Thursday, July 19, 2007


Snowed under with ads hysterically sold on entertaining, 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri wonders whether there’s been a slight confusion in priorities!

Man, its one hulluva time in ad-land!

Today’s ads (especially TVCs) are mind-blowing… Splendid examples of riveting audience engagement, carefully crafted and designed to woo and impact a promiscuous (and forever) distracted viewer-base with the (ominious) ‘remote’ always at their fingertips. “Our job in these scary competitive times is simple: delight and surprise,” explains a Mumbai based hot-spot maverick (with his drooling, devoted acolytes, nodding energetic approval). “Not bore the pants off them with grim and boring product facts or figures. That will only inspire. zzzzzzz!” Adds another pony-tailed member of the ad-frat, “Times have changed. The world is on a perpetual and frenetic fast-forward. To catch the flirtatious eye of the prospective customer, one has to be unique, special and different. In this backdrop, ‘entertainment’ is the acknowledged hot-line, the great leveller… Films, songs, books, events, happenings, news – we borrow and spin-off from any and everything that promises visibility, noticability and stopper-value. At the end of the day, in this crazy clutter, grabbing and freezing eyeballs is the name of the game, baby-cake!”

Clap-Clap. Wonderful. Fabulous et al… but excuse me, isn’t advertising a means to an end… an end called ‘selling’? Are prizes, wah-wahs, medals and gongs more crucial than ‘sales’? Has advertising in the recent times, become too self-absorbed, drawing too much attention to itself and too little in closing the deal related to the purchase intent? Has advertising become a ‘high-wire’ act with the creative guys freaking out to impress other creative guys with the ‘Big O’ coming from ‘their’ recognition, applause and appreciation, ‘not’ of clients? Is the ‘S’ word, unfashionable, dumb and corny in a time where no one does anything as crass as selling; they do the sophisticated thing. Build brands! No one looks at the sales figures. They track scores! Has advertising become ‘the’ product itself with ABBYs, CAG, Goafest, Cannes, et al as the prime target of one and all?

Kolkata-based, veteran adman (and sometimes actor, he was Satyajit Ray’s hero in the second of the maestro’s city triology Seema Baddha?), Barun Chanda believes that this phenomenon in some fashion has always existed. “There have always been the arty or smart-arse types who make it their business to blow away their clients with showy and spectacular, but irrelevant concepts. They’ve, on cue, garnered the appropriate gasps and wows but hardly ever touched the crucial areas of selling! It’s not a crime but a ‘sin’! The agency should be sacked immediately,” Chanda says. However, Chanda believes that often the clients are to blame too, “Because the promise of glitzy awards amidst glamorous settings at home and abroad works as a seductive carrot for them.” To director sahiba Leena (Shabd) Yadav, “The entertainment quotient works as a super-seller. Used in appropriate manner – Happydent, Cadbury, Fevicol,, Airtel - they rock! They go beyond the cut and dry product features to create an emotional synergy and connect that ensures top-of-the-mind awareness.” However, she is quick to add that flippant and casual endeavours, hoping for short-cuts to accelerate consumer preference is doomed “because it neither entertains nor sells!”

Lowe’s Executive Creative Director, Preeti Nair Chax advances the case further. “We live in a deadly crowded ad-space with products and ads coming out of our ears! In this scenario, entertainment can offer a fabulous solution as a clutter-buster but ‘only’ if crafted with care and never losing sight of the product-is-the-hero angle,” she said. She cites the example of Fevicol, Miss Palampur, Surf, Greenply,, ICICI Prudential (among others) as interesting examples of leveraging the entertainment quotient in a positive manner. “However celebs (especially Bollywood) should be handled with great responsibility and special care because their red-hot personas as entertainers can easily demolish the very reason for them being present in the ad – to sell the product!”

To Parveen Chawla, a smart, young and sensitive Delhi-based ad person, it appears tragic that “entertainment suddenly is on a flier!” She believes it has something to do with the popular bimari of manoranjan inspiring Bollywood honchos like Sunjay Dutt and Sunny Deol growl lines like ‘Apun ke style ka mamla hain’, or ‘Ye andar ki baat hain’, lending to a whole new dimension to the term, ‘thunder down under’!

So, whats the take-out? While it is indeed a given that in today’s stress-ridden life, entertainment is increasingly perceived as a welcome therapy and our movie-making technology is world-class, the problem is (ironically) that this lethal mixture of cool creative focus and stunning new age technology provides for a riveting ad capsule that undoubtedly engages, entertains, (even enthrals) in fine style ‘but’ frequently at expense of the selling proposition. Result? We see scores of brilliantly crafted TVCs that delight and surprise – as the high priest’s decree – but do they really turn you on to buy? Do they, in any fashion, impact your mind-set, alter belief or inspire change in perception towards the product or service advertised? The honest answer (most of the time) has to be ‘no’. With exceptions, form and style (entertainment quotient) seem to enjoy a winning run over content and substance (selling proposition) leading to terrifying audience take-out: Remembering the ‘Ad’ or the ‘celebrity’ in it but forgetting the ‘product’! 


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