Thursday, March 25, 2010


The road to good, engaging and effective advertising is often a bumpy one. Why? Our consulting editor attempts to unravel some of them.

Adland, to some of its practitioners, is a territory that is hallowed, sacred and powered by yellow, moth-eaten, stone-age clichéd laws. They are meant to be irrefutable and writ in stone. It’s time we look at six of these commandments – before burying them with an RIP epitaph! Ready? Let’s go...

Research Overkill: Some advertisers use research based on the rather pompous premise that what people say they do is what they’ll do! The history of advertising is choc-a-bloc with profitable ideas that died needlessly due to this premise, based on mindless scorekeeping – an overuse of research. Somewhere, research became the amazing art and science of turning potent magic to potent waste! The famous Anita Roddick of Body Shop once said research was “like looking at the rear view mirror of a fast-moving car.” We say, research and destroy!

OBJECTIVITY: Some other advertisers are constantly obsessed with finding the ‘logically and objectively right answers’, instead of the emotionally appropriate responses. No prizes for guessing what the result is… The simple fact is they are scared of risk, don’t trust their instincts and believe that the letter is more important than the spirit. Economists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky proved a few years back that consumers don’t think objectively (and they won the Nobel Prize for that). Then why should you?

Familiarity: Breeds contempt, inertia and clichés… and yet, clients continue to wail, “Give me something like…,” right? Brands were invented to achieve differentiation and what was effective then, is mud when repeated. When was the last time you heard a politician articulate truth with power and fearless passion? Or when you read a letter from your bank that got your eyes to glaze over? Got a talk from your boss that empowered you to focus on commitment to excellence rather than bottomlines? Innovate in advertising regularly (not in brands; that doesn’t help apparently); change the design, or the layout, or the colours, whatever! Let the customer not get familiar with the ad!

Cynicism: Like love and magic, you have to believe in advertising, rather than assume that the quality of the product would be enough to sell it. If advertising doesn’t make the waves it should, it’s because instead of going about discovering the richness (or infidelities) of human insight, marketers spend their lives and big bucks “ticking all boxes” and following “the checklist!” This results in lookalike, superficial, uninspired advertising. When faith colours profession, commodity turns into brands showcasing the essential values of the intangibles – passion, sensuality, story.

Interference: Wasn’t it the great pope of advertising, David Ogilvy, who said that one should stop barking when they have a dog? Sure, it’s a ‘collaborative’ activity, but nothing can be worse than decisions made by committees and through consensus! Like the moviebiz, advertising is a nervous industry and therefore checks and balances and risk-proof safety nets come into play like crazy; but in this crazy paranoia, reenforced by the new buzz word ‘relationship-bonding’, well-meaning clients (and superiors) peck to death great ideas of a creative whizkid, whose concepts are screaming to be approved! The secret is to let people get on with their jobs. Recognise, motivate, inspire, suggest, but never interfere. Sadly, as the late H. G. Wells once wrote, with chilling truth, “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft!”

Gloss, Polish, Fake: While advertising is indeed the art of dramatising the truth, hyping reality and slicking up the mundane, it often goes over the top and becomes “cheesy! To any half-way sensitive, sane and informed human being, there is terrific irony at play here. As the world gets more new-age, there is an increased yearning for old-fashioned values, like authenticity, slow food, reading groups, organic vegetables, concerns over issues like climate control, preservation of tigers, et al. Unless you reach out and touch, no one will reach out and touch your brand. Nobody trusts voices that posit to be all things to all people. Why should Brands behave differently?


No comments:

Post a Comment