Barbies to Archies: the ’60s for Gen Z in India

Cultural relevance, social media star power, and nostalgia

Viren Sean Noronha

Earlier this year, Barbie’s hot pink marketing blitz proved the power of effective brand collaborations and cemented the movie as a cultural touchstone. Now, Netflix India’s The Archies are borrowing a page from the Barbie playbook. They’ve gone all out with a whole slew of brand partnerships, re-imagining the swinging ’60s for Gen Z audiences across India. From Archie WhatsApp stickers to Starbucks’ movie-inspired menu; get-the-look lines by Flipkart and a ‘Flight to Riverdale’ with airline Vistara, the collaborations showcase a blend of creativity and local pop culture. The latest collab with boAt brings together dancing advertising legends and Bollywood It Boys alike, and made a big splash on the front page of The Times of India. 

In this interview, we chat with the agency behind the film, The New Thing’s Co-Founder Viren Sean Noronha, on creating campaigns with cultural relevance, social media star power and centering nostalgia across all channels. 

Hi Viren, great to chat with you. Tell me, how did the collaboration between boAt and Netflix come about? Where did the idea for the ‘Riverdale Rockers’ begin?

Where all ideas come from. A brief. We were lucky to have had a great starting point, the speaker itself. It’s a retro-style speaker, inspired by this retro-themed musical, set in Retro Riverdale. The puzzle kind of completes itself, no? But the most exciting part of this collab was working together with our cousin agency Talented. It’s very rare for a ‘creative’ and social agency to come together seamlessly. Both Talented and TNT went through a lot of different ideas together before we zeroed in on a music video. In fact, it was our first idea. I think that’s a testament to the fact that first-thought ideas get a bad rep for coming to you too easily. Because god forbid anything be easy!

Let’s talk about part one of the collab: the film. In it, the cast of The Archies are joined for a lively performance by contemporary celebs like Orry and Uorfi, veterans such as rapper Baba Sehgal and actress Farida Jalal, and boAt’s Founder and CEO, Aman Gupta. You described the film as ‘a crossover that produced a crossover we never knew we needed until we put it together.’ Can you elaborate on this? For our readers overseas who may not be familiar with these celebrities; why this cast? What did they add to the story you wanted to tell consumers? 

When we think of faces for content, there’s a linear logic of ‘Okay, who makes sense for this piece? That’s who we should go with.’ With this music video, we went the opposite route. We asked ourselves, ‘Who would you least expect to see in this video?’ and let that inform our selection. The movie is a coming of age story about a group of teenagers, in a fictional town of Riverdale in the ’60s.

Why the hell is Baba Sehgal in our music video?! Oh my god it’s Urfi Javed! Farida Ji and Suhana Khan in one frame?! My mind is blown. Aman Gupta is in this too? LOL! That’s exactly the reaction we wanted. Every three seconds had to have something or someone coming in to hold your attention. 

The film plays on The Archies’ comic origins with cut-out style artwork and features music from the soundtrack. What was the creative process behind these choices? How did you strike the right chord between appealing to older audiences who remember the comics vs newcomers to the brand?

Great direction and vision, so huge shout out to Rohan (ShorMusic) and Sanjana, who took this from reference to real life in no time. The idea for this came from literally staring at the product and praying for inspiration to hit us.

Mid-way through said staring we noticed the packaging of the speaker. Shout out to our cousins at Talented for the most beautiful packaging.

It has this beautiful retro world empanelled into it. You looked at it and wondered ‘I wonder what the world through that panel looks like’. That’s exactly what we wanted to achieve. You’re literally stepping into the packaging and the world of The Archies. 

The second part of the collaboration is a full-page, full-colour, comicbook style ad on the front of the Times of India. Why print media? Does its place in the marketing mix in India still hold relevance?

It’s almost ironic that while everyone thinks print is ‘old media’. You have this movie that’s all about the magic of the ’60s creating massive talkability with… yep, old media.

We wanted to bring that charm to everyone’s morning paper. When I was a kid I, like many others, always turned to the last page of our daily newspapers for the comics. A weird coincidence is that Archies was one of the comics you’d see. Quick, short, three panel storytelling.

Our task was to announce BoAt and Netflix’s partnership, introduce the cast, introduce the speaker and utilize Aman in a creative way. That’s a lot of boxes to tick. And, Talented’s Chief Visualiser, Aabhaas Shreshtha, decided to do just that: quick, short, three panel storytelling. 

I’m certainly not the only one drawing parallels between The Archies’ and Barbie’s approach to brand collaborations. For a global brand like Barbie, cultural signifiers are more obvious e.g. the colour pink. For this collaboration, what strategic considerations and creative nuances were taken to ensure the ads appealed broadly? How did you create a campaign that would be locally relevant across different subcultures and age groups? 

To be honest, our biggest fear was betting on The Archies as a cultural totem still being relevant to a generation that didn’t grow up reading the comics. So it was a strategic decision to double down on the strengths of the film, in that:

  1. It’s a glorious musical with over ten songs
  2. It’s set in the ’60s, in the charming little town of Riverdale
  3. The partnership’s speaker, The Riverdale Rocker, bridges both previous points.

So if we can’t get you to fall in love with The Archies, we can get you to fall in love with the music and the charm of the ’60s. We wanted to get people to fall in love with the ‘Sounds of The Archies’, which was a standout line even in the brief.

Featured image: talentedagency / Instagram

Natasha Randhawa, Editor-at-large at MediaCat Magazine

Tash joined the magazine as Editor-at-large at the start of 2023. Previously she headed comms for The Marketing Society (2018-2022). Now, as Editor-at-large, she travels around Southeast Asia, writing about culture, social impact, creativity and technology, and how these forces influence the marketing industry and wider business world.

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