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Abundance of options creates poor recall

27-April-2004
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Abundance of options creates poor recall

Do the ads of the bygone days inspire twice as much recall? Let’s take a walk down memory lane.

Here you reach the proverbial Lalitaji – a typecast of the quintessential urban middle class housewife. Her vocabulary is pointed and starts off with a ‘Bhai Sahab’. She bargains her way through life and examines detergent brands under a microscope. Surf created Lalitaji many years ago, and she was instrumental in ringing cash registers and enhancing sales figures for the brand. The strategy of displaying a hardcore bargainer who chooses the brand Surf on account of its returns proposition (in other words, cleanliness at an affordable cost) made a mark in the history of Indian advertising and propelled the brand in ways that went beyond the expectations of the marketer.

Another vintage classic was the Prestige commercial. The story opens with Mr and Mrs X who seek to end their marital cooking woes with the help of a Prestige Pressure Cooker. Moral of the story went like this: ‘Jo Biwi Se Kare Pyar, Woh Prestige Se Kaise Kare Inkaar!’

Two steps behind and you bump on the Dabur Daant Manjan commercial. Scene opens with a cheerful schoolteacher (albeit with awful teeth) who exclaims at his pupil’s sparkling whites and says: “Raju… Tumhare Daant to Motiyon Jaise Chamak Rahe Hain.” The student flashes a monkey grin and pat comes the reply: “Kyon Na Ho MasterJi? Mein Dabur Ka Lal Daant Manjan Istimal Karta Hoon.”

They were all masterpieces in their own rights. Cherished moments, that came disguised as brands. Most importantly, they characterised an age when advertisement viewing was considered within the gamut of entertainment.

Says Prasoon Joshi, National Creative Director, McCann Erickson: “The wonder years of advertising – that’s how I would describe it. Then we had only one channel Doordarshan, which displayed programmes at fixed intervals accompanied by a handful of brands and that’s all there was about brand building. Television viewing, was a novel concept then, which is why, ads were as exciting as general entertainment.”

He adds, “In the current day, the viewer is well-fed. He has umpteen channels to watch, commercial breaks are in his face all the time and a range of brands vie for his attention. It’s an overdose of sorts, for the consumer. The end result is that the consumer skirts through ad breaks and keeps surfing through channels, ending in limited visibility and low recall.”

Joshi points out, “Having said that, the fact remains that advertising on its part has become a lot bolder and technologically vibrant in the current day. Creativity is at its peak but brands find it difficult to make a mark, on account of increasing clutter, varied options in viewing and the fast-paced lifestyle of the consumer. The age that you are talking about was one wherein news readers like Pratima Puri and Mukta Srivastav were icons in themselves. Everything on television struck a chord with the people as it was something new and novel.”

Prahlad Kakkar more or less agrees with Joshi. He believes, “In creativity and execution, we are miles ahead of what was there in the past. Ads of the yesteryears had so much of a recall value because there weren’t too many brands then, and whatever was there, stood out visibly. Plus, now you have people recounting the ads of the past because there is a nostalgia factor attached to it. Mark my words, 15 years later, our ads would be seen in the same light. Our present work would be tagged as the ‘Golden Age in Advertising.’ Nostalgia contributes in a good way, to the recall factor. For instance, if an advertisement reminds you of your school days or a spring romance, you would tend to regard it with a certain degree of fondness.”

Kakkar adds: “Why keep the discussion to ads alone? Why not music? Don’t people keep saying that songs in the present day just don’t match up to what was there in the past? But the fact remains that there are too many music channels and FM stations that duel with each other in the current day, in addition to an assortment of songs, which is why the impact and the recall value is perhaps not as much.”

Pratap Suthan, National Creative Director, Grey Worldwide, stresses that changes in the market space and the fast paced lifestyle of the consumer has contributed to the low recall value. Suthan states, “There has been a paradigm shift. A show like ‘Chitrahaar’ or ‘Phool Khile Gulshan Gulshan’ experienced tremendous popularity at that time, but the Phillips Top Ten’s of the present day just don’t match up. When you give viewers limited choices, you tend to get greater visibility and recall. In today’s scenario, you have a multitude of channels, shows and brands, which is why it’s difficult to get spotted.”

He adds, “Ten years back, I could count the names of the advertisers on the tips of my fingers. Vicco, Lifebouy, Vicks, Palmolive, Bournvita, Pan Parag…these were the brands that used to dominate on television. And as characteristic of an age when a television set was regarded as a luxury commodity, people used to enjoy the commercials just as much. Today, consumers take advertising for granted. The same goes for movies and television shows.”

Addressing the same issue, in a conversation with exchange4media, Ravi Deshpande, Head, Lemon Communications had once stated, “Indian advertising in the current day, is trying to emerge from its herd mentality and move into a phase which is more original, instinctive and based on gut feel. With India coming up as a key player on the global front, agencies are trying to create work that’s different and are experimenting with new and innovative styles.” In other words, creative work today is ‘out of the box’ and a departure from what used to exist earlier.

Clearly, the common consensus is that creativity as a commodity is far ahead of its time, in the present day. And though the vintage ones form a league of their own, they are still surpassed by others, which are miles ahead in creativity and execution. And the only challenge in the way of recall is a platter of multi dimensional choices.

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