Thursday, March 05, 2009

Advertising... behind the axe effect>>> Part II

Continued from Part I>>>>>

The very first law in advertising is to avoid the concrete promise and cultivate the delightfully vague. ~Bill Cosby

Ads are glossy, glamorous and often larger than real life. Consumer products often try to sell itself, not for the product but for what the product promises. It is plain fact that, by using a product it is not possible to become or feel like some other person- a film star or a cricketer, still fair and lovely claims glowing fairness within days and abundantly sells itself capitalizing on the weakness of the Indian public for a fair skin. Equating light skin with beauty is a deeply rooted perception across Asia and in pursuit of brand success corporate giants like Ponds and Fair & Lovely has kicked up more fuming controversies that fairer skin . It has been seen more and enough in this blog in the past and hence let me leave it alone here…..

The human desire is to look young, smart, beautiful, handsome, cool, slim, happy, glowing, rich, pompous, different and what not…Each such desire is an opening for the marketer and advertising is the greatest weapon for the purpose. To put it simply if we have desire to reduce obesity we have a score of products from VLCC to suction therapy, Sugar free and Herbal tea to Diet Coke and Pepsi and all those TSN products, advertised through poorly dubbed stupid looking hour long miserable programmes which often question our commonsense.

India with its middle class (one of the largest in the world) and with the on going task of globalization, with all the 100 plus TV channels and numerous magazines and newspapers, all the websites and portals, and an average of six thousand messages passed on through every educated Indian mind (MAD index), on any given day and a barrage of products from LCD to local agarbathies and from laptop computers to loose garments in various brand names, the task of the advertisers is getting tougher day after day. He not only has the difficult job of telling the viewers that his product is the best, to build a brand preference, but has to, by hook or cook, tell and make them believe that the “other” products are useless. Comparative advertising; stooping below a certain level becomes a dirty mocking game as the cola war demonstrated and recently the Horlicks vs Complan war amply described. Thumps-Up and Pepsi, pooh-poohing each other using a khan or other and Sprite with its new set of realty ads, flavored with humour, after every new ad by the other one are all bearing testimony.

Can marketers create needs? As per the theory, NO. But in practice, he can create an unnecessary want. A middle class family has a need for daily washing their clothes but may not necessarily want a washing machine for that purpose. A successful marketer through the advertisement and campaigns fits into this “gap of thought” and makes the selling possible.

For a middle class man the resources are less and the wants are more. Living in a world saturated of advertisements, designed as scientific and informative, somewhere down the line, he obliges. He resists the temptation ultimately by yielding. Sometimes, the appeals are so strong and touches the viewers so intensely that there is no rethinking. As an end result, any average family today has to budge by compulsion rather than conviction. Horlicks or Viva for the “complete growth of children”, use Pepsodent, Colgate or Close- Up for “hundred percent germfree teeth” and total protection, feed new born babies with Nestle grow-up milk or Junior Horlicks, and worse use a Johnson’s baby soap to wash a two year old to keep its skin soft and “same to same” as a just born baby.

The Dandi salt Ad, which claimed the vital importance of salt that too, Dandi salt for the intellectual growth and brain development of children which hit the air some time back is still my favourite example of a STUPID ad…. This ad pretending to be scientific and rational hide the fact that dogs and dolphins do not consume salt and even before the advent of this salt there were intelligent people living in this country. And to be scientific and simple, salt has nothing to do with intelligence.

There are questions we never ask ourselves. We see an ad and ignore it. We repeatedly see an ad, we remember it, so that next time we walk to department store for purchase, it works and positively influences our brand preference. There is no such thing called as brand loyalty, in many consumer products like salt because of the habitual buying process associated with it, and it is proven fact that consumer have low involvement with most low cost, frequently purchased products. So the marketers have to repeat because ad repetition creates brand familiarity rather than brand conviction. Lie or no lie- repetition is the mantra.

Now the world is so small and so flooded with products and brands. The USP and ESP’s have changed. Health of children and of the family and wellness and beauty is a main concern for upper class and middle class people and this weak spot is gently but tactfully touched in many ads. Hence all the claims of 24 hours are oral protection, slimness in 30 days and fairness in a week. Pretentious USP’s like –“stain champions” from Henko, “colour guard” from Sunlight, “stain cutters” from Vim bar and “kid stains” from Surf and “friendly chemicals” from Friendly wash are examples of how “creative” our advertisers can be. Such newly coined words and ideas generally create wonders in the market but how long is an omnipresent question….

Close-Up released “shade card” with its toothpaste only to be matched by a “germ indicator” from Pepsodent. “Bio” was the buzzword and being bio or herbal was a short cut to success. Marketers understood the growing awareness among the educated class about the merits of vegetarianism and being close to nature and hence we had “bio fresh L.G.” and “Eco-freshetarian” Samsung and even “Eco drive watches” from Citizen. Fair and Lovely promoted its herbal version made with “Kumkumadhi Thailam” and it worked in the market. With celebrities like Meneka Gandhi endorsing products like Chandrika soap more credibility got associated with such products….

But this game was not to last for ever….

Tail piece: Advertising is like marriage. There may be a better way, but what is it?


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