Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Why do people look for "inner meanings" in Advertisements?

Coming from an agency and having contributed to creating a few TV commercials in the past, I thought I’d share my two cents on this topic because of a discussion at work:

  • One thing I’ve found incomprehensible amongst both agencies and clients is that people read too much into advertisements.
    1. The idea of mass media advertising is to get attention – get brand recognition. There is no other ulterior motive. Whether you like the Sprite or Appy or advertisement or not, the fact that you remember it, remember the brand and recognize the brand when you go shopping means that the ad’s purpose has been achieved and the advertisers, agencies and media companies have done their job.

    2. Advertisers do this in multiple ways, from boring off-the-track advertisements to humourous, entertaining ads. The idea is to gain mindshare – reading into how they do it, whether a crazy stunt or stupid looking character or sarcastic humor, is pointless because you’re not supposed to. At least, the people who create these ads don’t think you’re supposed to – they just want your attention for 30 seconds, and hope and pray that attention translates into sales indirectly.

  • Communication is one of the most subjective fields to work in, and therefore one of the most challenging...
    1. We don’t know the process by which these ads get on our TV screens – it could have been a collection of 15 storyboards with 15 different concepts, and out of all of them 3 might have been brilliant, but because the CEO/Marketing manager has ego issues or doesn’t understand them, he/she chooses the most simple, stark storyboard of the lot. Or because the sales guy thinks this idea is better than that, it gets chosen even though it’s the wrong message.

    2. Budgets: you’d be amazed to see some really amazing ideas and concepts shot down because clients don’t want to spend 10 lakhs creating a great ad, but will have no qualms about spending 2 crores on media spends on multiple channels for a crappy ad.

    3. At the end of the day, it’s all about perception – I see those ads and see an attempt to communicate with me through humour – some of it works, and some of it doesn’t because I’m either not their target audience or just don’t appreciate their communication style. But if I remember a crappy ad, and recognize the brand, then regardless of whether I like the ad or not, I’ll name the brand in a brand perception survey. And i might even buy it while shopping because I've heard of it and want to try it out. After all, have you ever not bought a product only because it has a crappy ad campaign?

  • As someone sensitive to advertising, I agree with the general view of people in the industry that Indian ads these days have better production values and are slicker looking. But ideas and "concepts" wise we’re wayyyyyy behind the west in terms of sophistication and subtlety.

    But while agencies compain and groan about clients choosing run-of-the-mill storyboards, they also need to realise that the majority of the Indian audience hasn't gotten any more sophisticated than they were ten years ago. With 80% of the Indian population still in rural and semi-urban areas, only a select few have the education background, IQ levels and exposure to good communication that will enable them to grasp a sophisticated metaphor or a subtle visual connection.

    The bad news? This isn't going to change anytime soon - the process of sensitizing the masses to great communicaiton is a long drawn one.

    The good news? With education levels rising, increased competition in the Indian markets and globalization exposing India's adults and children to international communication, the overall process will speed up. Hopefully.


sans said...

Now, you really dont want to be associated with a bad image to your brand. Its not the mindshare that matters. For eg BSNL and Reliance(atleast their initial ones) have mindshare for all the wrong easons. There is no way me or my friends want to be associated with it. Have they met their objective. No! Bad image is just that. bad. If the argument is different target audience, well how about the indica ad? Oh yeah its got mindshare, and a luxury car is pretty much targeted at our group. But it no created the apt image.
Branding is also about building an image and not just gaining mindshare.
And it is wrong to assume the lack of "IQ" among ppl. Ads can be just as intelligent while communicating with different sections of society. I think it is too narrow and elitist of a view.

Anonymous said...

Hey thats very close analysis and reasonable view on the present scenario of ad agency. I do agree wid u that there is loss of subtlety and sophistication in "Indian ads"....most of them r hammering in ur head to "buy this" kinda.
Nywayz interesting update. I had read almost all of ur posting and
must admit they r indeed stimulation to brain cells.
waitin for ur next post...
till then happy blogging

Neeta said...

Sure ads are not meant to be read into - but why should we try and stop people who want to? Besides, the media also read into ads - ET's supplement has a regular section on ad-beating. :)