The paradox of good advertising and poor strategy

Over the years I have come across some glaring examples of lack of detailing that have crept into some really memorable campaigns – An ad for a leading apparel brand that showed a man playing with an iron on a golf putting green, a chess board placed in an incorrect manner in a two wheeler ad or for that matter a wrong no. being put out in a press ad that was beseeching people to call that number for more details on the product. Even though they got my gall, I passed it off as mistakes arising out of ignorance, immaturity or oversight.

However, today a much deeper malaise seems to be afflicting my fellow advertising brethren. The industry is consistently churning out advertising that is strategically flawed. Some of the ads go against the fundamental premise of the product or the category and some are out of sync with what the brand is associated with. Let me illustrate this through examples of some big campaigns for big brands that have happened over the last couple of years.

Idea: This campaign is one of my personal favourites. It is one of the few big ideas in recent times. By positioning the mobile phone as a social equalizer in a hierarchy ridden society, the campaign has redefined the role of mobile phones not only in our lives but its impact on community living at large.
Yet, in its first ad of the current series, where a dead chief minister is replaced by his reluctant wife through popular public demand, they went against the grain of what they are trying to preach. By furthering the cause of dynastic politics in that ad they have themselves punctured their attempt to usher in a people empowered democratic revolution. Did they really need that ad? Would the campaign have been any less impactful if they hadn’t made this gross error of judgment? It may be a minor point for many but for me this is nothing short of brand hara-kiri.

IPL: Another good creative campaign that works against the fundamentals of the product. IPL is by far the biggest spectacle that has ever hit the small screen because of the coming together of fast paced, exciting cricket and Bollywood type entertainment. IPL has perhaps become a bigger event than the T20 world cup. However, there is a fundamental difference between the two. IPL is about 8 teams from different cities in India waging a 3 hour battle against each other over 50+ days to figure out who would emerge victorious. The idea is to get people to root for one team or the other. In this context, it is absolutely foolish to show the entire country reacting similarly to every shot going over the ropes and every wicket being taken. When Dhoni hits a six against Warne, the Chennai Super King fans will get delirious with joy while the Rajasthan Royan fan will take out their kerchiefs. I have no doubts that the IPL is a junoon for the people of this country but I am afraid it’s advertising campaign works against it.

Voltas AC: India ka Dil. India ka AC. After producing a very nice ad on power saving last year where an old couple wouldn’t install an AC that their son sent for them because they thought it would be expensive to run, they have gone and goofed up big time this year round. The need to link themselves to a bigger social issue seems to be their undoing. Their new ad shows electricity deprived people getting electricity in their homes because some people in the country are going to buy an AC that guzzles a little less electricity than others. Gosh! Can someone please tell them that people are not fools. An AC is the biggest electricity guzzler in the home and it is unlikely that anyone who is buying the Voltas AC will ever buy into the premise that he is doing so for the poor Gorakhpur guy who faces outages of 12 hours a day. It’s like GM producing a gas guzzler that gives a mileage of 4 miles to a gallon instead of the usual 3 and claiming that they are helping the world solve the oil crisis. Give me a break guys. There are certain category codes that you cannot transgress.

Gentlemen and ladies. The times are tough. Both the consumers and clients are getting ruthless with inept advertising. Please do not try and take them for granted. Wake up and put your thinking caps back on. Or retire into oblivion unless you are fine with a forced eviction from your mind numbing chairs.

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