The first job of advertising is to get noticed. If not noticed, everything else (engagement, sharing, ‘conversation’ etc.,) is academic. Here are a few creative ads which I noticed over the last week or so.
1. Dove: I’m Fine
Ever since they launched the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign, I have been amazed at the various dimensions that big idea can highlight. In the latest spot, the need to have a positive body image among teens and pre-teens is brought alive in a compelling way. Parents with teenage daughters can empathise with the behaviour of kids who tend to bottle up their emotions and put on a mask.
2. Land Rover: The Land of Land Rovers
On a Google search for ‘Land of the Land Rovers’ this web page shows up with an April 2018 time stamp. But the film associated with 70 years of Land Rover is making the rounds of ad blogs this month.
This fascinating and compelling story unfolded in 1958 in Maneybhanjang, West Bengal. Defined by tough terrain and spectacular landscape, life was tough in the then sparsely populated place along the Indo-Nepal border. But the people were tougher, determined to succeed against the odds, relying on ponies to move themselves and supplies across distances near and far. Until the first of the Series 1 Land Rovers arrived in 1958.
3. BT Sport: take them all on
Last week, I shared a TV spot where a little girl was cast as the main protagonist to announce a new season on BT Sport. The idea of several sports genres coming together is very well captured in print too.
Agency: AMV BBDO
4. Volkswagen van: Spanish lesson
A masterclass in showing the benefit of a feature through an engaging story. Let me not give out the reveal – watch it yourself.
5. Squarespce: Oddballs
This reminded me of the work done by brands like GoDaddy where they showcase how small businesses can grow thanks to a web presence through a domain registration. But this was streets ahead in terms of succinctly conveying the benefit.
Blast from the past: every week I will try and add a ‘blast from the past section with a selection of traditional work.
6. Batchelor’s Super Noodles
Back in 1998, this must have been shared with me by the agency Films Department through a CD or maybe a VHS. Laugh out loud stuff.
Ever wondered why save for handful of ad agency accounts, a majority of agency brands hardly use social media effectively? I am sure they know that it can be be used to strengthen the equity of the company brand but they hardly get down to ‘doing’ it. It is not a recent phenomenon.
Traditionally ad agencies (especially the network agencies from India) have hardly maintained an active blog. Even if they had initiated a blog it was not consistent or known for great quality writing. Even after Twitter grew in popularity, I think very few ad agency brands use it effectively. It is not uncommon to see ad an agency blog with the latest blog post dated 2015. Even if it actively maintained and updated regularly one gets the feeling that they are going through the motions and not really enjoying the task. They certainly don’t practice what experts like Hubspot and Moz urge blogs to do: write, regularly, have a point of view, share internal links, convert a showcase piece into several formats (e.g. a video into a blog post, a how-to article into a presentation) etc.
I admit that implementing the many ‘best practices’ blindly would lead to plain-vanilla blog posts – as we see in the B2B segment. Each company in a category will have similar ‘How to’ article topics with very little to distinguish one from the other. All of them tend to follow the same ‘best practices’ resulting in hundreds of similar themed, ‘templated’ articles. What I have observed is that majority of such blogs are not original thought pieces but a compilation of views from various sources – an aggregation of sorts.
On Twitter, very few ad agency brands share industry-relevant news & views, invite participation and maintain an interesting profile – notable exceptions being BBH Labs and Ogilvy (of late). There is a case for ad agencies to get better at use of social media: it is an opportunity to show clients that they are not just a TVC and web film producing factory. A majority of ad agencies use Twitter and maybe Facebook to share articles on new business wins, new leadership appointments or announcing new work. Most such articles are in the form of (templated) press releases anyway – so simply linking such articles on a Twitter feed from the official ad agency account or from senior leadership team’s personal handles is just the easy way out.
However, if they bring in seriousness and more importantly, creativity to ‘new media’ usage, it signals to clients that new media is not rocket science and they ‘get it’ just as well as well as they get traditional media. W+K did some fantastic work for Old Spice on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. They also did some great work for Nike across platforms. Now imagine an ad agency doing such for their own brand – but we hardly find any such examples.
There are several ways in which social media can be used better by ad agencies:
Heritage brands can showcase notable work and case studies from the past. Even those with not-so-distant past can show their early work. This will create awareness among youngsters – those who are new to the industry. We live in a world where the news cycle moves fast and we tend to forget what happened six months ago. Those who are new to the advertising business in India may or may not have heard of work like ‘Yehi hai right choice baby’ for Pepsi or the back stories of several iconic campaigns from the past. Ad agencies have an opportunity here to convey their stories. This will go a long way in building respect for the agency brand among ad agency employees and clients
Use blogs to showcase the thinkers in the agency. Many ad agencies and media planning agencies have robust blogs going. I personally believe that the latter houses some of the brightest minds in the business. Both the entities can do a lot more in terms of showcasing their thinking through own company assets or platforms like Medium and LinkedIn. Some write for trade publications but you will only have to look at the startup and VC world to see how effectively they use ‘thought leadership’ (I am not a big fan of the phrase but seemed most apt here) through blog posts on Medium and LinkedIn.
There are so many other ways to create involvement. Recently, BBH Labs published an article and ran a a tweet series on The World Cup of Advertising Books, which gained a lot of traction.
But that alone is not going to brighten the halo around the agency brand or enhance their reputation in the marketing & advertising community. The company has been consistently creating thought provoking blog posts (see this and this as examples) which signals to potential clients that they have a partner who understands brand building. So efforts like the World Cup of Advertising Books are like cherry on top. All of this is hard work and requires perseverance and a will to make things happen. Such efforts also build expectations about the final output – the advertising which is seen in mass media. So when good advertising comes from those who have a ‘voice of authority’ perception it strengthens the brand equity.People buy from those they trust – it is a proven tactic in B2B marketing where enterprises invest in gaining the ‘expert’ tag. Social media can play an effective role in gaining or enhancing that perception.
In advertising, conveying the benefit of a product is considered more effective than simply listing features. It helps consumers relate to how it can play a role in their lives and not leave things to imagination. The benefits of a feature may not be immediately apparent to consumers too, especially if it is a new category. The distinction between feature and benefit may not be immediately apparent in some cases. Here are a few examples of features vs. benefits:
Zero calorie chocolate is a feature. Guilt-free indulgence is a benefit
Real time traffic updates is a feature. Being able to know the correct time of arrival at a destination is a benefit
Blazing fast broadband is a feature. Uninterrupted high-quality streaming is a benefit.
Tough stain removal is a feature. Freedom from worry of spoiling your favorite white shirt is a benefit.
Admittedly, there could be more than one benefit to a feature. Marketers choose the one benefit which they think is relevant (to their audience and business needs) and dramatise it in communication. Also, the creative expression need not always take a positive angle – the embarrassment caused by a problem and hence, the negative aspects can be exaggerated in communication. In a famous ad for Tide, stains in the shirt worn by an interviewee distract the interviewer so much that they drown out what is being said. In an ad to highlight the promise of clean, germ free hands, Lifebuoy highlighted the negative aspects not washing your hands – by associating them with what we touch.
The Tide ad conveyed how stains can come in the way of one’s performance and the Lifebuoy one dramatised how we overlook the possible contaminations of what we touch. They both convey a benefit without spelling it out.
The benefits of er…benefits is that they can give a brand a perceived advantage over competition. In India, Fevicol the adhesive brand used by carpenters is perhaps better associated with ‘unbreakable strength’ compared to competition when the generic benefit itself is strength or unbreakability. It helps create preference for a brand especially in a cluttered, competitive and product-parity driven market. It demonstrates to the consumer that the brand ‘understands’ or empathises with their pain points. The focus on benefit also helps in brand associations. Popeye and his enormous strength derived eating spinach is a popular imagery. It is said Popeye helped increase American consumption of spinach by a third. The product’s feature of iron was associated with the benefit of ‘strength’. For car enthusiasts, Volvo would be associated with safety. Such associations arising out of perceived benefits apply to country brands too: the ‘Made in Japan’ and ‘Made in Germany’ labels for products have their own positive associations.
In many product categories, a truly differentiating feature and a resultant benefit is difficult to find, maintain and nurture. Very often, the creative expression becomes the differentiating factor. In this quest to find such differentiating factors, brands tend to ladder the benefits and express a higher order benefit. Sometimes, the benefit is stretched so far that it comes incredulous and unrelated to the brand. However, some effective examples of a higher order benefit come to mind:
Persil: ‘’Dirt is good’
Parents do curb outdoor play or creative work with messy materials for kids due to fear of them soiling their clothes. This insight perhaps led to the ‘Dirt is good’ credo which conveys to the parents that the ‘superior’ cleaning of Persil (known as Surf in India) sets their kids free. This was then laddered as something which helps in the overall development of kids (‘develop kids’ understanding of their world, the environment and nature, it will also shape their values, grow their confidence, benefit their health and ultimately help them reach important milestones’).
In India, Tata Tea got a lot of accolades for their ‘Jaago Re’ campaign which urged consumers to ‘wake up’ and touched upon topics like corruption in public life through their adverts.
D7: Wake up Thailand
I am not aware which came first but D7 took a similar stance in Thailand.
Among other examples, Coca-Cola’s ‘Open Happiness’ (which linked the brand with spreading joy and happiness in small ways) and Dove’s Real Beauty (which aims to ‘celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women and inspire them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves’) come to mind.
The hallmarks of effective higher order benefit could be that they have the product at the core of the promise. Whether he promise itself seems too far fetched could be a moot point – suspension of disbelief will have to be at play to assume that sipping a beverage would make one ‘aware’ from within. Or that sugared water would actually spread happiness & joy. But overall, stretching the apparent benefit to a higher order one, within limits, seems to help in creating clutter-breaking relevant communication.
Higher order benefit vs purpose-driven ads
Cause-related marketing is not a new phenomenon. At the core of this approach is the belief that consumers love to buy from companies that ‘do good’. So companies set up funds and chased ‘causes’ which could give a halo to the brand. The ‘cause’ could be in the do-good domain or a socially relevant topic. But there have been doubts about this approach. In 2013, AdAge asked: Is the Era of Purpose-Driven Ads (Finally) Over? Of late, we have seen a slew of brands attempting to associate themselves with a purpose.
In my view, selling the ‘cause’ should not come at the cost of selling the brand. Advertising is a commercial activity and it must help brands sell. If the brand’s core messaging is lost in trying to sell a cause, then the purpose is defeated. Also, the cause should have a credible link back to the brand’s core benefit. Among recent examples with a tenuous link to the brand, these two come to mind.
a carbonated drink’s attempt to associate itself with pressures of exams (the act of opening the soft drink bottle, releases pressure and hence the link to ‘releasing pressure’ during exams?)
a mosquito repellant brand’s attempt to link it to tough moms (‘tough on mosquitoes’ being the trigger I guess)
Does every brand need a larger purpose?
The short answer, no. I think we all overestimate the role of brands in the everyday life of a majority of consumers. Regular folks have far serious personal issues to worry about than wondering what the higher purpose of a floor cleaner brand is. Unlike art of art’s sake, advertising has a clear business role to play – it has to help improve sales or brand affinity (which will have an impact on brand loyalty and therefore, sales). A portion of sales being apportioned for charity or sponsorships in some form for social-good organisations are initiatives which could attract a certain kind of consumer towards a brand. P&G’s Shiksha initiative in India and Sakthi masala’s CSR initiatives are examples which come to mind. In high involvement categories catering to a certain mindset the larger purpose could find an appeal. Tesla and its quest for sustainable energy, Apple and its respect for user privacy…could be examples of such.
In my mind they were effective because there was some credible, relevant link to the brand. Ditto with the ‘Thank you, mom’ initiative of P&G. Also, there should be a genuine on-the-ground effort – not limited to mere advertising claims. If the link back to the brand is tenuous, credibility suffers.
This week I noticed a slew of traditional TV spots which were compelling and conveyed the brand benefit in a memorable way. Here are my top 5 creative ads of the week:
1. BT Sport: Take them all on
Advertising, as with any other popular culture is full of cliches. Sport advertising usually depicts athletic men in action on a sporting field or fans (mostly men) doing high fives and pumping fists. It is refreshing to see a little girl cast as the main protagonist in an ad for BT Sport to announce the arrival of a new season. In the ad, the girl imagines battling many sports stars from across the sporting world. Loved it.
Agency: AMV BBDO
2. Virgin Media: Adventures of Bolt
Blazing fast speed is a generic promise from broadband companies. The benefit can be dramatised in many ways. Here’s one from UK where a ‘faster than a speeding train’ Usain Bolt, averts a disaster.
Agency: BBH London
3. Sky Sports: take your seat
Sometimes a creative expression which exaggerates a common, everyday expression in a literal way can make for compelling viewing. In this spot for Sky Sports, people are literally ‘taking a seat’ to watch all the sporting action. The humour and the little side takes (like the big boss being wheeled in by a bunch of assistants) makes it a fun view and drives home the point.
4. Bwin: it all starts here
‘Download the app and play now’ could very well have been the proposition for an app like Bwin which offers online betting and real money gaming. But the fantasy world of a sophisticated casino is the setting and the ‘reverse’ technique brings alive the idea of where it all started.
Agency: BBH Sport
5. The Great British Bakeoff: trailer
Cooking shows seem to popular across age groups and the show’s origin doesn’t seem to matter for a global audience. Aside from MasterChef, another popular programme (especially with kids) seems to be ‘The Great British Bakeoff’. The show evokes great interest in my family and challenges where one has to create a reference figure evoke gasps. All the sentiment is beautifully captured in this trailer for the next season.
6. Philips: baby surveillance camera
The creative mind ‘sees’ what others don’t. Here’s a perspective from a baby surveillance camera imagining the professions the sleeping babies might adopt.
Agency: FCB, Bucharest
7. Volkswagen: Tiguan Allspace
Since I spent a lot of time in ad agencies, I could spot the benefit trying to be conveyed, pretty early on in the spot – I didn’t have to wait till the big reveal. See if you can too.
Of late, I have not spotted very many ad campaigns which I found to be compelling enough to share in this space. Here are a few which brought a smile and stood out from the clutter.
1. Toon Blast: Ryan Reynolds
When the brand promise is generic (‘great taste’ as a promise for a chocolate brand) it all depends on the creative execution to make the commercial memorable. It is a risky strategy alright but seems to work superbly for ‘Toon Blast’ – a mobile game which dramatises the proposition of ‘addictive play’ (which most popular games can claim to be). The use of Ryan Reynolds as a distracted actor, immersed in game play drives home the point well.
I love it when agencies do a great job when tasked to craft campaigns meant to change behaviour for good. Great Outdoors Colorado, wanted to inspire app-addicted kids to go and play in the ‘great outdoors’. I loved several elements of the creative execution including a ‘100 Things to Do Before You’re 12‘ bucket list. It includes ‘Read a book under a tree’ and ‘dig up worms’. Read more about the campaign here and here.
3. Hyundai: Brilliant Moments
It’s been 20 years since Hyundai cars launched in India. To mark the occasion, the brand has created a campaign titled ‘Brilliant Moments‘. The two most popular films in the series don’t really have a twist in the tale but the central theme and the execution have earned them immense popularity.
The website urges users to share their memories of the brand and execution has enough elements to stir nostalgia.
4. iPhone X: Unleash
How do you convey great processing power without mentioning the tech specs even once? Here’s how.
5. Greenpeace: straws
As more food establishments ban the use of plastic straws the topic is in the limelight. These set of striking posters from Greenpeace bring alive the issue.
Agency: Rethink, Canada
6. Ladbrokes: UK advert
Sports betting is legal and big in the UK. Naturally, the recently concluded FIFA World Cup is an opportunity for Ladbrokes – ‘for the bettors of Britain’ to pay a tribute to the tournament highlights. Loved the copy and the summation.