GUEST COLUMN: The harm that good ads do

A good strategy can make or break a good ad campaign, writes Kapil Mishra

Mumbai: If you want to greet somebody in the morning, two things are essential. First, you have to say ‘Good Morning,’ not ‘Good Night’ or ‘Good Afternoon.' And second, you should say it pleasantly. If this combination goes haywire, you won’t get the other person to say ‘Good Morning’ to you, and with a smile.

What to say is the ‘strategy’. How to say is the ‘creative’. Effective communication is a perfect blend of content and presentation.

The job of strategy is to set the message right. And to do that, it has to get the objective right. It should be a precise and well-defined objective. The objective must be in terms of a shift in feeling with reference to the brand in question. And then, to achieve that, the specific message has to be precise like the tip of an arrow. Sharp.

A creative’s job is to say ‘Good Morning’ but in a way that is interesting and engaging. Saying it with a blank face and with a serious voice won’t cut any ice. At the same time, a creative cannot say ‘Good Night’ in the morning howsoever enchanting the way it is said in. Your audience will like the smile and the charm but won’t get that you wanted to greet them with a ‘Good Morning.'

When the strategy is right, it may be basic, it may be obvious, but if it is right, the job of the creative is to engage the audience in a powerful manner. And only an emotional approach can engage the audience in a powerful way. Emotions can be of any kind, including humour, which is one of the most powerful emotions used for communication.

Things start behaving like life when we forget this basic principle. When we create ads that are very engaging but they don’t say ‘Good Morning' or ‘Good Afternoon,' they might confuse people but in a very engaging and charming way. The road to disaster is paved with charming ads.  God forgive them for they know not what they were supposed to convey.

And while they don’t communicate what they were supposed to, they obviously don’t get the right result, which is primarily contributing to the brand image and secondarily, helping sell the product. When the batsman doesn’t score the runs in spite of hitting some beautiful shots, the selectors start believing that those shots must not be used again. While the real culprit is the strategic miscalculation while executing these shots.

Clients start believing that since these charming ads aren’t working in the long run, charming ads don’t work. They don’t see the bigger picture and become wary of ads that are highly creative. And they go back to dull and boring ads which they believe work for the brand.

We need to understand and distinguish between four kinds of ads:

1.     Boring ads based on wrong strategies.

2.     Boring ads based on the right strategies.

3.     Highly engaging ads based on the right strategies.

4.     Highly engaging ads based on wrong strategies, and

No 1) Boring ads based on wrong strategies are certified and guaranteed disasters. Nothing can save them. Everything is wrong with them. Life looks quite pointless after watching them. Something immediately dies inside you.

No 2) Boring ads based on the right strategies are mediocre and will bring average results for the image. Look around, the world is full of them. These are donkeys walking in the right direction. But they are donkeys.

No 3) Highly engaging ads based on the right strategies are the darlings of the industry. Everybody wants them. Though, not everybody recognizes them. There is no debate on these. They build factories.

No 4) These are highly engaging ads based on wrong strategies. These are the good-looking villains which do the real harm. They are like ‘Asurs’ in the guise of ‘Apsaras’.  Because of them, you don’t get the message right. They say “Good Evening” in a beautiful voice at 7 am, leaving the audience charmed, confused, and lost.

These ads give a bad name to the really good, charming, engaging, and creative ads. Clients become wary of all creative and clutter-breaking ads. Once bitten, twice shy. The Cred Rahul Dravid ad is the epitome of this category. Highly engaging and disruptive, but leave the audience asking “Arre kehna kya chaahte ho bhai?"

(Kapil Mishra is a brand and creative Consultant at Indiassetz, where he oversees the entire marketing, social media communication, and advertising. The views expressed in this column are personal, and may not subscribe to them.)

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