As a management student, it’s time you start looking at ads closely to learn how and how not to sell
Let me start with something that I am fond of repeating and I crave your indulgence, if you have heard it before. People don’t buy a TV set to watch the ads or a newspaper to read the ads. Though it is possible that someone who is interested in selling a house or buying a second hand car might look at the classifieds or even buy the papers for that. However, as a general rule advertising is an intrusion. Your ad comes in at a crucial time of the match forcing me to miss an important moment in the game. And yet advertising is necessary as it keeps the wheels of the industry moving. It enables people to choose between brands and make considered choices, yet because there is so much clutter; a lot of advertising is interesting otherwise people would just flip the channel. Have you seen the commercial for Abbott? If you haven’t because you have been so busy studying (!) let me quickly show it to you. It shows an old lady outside a scenic house in a hill station looking unhappily at the flat tyre in the bicycle that is kept near the house. She calls out loudly for her grandson who does not seem too keen to come out as he probably dreads what is going to happen. He defensively says “I have not punctured the cycle tyre”. She calls him out firmly and he has no option but to come out, which he does, reluctantly. He keeps remonstrating with her that she should not do it and finally tries the trick which lots of elders must have done with him and says “let’s do it tomorrow”. The old lady however is firm and asks him to come. We realize that the old lady wants to take a cycle ride and the terrified boy tells her that if she falls down, she will get hurt badly. She insists, sits on the cycle and asks him to push and eventually let go. The boy is a face, a study in emotions does with increasing fear. She takes off and calls out to him as she turns the bend. He runs out expecting to see the worst but sees his happy grandmother fairly flying with ecstasy written all over her. The commercial really talks about the value of health and how age does not matter as long as your health is good and the value of dreams notwithstanding your age. It is a corporate commercial for Abbott which is in the healthcare space. There is a press ad also with the same visual and theme which talks about the importance and benefit of good health.
The purpose of advertising
Let us step back for a moment and define advertising. The purpose of advertising is to sell products and services and not merely to entertain people. We have movies for that. You can imagine how difficult it is to actually sell detergent for instance. Here is an interesting ad done many years ago for Surf Excel doing this difficult task. It is entertaining and yet ends with a sales pitch.
Now in the case of Abbott, the task is slightly easier as there is no hard sell. It is a corporate commercial with a strong messaging doubtless but with the idea of making you, the customer feel good. It is set in a beautiful place, has models who emote beautifully and has a simple story line that charms and that most of us can relate to. I believe the same commercial would not have been so endearing if a product had been offered for sale at the end of it. This merely talks about the need for good health and how age need not be a deterrent if you have good health. Here the objective was building a corporate image and say endearingly that Abbott cares for you and your health.
Start observing advertising
Now that you are in management school, you are no longer mere consumers of advertising. You can’t merely say “it’s cool” or “it sucks” about an advertising campaign. Try to analyze it on strategy and execution. What in your opinion was the brand manager trying to do? Do you agree with her? How differently would you have done it? If you approach every commercial or ad that you are exposed to, in this scientific manner, I am sure you will learn and quickly. You will be able to discuss campaigns instead of merely consuming them. And who knows someone like me might be reviewing your own campaign!
Now isn’t that interesting!