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Subliminal advertising in TVCs: Not a mainstream strategy for advertisers

07-August-2007
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Subliminal advertising in TVCs: Not a mainstream strategy for advertisers

There have been myriad instances when two brands are promoted within a single TVC. But these usually happen when clients decide to be in favour of cross-promotional activities that drive consumers into purchase decisions. Subliminal advertising in TVCs is a concept whereby two brands exist -- one, which is the lead and the other, a second brand that makes its presence felt in a very subtle manner. The second brand has no relation with the direct message of the TVC or the lead brand, but still makes its presence felt on the screen.

Citing some examples, the first commercial that comes to our mind is the Yamaha ad that featured Café Coffee Day for a reasonable amount of time for the viewer to note its presence. Another example, though it may not have been intentional, is the Videocon commercial where Shah Rukh Khan wore a Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt. How effective these commercials have been and how viable this concept is still remains to be determined.

According to Prasoon Joshi, Executive Chairman and Regional Creative Director, South and South-East Asia, McCann Erickson, it was a challenge to establish one brand in itself, and that every brand had a certain character that needed to be communicated clearly. He also said that communicating the message of the brand in a 30-second TVC, amidst the huge media clutter, was not easy.

“For two brands, with one subliminal to ride on the main brand, doesn’t seem feasible, especially when we see that the communication needs to have the clear message of the brand character. On most occasions, the personality of one brand remains different from that of the other, and mixing them together may not be a good idea,” said Joshi. When asked whether advertisers would take this route more often, Joshi replied that advertising was a creative field and that he wouldn’t be surprised if such a concept gained popularity.

Pranesh Misra, President and COO, Lowe Lintas, had a similar view. “Mostly, this concept is ignored and it doesn’t indicate a promising future for itself. But in case it is used, there should ideally be a connection between the two brands, otherwise the presence of the second brand may largely go unnoticed,” he said. Citing an example, Misra said that it made sense if Cleartrip.com advertised itself with VIP bags in a TVC, as there was a clear-cut connection between the two.

But for Rajeev Raja, Executive Creative Director, Bates David Enterprise, it is not necessary for the two brands to have any connections. When asked about how the advertising expenditures would be shared between the two brands, he said that there was no reason for any advertiser to pay for a second brand in a TVC. “The brand in process of communicating a message should stand by itself, and not get mixed up with the message of other brands,” explained Raja.

“Subliminal advertising, more often than not, happens incidentally, and such relations have been forged even without the consciousness of the primary marketer,” said Mahesh Chauhan, President, Rediffusion DYR. He pointed out a classic example of how Coca-Cola was getting an indirect benefit each time McDonald’s was advertised.

When asked if this concept could work in the future, Chauhan had a completely different view. He said, “From a consumer standpoint, sometimes it could be more effective than dedicated advertising.” He justified his stand by saying that the brand in question wouldn’t force itself upon the consumer, and that it was in itself an appealing thought. “Since it is meant to be subliminal for the second brand, I don’t think it takes away anything from the primary brand unlike in some exceptional situations,” he concluded.

It can be understood that the concept of subliminal advertising for the second brand in TVCs is not a mainstream advertising strategy, and that there is still no evidence to prove its effectiveness. However, it might be a good recall for brands that have limited budgets, and for those who want to explore newer ideas and experiment in this creatively amazing field of advertising.

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