Thursday, October 08, 2009


4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri probes one of the trickiest – and most controversial – zones of the Persuasion Industry, forever open to exciting debate and discussion!

The ‘Creative’ aspect (take, quotient, perspective, call it what you will) of Advertising, despite all the (pretentious? Fake? Learned?) jabberwocky and jargon-spewing of the self-appointed, new-age pundits, remains as vague, esoteric and subjective as hell, driven largely by individual sensibility and his/her view of the elusive connect between brand and consumer. What mustachioed hot-shot Piyush Pandey, for example, may consider chakaas, dada Balki may dismiss as bakwaas! What cool Aggie Dias may consider sublime, spoof-sharpie Ajay Gahelot may trash as ridiculous! It’s neither here nor there … but at the end of the day, surely some kind of criteria must be applied to judge whether the outpouring of (to quote the late brilliant Frank Simoes) – “the crazy, long-haired, unwashed, dangerous, unpredictable, freaky breed, often demonstrating a madness beyond the civilised pale” is able to successfully deliver the goods. To rock with judge n’ jury as well as consumers and marketscape.

Brazilian Marcio M. Moreira, the celebrated, award winning Vice Chairman of McCann-Erickson worldwide and a renowned specialist in cross-border creative development, offers all confused and interested communication practitioners, some simple, sane steps to differentiate between THAT’S NOT LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL, DUMMY & THAT’S ANOTHER TRAIN COMING!!

His opening salvo: To succeed as a Creative person you have to have the skills and sensitivity of the artist, (but wait) combined with the canny brains of a strategist! Strategy in adbiz however has a separate agenda; it is about understanding the consumer, marketplace, category you are competing with and finally what your brand stands for. Unfortunately many starry-eyed, creatives obsessed with clutter-busting-creativity (that looks and sounds sensational but means nothing) goof it big time and instead of awards and appreciation end up with egg on their face. Innovation is the name of the game – the gift of applying imagination to inventiveness, combining existing ideas, thoughts and images in a startlingly new way.

Moreira’s six-point programme to judge effective creatives, begin with: CAN THE IDEA BE PUT INTO WORDS? This is very important because, he feels, without, it runs a serious risk of being an executional solution rather than a creative one. Hence it’s critical that the idea is articulated into words to fully get the import of the idea. Fashion and Cosmetic advertising are great examples of ideas getting confused and blurred due to a total lack of a central idea. This makes it – because of the huge emphasis and reliance on externals like photography, models, make-up, colour, settings, et al – an executional exercise. L’OREAL is a superb example of breaking away from this mode to present a simple yet powerful central idea – YOU’RE WORTH IT.

IS THE BRAND OR PRODUCT CENTRAL TO THE IDEA? This is a disease all of us understand, all the way! Is this great ad that you are frothing over and going bananas … do you remember the product, the promise and proposition that is meant to communicate? Seven times out of ten, we remember the ad (“God, SRK looked so hot! And Kat, yaar she’s a real knockout!”) but, excuse me, what about the …?!
WHAT IS THE BREAKTHROUGH CONSUMER INSIGHT THAT CREATED THE IDEA? This is critical because ideas created in a blank space cannot ever hope to connect with consumer desires, feelings, wants, needs, expectations and the target group hence, will have zero interest in it. Meaningful consumer insights are the true catalysts because they articulate the relevance of the idea and hence need to be discovered, explored, mined… Remember consumers are an ever-evolving constituency and the task of the true-blue creative animal is to track and tap into it. Ultimately it is insights that provoke the creation of communication that helps make a brand the ‘preferred’ one.

IS IT ORIGINAL AND RELEVANT? For various reasons – mostly legitimate – unique, special, different and original voices are much-in-demand from the creative cats. It can make the critical difference and the cut required to provide a brand that magical cutting-edge quality. However originality for originality’s sake (“launching: the only Ice-Cream on earth with zebra stripes tasting of both vanilla and strawberry flavour!”) is a total no-no! When, for example, the United Colours of Benetton campaign first broke, it was truly mind-blowingly original both in terms of concept and pitch and totally relevant as both social commentary and cultural/intellectual stance Brand Benetton took in addressing people of different colours, race, religion, language and background. Unfortunately, the connect with their constituency started to get weaker with the brand opting for controversy and shock-tactics.

IS IT AN IDEA … OR MERE EXECUTION? The main problem with executional solution is that they speak the idiom of the profession, business and category NOT the brand! A brand is like an individual with its very own personality and means of expression, speaking its own language. That’s what makes it different. The other problem with executional solution is – like earlier stated – because it is not powered by a central idea, it relies on other things – music, photography, editing, images …and hence is not focused on product offering. These are mostly noticed in advertising that celebrates (blindly) trends.

DOES IT HAVE SCOPE? Does it have the potential of a Big idea? Does it go beyond a jhinchaak catchy slogans or a wise cracks that’s likely to go stale soon enough? Is it rooted in universality and does it resonate at a human level? Does it travel well, across disciplines/media streams to strike target? While this aspect is not applicable to every brand and client, it’s worth paying attention to.

Ultimately, solving problems in an innovative, interesting and engaging way that makes your constituency stop, listen and act … that’s real creativity. Unfortunately, (as the Dadas will tell you), it’s easier said than done! 


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