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How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right. View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.

Too much of a good thing? Research Vs "gut feel"


Abraham M. Alapatt, Client Services Director, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, Chennai,& Practice Group Partner, Ogilvy Business Network

An alarming affliction that I’ve observed of late, among clients and advertising agencies alike, is the “let’s put it through research” syndrome – briefs, ideas, storyboards, jingles, outdoor ideas, POS -- even logos!

Don’t get me wrong, research is an invaluable tool and ally -- in the right circumstance.

We all agree that given the clutter today, the pressure on clients and agencies alike to come up with ideas and work that is new, innovative and clutter-breaking is even more intense.

But, if every idea is subjected to either ad hoc research or forced into an outdated, ill-suited or completely irrelevant research model, the results are almost always undependable, and in some cases dangerously wrong.

It’s easy to see that agencies run the risk of their creative product taking a beating on the battlefield of research, but clients too run the risk of losing an opportunity to do something truly extraordinary and steal a march over competition.

Poorly planned and badly executed research is possibly the surest, most clinical way to bury a great idea and end up with the most mediocre and predictable ideas -- ideas that come through research with flying colours because “everyone got it”. (Of course they did, dumbo! They’ve seen the same formula replayed by all five of your competitors in the last year alone.)

Clients and agencies are to blame equally for the rapid spread of this affliction – slow growth, pressure on bottomlines, increased pressure on budgets, and competition force the client to resort to research to “defend” or “justify” their actions.

Agencies are under pressure due to shrinking budgets, client demands to be more “accountable” for things like sales, market shares as well as reducing commissions and margins.

The result: the need to “cover their butt” with research as well.

When Hutch uses a dog following a boy to demonstrate its network’s reach, and the world applauds, we should applaud the agency that “believes” in the power of the idea, its simplicity and appeal, AND the client for the vision to see all this, AND trust its agency to deliver an outstanding film.

I cannot imagine a focus group rating a Hutch “boy and dog” film very high at concept stage!

Ditto for clients like Pidilite (Fevicol), Perfetti (Centershock), Amara Raja (Amaron batteries), Tata Motors (Tata Safari) and St. Gobain or Deccan Air. Their creatives that we all enjoy and talk about were surely driven and inspired more by confidence and “gut feel” than a rigid analysis of “comprehension and appeal” by five disparate groups across Chennai, Ghaziabad, Ludhiana and Bhubaneshwar!

Let me conclude with a quote by David Ogilvy:

“ Some use research as a drunkard uses a lamp post – not for illumination, but for support.”

I love this quote because it really makes two important points.

The first is that testing can be used to prop up an idea that may not be any good at all. It can create a false sense of safety. Ogilvy’s original point was never to denigrate research itself. Far from it, he was a Gallup researcher before he even entered the ad business. The need of the hour is to decide if, as clients, we are looking for the “safe and narrow” or the “road less travelled” and as agencies if we are willing to stick our neck out for an idea we truly believe in, or if we’re here to keep clients happy and play defensively. But as they say, the road less travelled is usually more scenic and fun…

 
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How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right. View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.
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