It’s much easier to crack open a beer, than crack into it. The American beer industry, once held hostage by the duopoly of Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, has experienced a refreshing transformation over the past decade. The rise and rise of the local craft beer movement has eroded the former dominance of the ‘big two,’ diversifying the marketplace with a dizzying array of choices.
A daunting task awaits, then, for any foreign import trying to stand out in the crowd. Enter Bira 91, a young brand for a “new India” seeking to launch their brand worldwide. Its youthful, mischievous personality, rooted in innovation and flavor, is designed for younger, technologically savvy urbanites, who shun the traditional boundaries of work and play – a sentiment neatly expressed through Bira’s playful tagline, “Make Play”, an irreverent deconstruction of ‘make way.’
Armed with a cheeky monkey mascot, genuinely delicious beer, and seemingly unquenchable ambition, Ankur and his team approached Mill+ for help in creating the first ever campaign for Bira 91.
Bira and Mill+ were introduced as Bira’s founder and CEO Ankur Jain and his team were still codifying the defining attributes for the brand’s attitude. Fostering a strong creative relationship throughout the following year, the teams met periodically to brainstorm ideas for the launch.
As Bira’s brand vision emerged, Ankur gave Mill+ a brief for the premiere film in a 3-5-year strategy surrounding “Make Play.” Leaning on the key demographic insight that fun can happen anytime, anywhere, Ankur wanted the film to pivot around a twist that transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary.
“It’s important for us to be surprising and fun in an everyday situation. We need to be playful, colorful, and instantly recognizable. Hip-hop music and animation are key elements for us,” Ankur said of the campaign. “We want to give a peek inside the playful lifestyle that Bira 91 represents.
Things suddenly accelerated when Bira revealed plans to screen the film at their April Fools’ Fest in New Delhi. Facing an ambitious (not to mention mildly terrifying) six-week schedule from concept to delivery, the Mill+ team quickly began ideating. Beyond satisfying the fundamental requirements of the brief, their successful concept needed to be adaptable to specific launch cities of Singapore, London, Boston, and New York.
After just one week, Mill+ presented eight discreet concepts, leading to the preferred direction, “A Bira Commute” – an everyday journey transformed into a magical dance party. Inspired by “Masstransiscope,” the concept also provides a fun and adaptable animation mechanism for launch city localization, and a literal visualization of Bira 91 “landing” in each location.
Spending a further week developing and refining the creative, Mill+ concurrently began location-scouting, casting, and designing the practical monkey masks and facial animation. Critical to defining the film's flavor, and giving the actors something to dance to, the teams decided an existing track would resonate most with the audience, and selected The Cool Kids’ “I Got Colors” before filming.
Budgetary constraints required creative thinking in both the film’s conception and production. Consequently, a number of actors appearing in the film are friends and family of the Mill+ team, including cameo performances from assistant editor (and fantastic dancer) Rachel Greco as ‘old lady monkey,’ and lead compositor Ben Kwok as ‘confused bystander on platform.’
Sometimes, the imagined feeling a film engenders can differ from the reality once the post-production finish line is in sight. After a smooth editorial phase and initial animation integration, Bira felt the film wasn’t quite there yet – it needed a more colorful, animated aesthetic to exemplify the brand’s playful character.
Using existing Bira artwork and additional references for inspiration, the Mill+ team quickly developed a series of style frames that could answer this new request in the time remaining.
“It was a bit of a curveball with only a week or so left to delivery, but we’d been through such a journey together. We really wanted to give them a film they were overjoyed with,” recalled Ben Smith, Mill+ ECD and director of the film.
The resulting animated paint splashes and color streams gave Ankur and his team the additional layer of magic they were seeking, and formed the basis of the end card transition.
The finished “Make Play” film launched at Bira 91’s April Fools’ Fest, garnering incredibly positive reactions from the crowd.
Alongside Ankur, Bira’s Creative Identity Director Dev Kabir Malik and Marketing Consultant China Ziegenbein were so thrilled with the monkey masks constructed for the film, they’re planning additional uses for them in live guerilla marketing activations.
Throughout the process for the “Make Play” launch, Bira 91 and Mill+ NY established a unique relationship. Mill+’s conceptual thinking and fluency in production has inspired the creative partners to look to the future – The Mill’s Mill+ and Emerging Technology teams are now developing social content and digital engagements for the campaign.
Bira’s success in the American market remains to be seen, but we can be sure they – and their monkey mascot – will make a bold, colorful splash.