The Advertising Agencies Association of India’s second event to celebrate its Diamond Jubilee milestone, ‘The Future of Advertising’, saw the presence of some of the most renowned names that have witnessed and contributed to the advertising business internationally. The three-day symposium raised debates, questioned commonly followed practises and, at least in some cases, offered a way forward.
The fact that agencies still have some way to go forward and add to the offerings they make to the clients was brought out by Tony Wright, CEO, Lowe Worldwide. For Wright, choices cannot be forced on clients and consumers, whether it is about global reach and local expression or brilliant ideas and broad range or imagination with integration.
Wright presented various examples to demonstrate that even in the hugely diversified markets, it was possible to come up with one brilliant idea, execute it across countries and still get an effective response. He said, “Universal idea with a cultural preserve is possible. Agencies can lack the ability of converting local into global, but demands have increased and they have to be met.”
He cited the Lighthouse model of the agency as one of the key steps to handle the new challenges. Speaking more on new challenges like addressing short attention spans was BBDO’s David Guerrero. Guerrero spoke on the techniques that could be used to make an ad interesting and entertaining.
Emphasising the magnitude of the changing times, Guerrero pointed out that new media was evolving in a big way and the fact that an average mobile user was bombarded with SMSes in an unprecedented way alone was indication enough to believe that customised communication wasn’t far off. “I heard earlier that India has 50 million mobile users – that is the peak audience of a primetime show,” he noted.
In regards to the conventional ad modes, Guerrero presented the case of Dory, enumerating factors like sound bytes replacing speech, explosion of communication messages, increasing ad literacy, avoidance technology and visuals overtaking words. He also mentioned aspects like songs not getting any shorter just like books and movies working against Dory.
He also mentioned the use of humour as a tool that was not only a coping mechanism but also a great equaliser that offered a universal appeal in all allowing success cases like ‘Bio-Link’, where not only did the brand in question see an increase in sales, but growth was enough to let the brand get into line extensions.
What Guerrero said was further emphasised by O&M’s Chairman and NCD, Piyush Pandey, who concentrated on telling the audience that in terms of thinking out-of-the-box, not much had changed in the last 50 years.
With a careful selection of work that dated back to the year 1955, Pandey said that some ads even then had longevity enough to be accepted in today’s day and age. “Ask yourself, what have you done to push the benchmarks? We keep saying clients are bastards and client servicing are idiots, but in the course what we have become are experts in geometry – going in circles, giving angles, triangles and pyramids!” he remarked.
Pandey dotted his presentation with various questions that merely pointed at the similarities in ads – be it about teaching how to brush teeth in toothpaste ads or mentioning all the features of a car, without showing any. “Life is simple if you push it. You need the courage to see some of the unusual ideas through,” he added.
Giving an example here, he pointed out the Pepsi Ad, which was rejected in India and then was done in the Philippines, becoming an example when India and the Philippines won its first ever joint Grand Prix.
Pandey concluded urging on the need for passion. He said, “Let’s start hating our comfort zones so that we can challenge and then change something.”
If restless thinking can indeed make a difference, Philips’ Senior VP and Executive Director, Shiva Kumar, demonstrated that any thinking that went in developing a brand was worth it.
“There are new business models today where costs have been minimised, differing as wide as Dell on the one hand and P&G and Walmart’s joint initiative on real life inventory on the other,” explained Kumar, adding, “Increasingly, the economy is moving towards capitalism, which is all about wealth creation and stock markets becoming temples.”
Kumar gave instances from stock markets and other forms of gauging growth that the list of the top players always had top brands in it. From becoming a place where people parked their cost efficiencies, brand development today was monumental for growth.
He spoke more on the role that technology played in the scheme of things, coming back to the point, “Brands are alive and kicking. They always pay returns – don’t mess with the brand or quality.”
The future, according to him, was going to revolve around brands and brand managements. Some of the points to watch out for comprised customised brands leading to confident choices and alliance brand mushrooming even though they did present the question of passion and who would worry about brand growth. “Really strong brands are the ones that do the thinking for the consumer,” said Kumar.
Earl J Wilkinson, Executive Director, International Newspapers Marketing Association, asserted that globally newspapers did seem to do considerable amount of thinking to verify ways in which the decreasing circulation could be arrested. The most hit market at present seemed to be North America and the dip there was good enough to begin a panic attack in the States, Wilkinson added.
Despite being known as one of fiercest critics of newspaper medium, Wilkinson pointed out factors that had allowed newspapers to survive despite other media like television and radio building worldwide. He listed the ability to present unique local content, content digestible our setting and based on individuals, the value of a newspaper brand and the ability to deliver simple outputs.
Wilkinson attempted at presenting a simple list of qualities that newspapers had been using and would for some time to survive – from being innovative and dynamic, the newspapers should be willing to experiment.
Ways of increasing reader involvement, whether it is by change in the presenting format or making the paper interactive. In addition to quenching the readers’ thirst for information, newspapers should be able to be more creative and more importantly play across medium – rather than competing, use new media for growth.
The sessions did appear to be agreeing with most until Rama Bijapurkar stated a few points, which in any case are frequently discussed in various agencies today. For Bijapurkar, the renaissance for advertising needed to be accelerated and the industry needed a new role – that of an integrator.
The case Bijapurkar presented was that in the course of becoming specialised, silos had emerged in the ad industry that hindered growth and confused clients. The industry missed the one person, who would be the clients’ key contact in offering cross media solutions.
“It is time we went back to the future, but with a new delivery model and new revenue models,” said Bijapurkar, adding “We need to think out-of-the-box to be able to fulfil the larger duty of the industry and claim what is ours and waiting.”