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/

AdStand: Coke, Oppo, GoIbibo, Kellogs and Deepika

There is an easy way to get eyeballs, that is to sign up the current superstar and watch the brand soar. Coke, Kellogs, GoIbibo and Gionee have all got the advantage of having possibly the hottest celebrity as the endorser. All the brands have released the ads at the same time, giving the brands a certain topicality.

 

The Coke Elevator Campaign

While Pepsi faltered in its campaign, Coke has kept the narrative simple and created a very Coke kind of spot. The story of a star bumping into a commoner, connecting with each other and the star leaving the common stranger with a goofy grin makes for super viewing.

There is a certain charm that Deepika brings to the commercial and despite a very tight story line and little space to improvise makes the commercial memorable. The hotel room service steward is also perfectly cast.

The spot though is adapted from the international commercial of Coke. The international commercial is a modern day Cinderella story where an ordinary girl bumps into a celebrity DJ and ends up having her own starry moment and a selfie that didn’t work out as well as she thought it would. The winner this the interactive digital content which takes you floor by floor giving you a taste of candid moments.

The digital campaign has far more interesting take on the modern Cinderella story than just a selfie that is dominated by a bottle of Coke. This is a winner from Coke

 

Selfie and Oppo

Oppo was about the love story between two stars. These two stars haven’t been cast together in a movie, so by a phone brand that was a brave move. The brand has now moved beyond love story, into Selfie. The emotion of finding long lost love has been replaced by narcissistic feel of looking at your face with a weird pout. Deepika is fighting the pout war with Alia and Ranveer. This is an interesting war out there, pouts, pouts and pouts and three hottest celebrities.

 

GoIbibo and Deepika

At 8.5 million views in YouTube alone GoIbibo is doing very well to help Deepika make money by using her contacts on her phone book. This is a simple tale that is enlivened by Deepika, but more by the technologically challenged aunt. The aunt plays the old-world-old–idiom driven lady with extreme pizzazz. It’s the casting that is inspired, the rest of the ad is usual.

 

Kellogs and Deepika

 

Kellogs and Deepika were into selfies last year. Deepika was showing off her weight loss post two week challenge last year. This year Kellogs Special K Protein is more about maintaining your weight by eating the most tempting Cranberry flavoured cereal. There are many cranberries in the commercial, almost from frame one to frame hundred. Its just in final frame you discover that Kellogs has two more flavours. This is a classical packaged food commercial, and does the job of selling the breakfast well. Kellogs will benefit from having a supremely fit and attractive Deepika as its ambassador

 

Deepika and new ASCI Guidelines

ASCI’s new guidelines for brand endorsers and will the guideline have an impact on Deepika’s brands? The bubbly drink is about making friends, that should be safe. The dual lens cell phone is about selfies, you can’t debate that. The travel brand is about making money from friends, that’s a matter between friends. The breakfast cereal is about maintain weight. May be Deepika now needs to hire a nutritionist and a food scientist. Or may be Kellogs can explore selfies again.

They are in fashion.

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/04/ad-stand-coke-oppo-goibibo-kellogg-s-and-deepika/

 

AdStand: Of Fairness and the Celebrity Code

This has been an interesting week. One celebrity took on his entire fraternity over a category they endorse, and Advertising Standards Council released a code of conduct for celebrities who endorse brands.  The trolling of one celebrity and the code of conduct coming in same week are disconnected events, but have set new roles of engagement for the brands.

 

The Abhay Deol Troll War

India has a major fascination for fair skin. At roughly 30 billion, Skin Fairness is possibly the largest category in India. The earliest brand in this category was Afghan Snow. Way back in 1950s they had Miss India’s endorsing the brand, though the brand directly didn’t say fairness cream, it alluded to making skin fair and giving it a ‘snow’ like feel. Surprisingly, The brand is still available on Amazon. Fair and Lovely slowly ambushed Afghan Snow by building a huge guilt trip in would be brides by stressing that fair skin gets better grooms. In 70s, that was a big appeal and slowly Fair and Lovely started to gain acceptance. Today across companies there are many celebrities who do endorse a ‘skin whitening’ cream for both men and women.

In 2014 the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has issued guidelines on the advertising of fairness and skin-lightening creams in an effort to curb the spread of misleading ideas and discrimination.

The new guidelines specified that advertising cannot communicate any discrimination based on skin colour nor can it use post-production visual effects to exaggerate product efficacy, amongst others.

In light of these guidelines the Abhay Deol attack on all his compatriots is a stunning attack. He has raised all the issues that the ASCI has laid down, because despite the guidelines, most brands do flout them and these are large brands that rule the category.

Beyond ASCI guidelines, Abhay Deol has raised the issue on the very existence of the category. His point that should the category even exist as fairness category is worth debating. Fairness is not a fair category, but can the category be really curbed? Thanks to years of cultural imperialism, it is fair skin that is a big definer of beauty in India. So much so that when one odd brand uses a ‘dusky’ model, it becomes big news. This is one war that will need more than a lone voice.

Will ASCI guidelines for Celebrities work?

The new ASCI guidelines that have been put down for celebrity endorsements are very tough.

First, who is a celebrity?

That is defined as someone who receives payment in lieu of appearing in advertising. The definition goes beyond entertainment and sports personalities, but does stop short of ‘influencers’ in social media, may be the code should get upgraded to include anyone who gets paid to propagate brand message.

The second part is what is expected of the celebrity. The Celebrities should do due diligence to ensure that all description, claims and comparisons made in the advertisements they appear in or endorse are capable of being objectively ascertained and capable of substantiation and should not mislead or appear deceptive.

This is far reaching. This means when a celebrity female star plays the role of mother in instant noodle commercial which claims that she feeds her children the noodles because it has nutritional benefits, then she has to believe that the claim is true. Till this point it is still doable. Brands do have tests and data that can be substantiated on many counts. But how will a male film star be convinced that use of a deodorant will have him inundated with female adulation? Or that a particular undergarment is so lucky that it will change his fortune, or that particular slippers’ straps are so strong that he can save girls falling off the cliff or that fairness creams open a world of opportunities, or the film star can jump off a cliff to grab a bottle of cola?

The previous guidelines that ASCI put down for fairness creams have not been followed in true spirit, will we in advertising really follow what we believe are the correct way of using a celebrity? And will we as people who create the appeal for brands extend it to influencers too?

May be we need more Abhay Deols.

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/04/adstand-of-fairness-and-the-celebrity-code/

AdStand: All Fools Day

One thing that various brands have demonstrated in last one week is that advertising works. There is no other reason why across the world would have generated the kind of interest it did. For some the consumers could figure that it was a gag, but for many other brands the consumers were happy to go on a merry ride knowing that the campaigns have broken around 1stApril.

 

Devices generated interest

Ixigo came up with ixigo glass, a device that is a result of our ground-breaking research over the last three years in machine learning, augmented reality and predictive analysis. The Glass as a device was something that got internet buzzing in almost no time. ixigo promised the device to be free on pre-order, they also put a number to how many they will give out free. Its true that many people wanted the device, some got the sense that it was a prank, that number was way too small. ixigo did pull glass over many eyes, and did so without spending money. Head to https://www.ixigo.com/glass to join the post prank fun.

 

The second brand that had a revolutionary breakthrough device was Ola. They created a self driving automated wheels called #OlaWheels for short commute. While the video was cute it did not create the kind of buzz that ixigo created. May be the consumers did not find the device to be quirky enough

 

The third brand in the devices space was Tata Tiago, the small car had a really cute innovation, the Tiago Insta Edition, with windows that have an In-Built Instagram Filter Feature.Now, you don’t need to browse through filters from your Instagram account. The front windscreen was supposed to get paired with the phone and pictures shot through the phone can experience the instagram right on the windscree. Did people get pranked? Going by the buzz on social media, people were willing to open their purse and write the cheque.

 

And while on devices Honda Dream Laboratories introduced Honda cars with Emoji Horn! Created by Honda Dream Labs, the car comes with 7 different emoji sounds so that you could share the feeling with fellow drivers on the roads. The car or the driver could tell the others if they are happy or laughing or annoyed. This is one idea that can make Indian Roads fun, what if the cars automatically posted the emoji used in the social pages and built an emoji song for all Honda Drivers? Or may be this is what the Honda Dream Labs are working on for next All Fools Day

 

Condoms, Jeans and April Fool

Spyker_17.jpg

Durex cleverly bought its international Korean campaign for Durex Jeans to India and with the might of Ranveer Singh got the whole country buzzing. Was it an April Fool prank or just the launch of a new variant? While the brand says it’s a new Variant,  Spykar had a clever take on it. Spykar announced its entry into Condom market. The Condom-Jeans combo kept the audience engaged in the conversation. Durex started it, Spykar was clever.

 

Did Internet have a panic attack?

PornHub is a place where millions go to explore and learn about Human Anatomy. The lessons are highly engaging and makes PornHub a very popular classroom. On April 1st they decided to announce the participation of all their students on their social handles. I suspect millions must have choked on whatever they were drinking or eating and must have triggered a momentary panic attack. PornHub to my mind won the All Fools Day gag.

PH_5.jpg

 

Day Branding now has become a big fixture in marketing calendar, many brands now play very elaboratory made hoax.

If we engage with the brands knowing the dates, advertising is doing well.

Original Published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/04/ad-stand-all-fools-day/

AdStand: 2016 The Year of Do Good

This is the last AdStand of 2016, and this has been a roller coaster year. The year started with promise of being an extremely good year for advertising. Ecom wars truly came to India. Flipkart and Amazon fought pitched battle, Myntra gobbled up Jabong, more fashion startups got launched. The classified listing sites continued to push new messages. The year ended in a whimper with money going out of circulation. Demonetization was more than a bump, it was like a pause. What happened as fashion though were brands latching on to socially relevant messages in a big way.

 

Ariel Share the Load campaign is now part of advertising folklore. The Dad’s take on how he should have taught his son about sharing the load of household work was crafted very well and the message delivered with impact. Ariel has done campaigns earlier with similar messages, specially the one where the husband does laundry for his wife (kuch paane ke liye kuch dhona padta hai) but somehow the brands moved away from husband wife bonding and stayed in the functional washing cleanest zone. This campaign seems to have sparked a whole trend of brands creating more purposeful communication that go beyond mere functional messages. Not all were winners though.

Earlier this year Bournvita’s #ExamKiTayyari hit all the right notes in marks obsessed exam totting country. For a brand that was about excellence in studies too (Tan Ki Shakti, Man Ki Shakti) this was a remarkable departure. For a brand to use the School Principal as the protagonist and debunk the culture of marks is breaking many molds. This was even more path breaking then Ariel’s Share the Load campaign. The million plus views on YT alone tell you that the world sat up and clapped at the ad. For a brand built on loads of scientific babel about ADA and Vitamins, this is a welcome departure. Bournvita has a winner.

Hero Motors did a salute the soldiers’ ad immediately after the POK strike was built on the emotion of the moment. The ad is about a biker helping a soldier catch the bus by racing ahead of bus and stopping it. At almost 2 million views the ad was liked for the context it leveraged. This could have been a much better crafted ad. While the ad leveraged the mood of the nation and had a relevant social message, its script was flawed and could have been far more realistic. For brands to be riding the wave of purposeful messages, it is necessary to go beyond symbolism to create the relevant connect with the brand.

By the end of the year Amazon  released an ad that was dripping with goodness and was sugary sweet in its execution. While the message was socially relevant with the right insight, its execution was way too filmy, or way to TV Serialish to be impactful. This is often the issue with messages that need to be socially relevant, they need to go execute the message with certain class and intrigue. Amazon’s own Priest and Imam ad

rises many notches up in both craft and messaging. They broke through the goodness trap by building anticipation and heightening drama.

 

While there are brands that used large socially relevant messages, some did ride on to the wider societal issues, without being only about goodness in brand messaging.

Nescafe in India did a second commercial after the famous standup comic featuring an out of work cartoonist. They tapped into the wider issue of diminishing readership of newspaper and the cartoonist becoming an Internet sensation. Kohinoor Rice created a story about an Indian Boy and Pakistani Girl who do not agree upon anything. The differences in both countries are played out in the stereotypical way, and predictably they agree that Kohinoor is the best rice. The commercial refuses to rise above the ordinary narrative, despite having an international set up and aimed at global audiences.

In staying with socially relevant messages Tea-A-Me did the Tea for Trump  stunt by sending Donald Trump, the presidential candidate 4 years worth of Green Tea supply for him to drink green tea and soak in the goodness. Tea-A-Me is an unknown tea brand and despite the stunt has remained an unknown tea brand. The stunt though will be remembered for sometime, more so because Trump won the elections

 

In creating the messages that latch on to social goodness, brands need to start from the wider societal issue but then craft the appeal that makes it own able by the brand. This is a fairly challenging task and often the cause becomes bigger then the brand. Brands need to be intrusive in messaging, and by just remaining focused more on goodness, they can lose the ability to create the impact. For brands to truly leverage the goodness quotient, they need to do more then just create broadcast message.

This is not the easiest thing to do.

Original published here http://bestmediainfo.com/2016/12/ad-stand-2016-the-year-of-do-good/

AdStand: The diminishing power of impulse buying

Online shopping has changed many things. Things are available all the time, at the click of button and delivered instantaneously. This has killed the spontaneity of shopping. Earlier the brands used the point of payments to sell mints, razors, batteries, and in India candies. Even otherwise the joy of discovering something that wasn’t on the shopping list and buying it was an important part of the shopping expedition. Many a times consumers did pick up brands that they didn’t expect to buy on a whim and categories benefited from that behavior. With smart algorithms, shopping tips from the sites and suggested things to buy, the power of impulse has started to go down sharply.

 

 Shopping is now a lot about Like and Tags and Shares

There is a new filter that consumers now apply to shopping. This filter is of likes they will get on social media or the shares and comments they will have once they buy the brand. For instance the reason to buy a new cellphone is often how the circle of friends will react to the post and very little about how ‘I’ would feel about using the product.  Gaining approval and exerting influence are the new reasons to buy a brand and this is the factor that brands have to now factor in their communication strategies. Even trivial choices like the food to eat or movie to watch needs a pre-validation from friends and social circles. This is the new currency if digitally connected youth as digital conversations get ingrained in their lives, and this is where the influencers take over and impulse steps back.

 

Is trust then a big factor?

Trust is the result of impulse. While it sounds like trust and impulse don’t meet, this isn’t true. Most path-to-purchase start with impulse and repeat buys makes the impulse into habit. Its habit that eventually leads to trust. We trust those brands that we either buy often or we intend to buy in future. With new social buying driven far more from social pre-approval, the comfort of looking at the brand that is used by many stops becoming a motivating factor. In the digital scenario trust is really about fulfillment and not about usage experience. With a favourable delivery experience and acceptance from social peers, the whole trust game takes a new angle. This is a huge challenge for brands as poor delivery experience impacts the brand and not the site that delivered it, but a good delivery experience impacts the site and not the brand that was ordered. Brands will have to rewrite their strategies with trust becoming a less potent force to drive brand loyalty.

 

So then can brands be really single minded?

The diminishing importance of impulse is also diminishing the need for brands to be single minded. In the era of media proliferation brands pushed the same message across multiple channels to build same impression in minds. Has this started to change? In the earlier era of broadcast, it paid to be single minded. In the era if personal media, it pays to be intrusive.  If the message is not intrusive, the chances of it not being consumed are very large. If we look around, the biggest brands are not really single minded. Apple, Google, Amazon are far more than just one thing. They have crafted a wider narrative to overcome the pre-approval mindset of consumers. As the brands proliferate and media becomes personal, brands have to become more intrusive. Is the intrusion crafted with a single minded feature or a host of cleverly created connected features will be the difference between success and impending doom

 

Marketing theories in 2017 will need new editions, and some of it is a function of new consumer behaviours. Impulse is diminishing, the need for brands isn’t

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2016/12/ad-stand-the-diminishing-power-of-impulse-buying