Flashback 2014: The year that we moved from advertising to storytelling

KV Sridhar, Chief Creative Officer, SapientNitro on the shift in advertising where people rather than brands are heroes, the rise of long format ads, the freshness in govt advertising, e-commerce ad spend push and more...

e4m by KV Sridhar
Updated: Dec 26, 2014 9:04 AM
Flashback 2014: The year that we moved from advertising to storytelling

KV Sridhar, advertising veteran and  Chief Creative Officer, SapientNitro, shares his views on the advertising industry and its highlights for the year 2014.

2014 – from advertising to story telling

If advertising in 2013 focused on values, purpose and relationships with campaigns like Tanishq Remarriage, Google Reunion, Lifebuoy’s Gundappa, Idea’s Telephone Exchange et al; 2014 contributed to this trend and initiated new ones. For instance 2014 saw e-commerce companies contribute majorly to advertising wallets; the long length ad format euphoria continued from 2013 and flourished with more stories and better production; digital spending commanded more space in the spends pie; the industry produced more gender sensitive ads; government advertising saw a much needed make over; India got its own equivalent of Obama’s ‘Yes we can’ campaign with Modi’s ‘Ab Ki Baar…’ with similar effects; and the sports like football, kabbadi shared the burden from cricket also in advertising stories. All of these hint towards an evolution of our industry from just selling to telling, telling stories where the people are the protagonists.

‘E-commerce and elections’ that’s how most media buyers defined 2014. Being the election year the splurging of political parties was expected, but a prominent trend visible in the year’s media spends was the emergence of e-commerce players as top contributors. Popular sites like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Jabong, Olx, Quikr, FreeCharge, etc., went all out to promote their sale days and contributed around Rs.750 crore this year. Whether they will be a regular feature or s just a fad will be answered in the coming years.

Another spending trend that took shape this year is the spending on the digital mediums and this will continue unprecedented in the coming years. According to the latest findings of the Digital Advertising in India Report, the online advertising market in India is projected to reach Rs 3,575 crore by March 2015, a growth of 30 per cent over last year. The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB International have jointly published the Report. The report stated online advertising market stood at Rs 2,750 crore in March 2014. The reasons for such a trend are easy to observe, it’s the growth in consumption of telecom and internet - the number of Internet users in India would reach 302 million by end of 2014, registering a year-on-year growth of 32 percent over last year, India will soon replace US as the second largest internet base in the world; and with smartphones sales touching the mark of 80 million (growing at over 186%) there are more people accessing internet through their phones than computers. Watch out the digital space for the best in advertising in the coming years.

The long format internet based advertising became a regular feature this year with more stories and more spends on production of such films. The insight that ‘a story lived is better than a story told’ has started being focused in these ads. This year we saw Fortune Oil’s stubborn grandmother, Nescafe stammering stand-up comedian, DBS bank’s Chilly Paneer Love Story and its recent more interactive version attempt this format with great effect. The common thread that runs through each of these creatives is a ‘brilliant human story and emotions’ and in its subtle emotions the role of the brand is weaved, in it the hero isn’t the ‘brand’ but the ‘people’ and the brand just surfaces as a support the story.

In 2014 Airtel’s wife boss ad got the Twitterati express a flurry of mixed reaction and was the most discussed ad of the year. While this was the boldest, the year had packed many gender sensitive ads like Havells’ ‘Respect for Women’ series, Bharat Matrimony’s ‘happy marriages’ campaign, Whisper’s ‘touch the pickle’ campaign to change the tradition of menstrual exclusion; these ads picked up the subtle symbols of gender differences and created bold communications to initiate conversation and they did…

Another welcome relief this year was the improvement in the quality of government advertising. The ongoing campaign on cleanliness, ‘Swachh Bharat’ initiated by PM Narendra Modi, turned the traditional government campaigns on its head. From a communication point of view everything about the movement was effective, right from the initiation of the campaign at Rajghat on Gandhi Jayanti by the PM to the integrated campaign and how companies like HUL, Reciktt Benckiser, TCS, Coca-cola and professional advertising agencies are contributing to this vision.

The year also saw conscious ad spends diverted towards sports other than cricket like football with the FIFA World-cup and Indian Super League, and Kabbadi with the Pro-Kabbadi series among other sports. Still early days for a conclusive statement, but early indicators show that in the near future games like football may share the burden of expectations and ad spends with cricket.

In conclusion for the year gone by I would say that today advertising is changing so much that the brands need to do most of the content creation and curation. The way forward for any brand today is to become a publisher. Be more selfless, be fresh, be more engaging and tell a story that connects; and we saw hints of this happening and some pioneering brands and agencies working in this direction. If this is the take-off, 2015 will see the real flight and that makes it an exciting place to be and to watch out for.

The author is K V Sridhar, Chief Creative Officer, SapientNitro

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube