Home > Uncategorized > Is something broken in advertising?

Is something broken in advertising?


Over the holidays I was in India and for some reason spent a fair bit of time in front of the television. Consequently I got to see a lot of ads. And something struck me that made me ask the Q ‘ Is something broken in advertising?’

To make my point I will refer to 3 TVCs that stayed in my mind:

Titan gifting. Vodafone streaming. Mircomax.

If you’d like to see the ads the Titan ad is here. Vodafone ad is here. And Micromax ad is here.

The fact that they are completely different from a messaging standpoint is coincidental and helps make my point.

What I noticed the most was the frequency with which the ads ran. Often several times within the same program.

The effect being that:

I started off liking the Titan ad tremendously but was glad they were running them only as 20/30 second edits by the end of the season.

I was quite neutral to the Vodafone ad and started muting it when it came on.

The Micromax ad was too short to be bothered by. And I am a Hugh Jackman fan!!

So what is going on that marketers have to run their ads at such high levels that they turn off their audiences? And at any point in time there are far more non buyers than buyers in any category so there’s a large chunk of people potentially being affected.

I have a few theories, and I am sure there are more which I’d be keen to hear and learn.

Theory 1. We need to keep repeating our message as often as possible so that the consumer remembers it. Possible, but to me there is a fundamental point of difference between the Titan ad and the Voda ad. Titan is already established in the gifting space, so role of communications would be just a reminder and so reaching as many people as possible would be a key objective. In the case of the Voda ad they are talking something new ( which is not quite clear from the TVC) so frequency would be a key objective. Yet both were extremely high frequency. And from my experience in anything to do with communications if I hear a good story I will remember it. I don’t need to be beat on the head with it every time I talk to you. Remember Old Spice? Remember Nokia One Black Coffee? And that was so long ago too?

Theory 2. We spend upwards of $100,000 on producing the ad so of course media spends needs to be in multiples of that. This is perverse logic but I have been engaged in conversations with senior level marketers where the math is worked out basis ‘production to media’ and so to maximise ROI from any creative it needs to be ‘flogged’ aggressively. The world of mass media is going to run into the controversy of cost of content creation. It is the subject of another blog but the basic point is that globally, over time the cost of content creation in most media is going down. In social media it can be 0. But in ‘traditional media’ this cost is going up. And with declining attention spans there is no future in ‘flogging’ the same communications hours after hour.

Theory 3. We don’t know if the audience actually saw the commercial so frequency is a way of ensuring they do. To me this is the most likely and most scary scenario. This is how we did media planning 25 years ago using something called OTS (Opportunity to See). I have not been too close to the media agency folks recently but I can’t believe we are still guessing on this most important part of the advertising business. It brings back the most famous quote in advertising. The one about 50% spend and I don’t know which one. Given the growth of digital media where everything is trackable, it is really unforgiveable if this theory holds any water. How hard is it to include a hashtag in the ads and monitor the tweets to see the effect of the communications. In fact Twitter has made it possible to do so. Read about it here.

Those are my 3 possible theories, none really that should hold in this day and age. But I can’t think of anything else that would make advertisers spend hard earned dollars on such high frequency. As I said in the beginning, however, I do really want to know why one would run ads at this level.

To me what adds to this especially in the case of the Voda ad is, that there is no call to action. No url. No SMS. nothing. I even went to a Voda store on some wok and the store is bare wrt the streaming product. So they have a half decent ad. They are spending a ton of money. And yet that last mile is barren. Surely a missed opportunity.

Leads me to wonder if something is broken in the business I love and how do we fix it?


  1. Ranga
    January 7, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Very valid observation, Harish. Not sure if you noticed, but there is also a Fiama di Wills ads that is usually repeated back-to-back (yes, seriously!). It is a 10-seconder and I once counted 6 consecutive screenings of the same spot. Clearly something is going wrong with the media planning!

  2. January 7, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Interesting opinion! Advertising student here (Well, the makings of one, still a freshman), and I’m always looking for new viewpoints on where advertising and marketing is and where its going! Looking forward to reading more!
    Great post-

  3. January 27, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an really long comment but after I
    clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.

    Regardless, just wanted to say superb blog!

      January 27, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      Thanks. Appreciate you taking the time to leave feedback.




  1. January 13, 2014 at 12:00 pm

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