It’s impossible to miss Amul’s economical take on Raj Babbar’s claim for Rs 12 meal with ‘Aaj ki Tazaa Babbar’ to ‘If-star’ party for Salman and Shahrukh. The brand has shown remarkable success piggybacking on current news. In less than 24 hours after the royal baby was born, Oreo welcomed the baby with the tagline ‘Long Live the Crème’ and showed a bottle full of milk on a red pillow. Smartly weaving news, brands have started realising the potential of topical ads to become a part of national conversation. It is widely believed that topical advertising can reinforce a customer’s connection to a brand and help them think differently.
One of the most interesting examples of topical ads was the Tourism Office taking out a full-page advertisement on ‘Incredible India’, in leading British newspapers, inviting Jade Goody and friends, and saying the ‘best way to understand India is to visit it’.
Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Executive Creative Director, South Asia, Ogilvy & Mather said, “Advertising, in a sense, should always be topical. It is, after all, about capturing the spirit of the here and now. One should always be on the look-out for happenings or trends which have a connect with one’s brand and then strike when the opportunity is right.”
In order to remain relevant, brands have started grabbing opportunities from predictable events such as Eid, Rakhi, Christmas and Valentine’s Day to unpredictable events such as the birth of the Royal baby to victory or defeat in sporting events. It creates a long-lasting impact on the consumer’s mind, invoking curiosity for the brand’s take on the next important development.
Nima D T Namchu, Creative Head and Executive Creative Director, Cheil India (Cheil Worldwide SW Asia HQ) said, “In my opinion, other than communicating the brand message, a topical ad is an opportunity to convey to the reader or the viewer that the brand isn’t only obsessed with the goings-on behind the closed doors of its offices.”
“A topical ad is the brand’s reaction to what’s going on in the world in which the consumer lives. It’s an opportunity to make the consumer feel as if he or she is observing the world while in the company of the brand. So it is a very important piece of communication, and the brand is going to be judged by it,” he added.
Do these ads create a lasting impact?
These advertisements create impact when set in a right tone with the news element. It has to be synced with the relevant visuals to create the maximum impact. The Lynx ad highlighting its dependability with the tagline ‘The 24-hour Lynx effect’ after Britney Spears’s divorce within 24 hours hit the bull’s eye through an intelligent association.
Namchu stated, “If executed with finesse, a topical ad can have a very positive and long lasting impact on how the consumer perceives a brand. We still remember Pepsi’s ‘Nothing official about it’, don’t we? I also think the recent ads by The Observer when Sir Alex Ferguson retired and by MasterCard when the Duchess of Cambridge became a mum were quite well done. I think topicality presents us with a unique and rare opportunity to create focussed communication to a very sharply defined target audience. Unfortunately, most of it is often conceived and executed in a hurry and they don’t go beyond the superficiality of a clever pun or two, which is not very clever, of course.”
Studies reveal that topical ads help in establishing a strong bond.
“We frequently hear about video clips on YouTube going viral. These are usually about something that happened that same day and someone shot it on the cellphone and uploaded it. It was 'topical' enough for people to search for its keywords, news channels on TV report it, giving it a further push and people start sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. Suddenly the video clip is 'trending'. Now these videos are truly topical. This is what at least some of our advertising should be trying to emulate. But somehow one doesn't see much of that happening,” Chattopadhyay added.
Do agencies have the bandwidth to create topical ads?
In this digital era, it is possible to create these ads because a brand can be prepared with a message for the predictable events and push it forward once it happens. But are clients allowing agencies to do so, remains a big question?
Chattopadhyay said, “We are often called upon to present work in 24 hours. Unfortunately, the approval process takes 24 days. Clearly, this is not a call to clients to give us unreasonable deadlines. Crafting something well can take days, even weeks. But my point is that in a situation where we want to ride on something that's just happened while it's still fresh, Yes We Can.”
“The client and the agency must have a close working relationship and there has to be a quick and flexible approval process in place, otherwise there is no hope for topical advertising,” he added.
Can digital be a game-changer?
Cashing on the occasion of Eid, Oreo posted an ad on Facebook showing the biscuit in shape of the moon with a message ‘Truly a taste to wait for’. The ad was highly appreciated by the consumers. Kingfisher also launched a Twitter campaign #DearBeerGod, which was a chance for online fans and consumers from across the country to lead their city to victory and win gallons of beer on the International Beer Day. The campaign saw immense response from fans.
Rajesh Bhatia, Head Interactive, Cheil India (Cheil Worldwide SW Asia HQ) said, “One of the biggest challenges for brands today is to be relevant to the world the consumer lives in everyday; and what better way than topical advertising to do that. While Amul is a great example of templatised topical advertising, there is much more to it today, given the evolution of media vehicles and consumer behaviour.”
“For instance, topicality is no more a window of days but hours and minutes, thanks to digital platforms like Twitter. It is a huge opportunity which global brands are already leveraging through digital media for staying young and relevant even 100 years after inception. To be topical today, brands need to be very agile, smart thinking, less bureaucratic and of course digitally evolved with sound content creation capabilities. It is not about that print ad which comes out 24 hours after the news / event, but a short Twitter campaign that connects the brand to the latest trending topics, a Facebook post that makes it relevant to all those driving in mad rush Monday morning, a video quickly shot to explain how an X brand can enhance the cricket viewing experience for the evening’s India – Australia match,” Bhatia added.
Betting on the digital medium is a great opportunity for brands because the medium is cost effective and delivers quick results. Though striking a right balance remains a challenge, topicality builds a strong engagement. In this dynamic world, there is no time to stand and wait, brands have to call for immediate action.