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: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/07/ad-stand-women-as-consumers-and-advertising-s-disconnect-with-them/

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.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1357473237663545&id=545080655684943

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: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/07/ad-stand-action-on-social-media/

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: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/06/ad-stand-festival-at-cannes/

 

 

 

 

 


Naresh Gupta

@googlegupta / 9811160480
Sent with Airmail

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AdStand: Positioning. Impulse. Transaction. Delivery.

Jack Trout passed away earlier this week. He along with Al Reis wrote the book “Positioning. The Battle For Your Mind” in the late 60s. For over fifty years the marketing and communication practice has looked at the term and what the term represents almost every day.

70s was the era of manufacturing boom in America (the theory originated in USA) the retail shelves were getting filled with new packaged products, the brands needed to stand out.

The concept of positioning is based on a simple principle of identifying a ‘differentiator” and then owning that differentiator in consumers’ mind. The ownership of the differentiator creates a lasting impression and becomes the driver of business in a wider sense of the term.

This remained unchanged and unchallenged, despite the second book that the authors wrote. They amended some of their theories, but somehow the updated book did not become the kind of anthem the first book had become.

Positioning was all about narrowing the brand to one thing that could be owned in the strongest way in consumers mind.

Positioning actually built a buying shortcut

I am not sure if the theory was intended to build a buying shortcut. The singular focus of the brands meant that consumers could identify what the brand stood for with ease. That ease fuelled the entire impulse buying. As the consumer crossed the shop shelf, or stood behind counter asking for the brand or interacted with the brand at any place, the singularity triggered the reason to buy.

Singularity meant that consumers could use twisted heuristics – unconsciously held rules of thumb – that help us make quick decisions that we’ve learned generally work out well.

Impulse became the currency and positioning strengthened impulse every day.

Now if the brands had to enter the buying basket, they had to displace the ones already there. What was called brand loyalty was actually twisted heuristics, and rival brands raided the others to weaken the twist.

At some stage with more and more brands proliferating, with every brand trying to occupy mind space, the whole singularity started to become a drag for the brands.

 

Impulse got ambushed by transaction.

Positioning as a theory lived in the context of broadcast era. Brands could be singular and deliver the same message to a wide range of diverse audience every evening, in the same way, every day. Digital changed that fundamentally. Messages are now not broadcast driven, they are individual driven. Narrowcast is not the word that can be used for digital messaging. Brands now don’t have to bother about building a context. They look at the consumer and make an offer. Heuristic went out of the window because the new currency is all about better value here and now.

Transaction rules the new message from brands. Brands becoming transactional is the exact opposite if what the Gurus of Positioning say. In being transactional brands are many things to many people. They are about moving hands and feet, they are not about moving heart and mind.

 

Transactional is now delivery, that too by drone

The new frontier of branding is neither positioning nor the transactional competence. The final frontier is about how quickly the brand can be delivered to the consumers. Before you think this is kite flying, consider this: Mercedes-Benz is investing USD 562 Million in a drone delivery setup. This system is designed to deliver packages faster to consumers using drones. This in 60s when the positioning theory was written would have sounded like a far off science fiction thing. The future is here, the future is in drones

 

Jack Trout has passed away. The theory he co authored is also passing through transitioning times.

The future itself may need new positioning

Originally published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/06/adstand-positioning-impulse-transaction-delivery/

 

AdStand: Government as Advertiser

India’s largest advertiser is not any brand or organization, it is the Government of India, and if you add all the state Governments to it, the sheer volume of advertising will be staggering. I am not adding the campaigns that the Government does for tourism or vaccination or cleanliness or any such cause or business. The communication that Governments do for themselves is phenomenal and keeps scores of agencies busy all round the clock.

Despite popular perceptions and some ordinary creative quality Governments are skilled advertisers. They have a clear idea of what they want to communicate and to who they want to connect with. They craft the message with a good sense of audience, their receptivity and political leanings.

Advertising by definition has to connect with the core audience and say one thing. Both these rules are not applicable to Government. They are not selling a product or a service. Government is not selling anything, they are showcasing their ability, their acumen, their achievements. They have to showcase a lot, create a positive influence and make the audience feel everyday that their choice was the correct choice and they should exercise the same choice in next elections. All this without showing the party symbols. Being everything to everybody is not easy. Being an all pervasive campaign is not easy. Being able to have multiple subjects where the citizens find what appeals to them by themselves is not easy. The Government ads have a different challenge.

The current regime in the center has elevated the art of Sarkari advertising to a new level. They haven’t done this by improving the quality or by better art direction or by better copywriting. None of that has changed in the ads. The ads remain plain and information driven.

What they have done is better segmentation. Each subject the Government wants to convey is a campaign. Each subject has its own slogan. Each campaign has the PM posing in the right context. Each campaign also has its hashtag, presumably for digital conversation.

Take the three years of NDA campaign that is going on currently. From GST to Skill India to Swach Bharat, the campaign has many subjects. All the campaigns have been unified using one slogan: Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. This has been the Governments continuing slogan from the campaign which transitioned from the BJP election campaign.

What the Government has done is understood the Indian mindset. The success of brands in India is built on Sachets, every brand that sells a large pack uses Sachet to drive penetration. This is the Government that has driven the messaging in the same way. If you happen to catch a flight from a smaller airport in India (managed by AAAI) you will see boards proclaiming how the Government has ensured that fares have fallen in last 3 years. This has not been done by any Government ever.

For me, as a communication professional, there are many lessons that Government campaigns do teach me.

Originally published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/06/ad-stand-government-as-advertiser/

 

Adstand: Has Baahubali redefined marketing in India?

I may be among the rare Indians who hasn’t seen Baahubali. I may be among few world citizens who haven’t seen Baahubali. The one key question kept the buzz alive for almost four years. One simple question drove the engagement for the movie. Closer to release the movie unleashed brand partnerships of epic scale. Brands were happy to play subservient to the appeal of the movie. By the end of the week, the fantasy saga had re written every rule, broken every record. The movie is an epic hit.

There are lessons for marketing fraternity that are hard to miss.

 

The word National needs to be looked at with new eyes

What is a national brand and what is a regional brand in India? National brands have always tended to start from the larger landmass of upper India and then moved to ‘regional’ pockets. Brands have often tweaked appeals to suit the regional markets. There have been very few brands that had their origination in the regional market and went on to become a national brand in no time. Yes there are brands like Ujala, Sabeena, Nyle, Chic, Wagh Bakeri, brands that crossed over from home states to claim a stake at the national level.

Baahubali has shown that it is possible to be born in the regional market, not speak Hindi or English and yet be a national sensation from day one.

Baahubali, especially Part 2 didn’t remain a Telugu movie, it became a national movie, and therein lies the brilliance of the marketing team. They refused to think regional.

 

Brands need to stick to conviction

It would have been nice to be a fly on the wall listening to the conversation in the conference room of the studio. Did they debate to mute the regional language overtones in the movie? Did they debate to make the idiom a lot more tuned Hindi Speaking market? I don’t know if they even debated these issues. What they did was stick to conviction. The overall packaging of the film remained true to film and what the film needed. The product didn’t even try to hide its origins. They did not add anything to the product to expand its appeal like adding a Hindi film star in special appearance, and such tricks.

Conviction in the product, its values, and the resultant story is very important for any brand; this is the fodder for the appeal that eventually gets created. Baahubali made sure that it didn’t waver from its conviction of telling a story that is grand, lavish and eye-popping. The resultant single mindedness made the brand into a very powerful brand.

 

Being audacious is a great way to build engagement

Building appeal always starts with a great product but needs a very audacious appeal to become a sensation. Audaciousness has been written about, it’s a big jargon in PowerPoint, business even hire consultants to write the audacious goals. If you want to look for an example of being audacious, look no further. The brand did everything with audaciousness built into its core. There were no half measures, there were no shortcuts, and there were no small dreams. They went big. For a new brand or a brand that is trying to challenge the paradigm, they need to be seen as people who are trying to create a new idiom. Baahubali was phenomenally successful in making people accept that they will not be the kind of popular cinema that is most often commercially successful. They would be the outlier that charts its own path.

 

Baahubali sensation has just started. There is a TV series coming, may be that too will capture people’s imagination like the movies. But in any case, the movie has proven that breaking the mold with conviction and audacity can lead to major success.

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/05/ad-stand-has-baahubali-redefined-marketing-in-india/