Mumbai: Advertisers are scripting optimism and happiness into their ad messages even as economic gloom deepens across sectors. The latest commercial for Life Insurance Corp. of India (LIC), for example, shows a family holidaying on the beach with the tag line, Happy Returns. Again, the Asian Paints Royale commercial depicts a distinct shift in mood with actor Saif Ali Khan morphing from morose to happy in ad frames, thanks to some bright coats of paint with the tag line, Feel the change.
“People don’t want to listen to bad news,” says Suman Srivastava, chief executive officer of Euro RSCG India Pvt. Ltd. “Often they start confusing the message with the bad news. Chances are that if you keep reminding consumers of how bad things are, and the fact that they need to put their trust in you, they could do the exact opposite.”
He says that while ICICI Bank Ltd has done a lot of “rely on us in bad times” ads, brands that signal optimism in their ads will emerge the winners.
Reality check: Despite everything, some advertisers are not shying away from projecting real fears in an uncertain environment.
Advertisers across categories are painting different strokes of happiness, confidence and even hope for the future. A print ad for Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd, for one, says: One nation, one dream, a brighter tomorrow.
For all the speed bumps in the auto sector, the Ford Endeavor drives on Lead wherever you go, while a perky spot for Honda City shows the sedan cruising across rough terrain with the tag line, Enjoy your challenges.
The much beleaguered retail sector also has companies such as Future Group’s Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd still talking about the good times and the true shopping experience. Says K.V. Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India Pvt. Ltd, “Future Group launched a shopping festival for the Pantaloon chain right in the middle of the economic slowdown and had a number of print and outdoor ads on the same.”
In his view, the fact that auto firms are still rolling out new models on schedule and financial services firms, such as Tata Capital Ltd, are launching huge campaigns signals self-confidence. Tata Capital is trying to raise Rs500 crore from a sale of non-convertible debenture this month.
Even real estate companies, particularly hard-hit by the economic slowdown, are projecting the positives, says Anil Nair, president, Law and Kenneth India. “Most are talking about long-term value and great investments, etc. Similarly, a lot of financial brands are talking about stable returns and a bright future. The market may be down but they are still projecting an optimistic outlook.”
Too much dissonance between reality and what is playing out in the ad tableaux, however, can boomerang on the brands. Some brands try to avoid sending out any negative messages in times of trouble, says M.G. Parameswaran, executive director and CEO, Mumbai, Draftfcb+Ulka Advertising Pvt. Ltd, citing the “happy times” message being communicated by several banks. He is not sure “what these messages are doing for their image”, he says.
However, there are others who prefer not to shy away from reality. Santosh Padhi, co-founder of newly formed Mumbai-based agency TapRoot India, says HDFC Standard Life Insurance Co.’s latest ad around the Aur agar aapke papa kho gaye toh? (What if your father is lost?) theme, which projects real fears in an uncertain environment, has been a success. Sometimes, forced optimism may not work, he says.
Meanwhile, global campaigns for the cola companies are talking about optimism and comfort in a bid to prop up sales. Coca-Cola’s new ray of sunshine is Open Happiness, while Pepsi until recently, had a global campaign, The joy of Cola.
The brand is now plugging Refresh everything in the US. This peppy advertising was reportedly inspired by a study called The Optimism Project which shows the new generation is upbeat about its future.
Raj Kurup, founder, CreativeLand Asia Pvt. Ltd, however, says that expecting a Rs10 drink to project optimism during tough economic times is placing too much of a burden on the brand. “So, I wouldn’t read too much into the socio-economic relevance of the Coke campaign,” he says.