Six-second attention span is a myth: Sonal Dabral, Ogilvy India

The Chief Creative Officer & Vice Chairman of Ogilvy India speaks to exchange4media about the need for trans-creation, the rise of AI in creative agencies and the importance of creating sticky content

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Apr 26, 2018 8:59 AM

As the Chief Creative Officer and Vice Chairman of Ogilvy India, Sonal Dabral’s biggest role is to keep the creative process relevant to the contextual reality of the times. For Dabral, the tonality and emotional content of a creative is the holy grail of the creative process which needs to be fine-tuned in a fragmented market like India.

In a conversation with exchange4media, Dabral spoke about the need for trans-creation, the rise of AI in creative agencies and the importance of sticky content.


We have seen you talk about the shift from ‘direct to dialect’, what exactly do you mean by this? How is this relevant to creative agencies?

There are so many times that we sit in our ivory towers and create advertising without totally involving ourselves into the lives and lingo of the people we are talking to. So, it was a way of reminding ourselves that when we are communicating to a set of people, we cannot treat everybody with the same filter. We have to immerse ourselves into their language—what makes them laugh, what makes them cry etc. Only then will we be able to truly connect and communicate.

You also lay emphasis on trans-creation, especially when reaching out to diverse audiences? Could you tell us more about this approach?

As the buying power is increasing in India, people are moving to consumption, and we are not talking about metros or the tier 1 cities alone. If we start looking at the varied languages in India, it is absolutely mind boggling. What we need to do is not colour everybody with the same brush. We have to tarns-create and not just translate when we are creating ads for a specific audience.

We are living in an age of collaboration. There are specialists in every domain or platform. We have to involve them and sit with them while communicating to a diverse set of audiences.

What are the biggest challenges of communicating in a cluttered environment, especially when the attention span is said to be not more than six seconds?

The ones perpetrating this six second attention span myth are generally lazy minds who have been analyzing too much. When people watch films, they get glued to the screen for the entire duration of the film, so it totally depends on what you put in front of the audience. We have been talking about audience becoming restless and being spoilt for choice and switching from one place to another. I do agree there is explosion of media and explosion of channels and people are switching from one place to another, but if you see a great piece of interesting content (a good joke or a quote), you will stop and read it and even share it. So if the content is engaging, attention will automatically improve. So the biggest challenge is to create that engaging content.

What kind of a role will AI and machine learning play in the creative processes as the technologies mature?

The use of AI is not a challenge, it’s a reminder that when it comes to creative, we need to be really creative. Till the robot learns how to smile and cry, our jobs are safe. We have the power to move people and make them smile and even make them cry, something that we should not forget at all. I believe there are only two kinds of advertising: one that touches your head and heart and second that touches your head alone. The former is imperative and the latter is a disaster. AI might become intelligent to make ads but will it make you cry?

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