AdStand: Beyond the tokenism of International Women’s Day

The good thing is that brands want to celebrate Women’s Day. Some do it by celebrating their relationship with women consumers, and some by turning it into a joke. This Women’s Day one brand turned it into a shopping day (because it is a retail shopping chain) and other decided to show movies with women in lead (because it is a movie chain). There are very few brands that looked at the International Women’s Day theme of #BeBoldForChange. Inox did it in unique way of declaring woman as the #HeadOfTheFamily, Anouk did it by an online film #SaveItForAnotherDay, or Kriti Sanon did a nice take in it for her brand Ms Taken.

This has become the story of Women’s Day, and I suspect a lot of it is to do with coming of social media. Brands cannot be seen left out on a #TrendingTopic and they have to be seen a part of conversation. The fear of being left out is something that grips most brands for them to push messages out. With social media and shareability on social media driving the reason to do the campaign the messages tend to become overtly preachy.

This is what made me look for commercials that could have been done for International Women’s Day, but were normal everyday brand commercials. Each of these commercials made a deep impact on the brand, they did it by not overtly espousing a cause, were done by large mainstream brand, were definitely not preachy.

First one is a landmark commercial of Indian Advertising. Way back in 90s, TV had just started to become the lead medium of communication; brands were aggressively adopting TVC as the way to connect. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk did this commercial where the girl unabashedly celebrated the success of her friend. The girl jumping up with joy, dodging the security guard to run on to the field and dance with gay abandon. Remember it was 90s, and the message was about joy of eating chocolate. This could well have been the narrative about women celebrating their love without being judged. I know you guessed the TVC, but if you didn’t then here it is

About a decade later, the Samsung Washing Machines did an ad, that in today’s times may carry a click bait headline like: her husband challenged her to play football, what happened next will make you wonder! This was a commercial where the wife dressed in salwar-kameez challenges her husband for a game of football, trips him and beats him at his own game. All the things that brands today will not like to do or do it only for special occasion like Woman’s Day. This was a simple tale, told without the packaging of empowerment and did well for the brand. Here’s the original

 

Around the same time Hyundai broke the rules of car advertising by the tale of a girl, a boy and the father of the girl. It took a brave client to defy research to make the ad. Car ads in those days, and even today was about running product shots, here the car is almost a prop in the narrative. Here’s the ad:

This was the tale of small town India, about the ambitions of women and prejudices of father. In today’s time this would have become the narrative of changing desires if girls and how they are choosing their own partners.

A couple of years later HDFC Life’s ad was a fantastic take on how a girl can make his father’s life happier. The commercial

a part of their ongoing campaign about self-reliance was really progressive without the usual preachy tonality that we tend to see in today’s commercials. Here the daughter’s desire for a better car for father, and that she planned this fir her dad is priceless. I haven’t seen this narrative by brands even as father-son bonding. Compare HDFC to #NayiSoch from Star Plus which they did as a part of their women’s day campaign by roping in Amir Khan. HDFC Life beats the Star Plus commercial hands down, despite being made ten years earlier.

Post 2008, it is difficult to find commercials that can be picked as commercials that made women centric narrative as every day non-preachy affair. Ariel did #ShareTheLoad, but if they looked into their own brand history, they will find a TVC where husband did laundry to win a favour from wife. That too is over ten years back.

The professionals who created these ads are still in the industry. The clients, the agency pros, the researchers, all of them are still around, then where did the progress stop?

And Why?

My hunch is the emergence of social media and the ‘insight’ that social relevance in brand message makes an ad go viral. Now that none of the commercials this Women’s Day truly went viral, brands should relook at their narratives.

No more tokenism should be the mantra.

AdStand: A Demonetisation chaotic week and a few ads

Rarely a week will have as much action as this week has had. Post Diwali, the action normally slows down, everybody catches their breath and prepares for the wedding seasons. Brands jump from one offer to another. The week after Diwali this year will be remembered for long. First for the act that made people learn a new word  “Demonetization”.  Second for a rather improbable win by Donald Trump in US Presidential Elections. Two acts that created a tsunami on social media in India.

But Diwali seems to have happened in a distant past, it’s a hazy memory. If Diwali money is a key symbol of Diwali, then money unfollowed Diwali this year.

This week though, a small throwback at a few ads this Diwali, not from advertising perspective, but from depicting relationship perspective and a look at a category that can become mainstream.

 

Progressive and regressive on same screen

Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad campaign has been getting tremendous applause. The realization of the father that he could have imparted correct values makes the ad forward looking. In a context like that to come across the 2016 Diwali ad of LG is like travelling back in time.

LG’s 2016 Diwali ad is a range commercial that showcases Refrigerators, Washing Machine and LCD TV. All of this is showcased within a single home with a large extended family. The entire narrative is centered on the woman of the house. She is a mother; she works hard and chases success. But then the commercial takes many steps back. It links happiness to gadgets at home, which parents have bought for her. The husband then comes and announces in a grand fashion that the woman has been promoted from ‘wife to life’. There cannot be something more contrite than this rather silly portrayal of husband and wife relationship today.

If LG went back to 70s Star Plus and Colors TV tried hard to become contemporary. The Mother driven identity in Star Plus brand campaign was a nice touch in a largely patriarchal country. Colors too did well to celebrate the lady of the house by asking family to declare Sunday as holiday for her too. I only wish that the new brand communication also had resonance in programming on both channels. The disconnect between the brand and its advertising is stark and creates a contra experience. Yet it needs to be lauded, for the both brands dominate the popular programming and have an impact on popular culture. May be the two brands are launching a new set of shows that are true to the progress the advertising depicts.

 

Cash crunch and rise of wallets and PayTM crisis

The Government seems to have a sense of time. On 8th November at 8PM the Government opened up a very large window for the mobile wallets to become mainstream. The 8PM opportunity is really large and the wallet brands were alive to it. Next day all newspapers across the country has almost all the wallet brands releasing full-page ads. PayTM, India’s largest wallet and FinTec startup even put the PM in its ad congratulating him on “the boldest step in the financial history of India”.  This did raise eyebrows in social media as people wondered if it is ok to use PM in a private sector brand ad. Technically the image of PM can be used, if the brand is authorized by the relevant authority, I am sure PayTM has the permission.

All the wallet ads were more informative asking people to sign up to tide over the immediate cash crisis.

PayTM, early this week released two ads featuring an electrician and a domestic help asking their employers to ‘stop the drama’ and do PayTM. The ads created the Snapdeal moment for PayTM. Social media went up in arms against the insensitive nature and some even uninstalled the app.  The uproar on social media was so strong that PayTM had to withdraw the ads and modify them.

In normal circumstances the ads were fine, they had a hyperbole that delivered the brand’s message. But in times of charges atmosphere where the whole context has created two camps, the TVCs became a tool in hands of both sides. Two factors went against the commercials. One the TVCs seemingly took the side of Government’s move by hinting that the inconvenience people are facing is Drama, and the other was the slightly condescending tone of voice that created a sense of elitism. Sharper crafting of relationship between the employer and domestic help might have avoided the backlash.

What was impressive was the speed at which PayTM reacted and owned up the criticism. Hey did lose a little faith, but I guess gained back a lot more. The smart thing was that the CEO of PayTM was leading the conversation and apologized to everyone who disliked the ad.

 

Should brands take a break from advertising?

This is a tricky question. This much is clear that trade has dipped in last week. With cash becoming scarce, the brands are not moving off the shelves. Should the brands reduce the intensity of their ads or should they hope that next morning will be a better morning and they should continue to engage the consumers?

 

There is no parallel to this move. There are new lessons to be learnt here. While there a new category that seems to have found its tipping point, the relationships that brands depict need to stay relevant

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2016/11/ad-stand-a-chaotic-week-and-a-few-ads/

AdStand: The Campaign that People Own

Video

Olympics at Rio is over, India won two medals, both by women, two athletes finished fourth, one of them is a woman.
The nation erupted in joy w hen an unheralded virtually unknown Gymnast, Dipa Karmakar became the first woman Gymnast ever from India to represent India in the sport and marched into final. She missed Bronze by a whisker and we all know the emotional support the nation gave her
This was topped by Sakshi Malik who won a bronze in Wrestling. PV Sindhu then made it an Olympic to remember by winning Silver in Badminton. Sakshi became the first woman wrestler to win bronze and PV Sindhu became the first Woman Shuttler to win Silver. History was made at Rio. History was made by three women.

The spark of campaign
It is difficult to pinpoint where and when the campaign started. It definitely started on Whatsapp as countless forwards that people get. The ‘forwarding economy’ was at it very quickly and in no time there were forwards about how the unwanted girl child have saved the blushes for the nation.
This quickly became a firestorm across social media with memes, status messages and tweets, all about how it time for India to pay attention to its daughters.
The messages have not stopped even now with more and more people sharing the messages

The first publicly owned campaign of India
The brilliance of this campaign is that it is not even a campaign. No one owns it, no one is creating it, and no one is propagating it. The public outpouring of the sentiment seems to suggest a overwhelming change in the attitude of the country on girl child. The absolute voluntary nature of the campaign seems to be an indicator that there may be small, but there is an aperture of change that exists in the society about the attitude towards the gild child.

No brand could have done this
I haven’t seen a brand capture popular sentiment like this campaign has done. No brand could have delivered this message, not with this compounding power, not with this intensity. This is the power of forwarding economy. People joined hands, found interesting things to share, joined the conversation and sent a message for change.
Is there a chance of change?
If the power of sharing economy is on display with this campaign, so is the weakness. There is a good chance that people actually buy into the cause, but there is a good chance that they move on to a new issue and forget about this issue. This is what happens in true mass participative events.
Yet there is a good chance that this campaign will spark off some change in a few people’s mindset. For a issue that is deeply rooted in our psyche, the desire for change is not externally manifested. It has not been pushed as sermon from the authorities; it has not been pushed as a tearjerker from a socially responsible brand.

In future we will see far more such publicly created and fuelled campaigns. Campaigns that will have far greater power to change the contours if the society.
We as a country have not won many medals at Rio, but the two that we have, can change some deep-rooted societal issues in India.
That is a far bigger victory

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2016/08/adstand-the-campaign-that-no-agency-created/

AdStand: The Public Service Ads

This week, the 11 minute anti smoking commercial has been making all the news. There was another ad that caught my eye. It may not have been the Internet sensation, but Brooke Bond Tea’s new ad is certainly worth applauding. Surprisingly this film is not on their social pages, but uploaded only on Kulzy.

The film (https://www.kulzy.com/work/112975/brooke-bond-red-label/film/taste-of-togetherness/) opens on blank screen with noises that we hear everyday in Mumbai, honking, trains, and wedding. It then shows an old women sipping tea all alone on her rocking chair. The ad extolls people to go and end someone’s loneliness this weekend. The film is singular in building on the brand plank of Taste of Togetherness. Brooke Bond for some years has been building on the plank of bringing people together and this film takes that plank forward in a cheerful way.

Old age loneliness is a serious problem in a young country like India. I hope we see more of this from Brooke Bond and not wait till the next award season.

Alok Nath, Sunny Leone and Deepak Dobriyal have an indulgent anti smoking tale to tell. At almost 3.5 Million views in a week, clearly the star appeal of the actors has helped in the film becoming a super hit.  The comments across online forums suggest a warm welcome being given out to the film.

Is the film successful in pursuing smokers to kick the stick?

The film follows the usual narrative of smoking kills, this is known and most smokers know this. The claim of cigarette reducing life has now jumped to 11 minutes, how does this pious number come in being is left unexplained.  Is it 2 minute? Or 4?,Now it is 11. If a smoker gets into calculating the time left to live, they will laugh it out.

I think the film misses out on the wider narrative. While the netizens have been effusive in praise, there have been very few that have pledged to quit smoking, just a few who have thought of doing so. This is where the film could have had a deeper impact.

Why is the film not ending with a platform that helps people helps quit the habit? Why is the film not helping them taking the first step?

Why is the film not connecting those who quit with those who want to quit?

This is where the film could have risen to greater heights.

That leads me to the wider question: why do anti smoking campaigns generally fail? The answer lies in many behavioural studies done across geographies by many academicians. These studies are in public domain and are a wealth of insights. The basic thrust of most of these studies points to one factor. Anti Smoking campaigns stigmatize smokers, and while it may motivate a few to quit smoking, to a vast majority it makes them angry, resist the message and isolate themselves. This makes them light up the stick more then quitting the habit. Death is not the promise that motivates them to quit. Could the 11 minute long format narrative move beyond death and be in positive space? May be there is a next version coming.

The third TVC to catch fancy is Ariel’s Share the Load. Father has a moment of enlightenment when he sees his daughter balance home and office by being at two places at the same time. Father’s decision to correct his own mistake and share the load of housework with his wife is told with sincerity and humility. The brand could have become even more enduring if the final payoff was not just sharing laundry, and the product integration was a lot more muted. In its own archive, Ariel has a TVC where the husband does the laundry to win wife’s love. Kuch pane ke liye kuch dhona padta hai. This was before the social media became the force that it is today. This commercial was even more sensitive and loveable than Share the Load one.

Tea, detergent and anti smoking are three very disconnected categories to come across socially appealing narratives. Brands should continue to do this irrespective of timing of award shows. 

Original published here: http://www.bestmediainfo.com/2016/03/adstand-the-public-service-ads/

The R Day Weekend

This was the week when brands went into overdrive with Republic Day messages. The whole country seemed to be draped in tricolour and the entire country seemed to be on sale. Zomato even turned every word of Happy Republic Day into a food item!

Commerce usually triumphs patriotism.

This is where #belikebill meme had an interesting take on Republic Day. This is India. India minds its own business. India always feels young. Be like India. Well #belikebill did win the Republic Day social media war.

Mumbai Traffic Police around the same time broke on social media with some really funny tweets. In its effort to be seen as cool and young, it ran a series of tweets that could easily have been written by stand-up comics. Now that is the real issue: should cops come across as witty and funny? Is that the value that ordinary citizens expect from a law enforcement agency? Or should they come across as resolute, determined, watchful and tough? How long will cops be able to manage a funny tone of voice?

Delhi Traffic Police meanwhile took its game on social media many notches up. On the shared public transport app called Ridlr (DTP twitter handle is @RidlrDel), it is asking citizens to upload pictures or videos of traffic violators so that they can take action. Either way, the police are now using social media; once they move from adopter phase to interaction phase, one can expect a lot of things to change.

There is a huge amount of action happening in the video streaming end and social networks. Facebook till now allowed celebrities to live stream content to their followers; this has now been opened up to the public. Anyone can use an iPhone and live stream to select audience on FB. While this is currently available only in the US, it would be available on Android and iOS and across the globe in no time. Also, GoPro Hero now integrates with Periscope for iPhone and can now broadcast directly. Portable live video will open up completely new platforms for brands.

Imagine if brands let their commercial shoots be available live on FB. Till now brands tried to do this in a small manner on Snapchat. Video is the new frontier that will change the game.

ICICI is running a fabulous http://giftalivelihood.com platform that allows the underprivileged to earn a sustainable livelihood. They have a short film chronicling the story of Manoj Kumar who, from being a scrap seller, learns from the books he collects and then joins the mainstream workforce. It’s a heart-warming tale that has been narrated very well.

Today, more than ever, brands have no option but to make an impression every day, consistently. To do that, brands have to move away from small victories to long sustained campaigns. Today, the tools have also changed.

Be like ICICI and the Raddi Library.

Original Published Here: http://www.bestmediainfo.com/2016/02/adstand-the-r-day-week/

The Jugaad Connection

This has been a very busy week for the world of brands. Big brands unveiled big campaigns and some homegrown brands had spunky new ads.

A bottle or can of Coke will no longer “open happiness”; it will make you taste the feeling. Rajasthan Tourism is no longer about colours and bravery and grandeur; it’s about how the state may surprise you. Titan launched a watch that is also a smart watch.

What caught my eye were two commercials – one from an online directory brand and other from an insurance brand – which had exactly same narrative and similar appeal.

Suleka.com’s go #AntiJugad is about this crafty inventive Mr Jugadu who has a quick solution to every problem in life; from cooler and double-blower innovation using trousers to solving power cuts at home, he has a jugaad for everything. It’s his wife who is not happy with this and threatens to leave him if he doesn’t leave jugaad! Lots of memes that are doing the rounds on internet are seen in this ad as solutions.

The other is Exide Life Insurance’s #NoMoreShortCuts. This is about Mr Jugadulal who refuses to ever see life long term; who uses trouser as double-blower for cooler, iron for induction cooker, and eventually thinks of changing because his wife, kids and parents shame him for being Jugadulal.

 

Two commercials with two exactly similar narratives and two brands saying the same message: that frugality is a bane of happiness, long-term thinking and progress. Jugaad is something that has been written about a lot of late. All the memes going around on the web on this subject can be seen in the two TVCs. But is jugaad all that bad? Have we reduced this to a simplistic pop culture narrative?

 

Frugal innovation is something that the world is looking up to in a big way. Frugality has been our way of living as we were always short of resources; even today in many parts of India, frugality is a way of life.

Large MNCs are now investing in frugal innovations. These include the mighty Unilever, Renault-Nissan and Seimens which are looking at India to craft, scale and take the innovations to global markets. So much so that world’s finest educational institutions are paying attention to what Indians are doing. Read it here if you are interested: http://knowledge.insead.edu/innovation/frugal-innovation-a-new-business-paradigm-2375

We all know about Mansukh Bhai Prajapati who created Mitti Cool, or a refrigerator made from clay that runs without electricity. We also know about Arunachalam Muruganantham who created homemade sanitary napkin pad making machines that is revolutionizing female health across India. Time magazine placed him in its list of 100 Most Influential People in the world in 2014.

It was an Indian company that made sachets and sold Nivaran 90 cough syrup. This revolutionized the packaged goods market where the sachets now are the major contributor.

Likes of www.sristi.org and www.nesta.org.uk are doing path-breaking work in making frugal thinking work for inclusive growth. Mocking frugal mindsets may be a slightly mistaken insight.

Frugality is a way of life in India as we are a resource-starved country, where farmers and social entrepreneurs have to factor in tough market conditions. There are hundreds of stories of homegrown frugal innovations that are helping a host of Indians live a better life. To all those who think frugality is a very Indian trait, do look at Hex Robot. This is also frugality, but from the Western world.

Frugality is something that we in the world of branding should not look down upon. It’s good to have a comical take, but seriously, a lot of jugaad in India is good jugaad.

Original published here: http://www.bestmediainfo.com/2016/01/adstand-the-jugaad-connection/