Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

Brands have social responsibilities

Last evening I was watching something on TV and this ad appeared.  It’s an ad for a phone brand called LYF.

I don’t know about you but I found it cringe worthy. No I am not talking about the lack of an idea or even the poor execution or anything like that. Here we have a bunch of guys sitting around watching a woman taking off some item of clothing and then dancing to an item number.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I found the ad offensive. Then again, I do see many offensive ads. But when we have someone like a Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin and so on, watching Kangana Ranaut do a number it gives permission to a whole bunch of men around the country to expect women to do the same.

I know there will be a lot of people saying that I am over reacting, but we are a country where people even copy hair styles of their heroes. And at a time when we are rocked pretty regularly with horrible stories of how a woman got mistreated by a guy I strongly believe that brands that can, should be more responsible, than only trying to sell their product.

And we have examples of brands doing just that..marrying a social message with a brand one.

Started in Canada but quickly became a global phenomenon was Dove.


They have continued with the same message in many countries. Their campaign for real beauty has consistently tried to reinforce the idea that one should be proud of the way one looks and not be forced to align to stereotypes.

Closer home is Ariel. With their campaign #Sharetheload they have tried to ask the Q: Why should laundry (and indeed housework) only be the woman’s duty.

There are many more examples, of brands that have risen above the short term need to meet a quarter’s numbers to deliver a higher message that tries to change the way society behaves.

I believe all brands have this responsibility. The bigger brands more so, as they have the ability and credibility to do so.

Brands are not just what you see on a shelf. Celebrities are brands too.

Celebrities that endorse brands should keep an eye on the script and have a point of view on whether they support the point of view of the ad. After all if a Virat Kohli refuses to do an item number ad, he also sends a message to his peers and the brands that seek his endorsement that he expects a certain behaviour.

The same is true with our movie stars. As long as they are shown, on screen, killing people, beating their women and children, smoking and so on, we are going to have millions of people who ape them blindly. I am, not for a moment, blaming society’s ills on them of course, but we all have a role to play if we want to rid society of the demons we have.

It is not hard for big brands to align their brand messaging to a higher purpose creating a movement that they can ride on. From Dove’s case we have seen that it is global, sustaining over time and beneficial to the brand.

Brands should lead society, not just reflect them.


Re-visiting re-targeting

December 6, 2015 2 comments

This morning I went to a grocery store and looked at some cereal boxes. For some reason, I decided to not buy it, put the box down and left the store. Then I wandered into a shoe store right next door. As I was browsing through some shoes, there was a guy from the grocery store holding a box of cereal, asking if I wanted to buy it now. After overcoming my shock at seeing him there, I declined and went to the store next door. This time a clothes store. And again, as I was browsing for some jeans there was the same guy holding another box of cereal. And this continued through a few stores.

In fact for a few days I saw him nearly everywhere I went. Just as I was getting really irritated with him following me, he mysteriously vanished as well.

In real life this would be really weird. But it happens often on-line. It is a concept called Re-targeting.


Re-targeting is simply an advertiser’s way of targeting you with sales messages based on your previous browsing history. Usually connected with some e-commerce activity.

Earlier this week I was looking at buying a pen on-line. Since then I have been inundated with ads for the pen on my facebook feed, email side ads, nearly every other site I have visited. Yes, bordering on irritation.

In my humble opinion the idea of re-targeting, while great, needs 3 simple principles to be followed.

  1.  Context: Just like when advertising’ context is important, the same principle applies to re-targeting. I think sometimes brands get so anxious that the customer has not bought that they start showing up in the very next page being browsed. This serves to, both confuse and frustrate the customer. So ensure that re-targeted messaging continues to be within the context of the brand/product/message.
  2. Message: Often times I have seen that the advertising message being delivered in re-targeting is basically just restating the product/brand message. There is little attempt to factor in that I have just been on that page, seen that message and not completed the transaction expected. So showing the very same messaging is not going to work. Re-targeted messaging should be delivered in a manner that gets the customer to perform the action, that was not completed the first time. Typically, this may include an offer. Or, my preference is, to deliver the message in a different way. Perhaps a new value proposition even. This is a rich bed for some A/B testing.
  3. Timing: There are 2 aspects to this. How soon after the initial targeted message do you re-target? If the customer is continuing to browse related content then obviously it makes sense to be visible literally immediately. However, be careful to not come across as stalking. The other aspect of timing is how long do you continue to re-target. For a b2b product, re-targeting should focus on getting the customer to move to the next step of the journey. Any estimates on typically how long this takes should guide the duration of re-targeting. For FMCG brands this is a little trickier. Factors like, when the original interaction took place, basket value, seasonality all play a role. Any continued message delivery after purchase is made is money wasted, and stopping message delivery when the customer is still shopping is leaving money on the table. So some rigorous analytics is called for.

Of celebrity advertising

November 10, 2015 5 comments

Last week I read that Messi had signed up as the brand ambassador for the Tata Group. I really hope that he is leveraged well by the Tata brand. They both deserve it.

This reminded me that since I returned to India, a year ago, I have seen a huge jump in use of celebrities in brand advertising. Some doing it well, some well..let’s just say less so.

To my mind there are basically 4 ways brands use celebrities for their brands.

  1. As themselves: This is the most obvious route, where the celebrity plays her/his real life persona on the screen as well. This is the highest on the credibility scale. The gold standard here, in my opinion is the Mean Joe Greene ad run by Coke about four decades ago. Watch it here. Turkish airlines did some with Kevin Costner, Messi and Kobe and so on. This is a hard area to operate in due to the limited ways to have celebs play themselves and also make the brand connect.
  2. Playing a part in a script: This second set is when the celebrity is playing a part in a regular TV script. ie the script works even without the celebrity. But use of the celebrity raises brand visibility. A great example here is the pappu pass ho gaya TVCs created by Cadbury’s. This is probably the easier on the agency, where they start with a script than being stuck with a celebrity, around who they need to write a script. Here is one from that set.
  3. As props: This is the more common way that I have noticed around, where the celebrity is just standing around and pointing, or waving, embarrassingly at the products they are supporting. I imagine this happens when clients sign up celebs in advance of a brand idea that they are ready to execute with. Some recent examples.IMG_0019IMG_0018IMG_00134. As users: This is where the celebrity claims to be the user of the brand in question. This has absolutely no credibility and treats consumers as morons. Something a famous Scotsman said, one should never do. Many examples come to mind. Unfortunately they all feature Shahrukh Khan. Remember the Santro ads? Who ever thought he would own, and drive one himself. The latest in his series is the campaign for Big Basket. Does the brand really expect anyone to believe that he is a Big Basketer? Here is one ad in the series.IMG_0014So there you have it, my recommended list of ways to use a celebrity, in order of priority.

Before I sign off…wishing you a very Happy Diwali and Happy New Year. May it be start of something new and exciting.

Is it worth the effort?

January 19, 2015 1 comment

In any Indian city, you are unlikely to see a car with no scratches or dents. It seems to be the price to pay for car ownership.

Everyone, except me.

Our car is 2 months old and has been pretty much unscathed.

Till today. At a traffic light, a car whose driver was engrossed on his phone scratched our car and got away in the traffic.

Now I have a car with that little mark.

Raising the Q. Do I go get it fixed or let it be thinking it’s a small thing and anyway in a few days it will pick up another one.

It’s a decision that says either I am a proud car owner OR I really don’t care much about the car as it is just a utility vehicle.

Pretty much the same with brand communications.

It could just be a small typo. Or a torn down hoarding. An event which had bad sound. Or a banner that just doesn’t close.


None of these are really important on their own. Or maybe even together.

But what it says about the brand is worth considering. It is the start of brand damage. And as a proud brand owner what it says about the manager and the company is telling.

So is it worth the effort?

Each to its own, but my car’s going to the garage this week to get buffed and shiny again.

No effo

What’s your story?


Today I saw the trailer of a movie called Shamitabh.

This reminded me of something I read about the conception of the movie.

Apparently Balki, the director of the movie, came up with the idea while stuck in a traffic jam to Amitabh Bachchan’s house. Once he reached there he told him the story, and Amitabh agreed on the spot. Now I am sure there is embellishment to that story but the basics struck a chord with me.

What did Balki say to Amitabh at a party that not just communicated the story but got him excited enough to say yes?

That is the kind of story telling we need on our brands every day.

Our consumers are like Amitabh at a party. They are amidst a lot of noise. Some of it enjoyable. They are going about their lives. And along comes someone saying ‘ hey got a minute? I have something to tell you’.

Does your brand, or you, have such a story?

If you do victory is yours.

And here is the link to the trailer: SHAMITABH.

Share of Content Consumption

February 10, 2014 Leave a comment



Last night I was reading this piece by Nick Bilton, where he asserts that one should stop using smartphones as alarms due to the huge amount of distractions on the device.

I found it rather surprising that people could be so focus challenged. Thinking about it a bit, however, I am not that surprised.

Now a days there’s such a lot of content out there that as normal human beings we are struggling to keep pace. We are afraid that we will miss out on something important. Till we have decent communication filters, which I wrote about earlier this year, we’re going to have to deal with this challenge.

As creators of content, brand marketers have to address this challenge quickly.

The primary way they have been doing this is by creating engaging content. Content that stands out of the clutter, draws the viewer into the story and encourages her to interact with it in some way, even if merely sharing. The latest example is the bud light piece. Missed it? See it here. bud light.

What they’ve done is quite extra ordinary. Made a piece of advertising, through a reality show. This is indeed quite revolutionary.

However, creating content that heightens audience engagement has been on for a while.Think Dove, Coke, Old Spice, Durango and so on.

The issue, to my mind though, is that marketers are still viewing this in the good old fashioned advertising way.

Create a piece of content. Excite the audiences. Then go back to the ways they know well, and return a year later, with the next campaign.

That just doesn’t work any more.

When content availability was low, doing an annual campaign was fine. But now, with that having changed dramatically, marketers need to revisit the annual campaign planning cycle.

I believe a key metric would be share of content consumption.

As audiences today are accessing and engaging with all forms of content, the need to ensure that a minimum level of on going content share is vital for brands to continue to maintain salience. Else it is quickly swept away in the avalanche of twitter feeds, instagram pics and so on.

Volume, like in the old media days is not enough. Think of how many timelines posts you’ve clicked on recently. If it’s not interesting, you move along.

So the share of content consumption is going to be a function of volume of content and engagement value of the same.

This is a new dynamic. One that marketers and agencies are going to have to be prepared for.

Unfortunately, the specialised silos of content creators (advertising agencies) and content distributors (media agencies) are going to be a hindrance to this.

The alarm bells are ringing and the consumers are asking the marketers to wake up. Whether the alarm is on our smartphones, or not, we need to heed it and get our act together.


The Content Cycle


Decades ago when I joined the business I did many ads for my clients.

They were well made by great minds and got more than adequate airing.

But they had extremely limited life spans. When the campaign stopped airing that was it.

A new one came along and wiped out the previous one.

That was pretty much the cycle,

All that started changing about a 15 years ago with the arrival of the WWW and it’s various players.

No I am not going to hold on about the importance of Digital, though it is. But for me more important was the need and ability to revisit what the communications business was about and its infinite possibilities.

Looking back over the more recent few years a picture started forming in my mind about this, what I am calling the Content Cycle.

IMHO The cycle has the following phases

Creation: Right at the beginning is the need to create content. This is what starts the cycle.

Search: Once the content is created it needs to be searchable.

Share: When the content you create is found, enable/allow it to be shared.

Enhance: True believers/lovers of the content will then want to enhance it

Which brings you back to the Search and Share portion of the cycle. And so on.

There, you have it, my version of the content cycle.

Content Creation. Content Searching. Content Sharing. Content Enhancing.

Now if we look what is going on the world of communications you see that at a technology level some players like Facebook operate very strongly in the Content Sharing space.

Google is strong in the Search Space.

Instagram is in the Creation space extending to Share.

And so on.

No one is really happy being in one box. They all want to extend and own the chain. And of course I understand that. The more you own the cycle the greater the ability to monetise the content, which is what the game is all about.

With that backdrop, it is literally mandatory that marketers and agencies when they create ‘advertising’ look down this chain and ensure that they are leveraging all parts of the cycle.

Create content that people want to search, share, enhance which drives more searches and shares.

If you are still creating just a good old fashioned ad then you are just getting ROI for your spends.

P&G with Old Spice seems to be doing a great job in this space.

As is Unilever with Dove.

And Coke of course.

These are just a few brands that come to mind that seem to have understood that there is more to advertising than advertising. It is about creating content that travels down the cycle.

The next time a client evaluates an agency’s work they should ask the Qs

Is it searchable?

Is it shareable?

Will our users try and enhance it?

It is not about digital. It is about the idea. It always is. But Digital enables the idea to live long after the TV has been switched off.

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