Mumbai: In difficult times such as these, any communication effort needs to give you even better returns. Four creative directors talk about the marketing and advertising strategies companies tend to adopt, the inherent risks and potential benefits—and brands that have taken an unconventional approach
Adrian Mendonza, National Creative Director, Dentsu Marcom Pvt. Ltd
What most brands would be doing is to think of ways of making the product exciting in spite of these tough economic times. What a lot of brands are doing in malls, etc., is (confined to) doling out freebies and discounts in the name of creative strategy. However, with Park Avenue, a client of ours, we have decided to go the other way. Instead of giving discounts, we are talking about genuine innovation such as iron-free clothes and suits that can be washed in machines. There is a genuine value-add.
A creative risk taken by a brand in recent times is Aegon Religare’s ‘Kya aapko KILB (kam insurance lene ki bimari) hai’ (Do you have a tendency to take minimal insurance cover?) campaign. First, the ad came out when recession had already begun in the West and it was starting to impact the market here and, second, it was done when people had more trust in safe avenues such as fixed deposits. For the category itself, the technique was new. It’s an interesting way of getting people to invest in insurance.
Josy Paul, Chairman, BBDO India
You don’t switch off your engine when you are flying through turbulent weather. You don’t fight fear with fear. Creativity is not about doing 15-second TV spots instead of 30-seconders. It’s not just about promos and sales-driven tactics.
Today’s times call for tectonic shifts in creative thinking. They question the basics, are counter-culture and challenge convention. A fairly recent example is the “campaign for real beauty” by Dove (which is ongoing). It defies current attitudes and changes (people’s) perspective. Or take the work done by Fallon Worldwide for BMW which really began the branded content revolution on the Web. It was the first time that an ad agency and its client turned advertising into engaging content that you didn’t mind paying for. The entire budget of BMW was put behind creating five deadly short films directed by the world’s greatest directors. Audiences had to download the films from the Internet. This unconventional approach paid off and created history for the brand.
Ashish Khazanchi, National Creative Director, Ambience Publicis Advertising Pvt. Ltd
A lot of brands will be rational in their approach during tough times: focusing on price-led advertising, value for money, why it’s better to pick me than the next guy. In the 1990s, during times of recession in the West, the sale of indulgence products such as shampoos, creams, chocolates, etc., went up tremendously. Personal hygiene products such as shampoo and packaged goods brands such as chocolate could project themselves as small indulgences in tough times. (These promote) indulgence at a time when real indulgences such as cars, new houses, etc., are hard to come by.
A brand that has taken a creative risk in recent times is IDBI Bank with its new ad which has the tag line Not just for the big boys. It would have been far safer for the brand to take on a simple message such as “We are available via ‘xyz’ number of branches. Come and bank with us. We are in your neighbourhood”. But IDBI chose to stay away from this predictable path. In my book, their stand is vindicated; it’s an unusual ad and, hence, noteworthy in its approach. Also, it has been executed at a time when people were withdrawing money from various banks and were losing faith in financial institutions.
Raj Kurup, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Creativeland Asia Pvt. Ltd
When the economy is going through a difficult time, a piece of communication needs to give you returns more than ever. Even as spends go down, the impact (of the ad) must still hold on to its benchmarks. Creativity only reduces the risk and does not increase it.
One brand that takes risks all the time and comes out looking good is Apple. The Apple iPhone was launched in India when recession had begun globally, and financial troubles had started in India. It was targeted at the correct audience: there was no unnecessary wastage of resources or hype. (The launch of) its ads was a combined effort with cellular service players such as Vodafone Essar Ltd and Bharti Airtel Ltd and brought media costs down. They also launched (the iPhone) at InOrbit mall in Mumbai and targeted the right audience. Apple has the talent of keeping its creative topical, without wastage of resources or unnecessary hype. It also focuses on a set target audience. Its technique could suit a lot of brands in the current environment.