It is said that a picture speaks a thousand words. And in advertising, it also extends to words, colours, backgrounds, sounds… in fact, the whole gamut of human relationships. The more one digs into it, the more complex such semantics get in advertising. So, how do admen navigate and explore the plethora of semantics and avoid being clichés? exchange4media finds out.
Josy Paul, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, BBDO India, gives a very philosophical view on the importance of semantics. He says, “God is in the semantics. God is also in the idea. But then, God is everywhere. Details like words, colours, clothes and images create brand identity. They are shortcuts to brand recognition. Form and content, style and substance are the software that build persuasion. Brand differentiation is made of these.”
On the evolution of semantics, he feels semantics is logical and magical. According to him, the logical is basic stuff like colour of clothes and the background, while the magical is things like music, performance and chemistry. Some things one can control, while the rest is up to the ecosystem, he feels, and that for him is “evolved”. “That’s why faith, belief and interdependence play an important role,” he says.
For KV Sridhar, National Creative Director, Leo Burnett, too, semantics is the most important and crucial phenomenon in advertising. He cautions, “If the attributes go wrong, the ad can turn out to be misleading. Semantics depend a lot on cultural and religious parameters. For instance, black is considered to be the colour of mourning in the West and white the colour of happiness. It is the opposite in India. So, it becomes essential to understand the words, colours and the signals used in this part of the world, which is very sensitive. We must realise who we are talking to. We did a TVC for a bike years back, presenting the comfort that the bike gives to its riders. The ad showed a man on the bike, who gets his shoes polished by a young boy. The TVC received a lot of flak from NGOs on the issue of child labour and the way we had projected the ad. All I am trying to get at is that we have to keep all elements of semantics in mind before executing an ad plan.”
He further says, “Brands and agencies have to be careful while presenting the ad to a sensitive audience. An ad for Perfetti shows a boy imitating his father. Years back, this ad would have been unacceptable, but with changing times, it is considered ‘cool’, introducing relationships wherein the boy and his father share a friendly relationship. A major part of semantics has to be understood by values and belief systems.”
Sagar Mahabaleshwar, Chief Creative Officer, Rediffusion Y&R, says, “For me, the ideation and execution are equally important. I give equal weightage to both. If your craft is right, the product turns out to be right. It is important to pay importance to the tone and manner of the words used, colours and the background. Also, the sensibilities of your target audience have to be kept in mind. There are campaigns driven only by ideas and there are campaigns driven by execution. A good mix of both is really important. But for me, ideas hold utmost importance.”
It is important to understand that the basic elements of semantics can either work in favour or against an ad. A job is well done only when all attributes put together are aesthetically appealing and do not jolt the viewers. The aspect of colour, feel, words, background score can make the simplest of ads memorable without sacrificing creativity.