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Go off the brief and play with fire, you will only get burnt if you don’t: Tom Bernardin

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Go off the brief and play with fire, you will only get burnt if you don’t: Tom Bernardin

The Bombay Ad Club evening meet on July 24, 2006 in association with Leo Burnett featuring the agency’s worldwide CEO and Chairman – Thomas Bernardin – was all about spreading ideas that dared to go beyond the brief and explore new avenues to touch and engage the audience. Not that the Indian audience hasn’t heard this before, but what was refreshing about Bernardin’s talk was the time manner in which he portrayed the change from 15 minutes of fame to 15 megs of fame.

Right at the outset, Bernardin informed that the presentation was first made at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival 2006. He said, “In fact, this is the first time that this presentation has been taken out of Cannes and we are making it in the India market that is increasingly finding its prominence on the global map.”

This presentation was done together with Contagious magazine and explored the various components that came together to allow a 360-degree or an integrated approach towards brands.

Bernardin took the audience through a journey where the audience is changing from passive and voiceless to active and creative, courtesy burgeoning technology. He said that in such a scene, there were those who had gone out of the box and defied traditional norms, in the process creating ideas that spread and sold.

Bernardin began with a survey done on whether award winning advertising sold and divulged that indeed 86 per cent of award winning advertising had been able to connect with the viewers at an emotional level. However, it is the age of i-Pods, the Internet and mobile phones today. TV viewing has dropped and surveys show an increase in Internet and search engine advertising.

He went on to show cases like John Wet and AXE Ravenstroke as viral triumphs and ideas that could be amplified across mediums. Joining him was Michelle Kristula-Green, President, Leo Burnett, Asia Pacific, who took the evening forward as she spoke on how consumers were becoming content creators and how others consumers enjoyed the content created by their peers. Content is becoming more by the people and for the people, and it wasn’t long before India too would be seeing these changes.

She explained about advertisers like Chevy Tahoe, who invited consumer response and how the brickbats were accompanied by bouquets – in all not making it a bad experience for the brand vis-à-vis AT&T, who undermined the power of tools like blogging and made false claims that the organisation would really like deleted from its records.

The duo brought out relevant examples and presented to the audience mediums like Ambient in addition to viral, mobile and gaming to finally present Direct as a tool and hence, the integrated way of life that has delivered unprecedented results for advertisers like Lynx Jet and GOO – ideas that are intelligent, rooted in strategic thinking and can be amplified across mediums – ideas that according to Bernardin are Leo Burnett’s way forward.

He concluded by saying, “There are changes all around us and we see this as an opportunity. There is a switch from monologue to dialogue and new marketing is the catalyst of this change. I urge you to go off the brief and play with fire. You will get burnt only if you don’t.”

When asked when these examples could be seen in India, Bernardin replied, “The wonderful thing about India is that the country’s mean age is 24. The country has seen some changes overnight and we are really talking months than years to see these changes seep in communication. Agencies are already gearing towards this.”

Bernardin’s point is that consumers won’t tolerate people shouting at them from a distance.


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