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Adapted campaigns: Putting creativity on auto-pilot or giving it wings?

02-June-2011
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Adapted campaigns: Putting creativity on auto-pilot or giving it wings?

Internationally acclaimed ad campaigns have been finding their way into India, either in an adapted form or merely translated. There was Pepsi’s international ‘I am the rising’ campaign, which was aired in India with a Hindi soundtrack. Similarly, L'Oréal has been using Indian models spouting the translated line or their international campaign ‘Because you’re worth it’ (‘Kyunki aapko naaz hai khud par’). Ponds, too, has come up with such a campaign for its Indian audiences.

This concept has been working quite well for some brands, for instance, Surf Excel, where the ‘daag’ has literally been ‘achche’ for them. Likewise, the ‘Bleed Orange’ concept used for promotion in Holland during the FIFA World Cup became ‘Bleed Blue’ for Indian fans during the ICC World Cup.

However, there have been instances where such attempts have failed to take off. Coke’s ‘Open Happiness’ is a case in point. And then there was Coke’s ‘Burrr’ campaign, which didn’t go down very well with the Indian scheme of things, though internationally it has done quite well.

Own versus adapted
Adapted campaigns do not leave much room for Indian creative brains to work on. How excited is a creative head to work on something which is not his own per se? Or does the adaptation and execution part still give them something to look forward to?

Rajiv Rao, NCD, O&M, said, “There is always a great joy in creating an original idea and campaign from scratch. So I don’t think any creative person would be jumping in joy to rework or adapt an idea in the local flavour.”

On the other hand, Agnello Dias, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Taproot India, remarked, “If it is a stimulating execution that needs to be adapted in the local context, one can make it exciting if one keeps an open mind. If not, it is not really exciting.”

When asked how challenging the task of adaptation was, since not all ideas were global, Dias said that it depended on how much was set in stone. According to him, sometimes even the ‘executional mandatories’ were set, which then became an “auto-pilot” kind of job. “But if it is a one-line premise, then one can do very interesting things,” he added.

Rao felt that most global campaigns were very simple and universal. He noted, “Obviously, the campaigns that do not have a universal idea fail miserably in India, or anywhere else for that matter.”

Advantages
The question that comes to mind is what are the advantages of such campaigns, since so many are following this module. According to Rao, such adaptation gave a tone of identity, similarity and universality across the globe. He added that it also ensured that the campaign idea did not get lost in translation. Dias added here that the advantage of adaptation was that if it was a conceptual breakthrough, then the tougher part of convincing a client to stick his neck out had already been done. According to him, the best adapted campaigns were ‘Surf -- Dirt is good’, ‘Pepsi -- You got the right choice baby A-ha’, and ‘Tide -- Surprising Whiteness Stripe’.

While it’s true that universal ad concepts establish paradigm and position for a brand, are there certain products or categories that do well with adapted creative advertisements? Replying to this, Rao said, “I think super premium brands don’t need any kind of adaptation. I don’t need to see an Indian adaption for a Ferrari or Louis Vuitton.” On a similar note, Dias too said, “I think the luxury segment can pull it off as consumers at the extreme upper end tend to have the same universal mindset and triggers in all parts of the world.”

It goes without saying that while adapting and translating an ad from its international context to Indian, one needs to do so with subtlety and finesse, otherwise it becomes a futile exercise. Moreover, the cultural context to which it is being adapted (in this case Indian), has to be kept in mind as the act of translation is not merely that of audio (language) and visual mediums, but also that of cultures. The Surf Excel ad campaign of the little toddlers going to school and getting their clothes dirty brings forth a most endearing picture in mind as it draws a very ‘Indian’ picture in mind. Similarly, Pepsi’s ‘Youngistaan’ proposition too has been successful in appealing to the youth.

However, the scepticism in the market regarding adaptations is inherent and is here to stay. To universalise an ad might have its advantages, but such an attempt could fail miserably as we have seen in the case of quite a few brands. A ‘one size fits all’ attitude cannot be taken and advertisers would have to be wary of it. Expressing his concern, Dias said, “I have always been sceptical about one campaign for all kinds of markets. I do not think it is very sensible most times.”

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