“To me, the pertinent question is not advertising, the pertinent question is the person who really matters – the customer; whether he trusts advertising, and what we are doing as an industry? Are we doing things that are making him or her cynical about advertising?” asked Shantanu Khosla, MD, P&G, while delivering the valedictory speech at the Pitch Madison Advertising Outlook 2014 event held in Mumbai on February 19, 2014.
Khosla noted that the world is changing fast, and “in a conference like this five years ago, we would not have Facebook and Google. With multiple new touch points, the consumer has choices – she is inundated with requests and has more demand for her time. In an environment like this, it is obvious that she is going to turn to the source she trusts.”
From his personal journey at P&G, he commented, “We at P&G believe in building brands. We believe in building brands by starting engaging, authentic advertising that builds relations – relationships that over time become loved ones. Brands that overtime genuinely become a part of the consumers’ life, integral to her life and improving her life even if in a small way. The very foundation of the fact that we’ve been around for more than 175 years and have built more leading brands across the globe than anyone else in our industry is basically based on this simple premise – that’s what we do. The foundation of being able to do this is to be trusted. If you’re not trusted, if your advertising is not to be trusted, if advertising in general begins to become something that turns the consumer off, you will never build brands in the future – whatever be the situation.”
According to Khosla, amid the pressures of a highly competitive market today, it is critical that the industry makes sure that the work that is churned out and the way it is delivered to the consumers not only engages and is authentic, but also builds their trust in the medium over time.
“The way the world is moving; I personally believe the trust our industry can build with the consumer is going to become more and more important over time, not less,” he added. Khosla further said, “When I started working, it was easier, now if we look out to the future, simply given to the fact that 24x7 this person is being bombarded by messages from everyone from all kinds of sources – in fact Wikipedia is Gospel Truth, isn’t it? You have to build that trust in the industry and that is our responsibility.”
So the question to ask yourself in every piece of work we do as an industry is, is your work building that trust, or is your work actually making the consumer more cynical? Yes we have to engage, yes we have to be distinctive, yes we have to be challenging, but in a way that builds consumer trust. Otherwise, a few decades from now, no one will believe in advertising. Advertising will go back to the clichés of the 1800s of the snake oil salesmen. This consumer trust, which we as an industry have to keep working on, is always very fragile – but is something as a responsibility to do.
He concluded by saying, “I personally believe that advertising is one of the most wonderful things we can contribute towards the betterment of our people – consumers at large. It educates, it creates awareness, makes the consumer aware of options to better needs and improves lives. We play a very important role with our advertising, all of us. However, to continue to play this role and make changes that are positive and improve life and meet the purpose that we all want to achieve, we have to ensure that the consumer trusts advertising. My request to all of you on behalf of the consumers across the world is whatever you do, make sure each piece enhances their trusts, it is authentic, it is truthful, it is what you genuinely are offering – that’s both how you build businesses, that’s how you build brands and that’s how you build the industry.”