The Long and Short of it.


Stories are the earliest forms of communication known to mankind, they have stood the test of time; we share lessons, morals, beliefs and any kind of emotion through our stories. Advertising is no different and I have always believed that advertisers are story tellers. Today as advertising is adopting the modern internet space, we are experiencing the next level of storytelling by advertisers – the long format advertising, usually 1-5 minutes duration. They are fast becoming the popular new kids on advertising block. It’s encouraging to see advertisers keep a purpose and an emotion at the heart of the story and the products placed in the background, it sure reflects the maturity that the society and the advertising community is undergoing.

But as we speak today about 90% of these stories don’t serve this purpose and fall short of touching the core. I hope we don’t fall in the trap of long format for the sake of it. A long format ad is no different from a good short ad or good film making, the principles remain the same. Take for instance one of the most viewed ads on internet; the ad for a French toilet paper brand Le Trefle, the Emma ad, this was actually a 40 second TVC or Ambuja cements ad with wrestler Khali which is just more than a minute.

Now is the right time to reflect and realise the power of such a format and ensure that this is not reduced to being an extended TVC by just changing the duration from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. It’s time we realise it’s not about the duration, but the determination to highlight a purpose and bring about a change; it’s not about the number of hits, it’s about the number of hearts touched; it’s not just about ‘likes’, it’s about Love; and it’s not about product selling, but story-telling.

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British Airways “fuelled by love” online campaign by SapientNitro India

The 10% long format ads that work are conceived, written and directed to do justice to the duration and the space. The Fortune Oil’s Daddi ad, Nestle’s stammering standup comedian and cartoonist ads, Lifebuoy’s Gundappa, Google’s reunion, British Airways’ ticket to visit mum, Skymet weather’s help the farmer initiative and the likes are some that prove this point beyond doubt; and that content on the internet should be less aspirational and more authentic. There is this Wagh Bakri Tea ad that tells the story of a wife who leaves her husband, he realizes her worth and then reaches out to get her back in his life; I love the video but the last 1.5 minutes of the 4 minutes video is spent on the clichéd pack shots, underwater shots of tea leafs in boiling water which obstructs the storytelling. I so wished they stayed away from those typical TVC type shots.

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Ambuja Cement’s Khali campaign by Publicis India

It’s time we realise the fundamental difference of the audiences in this space and the possibility that it offers. The audiences here are active unlike the passive audiences sitting in front of the TV set, here they can engage with the purpose, with the brand. They can comment, join the purpose, create more content; hence we should invite them to engage and make them a part of the story, help them contribute. Like the way a Lifebuoy’s Chamki does, it picks a real life story of one family, gives out a larger message and asks the viewers spread the message ‘Help a child reach 5’.

There are some myths prevalent in this space like long format ads costs nothing, but for anything to go viral you need to have a reach till it gains traction and there after it’s the content that will help you take off. The next myth is that length is not an issue in the internet space, but the reality is that maximum people drop off after 15-20 seconds which will count as your hits but they haven’t seen your story, so better aim for depth of engagement.

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Nestle India’s ” Fauja Singh’s #100AndRunning  online campaign by SapientNiro India

To sum up we should work on the Inspire , Interact , Amplify framework. We are still to amplify the internet space to its fullest, for starters we can enable viewers to just click on products they see in the video, donate for the cause, interact with the people they see etc Eg DBS ChilliPaneer. For instance you can even link to e-commerce by interacting either by a click or drag the room they see in an online furniture store into the shopping cart, which should then break it into all the products shown and the viewer can then add or less items and then transact. All these and much more can be done in this space but it all starts with a relevant story that is well told.

*This Article was published earlier in an online publication.

Create. Collaborate and Compete.


 

Advertising has become more complex today then ever before, there was a time when all channels of communications were controlled by advertising agencies but today advertising has gone through a significant change today we have more then two dozen specialist agencies specialized from creative planning to digital executions. Apart from loads of channels to communicate to the consumers have changed, people themselves have changed.

A recent study published in Times of India points the average age of the consumer had dropped dramatically, for instance an average car buyers age had come down from 45 to below 30. This change not only affects the target for marketing but it also changes the media planning. Hence one needs to look at the content of communication in the context of message consumption therefore it is extremely important for the communication content creators to understand the contextual targeting. The moral of this story is if the creative and media planning or digital planning agencies do not collaborate then how the hell are they going to create a relevant campaign?

 

 

 

In this ever-evolving complex world everything is linked to everything and not everyone can be experts in everything. Super specializations are hear to stay and the intelligence lies in learning from each other and working as a team even if the team you are supposed to work with, belongs to a competing holding company. If a creative agency can collaborate with a film production company, which also works with competing agencies can happen with out any hesitation, then why not collaborate with another competing small agency on a project in the interest of a brand?

Bigger and traditional creative agencies can learn a thing or two from modern design companies which have learned to co-create and collaborate with technology companies for starters take a look at the design winners from Cannes this year. Small and nimble agencies have realized this early enough and are raking in now. Now it’s the turn of the biggies.

We all are witnessing the results of coalition government with out any collaboration. I urge all the communications channels to come together and get to learn from each other and march ahead into the new age communication era.

After all the solo sulking days have gone, as my friend Agnello puts it “jo tera hai wo mera hai”,

 

 

 

Gandhi vs. Anna.


Anna is a simple man, so was Gandhi.

Anna started by changing himself and then his village so did Gandhi.

Anna preaches non-violence, so has Gandhi.

Anna is a stubborn man, so was Gandhi.

Anna rallied young India, so did Gandhi.

Unfortunately the comparisons stop here.

Anna is a Gandhian but not a Gandhi. I respect Anna for his honesty, simplicity, his stubbornness, intent and his peaceful methods. Leaders are always born out of adversity, when India is going through her worst leadership integrity crisis, Anna took upon himself to rally people against corrupt politics and society, a simple, quite Gandhian turned into an agent of people’s conscience.

Anna’s success came because of young India taking to streets, a movement fueled by anger and helplessness of young men and women, who silently witnessed the powerful leaders and businessmen shamelessly looting their treasury.

When corruption reached parliament, when policemen started to rape and molest little girls, when army men stoop to steal wealth, when politicians blatantly amass disproportionate wealth, When educated entrepreneurs cook-up account books, when Baba’s hide rooms full of gold and silver and when temple incomes bulge more then a state’s. You know it’s only a matter of time for a catharsis and indeed Anna became the fountainhead of this revolt.

After Jaiprakash Narayan no other leader mustered as much support as Anna. Jaiprakash Narayan succeeded in changing the government because he supported a newly formed cleaner party with leaders of intent and integrity. The agenda before the nation was clear: vote out the Nazist congress party, people understood and implemented. When people empathize with issues they need an action point and Jaiprakash Narayan provided one.

Mahatma Gandhi too understands this human truth like any other successful leaders in the history, Gandhi always gave an action point, be it making salt or burning British made cloths or asking the mighty British to “Quite India”. Any mass movement should have an actionable end. Even the recent “Occupy Wall Street” had a definitive action point to just occupy Wall Street. Simple enough for people to understand and execute.

Anna should go beyond appealing to people to come onto the streets to protest. He must give an action point, if one were to say “ Vote for Lokpal or Quit parliament” and if one were to give the agenda of pushing every local MP to vote or resign, there would have been an action plan for restless young Indians to execute.

I believe Anna will become a true heir of Gandhiji, if he becomes as shrewd thinker and as clear visionary as Mahatma is.

Power shifts in advertising.


The recent ranking of the most influential people by Brand Equity raised eyebrows and sent shockwaves thru the ranks of the industry. The veteran blackberry boys were giving way to apple tribes.

Two decades back armed with management degrees from the top institutes the double-breasted blue blazer brigade took firm control of the business from the erstwhile “angrezi hangover babu’s” of the post independent India. And the blazer brigade were the most powerful lot as they controlled the business of the businesses by working as strategic and marketing extensions of huge corporations.

What made this successful brigade to take a back seat? Why the suits were marginalized? What made creative guys to rise?

Well the answer lies partly in the changing business model and partly in the egoist reluctant to change CEO’s.  Why do I blame them?  Three decades ago when I started work in advertising as an untrained commercial artist, stumbled upon a book in a second hand bookstore titled  “12 benevolent dictators of advertising” the book dealt with how the legends of the industry were thrown out of their own shops unceremoniously.

And the moral of the story being: ownership does not give power, real power in advertising is the influence you have on the Brands business and how indispensible you become to the biggest brands of the agency. Most often the owners and the MBA managers mistake power to money control and designations therefore they spend all the time in managing money and holding control meeting. Before they even realize the power starts to shift to enterprising business heads or creative heads.

Its not surprising to see some of the legendary CEO’s being marginalized post de-bundling of creative agencies. When you had 15 channels to manage a general manager was more powerful today there is just creative and only products to be managed are Ideas.

With INS accreditation out of the window and monthly remuneration system is in, there is hardly any complex management is needed therefore more creatives are taking charge to manage ideas and agencies.

Hope one day the management schools will add this section of Idea management to their curriculum.

Why Piyush Pandey is the greatest Indian Ad-man ever? Why he deserves the “Clio” life time?


This is from my previous post, posted a couple of years back when Piyush was conferred “life time achievement award” by AAAI and now “Clio” announced that its going to honor our man, and I truly believe there is no person more deserving in the world advertising then him ( including Marcello Serpa.)

Excerpts from my previous post:

Piyush Pandey was recently been conferred AAAI lifetime achievement award, an honor usually reserved for retirees. Piyush is still a practicing creative person in short a working legend. He is Indian advertising’s greatest, I will place him above Subhas Ghosal, Alyque Padamsee and Mohammed Khan for simple reasons: he single-handedly changed the target audience from elite British Indians to middle class heartland bharatvasi’s. And also for putting Indian advertising amongst the global greats. (I had the privilege of working with all the above legends except Piyush.)

Above all he is one of the greatest human beings I have met in my career, what can you say? In this pseudo advertising and corporate world, where people hesitate to thank there wife for being an inspiration and support in public, this man brings his mother to the ceremony and proudly introduces her to all honchos present. I always admired people who do not hesitate to show respect for parents and family in public. I can not think of any other Ad-man doing that.

Piyush is a large-hearted man, loves his life enjoys every moment with a hearty laughter. I have never seen him crib about anything. This is what gets reflected in his work and also in his agency, always enjoys and celebrate life. As we at Burnett believe that “creativity has the power to transform human behavior” Piyush showered enough creativity to change the way common people behaved in this country, right from “Luna” finding a place in middle class India to nation celebrating the success of “Pappu” with Cadbury Dairy Milk to Railgaddi for Indian railways to celebrating real life characters in Fevicol.

He changed the way Indians looked at advertising, he had created many stars, gave new vocabulary, made people love advertising more than television programming. I can go on and on as an insider what he had done to the Industry and why he deserved the award and this blog.

“Purposeful Inventions”


A purposeful invention will always find a place in people’s lives. History endorses this view; there are many great inventions like the Q-Drum, which never found a place not because the invention is not great but because it did not solve the complete problem of the people it intend to solve.

I believe there are three kinds of inventions: 1. Stems out of the inventors intuition, which will be awarded and hailed by the scientific community. 2. Stems out of a perceived need by the inventors, which may or may not find a place in people’s lives but will be appreciated nevertheless.  3. Stems out of deep understanding of a human need, this not only solves the problem it often changes peoples lives.

Forgetting inventions for a while lets look at some new brands and their appeal; lets travel back and look at Air Deccan, what went right? Why a self-proclaimed cheap airline succeeded when a cheap car like Nano failed? Why Go Air is considered an efficient airline not a cheap one? Why pundits are excited about Bajaj’s RE60? Why supersonic Concord failed?

All enterprises start with people and end with people, if you view complex business or marketing problems through human lens, you’ll see a more realistic, relatable human problems and to solve them you need to understand the basic human need not greed, for instance human greed says more people want to fly faster at higher price thus born Concord, whilst human need says more people want to fly for lesser cost thus born Airbus. Now it’s obvious, who was successful? Therefore the moral of this story is Airbus was a purposeful invention and Concord was an intuitive assumption of an inventor.

Lets take Captain Gopinath’s Air Deccan, which was positioned against train travel and spoke to aspiring middle-class millions to experience flying versus post takeover of Deccan by kingfisher to form Kingfisher Red spoke to regular flyers and offered a cheaper and restrictive service offering, which was rejected by the regular flyers as they did not want to feel as deprived passengers suffering from poverty and the attempt took the pride and prestige of flying away. Captain Gopi’s invention was purposeful as it made millions on train travelers realize the dream of flying. Taking a leaf out of this experiment Indigo did not use cheap flying instead spoke about efficiency and made people who secretly want a cheaper option argue for efficiency in service and on time arrivals. In fact on-time arrival is a fantastic rationale to shift from an expensive luxurious full service airlines especially in an era of austerity.

Now to my favorite Nano versus RE60. Tata’s took the engineering challenge of building a one hundred thousand rupee car and managed to deliver close to one hundred and twenty thousand rupee car. Fantastic Invention “The cheapest car in the world” Bravo. World applauded Auto shows went gaga. But the brand failed miserably, reason: no one ever asked the Indian consumer weather he wants to spend an hundred and twenty thousand hard earned rupees on a cheap car, which does not give him any status in the society? How could the brand find a place in peoples lives if it or its inventors does not understand people’s needs? People wanted a Santro, an Alto and an Indica with all the luxuries, however small they were. Indian middle class was seeking stature and pride of luxurious living, which both Maruti and Hyundai understood completely and Tata Motors with Indica to some extent.

The case of RE60 is completely different, Rajiv Bajaj is a very passionate and a smart inventor, who believes in engineering solving problems of people therefore a purposeful inventor, whose invention of DTSI technology solved an unique problem of Indian bikers who want maximum power with minimum fuel, he solved this issue with a simple invention of two spark plugs in the combustion chambers instead of conventional norm of one, which increased the combustion efficiency to give more mileage and power, people lapped-it-up and put Bajaj on a technological pedestal.

Coming to RE60. He took the challenge of solving mass transportation in urban and rural India, the current mode of transport of auto rickshaws is unsafe and relies on old technology all parties acknowledges that, be the RTO’s, Auto Rickshaw owners and the commuters, they all seek an up gradation of technology, Bajaj found a purpose. Single mindedly concentrated on Auto Rickshaws and its drivers and found a meaningful purpose in up grading the technology by adding another wheel to make a four wheeler and the life of the driver by giving him a car to drive and an extra capacity of seating and to the commuter a safer option of commuting. Thereby extending an undisputed offering to the administrators.  Bajaj kept the eye on their consumers and never let it weaver toward competing with Nano or pleasing Nissan.

Wonder why companies run by people fail to understand people.

How to end the debate on “cult brands” v/s “iconic brands”?


 

One of the biggest debates in the marketing and advertising circuits for a while has been on what makes a brand cultish? Any popular brand, which is not cultish, is generally considered as Iconic brand. Well does this call for debate or clarification? I am only qualified to do the former, let me try and put forth my understanding and learning before I let others to vent theirs.

Whether the brand has a cult / iconic status or not it must definitely stand the test of time. Both these statuses demand a brand to stand for values beyond functionality and must be rooted in popular culture and find a place in people’s lives over a long period of time.

Cult Brands: Apple, Volkswagen, Harley Davidson, Star trek and Benetton.

 

 

 

The word “Cult” originated from Latin word “Cultus” meaning worship or religious practice. And by extension it had started to connote the cultural aspects of religion like rituals, ceremonies, myths and personal sacrifices, miracles etc only later “Cult” started being associated with obsessive to faddish devotion to a religious myth or a religious leader or object of such devotion.

Now lets look at contemporary meaning of “Cult” in the context of brands:

Cult brands are the brands, which dare to be different and celebrate that difference and therefore posses the power of the loyalist who come together on a common ground for the common values and ideologies.

Cult brands are the brands, which are more evolved to just talk about functionality or the benefits of the category they peg themselves much higher in the human value systems, like upholding truth, honesty, simplicity, perfection and goodness. They intelligently tap into innate reserves of human conscious.

“ Star Trek” became a cult by being a crusader of human rights by juxtaposing humans and aliens, war and peace, racism and space born humanitarians all in an adventure story of planets and space.

Volkswagen” achieves with Beetle, all with utter common sense. Harley with it irreverence sense of fantasy and adventure. Apple does with its child like simplicity and perfection producing magical joy to the end user.

Now try to fit any Indian brands? Mahatma Gandhi? Osho? Thums Up? Old Monk? Royal Enfield? Rajinikanth? Mona darling? Its your turn to pick..

 

Iconic Brands: Coca Cola, Nike, McDonalds, Lego, Rolex, BMW Mini, Marlboro and Vespa.

 

A purist definition of “Icon” means an image; a representation of a sanctified personage; an important and enduring symbol; an object of great attention and devotion.

As mentioned earlier Iconic Brands posses the ability to transcend from product benefits to become part of people’s lives and of their popular culture. And they also have the ability to tap into collective desires and anxieties of people for instance Rolex taps into the desire to be successful, Coca Cola taps into the emotion of happiness, Marlboro into the need of freedom, Lego into the need of imagination for children.

Therefore the brands endure as long as the human needs exist and over a period of time they become synonymous with the values to become “Objects of desire or devotion.

Lets try to fit some Indian brands: Tatas? Amitabh Bachchan? Sachin Tendulkar?

Godrej ? Raymond’s ? Wills? Bajaj? Hero? Scooty? Nalli’s? MTR?

While there will be less debate on what make a brand Iconic or Cult, I recon their will be heated debate on which Indian brands can make it to the list.

The debate has just began.