Friday, December 02, 2011




I laugh so that I may not weep, Boss.” Exclaimed my learned friend the other evening at a party. My quizzical expression inspired him to elaborate. “What’s with you ad guys, yaar? Why are you so parasitically-in most cases-in Bollywood’s vice-grip, Crazily anxious to only entertain your customers in the hope of making a sale? It’s so dumb, unimaginative and indicative of a total bankruptcy of ideas!” Before I could react, another friend (of the marketing kind) very sweetly chipped in “Yup, he’s spot-on! Entertain by all means but don’t let that Drive your ads for chrissake! You have an agenda, right-and it’s not entertaining but selling stuff, powering the purchase intent. If I want entertainment, I’ll see those mindless Rohit Shetty-Sajid Khan crap, not ads, okay? Get real and focused, guys!”

Having successfully ruined my mood, these two killjoys got busy having a blast! However, their words set me thinking and soon I got chatting with some players from Adland. Were these flamboyant accusations true?

First up was Creative Director (at JWT Delhi) Arnab Biswas who summarily dismissed these claims with the arrogance of a successful and hi-flying 30-year-old who’s worked with some of the best and biggest ad-shops, clients and brands. “Tell the bozos, that our job in these scary and competitive times is to – first – grab attention through surprise and delight… not bore the pants off the viewer with a zzzzzz… recitation of facts and figures ! It’s a fast-moving and promiscuous world and the Remote is a killer gadget. The challenge is to keep his/her hands off that deadly object! What better solution than sell through the entertainment route?” says Biswas. Agrees Kaushik Sen, Creative Director at Impact Marketing Services, at he tells 4Ps B&M, “All sane communication people know that the ‘Big E’ is the coolest hotline to a mass-connect. The great leveler that cuts across every social strata and literacy barrier. The age of being propah’ and politically correct is over. Films, songs, books, catchphrases, news, events, happenings… we are forever contexting and borrowing from real life, packaging them in an entertaining manner and letting them loose on our prospective consumers. It’s Exciting, fun…and it works. Trust me.”

Really? Questions blitzed the brain! Wasn’t entertainment meant to be a creative route, a means to an end, not the end itself? Are prizes, metals and gongs at hi-profile national and global ad events the cause of this distracting by-pass? Has today’s advertising become too self-absorbed, drawing too much attention on itself and too little in closing the deal? Has it become a hi-wire act with the glam, media-hyped creative biggies-not clients or market forces-playing judge, jury and star attraction? Has the ‘S’ word-sell-become too boring, passé, unfashionable and déclassé and hence the search for something new, shiny, sexy? I posed some of these queries to veteran Adman Nikhil Nehru (ex head-honcho, JWT North and McCann, North) a huge respected name across the 70s, 80s and 90s. He was cool, objective and brought both gravitas and a sober perspective to this issue. “Let’s face it. There has always been on section of ad guys- arty, over-smart, fake, desperately anxious to make an impression at any part-who made it their prime business to enthrall their clients thought entertainment. On cue, they prime business to enthrall their clients through entertainment. On cue, they got their wows and frequently the business. Problem is: what next? This is a short-team hit because it’s not driven by solid strategy. I’ve always believed that if the hero of your ad is not the product but the treatment (gimmick) you are in trouble, because you have no solid follow-up. Worse, you committed where the ad is remembered-but the product forgotten!” Nehru tells 4Ps B&M.

Bangalore-based Brand Consultant Atul lyer agrees. “The entertainment quotient works as a super-seller only if and when used in a brand-fit and appropriate manner. For example the charming squirrel-dance TVC for Kit-Kat was pure genius! Also, the Juhi Chawla driven over-the-top Kurkure TVCs are both hilarious and relevant to the product-nudge. These two are fine examples of how entertainment can enhance the brand equity and product appeal of the stuff advertised going beyond the obvious, to create and emotional synergy that ensures high awareness and memorability,” says lyer.

So whats our take-out? In a stress-driven world where entertainment is increasingly viewed as welcome therapy, where our movie-making technology is worth class, entertainment-as-a-selling route ironically can work as a double-edged sword. How? Why? It’s like this. Due to fabulous technology and brilliantly trained technician, stunningly crafted TVCs (as also press & Radio ads) are forever blitzing the target group with a high level of engagement, but-and this is critical-do they impact mindset, alter belied. Inspire change or motivate purchase-intent-instinct to-wards the product advertised? Does the gasp, delight, surprise and raves about how “kickass entertaining the ad is, boss!” translate to any kind-of-desire to buy? This is the real litmus test, Advertising is finally a commercial, marketing-driven, sale-inducing activity. Ha-ha is fine, but it is only a conduit to the central motive. Entertainment ke liye kuch bhi karega works in Bollywood, but in adville, do please look before you leap!