Babita Baruah
May 04, 2011

Babita’s Blog: Lead Kindly Light

Babita Baruah, vice president and client services director, JWT Delhi, takes lessons from theories of economics to figure out if those in advertising can inject some social benefit into the work

Babita’s Blog: Lead Kindly Light

Being a student of Economics, I often tend to draw learnings from some of the theories. And why not? After all, we are in the business of brand management which is all about creating demand amongst a set of consumers who are a part of society at large.

Chanced upon a conversation last evening about Social Costs and Social Benefits and connected the dots to the creative product we work on day and night to create brands that make a difference to people.

For the uninitiated, very briefly, Social Cost is when there is a cost to the society which is not borne by the manufacturer and therefore has a negative impact. Eg. Environment pollution, harmful products. Social Benefit is when the benefit to the society at large is far greater than the actual transaction. eg Educational services.

Enough of Economics for now- let's jump back to what we do best- creative ideas.

Creative ideas that create a crusade or almost a movement seem to have a huge carpet bombing impact on consumers at large, going beyond the actual bull's eye. Ideas that are inclusive, create conversation, create communities also resonate far more and outlive their designated campaign period.

That is because these ideas  hit a nerve , a sensitivity that is close to the consumer's heart.
They emanate from a strong consumer life insight that also connects the brand seamlessly.
eg Lead India, Jaago Re, Idea Cellular, Youngistaan  and I am sure many more noteworthy campaigns of recent times.

The argument against this could be that such ideas cannot be the norm, but are often a fallout.
The argument could also be that clutter breaking creative needs to be whacky, different, evolved.
Life Insights mean emotions which can be a constraint.
Real life makes it boring.
Advertising is not about social good, it is about creativity.
And many more.

There is truth in these arguments as well- we are not into social crusades, we are about creating brands that resonate.

However, if we look at pop culture, from leaders to iconic music, films, books, sports, even religious leaders.... the big successes are those that have impacted society at large - either through a provoke or a challenge, or through a different point of view , or through resolving a larger conflict, or even by answering the  pure aspirational needs of millions, who look up at a poster in their small rooms every morning and weave their dreams.

Somewhere, I strongly feel, we have been empowered as an industry to create that difference that few others can make.
We have the power of expression.
We give voice to brands.
We rule channels and every touch point of the consumer's lives.
We bombard senses with messages every second.
We have little children jigging to our jingles and mouthing our slogans.

Can we inject some social benefit into our work?
Sometimes at least.
What if our briefs had a social benefit line ?
Or a life insight as a mandate?

Will it take away from creativity?
I don't think so. Creativity is the means to an end and not and end by itself.
Will it take away from the brand?
It will infact, enhance the relevance.
Will it mean more budgets, more activation?
Yes it does. But then, we are anyways in the world of Integrated Communications and Life beyond the 30 second tvc.
Does every piece of work need this?
No. We all know the realities of brief objectives, timelines, expectations.

But if , overall, we had some work every year on big brands which truly lead the masses to rethink, recalibrate, reconsider lives and beliefs, we would have gone beyond the brief and created that social benefit that only we are empowered to do.

And, yes, have very successful award winning effective creative ideas as well.

The views expressed are the author's independent views as an ad professional and do not reflect the organisation's viewpoint.

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