Ltd.
Product: McDowell’s No. 1 whiskey
Category: Alcohol & Tobacco
Agency: Mindshare
Country: India
Year: 2015

Campaign Summary

McDowell’s No. 1 whiskey is the flagship brand of United Spirits Ltd., and over the years, it has positioned itself to convey the spirit of friendship. To drive this message and establish a deeper connection with its core audience, using the consumer insight of "Lifetime Brotherhood," the brand set out to create an anthem and a seven-minute film. Television delivered the highest reach among the brand’s core target, so it was important to use it; however, Indian media is strictly regulated when it comes to alcohol advertising, and, additionally, not more than 12 minutes of airtime can be devoted to advertising per hour. With these challenges upfront, McDowell’s No. 1 had to look for new ways of targeting its audience with the seven-minute film, so it planned a never-before-heard-of campaign that used audio watermarking technology to re-target. It may have been the first campaign in India to do so.


Objective and Context

Since it was not possible to air the full seven-minute film on TV due to strictures from India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority, the brand devised an elaborate TV plan that could ensure as many people as possible saw a one-minute version of the film. The brand then conducted re-targeting on mobile devices, using the audio watermarking technology, to allow people to see longer version. The technology uses a unique ID embedded in an audio signal, which in this case, was used for retargeting.

The brand’s communication was targeted at a primarily male audience between the ages of 25 - 35, and aimed to change brand perception. This audience experiences the world through a variety of connected devices, expects immediacy in all forms of communications, and for brands to connect with them on their terms. They have opinions, want to be involved, and -- given the right encouragement -- will share their views with a wide audience of their peers.


Creative Strategy

As stated earlier, research indicated that television delivered the highest reach among the brand's core target, so it was very important for the brand to put the film on television. Fortunately, however, the consumer has evolved, consuming content on the go with access to multiple screens. Despite TV’s power, over 85 percent of the audience used a mobile phone while consuming content on the television. This insight was the key driver for McDowell’s No. 1 to plan a campaign using extensive retargeting.

While the retargeting may well have been a first, the campaign was definitely the first time an Indian brand used audio watermarking to deliver content contextual to the ad, all without having the audience need to download, use a third party app or make a missed call. (A missed call terminates before it is answered, but nonetheless allows two users or a user and a company to get “in touch” with each other.)

McDowell’s No. 1 partnered with a tech company to employ the audio watermarking technology, which embedded a beacon that emitted a high frequency sound. The sound could be detected by a software development kit (SDK) embedded on the apps installed on users’ mobile phones. The SDK is embedded in over 1,000 Android apps in in various genres and already reached over 50 million users. Since the app was already present on users’ smart phones, once users were exposed to the short version of the film, the audio beacon would be picked up by the SDK, which would then pass on the device ID and details of the user to the ad server.

Using this data, McDowell’s No. 1 created audience clusters and retargeted the users by giving them the option of downloading the song, watching the whole video, sharing it with their friends or setting it as their ringtone.


Below are the campaign’s results:

  • The brand experienced a major gain in share in 11 of the 15 states.
  • Over three million unique device IDs were captured during the campaign.
  • The data captured has also given the brand insight into the target’s mobile habits and has created a ready pool of retargeting inventory for future campaigns.

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