AdStand: Comparative Advertising: Daring and Dud

Advertising on most days is a fairly boring job. As people working in advertising, crafting promise for brands the everyday currency is consistency. Brands are about saying the same thing in multiple ways across multiple media channels.

Communication plays a key role in creating a competitive advantage for the brand. Done with right values and creative proposition it helps consumers make informed choices.

Once in a while though advertising adds a dose of excitement to the brand by getting competitive. This is when brands go hammer and tongs against each other, call each other names and often force the consumers to take sides.

The fair question to ask is this: why do brands no do this often? Even better, why do they not do this all the time?

The answer to this is complex, but often the simplest answer is that consumers get bored of a fight quickly and engagement with the brand can drop off fairly quickly.

Last month we saw three brands taking pot shots at the competition.  One was really daring, the other was a dud. But the wider question remains, can comparative advertising be the long-term strategy for brands? Can it be made to work?


The Daring

There is a brand of motorcycle that is known by the thump-thump sound of its engine. It‘s an iconic brand of cruiser motorcycles with almost a cult following. Bajaj Dominar threw the gauntlet mocking the slow, raw, complicated nature of the bike in its new TV commercial, comparing the competing bike to keeping an elephant as a pet. Stated in Hindi, it’s a euphemism for something that you buy expensive, you maintain expensively and has very little utility value. For an upstart brand, this was a daring move, a move that was designed to polarize the views of bikers. The entire conversation around the communication in social media points to two things. One, it got a lot of eyeballs for Dominar. Two, Royal Enfield, the brand Dominar, mocked carried along like an elephant, unfazed. It didn’t even bother to respond.

Now did Bajaj give a backhand compliment to RE? Did it add to the legend of RE?

Maybe the next move of Bajaj will tell us where the whole battle is going.


The Dud

Jeep launched its smaller (not small) SUV Compass to great fanfare and a stunning price point. The market lapped up the Jeep with open arms, swelling the turnstiles. Jeep has a big hit in its kitty.

Not one, but two brands went against Compass with tongue and cheek ads.

First, Tata Hexa a newly launched SUV from Tata stable went building appeal by saying Hexa takes you anywhere and you don’t need Compass. The two brands actually may not be targeting the same driver. Hexa is raw, more brawn and meant for the those who want a tough SUV. Jeep Compass is way too urbane and refined and appeals to a very different mindset.

The second brand that went paying a backhand compliment to compass was XUV 500. “You don’t need a compass to win races, you need guts,” said the advertising. XUV 500 is more in the same space as Jeep Compass and maybe they had a reason to react, but then they could have reacted like Jaguar and Merc went up against each other. That is the kind of fight that adds to the brand’s mystique.

The conversation on social media indicates that both brands helped Jeep more than take away from its appeal.

If the communication was addressed to ensure that the appeal of Jeep gets muted than the advertising didn’t hit the bullseye.


The Sublime

The brand that has elevated comparative advertising to an art form is Burger King. Burger King’s fight with McDonald’s is legendary. There are hundreds of lessons that brands can learn from how Burger King attacks McDonald’s to sell more. They do this with intelligence, they force people to take sides and they do it with a very well-defined sense of humor.

Very few brand will have the ability to create a product like McWhopper and ask its prime competitor to make peace with it for just one day. The consumers enjoyed the fight, they laughed, and they took sides. Burger King even got McDonald’s to react.

Burger wars are far bigger today than the erstwhile cola wars and Burger King is the sole warrior. Somehow it ensures that consumers take sides and enjoy the whole saga.

The point is simple; if you have to go to fight with your competitor, make it worth the while for consumers and dint leave it as a conversation between two marketing departments.

There is always a phone for that or Whatsapp.


Original Published Here:


AdStand: Technology, AI, Pickle and Appeals

Last week on my social feed, I asked a pertinent question to all my friends. Now I am over 50, belonging to a generation that saw computers first in Star Wars or read about them in Arthur C Clarkes’ book, you can imagine that my friends belong to the same generation. Many actually do. But then I do work in an organization where everyone is under 35, they are people who have grown up digitally and find computers and smartphones as ubiquitous as hard-boiled candies on check-out counters.

This was the question: Is all the technology making today’s generation isolated pods? Are they aloof and disconnected or they are actually crowded and connected?

The conversation had the older friends of mine tilting to the side of believing that too much technology is bad for us. But then someone pointed that when books came into being, they were called work of the devil. The 60s generation called TV as the idiot box, the millennial calls it Smart TV.

The 60s lot didn’t grow up dumb, despite the idiot box becoming the primary storyteller at home.

We accept technology till we think we can use it, but resist when it tends to overwhelm us. The millennial or by whatever name you may want to call them, adopt and adapt to technology faster than those born in the 60s or 70s. While one gapes at technology wondering, the others quietly put it to use to find little moments of joy.

This is the reality: the rise of smartphones has led to rise in global tourism. May be the whole conversation around curated ego needs to be looked at with radically different parameters.

Why am I saying all this?

Because, the new IBM global campaign made me think hard about how the technology brands are merging the human potential with AI, machine learning, and big data.

You to the Power of IBM

The new campaign of IBM evolves from solutions for the planet to the power in hands of humans to make things happen. What this campaign does is that makes IBMs AI platform Watson, integrated with the impact it has on people.

You to the power of Data

You to the power of Expertise

You to the Power of Cloud

You to the Power of AI

This is You to the Power of IBM

IBM has played this cleverly. The executions are driven from personal empathy, you look at the ads and marvel at the power that is now in hands of individuals. They have made the technology step back, almost invisible.

This is the campaign that made me ask the question, is too much technology good for humans?

At least IBM’s answer is clear.

IBM is not the first computing brand to celebrate the power of individuals. In a small manner, Dell did it earlier, but Dell’s primary focus was on employees who make Dell powerful.

How will many more brands look at this emerging dynamic? We in advertising still live in a strange bubble. Many of the appeals we create work only for us in adverting. Like the brand that was shooting star this week thanks to a condom that has pickle as flavour. Or a washing machine that claims to be “Unisex”.

I guess for us in advertising and marketing, there won’t be many times when we will see brands celebrating the ability of humans to make things happen by using technology and make things happen because of pickles and gender.

AdStand: Women as consumers and advertising’s disconnect with them

Last week was dominated by women-centric stories in advertising and content. Both in India and globally. All the stories do raise a pertinent point: do we in advertising have any clue of the changing women consumers or are we still seeing them with the narrow perspective of past? Just sample what happened last week. Audi in China missed the mark with a TVC. In India, we are doing one strange TV show about a 10-year-old boy getting married to a grown up woman. An RJ in Mumbai brought BMC to its knees, and she is a spunky lady. A movie with liberating theme about women tied the Censor Board in a tangle that the best Yoga guru couldn’t fathom. The women cricket team reached the final of the world cup. Meanwhile, advertising in India continues to make skin fairer, weddings grander, mom-in-laws angrier, shirts whiter and utensils shinier.

Audi in China is a very powerful brand. It has ruled the market in China for a very long period and is a part of pop culture. The market’s reaction to the ultra-insensitive Audi Used Car ad was understandable. The market reacted with horror, there were calls to ban the commercial. Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter) was unforgiving. Audi’s global brand managers apologised. The commercial compared a new bride to a used car and the analogy made a big dent into the reputation of the brand. In every such case, we must remember that there was a brief, there was an approval to a concept, there was the process of creation, post-shoot approvals and may be many rounds of market research in between. If the ad made it to screens than it begs the question, are they in touch with their consumers? Or they are completely oblivious to the realities of the market.

Meanwhile back home Mumbai is witnessing a bizarre sequence of events. An RJ created a song about potholes in Mumbai and the whole BMC was up in arms. They slapped a case of mosquito breeding. Mumbai rose in unity and sided with the RJ. Across social media, the outpouring of support was massive. What possibly added to the whole movement was the fact that the RJ was a lady. What may have proved the authorities was possibly her gender. The city did not let her gender come by way of the support.

The outpouring of pride and support for the women’s cricket team who reached the final was also massive. Women’s cricket has not been a popular sport in India, despite the popular sport it is. The journey of the team from being a qualifier to almost champion fired up the imagination of the country.

After a protracted battle with the censor board, Lipstick Under My Burka was received with open admiration. The movie does talk about themes that have not been a part of the popular narrative in either movies or advertising. A pleasure-seeking old woman is not the theme that has ever been portrayed. The good thing to watch was not that the theme was touched upon; it was that the audience accepted the narrative.

The week also saw the release of a bizarre show on TV where a 10-year-old boy marries a lady more than twice his age. Everything about the show is wrong. However, despite the protests, the show is on screens, beamed regularly to our homes.

The wider issue is the lack of women centricity in most of commercials that are being beamed on TV. The insights and the propositions are a bit dated. Life on TV for brands is still about shinier, fairer, brighter and grander. The new emerging women consumers are not the same as what they used to be. Ten years back they were saying that it’s okay to not get married, today the signs of successful marriage are not how the husband-wife portrayal is in many mainstream brand ads.

Brands need to rethink the emotional contract they have with the consumers. They are moving at alarming speed. Brands need to be ahead, drive the change, be engaged. Maybe the next set of commercial from jewellery as category is not about a grand wedding, but about many more emerging themes.

Remember the girl’s story who does not call off her honeymoon even after her wedding broke, became an iconic movie. And the lead actor became a strong voice.

Original published here:

AdStand: Action on Social Media

So GST is here, the new taxation system has been ruled out, internet went ballistic with jokes, brands went quiet on media and consumers were busy posting bills on social media wanting to know if they were duped. In between the lull in action, Internet exploded in two geographies with the same reason. Politics and commerce merged and some didn’t take it well.

Prime Minister and a filter

We all know Snapchat and how the filters on Snapchat make the app the buzziest app for the young audience. They take snaps, put a filter and share it with all their friends. They laugh at it and move on to another filter. AIB did the same, and not with someone from AIB, but with Prime Minister Modi’s picture and his doppelganger with the #wanderlust. What was supposed to be a joke quickly went viral with user complaining to cybercrime cell of Mumbai Police who decided to file an FIR for posting a supposedly “lascivious” picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter. While AIB deleted the tweet, they did get trolled both by BJP and Congress supporters for a variety of reasons depending on the political leanings. The troll army didn’t hold back, not even after the PM himself tweeted “We surely need more humour in public life”.

This is the reality of social media today.

We do not engage in a conversation, we just get outraged and smart brands like AIB use the outrage to push their brand further. Tanmay Bhat and company have found a way to get PM to respond to them. It’s not the trolls, but the creators who created smart play and won.

Reebok trolls and wins

I have not seen a brand troll the leader of its country and win, I have not seen a brand that may want to troll the most powerful man on earth, the President of US. The president made a controversial remark while meeting French President Emmanuel Macron’s wife. This was captured on Facebook Live and people did cringe on the comment.

Reebok posted the now famous sub-tweet “When is it appropriate to say” giving the POTUS a lesson in public behaviour and how to interact with the opposite gender. Reebok created an elaborate chart to let the President know how he should behave when. Reebok suggested, really the only scenario Trump’s words could ever be considered okay is if you’re saying them while admiring a decades-old action figure from your childhood that survived a long hibernation in your parents’ basement.

This sub-tweet now has over 45,000 re-tweets and 77,000 likes. Clearly Reebok won the battle and the other side was a really powerful adversary. Vice news didn’t put a sub-tweet, but did create a video trolling the POTUS with hilarious results. The tweet was simple: “Billions and billions and billions and…” It’s here

Canon does a classic brand take on social media

While brands and politics is a new thing in social media, Canon created a simple but very powerful story on social media about two tourists, a restaurant, and pictures.

This is the kind of content that still fuels the desire for the brand and makes the consumers reach out for expensive cameras. They didn’t troll the piffy phone camera, they didn’t troll the selfies, Canon upped the game and made your fingers reach for the shutter release button as you watched the chef playing with food.

Brands today have to be quick, and maybe there is no subject that cannot be trolled. Social is making brands go smart, quick, and quirky and people love it.

Original published here:

Last month, the large conversation was around GST. The country was preparing for a big transition from one indirect taxation structure to another taxation structure. Ideally, it should have been a simple affair of a switchover. But as it happens in India, the whole buzz leading to the switchover was anything but smooth. The amount of jokes that sprung up on GST must have increased the bandwidth consumption in India by many gigabytes. The markets went on GST sale, the brands made special offers, they created the GST price protection plans, the constantly on sale ecom portals had one more reason to stay on sale. The country had a shopping festival this year that may have been bigger than the coming Diwali.

There is one brand that may have won the entire GST hullabaloo; that brand is Durex. In a clever cheeky post on Twitter, Durex usurped the entire GST conversation. Clever from Durex. Wonder why no other brand has a take on GST?

In the lead-up to GST, the Government of India did release a high pressure, high intensity campaign across the country. Whether all of the ads were thought through and whether the live event had everything correct is really up for debate. The countrywide press ad was poorly crafted and badly written. This is unlike what this Government has done till now, their ads have been sharp and well made. Here’s the launch ad and you can have your own take on the headline.

The switchover from the previous system to the new system was beamed live to the whole country, but did the PM walk away to theme music of Darth Vader? The public broadcaster obviously is poorly trained on small intricacies of music and movies.

The bigger issue though is one voice that has become the voice of the Government. You will hear this very well-known and loved baritone across the Swachh Bharat Mission, Pulse Polio Mission, Hepatitis, GST and possibly more in quick succession on Radio. It’s not Mr Bachchan’s fault that he comes across sounding similar in all the ads. The creative teams of all the causes that Government pushes have used him in a singular way. The similar sounding tonality across all the ads should be a cause of worry as it does impact the memorability of the campaigns. For the advertising-savvy government, this is one blip it must correct quickly. Mr. Bachchan may be a great choice, but he needs to be used in creatively vibrant ways.

Apart from all the pressure of advertising from the Government and switchover of the taxation structure, MP Birla cement released a high on emotion campaign where they tried to go beyond the usual appeal of cement brands.

MP Birla Cement is a rather unusual brand name for a brand trying to create consumer appeal, the advertising though is rather nice. Here is the ad that talks about how making a house in India is such a tough task. The emotional overlay of sacrifices a family makes in making the house is then connected to not just the quality of cement but also to expert advice on usage of cement. Trying to create appeal for an intermediate product like cement is a tough task, and strength is the dominating appeal. MP Birla is adding the angle of expertise. In the long run, this may turn out to be differentiator, especially of the expertise angle that is rolled in a big way for the end consumer.

Staying with cement, the ad of the month for me comes from Japan. Japan is the master of ludicrous advertising, but sometimes there are ads that cross over to become insanely mad. Here’s a commercial where the actors are screaming and shouting and while watching you are trying to guess the category. It’s really an odd way of advertising for a boring category but is done with such quirk that it is impossible to ignore the ad. The ad did very well at Cannes this year.

So did Durex with the clever tweet.

Original published here:

AdStand: Festival at Cannes

$72 Million festival has drawn to close, hundreds of delegates from across the globe have come and soaked in the week long extravaganza. Agencies across the globe have celebrated the wins and rued the miss. Yet even before the Gutter Bar changes its name back to Croisette 72, the big news from the festival is not about winning, promotions or new jobs. The big news is about Publicis withdrawing from Cannes for a year.


The Publicis #CannesExit

Publicis is the third largest participant in the festival and a real creative heavyweight at that. Just this year it contributed a mere $2Mn in entry submissions. It is estimated that the real tab for Publicis this year have been close to $20Mn with all the expenses thrown in. No wonder the share price of Ascential, the company that owns the festival crashed once the announcement was made. Publicis isn’t cutting down on investment though, it wants to invest this money in AI driven solutions for the marketing industry.

The reactions have been swift and brutal with almost the entire creative fraternity and the rivals shell shocked.

FCB’s Carter Murray was clear in his response to the pullout. To him, the advertising agency business is a business of creativity.  “Technology inspires us and fuels our creativity, but we are NOT a technology company. And we are NOT a consultancy. We help brands and businesses define their purpose and bring it to life in creative ways that transform businesses and the world.”

Eventually, it is Publicis’ decision to stay or exit. For creative business, it may mean that awards and trade shows may see themselves losing some flab and may become tighter, cohesive and celebratory of really good work.

Meanwhile back home, McCann India has done exceeding well at Cannes along with usually bright Taproot, Ogilvy, W&K, BBDO, Satchi,Leoo Burnett and off late Medulla (the healthcare agency).

Three campaigns stood out for me, the Adidas Odds campaign, the Savlon – Healthy Hands Chalk Stick campaign and the HP Roads That Honk campaign.

All three are examples of a new marriage of social good with commercial acumen. This often leads to a new kind of conversation and overall upliftment of the society.

Savlon Healthy Hands Chalk Stick


It’s a simple idea that has the potential to change lives. Lifebuoy three years back was also there at Cannes with its tale on Hand Hygiene. Savlon’s tale is more powerful and the innovation is more meaningful. This innovation taps into the existing behaviour and offers a simple solution. Ideas like this need to be applauded. The issue for me though is this: did ITC miss a trick to really make the campaign impactful?

What if the ordinary citizens could join hands with Savlon and order Chalk for schools in neighbourhood? I did try to order, they are not listed in either the ITC site or on Amazon. The chalk is not listed on the ITC site as well. I think the brand has missed a big opportunity to make the innovation mainstream and make the whole world seek it out. ITC is a master marketer, may be it will do so in coming days.

HP-Roads That Honk


This is even simpler than the chalk with soap idea. Roads on hills with hairpin bends normally have concave and convex mirrors to ensure that vehicles see each other, know the incoming traffic and give way. HP has taken this simple device many levels ahead by building technology that alerts the other driver by Honking. While we may ask the question about how an agency is involved in an innovation like this, the wider question is the lack of any conversation on Twitter or Facebook. Its sad that almost no one saw the device, almost no one experienced the power of Honking Roads, no one’s life was saved because of the device. With HP’s muscle I would expect that more and more roads and hairpin bends would have the technology implemented.

Meanwhile I like how the good old way of creating unfair competitive advantage for the brand has been used by Motilal Oswal in its new campaign.

.It has a sharp insight, it builds a compelling narrative, has used the music effectively and the promise of the brand builds the traction. They have kept it decluttered, not bothered to change the world, made a strong connection with the brand. This is what communication is all about: sharp insight, good narrative and promise that works.

Not that Cannes didn’t have such ads, but somehow we dumb this kind of work down when the festivals arrive.

Original published here:






Naresh Gupta

@googlegupta / 9811160480
Sent with Airmail


July 2017

Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
25 26 27 28 29 30 1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31 1 2 3 4 5

This folder was last updated 21/07/2017 08:33:34

Adstand: When Brands Standup and a Magazine cover defines the Global Insight

Every once in a while comes a piece of advertising that makes consumers look  at advertising with a certain degree of respect and seriousness. In an industry that lives on thin slivers of truth and a large dollop of hype, this is a major happening. A collection of global corporations came together and released an ad that is driven by facts and seeks political action.

This week a leading global news magazine put the President of US on the cover, but was it really the cover? Did the world got taken for a ride?

Closer home a news channel after a massive launch and popular campaign has seen interest wane and has now started to get trolled for being loud and boorish.


The Ad across America that matters

How often would Adobe, Apple, Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Danfoss, Dignity Health, Facebook, Gap, Inc. Google, The Hartford, Hewlett Packard, Enterprise, Ingersoll Rand, Intel Corporation, Johnson Controls, Levi Strauss & Co. Mars Incorporated, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, National Grid, PG&E Corporation, Royal DSM, Salesforce, Schneider Electric, Tiffany & Co. Unilever, and VF Corporation come together for a common cause?

All these giant corporations joined hands with Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions to keep America in Paris Agreement for Climate Change. The pitch from these companies to President to keep US in Paris Agreement for Climate Change is sharp and precise. The appeal is very US focused and that makes common cause with President Trump’s slogan of Making America Great. Advertising for a cause like this doesn’t need complicated execution; it needs to he honest and earnest. And it needs certain boldness, to standout, to be heard. Released as full-page ads across the most popular newspapers, they did create a stir.

Apple has now gone ahead and pledged a Billion Dollars in Green Bonds. The bond will allow the company to finance projects such wind and solar power plants, energy-efficient buildings, and new approaches to using recycled materials. World leaders came together through Paris Agreement to work towards bringing global temperatures down by 2 degrees. US now wants to walk away from it. Largest US corporations have taken opposing public position. The largest corporation taking a contra view to the political powers is something we haven’t seen ever in India.

The Magazine Cover that never was

“Americans begin facing the task of living under the LIAR in CHIEF” proclaimed the cover of Time Magazine with President Trump on the cover and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the backdrop. The cover became the global rage, almost everyone shared the image on their Twitter handle. Most people wondered how Time could do a cover like this in the early days of Trump’s Presidency.

The only issue here is that the cover is a fake. Time never created a cover like this. Their cover for the magazine does have Trump on the cover, but not the person, his name sake Hotel.

This is the new reality of the world. There is a twitter handle that goes by the name LiarInChief. The epidemic of manufactured news that is circulated by verified handles is something that is destroying reputations. May be the social media can be called Liar in Chief


News Channel where brand appeal is not what it delivers

Arnab launched Republic with a high impact, high rhetoric campaign positioning himself as the conscience keeper of the nation. His appeal of “I am Coming” was to make it sound as if every politician is trembling with fear. The brands’ delivery of the news though was not what the campaign made it sound. Republic has become the example of brand over promise and underwhelming product delivery. Brands that live on current opinions and events and brands that promise to be the watchdog have a hard task to deliver. Republic is suffering for that reason today.

Taking up a cause and making it a part of the business is not easy. Commerce almost always triumphs the greater goodness. For once the corporations in America are doing something different.

Originally published here: