Friday, January 29, 2010


‘When times are good, you should advertise. When times are bad, you must advertise.’ Though some marketers were not swayed by the logic then, they have now realised that the fastest way to set things right is with a powerful dose of a great advertisement

An interesting billboard went up in Manhattan in New York a few days back. The advertisement showed Oracle President Charles Phillips posing with a lady named YaVaughnie Wilkins with a quote below the picture that read, “You are my soul mate forever.” The only problem was, Charles was the only person who knew not that he would be featuring in this ad; for it was Ms. Wilkins – with whom he had had an eight-year long affair – who had decided to make things public after he dumped her! She even put a website address on the billboard: where, if you wanted, you could check out the couple’s snaps, letters and cards sent to each other! Be it an interesting advertisement, adultery or advertisement of adultery, if done well, they never ever fail to capture the attention of the world. Last year, a lot of companies lost faith in the power of a good advertisement; and due to very bad times, a lot were forced to cut down their advertising budgets. But the fact remains, even though advertising is the tip of the whole marketing iceberg, it’s a very important tip nevertheless. And everywhere, companies are once again putting back their faith in this medium of marketing. For like Ms. Wilkins, they realise – the fastest way to set things right is with a powerful dose of a great advertisement.

Recession or no recession, all gurus preach that marketing budgets should not be cut. They could be channelised from one stream to the other. Sure, tough times demand decrease in advertisement frequency and increase in use of other marketing efforts like direct marketing, which give more immediate sales impact.

However, nothing builds brands stronger and faster than ‘correctly themed’ advertisements; and this year, a lot of companies are doing just that. Not surprising then, that most researches this year are suggesting an increase in the advertising expenditure by 15-20% in India.

One of the first to join the bandwagon is Remember its Hari Sadu advertisement. He is back and Naukri says it’s OK to call your irritating bosses names, for jobs are back and you can now switch once again. So fear not and express yourself! The underlying message being bidding goodbye to recession. The ‘bad boss’ brings ‘good news’ this time.

‘Hope’ is the new mantra for attracting consumers this year. Federal Express has launched a new ad campaign this year for India, Brazil, Mexico, Japan and UK, showing the world the power of hope. Its new tagline for ads this year is ‘FedEx delivers to a changing world’. It shows how the economy is witnessing an upturn and FedEx, as always, is one they can depend on to stay in business and survive.

The world is a different place today. A whole lot has changed. New rules have been written, old ones rewritten, and to survive you need to change. After 125 years, Oscar Mayer (a division of Kraft Foods) has decided to come out with a new ad campaign, even if it meant pushing aside its most famous and till date highly popular ad jingles. It knows that what worked till last year probably won’t this year. The campaign this year has a new tagline, ‘It doesn’t get better than this’. The ads show cheerful scenes from suburban life… very warm, very comforting, suggesting that good times are just around the corner. This time around, the world needs a heavy dose of ‘hope’ and advertisers are working overtime to infuse some through their ‘happy, homely ads’.

‘Homely’, because when times are rough, you look back to your home and family for support. You need to be reassured that all are together. Each one counts. Not just at home, but in business too, and the one who understood it best was Microsoft. Business is personal is the theme of its new ads. The print ads looked like ‘fake memos’ complete with words crossed, insertions made with a pen, et al; and as you read through, you realise that it was an announcement of the launch of Microsoft’s new software, which “understood how people really worked.” Read the memo, “…now more than ever, it’s everybody’s business… to come together and form a great company even in a tough economy”. Microsoft seems to have got it absolutely right this year. Its earlier ads never really managed to strike a chord with the audience. And Apple always had had the last laugh – as it scored higher with its comparative ads – making fun of Microsoft’s fuddy-duddy image.

Chrysler too is hoping on ‘hope’ as it begins the New Year. It wanted its consumers to realise that it had emerged from bankruptcy and was a stronger, healthier company. As families came together for the New Year, Chrysler did not lose the opportunity to remind them that this was the very company and the very car that had been bringing home their loved ones and hoped to do so for many years to come. A dash of good cheer and nostalgia is what the new campaign, ‘Coming home’, is filled with. It hopes to once again get the cash registers jingling.

The spirit of survival is what the coming year will be about, and if it requires a new look, then nobody is asking why. Probably, recession needs to be thanked and not blamed, for it’s recession that forces one to think creatively, to think positively. One company that’s surely been thinking very differently is Idea Cellular. With every cellular company banking on celebrities, this one decided to introduce a new ‘idea’ too. Abhishek Bachchan not just charmed you with his wit, but also showed innovative ways of saving paper. It has truly created a huge improvement in brand recall Sir Ji!

Visualise this on your TV screens… teen girls dancing at a bus stop using an MP3 player – then comes a tag line, ‘Made in China with software from Silicon Valley.’ You got it right! Not just companies, countries too are working hard toward changing their images this time, for it makes good business sense. With ‘Made-in-China’ products taking a major image beating this year, be it toothpaste, toys or pet food, the China Advertising Association decided it was time for a makeover. ‘Made in China, made with the world’, is the theme of the new adcampaign to help overcome all negative prejudices of the western world.

If you thought this was all, think again, for there is somebody else who is out with a new advertising campaign to showcase the world its new image. Taliban is softening their stance in Afghanistan and are making full-on attempts to change their image. Believe it or not, but their new policy of cutting off ears, nose or tongues is finding its way in a new ad campaign. Do not try to access it on YouTube for this commercial is banned from being viewed in our country, but this is one smart organization that has learnt its marketing lessons well and understood the power of a good ad campaign.

This next one that I am going to talk about is still reeling under the hit it got last year – from a golf club I bet! Post Tiger Woods, Accenture is still struggling to get its act together. It’s also out with a new ad campaign. It would be spending between $40-50 million bucks on this one, which shows different animals doing things they normally wouldn’t do. An elephant surfing, a frog leapfrogging other frogs, et al, with the punch line ‘Who says you can’t be big and nimble?’ God knows how the ads would fare. But one thing is sure: this

one would have all animals except the tiger! Of course, the fastest way for Tiger Woods to rebuild his image would be to stay away from commercials this year. But for others, it’s time to put in a spring in your walk, a cherry smile and try to win back customers and lost market share with advertisements that sell ‘Hope’ and ‘Happiness.’

This time, creativity will count the most. Remember, you can’t out-spend the competitor every time, and more so not in today’s times with very tight budgets. However, you sure can outthink them.

Choose a theme that gels with the feelings of today’s consumer and you can bet that this time things will get better, and it’s sure going to be a Happy New Year!


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