Mumbai: Want to soothe the frayed nerves of your consumer in these difficult times while sending the brand message across? Well, lower the audio noise and clear the visual clutter in your ads. Against a backdrop of taut psyches, hyperbole and promotions babble, ads are making way for simpler and more direct messages, clean-cut layouts, softer hues and backdrops and defined graphics.
Back to basics: Understated, honest advertising with cleaner visual demeanours is making a mark.
High-end brands have always known there’s a certain chic to minimalism. Vodafone Essar Co.’s BlackBerry no-frills spot simply shows a young man talking about his phone and its features. The tag line—Make the most of now. Mass market brands, too, are discovering that ads can be a calming influence in these nerve-wracking times. Marketers are thus opting for ads with less audio and visual accoutrements, even in feature-rich and competitive categories such as technology and automobiles.
Think like detergent brand Tide, advises Greg Taylor, brand inspiration director at international brand consultancy Elmwood Design Ltd, in his blog. Tide has introduced several line extensions with simplified graphics and smaller logos overseas. “Shout less to reduce the ‘visual noise’ that causes sensory overload and place more emphasis on clean, more refined graphics that focus on a simple message instead,” he says.
Closer home, Tata Motors Ltd’s Safari Dicor’s “Reclaim your life” spot asks what would count as the most memorable if the highpoints of your life flashed before your eyes? Your corner office or the corporate power plays? Final cut: A young man swimming in the ocean.
Ashish Mishra, chief strategist and head, Water Consulting, Mudra group’s strategy and design company, says the Tata Dicor ad is unique because it vaunts no product features, no glossy metal finish, no stunts (usually seen in auto ads), “just simple desires that define life in a much bigger way”.
K.S. Chakravarthy, national creative director of Draftfcb+Ulka Advertising Pvt. Ltd, applauds the intelligent approach taken by Xylo (from Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd) that has positioned itself as a sedan killer. “The car itself clearly offers a much better value equation than a gas-guzzling, high-maintenance (petrol) sedan. And the advertising gives it a certain sheen in a simple, no-nonsense way.”
Visual elegance is again lathered on to the new campaign for Hindustan Unilever Ltd’s Dove soap: “All we need is half your face”. Set against a white backdrop, one half of a woman’s face is shown clearer than the other half.
Jacob Mathew, co-founder of Idiom Design and Consulting Ltd, says consumers today are receptive to environmentally, financially and socially sustainable ads and ideas. “Bank brands today use real faces and soft triggers in conveying their message. It’s more of a back-to-basics kind of advertising.”
It’s time for understated, honest advertising, in tandem with cleaner visual demeanours. Brands must leave out the exaggeration and be clear in what they say, advises Prathap Suthan, national creative director (South West Asia), Cheil Worldwide Inc. “Consumers today have so much on their minds; they don’t have time to decipher what a brand is saying,” he says, adding that banks, insurance companies and real estate companies are already realizing this—and it shows in their ads.
Even real estate companies such as Lodha Group are no longer peddling grandeur in their ads, says Sujit Sawant, creative director, Leo Burnett India Pvt. Ltd. They are taking a more clear-cut approach.
Product packaging and design are being “toned down” internationally. In India, the logo of the new Hindi entertainment channel Real, print visuals of Kaya skin clinic and designs of Himalaya mineral water bottles are examples of subtle, yet striking, work, says Mishra.
Brands have to be particularly savvy about colour choice in their branding activities. Advises Mishra: “Let our colours be natural and not photoshopped to high saturation levels just to stand out in the media. In terms of colours, cooler shades (rather) than warm (ones) should do the needful.” He also adds that photographic styles should be relatable and graphic styles simple. “We don’t want to over-promise.”
The retail sector, which is thriving on hyperbole and sales noise, could also take tips in toning down from its international peers. Bhupal Ramnathkar, founder of Umbrella Design, points out that ads for sales by UK-based retailers such as Harrods Ltd and Harvey Nichols are good examples of simple, yet elegant work with simple standout visuals and sales messages. “I think that is how the ads for a sale should be—keep it simple.”