How MEC Global’s #WhatsNewThisDiwali For Citibank Saw The Highest Ever Monthly Credit Cards Spends Volume During Diwali

Case study by MEC Global for Citibank where the idea was to leverage the festive season of Diwali to drive card spends, aid new acquisitions and build brand preference for its credit cards

Citibank whatsnewthisdiwali

The Client

Committed to India for over 110 years, Citibank N.A., India takes pride in being a premier locally embedded financial institution, backed by an unmatched global network. Citi’s presence in India spans 45 branches across 28 cities and is the preferred banker to 45,000 small and mid-sized companies across India.

The Agency

MEC Global

Problem statement

When it comes to numbers, Diwali gets bigger and bigger every year.

  • About 40% of consumer shopping is done in the quarter surrounding Diwali and this year alone the estimated consumer purchases were approximately $6billion (Source: Business Standard). Grabbing a high share of sale in this period is obviously critical to a credit card brand’s success. It is also a great time to acquire new customers.
  • However, with the brands setting an estimated Rs.2000 Crs for digital media spends alone, one could imagine what kind of advertising marathon it would be to chase our audience and achieve a reasonable share of voice.

It was very easy to get lost in the communication chaos during the festive season.

Citi’s festive offer line-up was undoubtedly impressive. However, the festive season is also marked by a lot of noise and a ‘sea of sameness’ - ‘Dhoom Dhamaka offers’ on the one hand to saccharine-coated family bonding stories on the other. The strategic communications challenge therefore was to be able to break through the clutter, without breaking the codes of the festive spirit.

Identified Objectives

Citi, like all financial players, looked at this as a great opportunity to:

  • Drive card spends – Achieve growth of 10% over last year same period.
  • Aid new acquisitions – Target 20% increase in credit card applications and 30% increase in loan applications, over same time last year.
  • Building Citi brand preference – Meet the cards brand preference target of 67, set for the year.

B2B digital campaign awards 2015


Market Trends

The key consumer & cultural insights behind the design of the festive campaign were:

  • Buying goods (now increasingly online) & gifting to loved ones being part of age old traditions and considered auspicious.
  • High ticket shopping put on hold, in wait of deals & deep discounts.
  • Large part of the online consumer’s time being spent on Social, where fresh & talk worthy communication creates conversations & breaks clutter.

The big idea

The spirit of Dussehra and Diwali encompasses renewal and enhancement. We get new clothes, buy new things, replace old appliances with new ones and above all gift our loved ones. We do this year after year. The insight was in the irony of the spirit of sameness of celebration. Like everything else, people want to make their lives interesting and get away from monotony. So could we get them to talk about something absolutely new to celebrate this year, which goes beyond the monotony?

While decoding the category, product (credit cards), Citi bank, category and Indian culture we realized that this festival is about optimism and finding interesting experiences. People chase deals and offers to not only fulfill their aspirational desires but to also, surprise their family and friends

In line with our understanding of category, brand & product truth set against consumer insights & Indian cultural codes, embedded in the festive season – a social led campaign was designed with the singular expression - #WhatsNewThisDiwali, the key insight being – ‘I want to buy something new this Diwali for my loved ones’.

To this end, a large integrated campaign was built around three major pillars:

  • Deep discount offers to drive usage - With e-commerce shopping estimated at 2.5 to three times of previous year during Diwali, we offered offers & deals at leading brands across categories like for shopping (Flipkart, Amazon), travel (MMT), electronics (Vijay Sales, Apple).
  • An online festive sale for acquisition - First ever “Festive online sale” on Financial Products was executed, where attractive deals were put across for credit cards and personal loan, for a 15-day period, to generate leads and drive fresh acquisitions for the brand. The intent was to leverage ‘Sale’ sentiment prevalent during Diwali season, coupled with a compelling proposition.

Communication Strategy

Building on the strong Diwali festive codes to highlight the aspects of festival of lights e.g., sweets, colors, sparkle, energy, optimism, brightness, the two most common boxes associated with Diwali are sweets and crackers were leveraged upon. To bring the point of #WhatsNewThisDiwali, Citi added a twist to these cultural codes by replacing the crackers and sweets in the box with electronics, airline tickets, groceries, etc.

Citibank WNTD creative_1

Media Strategy

An integrated campaign was build around several all-inclusive elements. To build a quick reach & gain mindshare, we used owned and mass media including E-mailers, SMS, IVR, Citibank Online Home Page, Citibank online chrome notifications, ATMs, Ubiquity walls at branches, etc.

To remain high on Social Quotient, while being Mobile Led the below media elements were utilized:

  1. Content Marketing via Thematic videos to bring alive the #WhatsNewThisDiwali concept.
  1. Innovative Activation: An on-ground activation, using augmented reality to celebrate Digital Diwali, bringing the spirit of newness and novelty never seen before to life.
  1. Hyper-Personalization via real time offer delivery based on location.
  1. Contextual Targeting via Digital Chasers, chasing key brands apart from Custom Audience & look alike marketing on Facebook to drive acquisition & usage.

Execution Pillars

The festive campaign had several elements, including many “First Ever” marketing initiatives for the bank:

Content Marketing through engaging & thoughtful brand videos on the festive theme, to create buzz & engagement on digital /social media (YouTube, mobile networks, Facebook). The videos captured cute family moments around celebrating & gifting on Diwali, with a twist and brought a smile to the viewers.

Innovative Diwali Activation at DLF Place, Saket, one of the leading hot spot for Citi target audience, enabled people to celebrate an altogether Digital manner using Augmented Reality. People could burst crackers, open gifts, make rangolis – virtually and share their idea of gifting & buying new items this Diwali.

Starting with a key mall, the activity was further amplified on social. A short video was released on social, which captured the interesting idea of the campaign and got people talking about their experience at the venue, expressing thrill and excitement.

Hyper personalized Real Time Precision Advertising at the moment of truth to disseminate location specific Citi offers across key shopping hotspots in 4 metros, based on geo-fencing capability.

  1. Consumer enters a mall, is looking for a relevant place to shop or dine and wants the right deal/discount to be told to him.
  2. We will send him the relevant offer through a location specific in-app banner
  3. The banner takes the consumer to a list of offers in the vicinity & also allows the user to apply for a Citibank card.

WNTD Location based targeting

Contextual marketing using Digital Chasers, for desktop & in-app browsing, to re-target consumers exposed to relevant partner’s category or brand communication. This is to ensure media spends efficiency, while being contextually relevant to the target group. We chased popular players’ including Flipkart, Amazon & Apple on Yahoo, BBC app, etc over the duration of the campaign.

We also did Custom Audience and Look Alike Marketing through Citi India Facebook platform, to send out customized Usage & Acquisition offers to our clients and prospects present on the platform, as part of Online Festive Sale. A wide range of interest based filters were applied to optimize efficiency and better target users.


The brand has set a new benchmark for its marketing campaigns using an integrated execution approach and garnering maximum eyeballs & engagement. This campaign was able to connect with the audiences at a personal level and people could relate to the meaningful hashtag very easily. Some of the highlights of results across metrics are as follows:


  • Highest ever  monthly Credit Cards spends volume, an increase of 11% over last year same period – against target of 10%.
  • 53% jump in credit card applications (YOY compared to Diwali fortnight last year) against target of 20%
  • 101% jump in personal loan applications against target of 30% (YOY compared to Diwali  fortnight last year)


  • Highest ever Cards Preference Score @ 70%, an increase of 4 percentage points over last year same time – against target of 67%.


  • More than 5M views for the 3 videos, across social media in less than a week’s time.
  • Over 200M impressions with an engagement rate of 8.3%.
  • Crossed 7M reach
  • Reached around 1.1 million customers on Facebook alone and engaged with 136 thousand people. Also, FB recorded: PTAT(People Talking About This) - 5.72 million, Clicks – 13,000 and Engagement rate -14%.
  • Twitter trending four times during the duration of the campaign.
  • Coverage by popular blogs & digital PR sites such as AFAQs, OneIndia, First Post, Social Samosa, etc.


Content with personal touch and/or some interesting twists, which audience can relate to is widely shared on social media.

Given the limited attention span of users, getting the message across in a crisp manner is essential, hence the 30 seconds video surpassed target views, and with optimal spends efficiency.

Hyper-personalization captures people’s attention – be it acknowledging the name, profile, location or specific behavior or search pattern of the consumer.

Offers & deals – especially time bound & exclusive ones grab attention and force immediate action, resulting in higher spends & leads.

It always helps a brand to integrate the message with local codes, hence the bright colorful creative appeal to go along with the spirit of the festive mood!