Friday, July 8, 2011

Enter Motherhood...

I have been away from my blog for a long time. It's not my workload at work. You see, I teach marketing & marketing communications to undergrads. I enjoy my job. In fact, I chose this career so I can make better use of the 24 hours I have in a day. Well, last month I was actually quite busy for a week teaching the marketing module (part of a Diploma in Business Management) to a team from Engro Foods. But otherwise, it has been pretty easy all along. However, my personal life has changed. Now I have a little one to take care of - been a few months and I haven't had time to even visit my blog. I did however download the twitter app on my phone & I must say, it is addictive!

Anyway, so yes. I am a mom now. I have less time, but I will write again. Especially about those ugly ICMA streamers all along Cavalry Bridge in Lahore with so much text in font size 'invisible' that it makes me want to punch the guy who approved the design. Add to it the Olive Grove streamers in DHA with yellow text against a lime green background which makes it rather difficult to make out the words unless you are up close to the streamer. I will try get photos & then continue my bashing.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Truth well told or lies well sold?

McCann Erickson, one of the leading ad agencies in the world asserts that advertising is 'Truth Well Told'; i.e. the art of presenting genuine & authentic claims about a product in an attractive & interesting way. Truth really be told, advertisers are faced with a lot of internal conflict everyday; confronted with a continuous process of moral reasoning, and making choices - between cost versus ethics, strategy versus ethics, effectiveness versus ethics, ROIs versus ethics. There are so many choices to make and so much to avoid! Racial, ethnic & gender stereotypes, distorted self-perceptions, unrealistic body image, misleading claims, manipulation, false comparisons, unqualified endorsers, misleading product demonstrations, controversial products... what a moral dilemma it is... and it is human to err; it is human to want to survive; it is human to be self-serving. 

So what if you continue to exploit women's insecurities through advertisements that necessitate fairness for success? Just look at it as a message of hope for all the dark girls out there and not a message of despair!

So what if a brand manager endorses his 'own' brand pretending to be a qualified nutritionist? What they don't know won't hurt them anyway!

So what if we reinforce the negative perceptions kids hold about regular milk to promote our brand of flavored milk? At least we are giving mothers an alternative to cheaper bad-tasting foul-smelling regular white milk!

So what? I mean, profits almost always come with some degree of exploitation right? Who decides what's right and what's wrong? Just look at it this way: almost everything is grey; there is no black & white to choose from so you always have room to defend your choice (*phew*)! Moreover, in today's world, it would be suicidal to be as direct & blatantly honest as Ernest Shakleton, an Englishman who published the following ad in a newspaper during the 1900s:

"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success. Ernest Shackleton."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

... on the ineffectiveness of advertising.

In my last post, I talked about how Pakistani advertisements sometimes make no sense at all. In trying to be creative, they sometimes lose relevance to the product. Sometimes, the best creative might not work either; when advertisements lose relevance to the target customer and more often, lose sight of the target customer. Root cause? Creative ideas & media plans designed in complete isolation of each other with minimal (if at all) grounding in the brand's marketing strategy (i.e. well-defined measurable objectives, a clear & focused positioning as well as a well-researched & understood target audience). Result? Advertisements that may be creative but not necessarily effective; they may be loud but uncommunicative; they may be ubiquitous but invisible to those who really matter. 

The solution is simple; before you set out to develop your creative strategy or design a media plan, make an effort to really get to know your customer; who they are, what they do, what they want & why they want what they want. And not to forget, find the right contact points (touch points) by understanding when & where your customers can be reached; stop foolishly hoping that your customers will be where you are whenever you want them to be. In short, try to find the right aperture to communicate your message to them efficiently & effectively. (Don't be like Gypsy Beauty/Fairness Cream who bombarded Geo Super viewers during the last T20 World Cup. It was plain annoying!)

Secondly, if you are developing creative, please communicate with your media department & discuss your plans with them. Ask them about the latest in media tools, ask them if they can help you identify the best contact points (which includes all sorts of unconventional media channels, tools & touch points) to reach out to your target market. In fact, there are so many possibilities of creative media utilization within conventional media like magazines & TV, it is surprising why we don't see them being tapped into more often - (perhaps because creatives in Pakistan aren't sure if such deviations from the norm are possible). For instance, I love how instead of publishing a simple print ad in the magazine, McDonald's chose to roll the magazine in a wrapper to make it look like a burrito. There must have been some coordination between the media department & the creative department to pull this off.

Lastly, as basic communication theory dictates, if a message is not encoded well by the sender, it won't be decoded well by the receiver and resultantly, lose its meaning & effectiveness. So even if you have identified & described the right target market to your creatives, please ensure your creative actually has the ability to create a message for that particular market; i.e. he/she can empathize with them, understand their needs & translate this into an effective advertising message. Not every creative person can relate to or have knowledge of every sub-culture that is targeted by advertising. A US/UK-born & raised copywriter might be great with the English language for instance but might not fully understand the nuances of Karachi's 'awaami' culture or Lahore's love for 'Basant'. For example, the following ad features 'Ginormica' from the cartoon movie 'Monsters Vs. Aliens'. Although it is an ad for flat screen TVs, I doubt many people in Pakistan know who this character is or what she signifies.

Of course, there are many other reasons for why advertising sometimes fails to achieve its intended purpose. The most prominent amongst them is the one-way nature of communication between advertisers & consumers; what we call talking 'at' the customer as opposed to talking 'to' the customer. A discussion of this however, calls for a dedicated post on the increasing need to tap into new & emerging media that allows an opportunity for dialog & interaction and I will get down to writing that post as soon as I am done with designing two final exams and grading 17 term projects this coming week!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ads that make you go hmmm... WHAT??

Alright, so lets recount the traits of a good ad: it has to be relevant to its target audience in that it relates to them in a meaningful way; especially in terms of character portrayal & product usage conditions & behavior. In other words, your message should resonate with your target audience. It has to be attention-grabbing, interesting, original, memorable and make the desired impact on your target audience. That, coupled with great execution & production quality, as well as a well thought-out media strategy, makes for a pretty promising campaign. 

Now, I am sure most of you have already come across Sooper Biscuit's latest TV commercial titled 'Maza Karle... Dil Bhar Ke'. Here: watch it again before you read any further:

This TV commercial is all over Pakistani TV channels these days (like the Mezan Cooking Oil launch TV commercial that should have been titled 'I like to move eat move eat!' - click HERE to view). It has been brilliantly executed, great production quality, good choice of models (who aren't just pretty, but can dance impressively too). The jingle has a pretty catchy tune, though I haven't been able to by-heart the lyrics yet.

But... who the hell eats 'egg & milk' biscuits at a dance party?? And... the way they are enjoying those 'Biscuits', BYOB might take on a completely new meaning! I mean, this is a BISCUIT ad. A BISCUIT. Alright, the cafeteria scene, acceptable. The mehendi scene, errrm... okay. But the party?? It is completely out of place! It would be more 'appropriate' if it were an ad for a carbonated beverage or even chips (chips & dip at parties are common). Some of the older people I know (like those in their 50s & 60s) think it is ridiculous & irrelevant to feature song & dance in a biscuit ad; but I don't mind. I like jingles. I like dance too. But do I like song & disco dance with Sooper? No. Thanks. And... the portrayal of 'pleasure' (in slo-mo) derived when the models bite into the biscuit - very incongruent with the product type - reminds me of the Kashmir Premium Gold Cooking Oil TV commercial featuring the sultry Iman Ali in all her sultriness as she tries to seduce her husband (and the audience) while frying fish & cutting celery. Click HERE to watch the ad.

I am sure there are other creative ways to capture the youth's attention. But... I am not complaining. It's not too bad really - esp. as a reminder ad (and it's pretty). At least it is still way better overall than the cheesy-looking me-too 'Chaye ka Chaska' campaign!

Then there's this consumer promotion by Stone Age - 50% off - have a look at this one:

This one says "Stone Age offers 50% off! Come make an ass out of yourself!" I mean, WHY the donkey?? What purpose does it serve? I am not sure what a 'donkey' symbolizes in other cultures or countries, but in Pakistan, a donkey is a beast of burden, and a 'ghada' is literally and figuratively an 'ass'. What target market did they have in mind? Were they trying to say 'Prices so low, even a donkey can afford it'? - like the Geico 'so easy even a caveman could do it' campaign? - and if you've noticed, the woman behind the donkey has her bags packed already - she is in no mood to shop alongside asses and mules. I am hoping there exists some brand association between this image and the brand in the minds of its existing customers; perhaps some sort of a brand icon used on their women's clothing line; something that one can use to rationalize the use of this image in this ad. Otherwise, I would rate it a 9/10 on the ridiculousness scale.
Geico  (Auto Insurance Company)
Another ad with a cheesy image:
I don't know. Maybe I am being too critical - but the way she is staring at him (the 'eyes wide shut bharosa' look) is just so artificial. It makes the ad look a little silly. She is saying "Mein to pehle hi inki zahanat se mutasir thi.." - I guess a marriage with a huge generation gap; seems like she married her chemistry professor. Anyway, I will cut it some slack - perhaps it works for the target audience of geeky looking middle-aged middle-class men who are looking for new ways to impress their young trophy wives.

Last but certainly not the least, here is a classic by Dawn Bread:
Back at the agency, we called it the 'Kacha Bacha' ad. Of course, it is a badly executed ripoff of some foreign print ad the client saw on one of his trips abroad. The baby is so 'soft' & 'raw' - like a skinny fragile  'teetar-batair' - perhaps designed by someone with scary cannibalistic instincts. I would have given them some points for creativity if I hadn't known it is in fact a ripoff. Anyway, it wasn't published in a lot of publications. Last I remember, they took down the lone Sherpao Bridge (Lahore) billboard within a week of putting it up. And yes, the client & the agency were quite embarrassed about the whole deal. At least that's some consolation.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Copycat Advertising - The Global Perspective

Here's a website that showcases similar ideas in advertising from around the world It's called Joe La Pompe

The problem is global. Sigh.

Do. Do. Die. Do. Do. Do.

Natural born (dead) salesman!