Friday, August 14, 2015

What is ‘strategy’ in advertising?

Read on to know about ‘what’ of an advertisement; and what works or doesn’t work, 
in the ad sphere

One of the most abused jargons in management today is the word “strategy”. Let me give you an example of how meaningless it has become with today’s management students. That day as I was walking in the corridor of the business school after a session I heard one guy asking another friend of his an extremely difficult question “Bro, I want to meet that girl at 5 p.m., give me a strategy”. I tapped him on the shoulder and told him “Check the time in your watch and land up at 5!” That’s an indication of how inappropriately the word is being used. But seriously let’s talk about advertising and the use of strategy in its making. So let me simplify this whole discussion and end with an example to illustrate what I am saying. But before this I need to have a fairly important task and that is to define strategy in advertising. Strategy in advertising is ‘what’is being said about the brand in communication. You could also use the word positioning and here I speak loosely as that subject deserves another piece. So the strategy could be to describe a product as long lasting or reliable or the lowest price. The execution of the advertising is ‘how’ it is being said. So you could use one of various advertising themes like use of a celebrity or humour or emotion even. Here is a commercial about long lasting Plywood with interesting creative.

Yet when you talk of great advertising you must remember that it works because both the strategy is bang on and the execution brilliant. It cannot work when only one of the two is effective but both have to work in tandem. Let’s talk about one commercial, that is not so recent but useful because it demonstrates the point I am trying to make.

We are the Blackberry boys

Here is another commercial that made some waves some time ago as it was also a very visible campaign with lots of media weight behind it. If my memory serves me right it even won a few awards. I am sure you do remember the commercial as it is not very dated  but before you see it let me give you a quick preamble to this commercial. The traditional Blackberry user was someone like me, older, who was using the phone for organisational needs like checking mails and going online in addition to the traditional phone usage of calling and messaging. He was hardly adventurous in the usage of the phone. My generation does not download music, chat or use the phone for almost everything unlike my children. Blackberry had a new phone and the objective was to change the profile of users and get younger consumers who were not looking at Blackberry seriously. This was for Vodafone users. Now let’s watch the commercial. 

As you can doubtlessly see it is striking and I am sure the agency would call it memorable. It has a jingle that is catchy and shows older people like me who are watching in bewilderment as younger kids edge the older people out of the frame as they claim that they do all the things with the phone that older people like me are reluctant or do not know how to use. Let’s revisit the objective and that was to get newer, smarter, younger users into the user fold. This brings me to my major grouse with the commercial. Let me ask you a simple question. How do you think brands gain market share? They do so by holding on to existing customers and by getting new customers. They don’t do this by alienating their existing customers as old, dumb or show them in a poor light. This is like saying that my wife is old and haggard just because I want a smart, young girlfriend. I remember a proverb in Tamil that translates as “Giving up your husband so that you can get the king“. Never mind the fact that the king does not want you in the first place!  So strategically this commercial fails in my opinion at least.

What should be different in your life now?

This is just a small piece to get you thinking. Think about advertising now that you are management students.  Hitherto you were mere consumers of advertising. You could merely say “it’s cool” or “it sucks”. Not any more, hereafter you must not only see advertising campaigns but analyse them. Discuss them while you are at class or with your friends. Try to understand what brands are doing and why. Critique them for soon you will be in marketing and others will be evaluating your work as well.

Welcome to the big bad world of work!

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