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Guest Article: So, you think that’s a nice ad, eh?

08-February-2012
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Guest Article: So, you think that’s a nice ad, eh?

A typical day and a typical conversation goes like this, with someone telling me, ‘Did you see this ad, it’s a nice ad. It was quite funny’ or ‘It’s a great ad – it really made me sit up and notice.’ And the inevitable question posed to me, ‘So how did you like the ad?’ ‘Err’… I fumble and respond, ‘I don’t know’.

He says,‘You don’t know? But aren’t you the marketing head? You should be an expert on all things related to marketing. Tell me if you liked the ad?’I say, ‘Ok, ok which one?’ He says,’ The ad in which this man meets another fat guy and….’ I say, ‘Ah that one – which brand was it?’ He says, ‘Yes, wait, I will tell you. I am getting it. It was a nice ad man. I will tell you the brand… I got it, no, which was it? DAMN…”

Marketing is often asked to give expert opinion on a brand campaign? Did we like it, did we enjoy it etc?

I have two problems with the question. Problem No. 1 – I do not know the target audience or the marketing problem that the ad is seeking to address. Is the ad there because people in small towns are not buying the product or is it because the people are not interested in the category itself. (Not enough demand for blue chewing gums to start with, leave aside the brand).

And what was the TG for the ad? What was it that it was seeking to achieve? Was it seeking a direct response? - I want to buy it now or was it seeking to put the brand on a shortlist – when I buy a car I will consider it or was it trying to create a demand – you need such a skin vitalizing tonic or any such variations.

By merely viewing the ad and not meeting any of the desired target audience, I find it impossible to gauge the efficacy of the ad. How am I supposed to know this? I can only tell you if I was amused by it or not or whether it stimulated me or left me cold. The moot point is me, not the target. But come off it. Don’t be such a peeve – ‘you surely can tell me if you liked the ad or not!’

That brings us to problem number two. The point of the ad is not to be liked. It had to do the job. Like in point number one. There is a marketing problem that the ad needs to solve. When we put on our director’s hat and think about a commercial, we tend to get quite incisive. The ad was this, the actor was that, the ad was funny; it was senti... blah blah. So often my first question is “errr… which brand?” The rule of advertising is not to test if your consumer liked the ad or not. He might not rate it too high on likeability, but he must be able to take the key message home, the message that you want to deliver into his head. The efficacy of that is more important than the wrapper. Surely the wrapper needs to be nice, but more so, the tone should be relevant and the core message delivery is where the marketing meat is. What is the real take away? Did it come through? Did I catch it in the clutter of soaps – both soap types - the ones beamed in as well the ones you buy?

Of the two questions - You probably did not like the ad as much but you got the message or you liked the ad but missed the desired message - what do you think makes for a better ad?

But really come on... let’s leave the ad aside. The category where we put all of “us types” is often called banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI for short). I have been seeing this since the last ten years. The brand is what you interact with. When we study ads, the customer sees ads, likes them and then goes on to talk about the brand completely on the basis of his interaction with the service provider. The advert is only one reference point in the entire set that influences his mindset. In fact, a nice ad that is misdirected tends to lend a bad aura to the brand. So if I promise something – exclusive service or great research, or awesome products, and my agency does a great job of promoting it (typically by exaggerating it); and then if my service delivery falls a notch lower – the customer is enraged by the ad and uses it to thrash the brand.

The brand is the sum total of all experiences. The most visible thing from the seat of your pants is the TV ad, but in BFSI for sure, factors such as service, sales guys, product promise, the look of the forms, the branch boards, the location of the branches, the talking of our dealers, the knowledge of our employees, how fast do we pick calls, how are our front office staff dressed and how do we talk to them, etc… all influence the brand. There are many such moments of truth for a brand. And yes whether or not the client has made money dealing with you also counts. But believe me; I have enough research evidence to prove that the last point is far more overstated than the truth, as is also the case with effect of brokerage rates. Surely they are important factors, but highly nuanced, a discussion we leave for another day. Hence, we believe, the sum total is what decides preference.

So am I the first idiotic marketing manager telling you not to have a TV ad? No, surely not. Not being there sometimes creates questions in the clients mind – ‘Is this brand serious? I haven’t seen them or heard of them’ or ‘I saw their ad on TV’, they must be big. But the latter phrase seems to be of little relevance given the advertiser’s profile on CNBC.

So surely we need a nice ad, but more importantly it must address a problem we seek to address. What are you addressing with ad? A Problem? An Opportunity? What? The sales guy is many times right when he says – boss, ad chaiye; we need to advertise. He is not telling you marketing jargon; he is simplifying what he sees in the market. Our brand is losing preference or his sales calls are getting tough or whatever. It is now up to us to figure this, decode what he really faces and see if we can solve it. So next time you want to bore yourself with a marketing sermon, catch him or her in the alley and ask, ‘Did you like that ad?’… and then run for your life? Because he is likely to either come running after you like a raving lunatic or she is likely to bore you with a deep analysis of what she thinks the ad tried to achieve. And if he or she did give you a definite expert opinion, I’d recommend running from there as well.

(Jaimit Doshi is Head - Marketing,at Kotak Securities )

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