A mixed year for creativity

Last Updated: Sun, Jan 01, 2012 22:03 hrs

Though advertisements weren’t exceptionally creative, they were very likeable. The top five of 2011.

The curtains have fallen on 2011. While ad gurus admit that there was little cutting-edge creative work last year, they do say is that the frequency of popular campaigns rose. In other words, work not necessarily brilliantly creative, yet likeable, was far more visible. K V Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India attributes this trend to the general improvement in the quality of work. “The bar has been raised as far as average creative work is concerned, which is why the likeability factor of campaigns is growing,” he says. “Though creative people will have to work harder to raise the bar even further, it is a good sign” adds Sridhar.

Of the campaigns, which stood out in 2011, a top five list has been drawn. These are the ones that scored on popularity, innovation, technical finesse and brilliance of idea.

Airtel’s har ek friend zaroori hai
This line practically became an anthem last year. Youngsters simply love it and the ones past their youth can’t help but reminisce about their college days — cultivating different friends can come handy. Agnello Dias, co-founder and chief creative officer, Taproot India, the agency that created the campaign, says that the best way to reach out to the youth was to tap into something they understood well: friendship. The insight of all friends being important came after numerous conversations with youngsters, he says. “We found that most people have different types of friends. And quite a few enjoy their varied lot. We felt playing this up would be interesting,” he adds. Har Friend predictably scores high on the likeability factor. The recall value of the campaign is also very high, not to mention it struck a chord with one and all.

Pepsi’s change the game
Pepsi and cricket have always gone hand in hand. In the past, the beverage major has used the platform effectively to score a few brownie points against its arch rival Coca-Cola, for instance, the hugely popular ‘Nothing Official About It’ campaign. Unlike the 1996 World Cup, when Pepsi wasn’t the official sponsor of the tournament, in 2011, it was. So the advertiser wanted to do something different. In walked Taproot, which came up with the idea of getting lay people to teach cricketers some of their popular shots and bowling actions. The TV commercials were aptly backed by an outdoor campaign that showed cricketers in body paint. “The idea was to be irreverent, since Pepsi is about irreverence,” says Santosh Padhi, co-founder & chief creative officer, Taproot. “As a cricket-crazy nation, we simply love giving advice on how the game should be played. We drew on this insight,” he adds.

Vodafone blue
This ad will be best remembered for its execution. The use of Broadway style theatre to drive home the point that Vodafone had launched a phone for Facebook lovers was interesting. Both Vodafone and ad agency Ogilvy have used the ‘surprise’ factor over the years with their commercials. Add production house Nirvana Films to this team, and a flawless execution is but expected. It was Nirvana which created the egg-headed Zoozoos in 2009, and it is Nirvana, which has worked on this campaign as well. Vodafone Blue is also the second commercial after BlackBerry Boys last year, which has been rendered in the form of a musical. Way to go.

KBC’s koi bhi insaan chhota nahin hota hai
The advertising for the fifth season of the Amitabh-Bachchan-anchored Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) on Sony Entertainment channel took off from where the commercials for the fourth season left off. Back then, the theme of the campaign was how no question was small or Koi Bhi Sawaal Chhota Nahin Hota Hai. Taking this to the next level, ad agency Leo Burnett came up with the idea of no individual is small or Koi Bhi Insaan Chhota Nahin Hota Hai to drive home the point that no one is too small to make money. Using everyday situations and people, from the endearing senior citizen Mr Bhatia to the government official Mr Shukla and the ‘Romeo’ Praful among others, the point that KBC could help ordinary men and women make money was communicated. “The idea went well with the overall theme of the fifth season which was all about the common man and how he could achieve his dreams on the show,” says Sridhar.

Saffola World Heart Day
Every year on World Heart Day (September 29), Marico’s edible oil brand — Saffola — has been championing the cause of heart care through its Saffolalife initiative. Particularly notable have been the print campaigns done by ad agency McCann-Erickson on the occasion. Last year, seven editions of the Times of India (ToI) were designed to look like a kid’s drawing book to drive home the point of being Young At Heart. This year, Marico gifted free copies of ToI in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore on World Heart Day. These editions were designed to look like a gift, with a front page jacket in bright pink resembling a gift wrapper. The content inside spoke about ways to manage the heart. According to Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman and CEO, McCann Worldgroup India, the endeavour was to be impactful with the campaign.

...Ad agencies gear up for a tough ride
Ad agencies hope that the tide will turn in 2012. 2011 saw the Rs 30,000-crore advertising industry reel under a slowdown as marketers slashed advertising budgets to rein in expenditure.

Consider this: As a percentage of sales, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies, which are one of the most prominent advertisers in India, cut ad spends by at least 2 per cent to 3 per cent in 2011 in an attempt to cut costs. Ad spends were down to about 10-11 per cent of sales from about 13-14 per cent earlier.

Most firms decline to indicate ad spends for the forthcoming quarters. But FMCG analysts feel ad spends may be slashed further.

What is worse is that unlike 2011, which had high-profile events such as the Cricket World Cup, 2012 will have no such occasion for advertisers to splurge. This is predictably making ad agencies nervous.

“2012 will be a challenging year,” says Arvind Sharma, chairman, India sub-continent, Leo Burnett. This point is endorsed by Mahesh Chauhan, earlier group chief executive officer at Rediffusion Y&R, who now has his own ad agency Salt Brand Solutions. “The pressure is beginning to show and this will get tougher in the new year. I expect the first half to be extremely tough,” he says.

In 2011, the advertising industry grew by about 9 to 10 per cent in comparison to the over 20 per cent growth in 2010. According to ad industry estimates, the likelihood that growth rates could shrink further, oscillating between mid to higher single digits, are quite strong.

How do ad agencies expect to cope against this backdrop? Sharma says that coming up with “liquid ideas” will be the key to survival. “The ability of an idea to travel across platforms will be key,” he adds.

This statement acquires significance at a time when advertisers are expecting their agencies to be accountable for every rupee spent. Agency executives admit that the age of artificial silos, when creatives for TV, print, outdoor and new media were different, are over. It is the age of the seamless idea, where the ability to produce integrated campaigns is what will take an agency forward.

This trend is visible to a certain extent today, with most big campaigns demonstrating the ability to transcend boundaries, be it Zoozoos from Vodafone or Change the Game from Pepsi or Bleed Blue from Nike. This trend will only get stronger in the new year, say agency executives.

To be able to provide these seamless ideas, advertising professionals will have to expand their bandwidth. Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman & CEO, McCann Worldgroup India says, “Having both a global and local approach as well as a good understanding of technology especially the trends in new media will be key.”

As Indians increasingly log onto social media, the preference of advertisers to break campaigns on these websites is growing. In 2010, for instance, Airtel, which undertook its much-hyped Rs 300-crore brand makeover, broke its television commercial on Youtube before launching it on TV. Coca-Cola, similarly, launched its popular shadow commercial featuring actor Imran Khan last year on mobile phones. Brands such as Pepsi also tactically used social media during the World Cup in an attempt to drive salience.

Interestingly, the preference of large advertisers for small agencies is growing as the thrust for creative solutions to brand problems is increasing. According to Chauhan, this trend is likely to evolve further. “In 2011, one saw some big brands such as Airtel and Pepsi move to creative hotshops such as Taproot. Don’t be surprised if you see more of this in the new year,” he says. Agencies like Creativeland Asia, Saints & Warriors, Law & Kenneth, Scarecrow, and Taproot will possibly play a greater role in this script.

More from Sify: