Mumbai: It’s probably the worst thing that could happen in advertising to any brand.
Over the past few months, some brands known for their iconic advertising have put out what can hardly be described as a creative encore. The originals were so memorable that the sequels simply pale in comparison.
Greater risk aversion and over-dependence on research during the economic slowdown, or a tendency to let the execution become the idea, are to blame, experts say.
HappyDent’s award-winning palace ad featured people as sources of light to highlight the chewing gum brand’s proposition that it would lead to brighter teeth. The recent ad for variant HappyDent Wave pales in comparison; it features a herd of elephants that stomp through several cartons of the gel-filled variant only to end up with tusks that flicker like tube lights.
Muted appeal: New ads for brands such as HappyDent, Chlor-mint, Idea and Coca-Cola have failed to make the same impact as older ones.
Again, the latest Chlor-mint spot features Bollywood actors Salman Khan and Sohail Khan and stretches the “Doobara maat poochna!” (don’t ask a second time) tag line from the original script to one featuring a dumb and dumber duo.
Liril soap was first popularized by the signature imagery of a bikini-clad girl under a waterfall and owned the proposition of “freshness” in that category for a long time. Then it decided to go through several different permutations and combinations, with more people squeezed into the ad each time. The ad for Liril 2000 claims to rejuvenate 2,000 body points with every use, but fails to click like the original.
According to Anand Halve, co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand and Communications Consultancy Pvt. Ltd, there are several other brands that also seem to have stumbled with creative encores, such as Idea Cellular Ltd, which he says is stretching its “democracy by SMS” concept to “ridiculous levels”.
He also cites the example of Coca-Cola, where the idea of “Thanda matlab Coca-Cola” (cold means Coca-Cola) was lost in all the regional caricatures played by actor Aamir Khan, whose personality overshadowed the brand.
“The reason is not so much the client but the creatives (advertising agencies) who are not able to separate the executional idea from the creative idea,” he says, explaining that Charlie Chaplin’s “tramp” was a creative idea and expressed uniquely in each film. Indian actor Keshto Mukherji’s drunken act was an executional idea and looked the same every time.
In 2005, following the success and popularity of Cadbury’s “Pappu Pass Ho Gaya” (Pappu has passed) campaign, the company sensed there was some danger when the team started thinking of “Pappu” as the idea rather than “Meetha” (sweet) as the core idea.
“Pappu was just execution of that thought, and we consciously chose to move away from it,” says Sanjay Purohit, executive director, marketing, Cadbury India Ltd. “It’s human nature to want to hold onto something that has brought you so much applause and admiration. But sometimes, we are victims of our own success.”
In the case of Liril, the brand is yet to step out of the shadow of what was considered an iconic, category-defining campaign. “There is a problem when the execution becomes the idea. The minute you try and move out of the shadow of a brilliant execution, as in the case of the girl under the waterfall, you struggle,” says Santosh Desai, managing director and chief executive for Future Brands.
A spokesperson from Hindustan Unilever Ltd, however, explains that while it it is good to be iconic, it is critical to remain relevant to the current consumers. “With the changing social context, the key issue being addressed by the Liril of 70s was no longer relevant to the consumers (higher socio-economic class urban women) of today.”
It sometimes shows when a brand is trying too hard to maintain that perfect record. While Fevicol has had some really good campaigns, the work is beginning to look contrived, adds Desai.
“A lot of brands that used to do iconic advertising in the past, no longer do,” says Shiv Sethuraman, chief executive officer, TBWA India Pvt. Ltd. He explains that there may be several factors at play: the economic slowdown has meant that a lot of clients have lost their risk taking ability, as have agencies. This means few executives are willing to break rules or take risks, because failure could mean losing accounts.
Over-dependence on research is another issue advertising agencies have to grapple with in tough times, as budget-strapped clients rely more on data to back their decisions. “You can almost plot the rise of research and the death of creativity…consumers can’t always tell you what they like or don’t like about an ad and there is a tendency to over-research,” says Sethuraman.
There is also a tendency for brands to stick with what is familiar and to their mind, works for the brand with its timeless appeal. Desai points to classic brand campaigns such as Raymond’s “Complete Man”, Bajaj’s “Hamara Bajaj” (our Bajaj) and luggage brand VIP’s “Aaj Bhi, Kaal Bhi” (Today, and tomorrow too). Some tend to rely on nostalgia as a factor: Bajaj Lights recently launched a new version of its age-old commercial featuring the different phases of a boy’s life, to the popular “Jab Mein Chotta Baccha Tha…” (when I was a little child) jingle.
Beyond this, experts also point to other issues on the client end as well as the agency end. The average tenure for brand managers is much shorter, so there is less of a brand-building attitude there.
Some brands that have, however, managed to consistently get it right are Vodafone with its campaigns featuring the lovable Pug and more recently the Zoozoos, Thums Up, and internationally Absolut Vodka and The Economist magazine.