(From left) Kiran Khalap, co-founder, Chlorophyll brand and communications consultancy and Subhash Kamath, CEO and managing partner, BBH
Is advertising that revolves around ‘competition’ and ‘winning’ of children mirror the trend in society, about competitive mothers? Or does it contribute to a mindset of ‘winning’ being the ultimate goal amongst the TG (mothers)?
KK: Advertising has always been a fairly weak force socially; it cannot create a trend. It can merely ride on the trends existing in society. It is impossible for advertising to create ‘Tiger Moms;’ it has cleverly tapped into an existing and incipient trend. Neither ‘Tiger Moms’ nor any other mindset will be changed by advertising at a fundamental level. It can only reflect it.
SK: It’s a bit of both. It’s a cyclical process. The world is becoming more competitive, and winning is very important. The Indian society has changed in the last 15 years, compared to our parents time and our generation, we have become more competitive. It’s tougher to get a job, and admission to good schools and colleges. Thus, there is a trend that exists in society – a socio cultural change that is happening and then advertising picks up on it, creates stories on it and this in turn creates more mindsets. It is not what came first- the chicken or the egg. To some extent, it picks up from society, mirrors it. But the fact is it goes on media and becomes a national talking point across brands and categories, and starts to fuel more desires in consumers as well. It’s a parasitical form of influence.
Aspirational, successful protagonists have always featured in advertising. But is there too much of it when it comes to kids and their mothers?
KK: Of course it’s too much. But is it only due to advertising? If you look at the overall trends with media becoming more and more accessible, almost all classes of society are able to see, and able to witness what the next level of success is and they are impatient to get to that level very fast. Therefore, if they haven’t reached that level of success then they want to achieve that through their kids and that’s why so much pressure.
SK: Absolutely. Why should there be so much pressure on the kids? There is nothing wrong with brands that have advertising which celebrates a child winning. But if you create the impression that ‘It is so critical to win or that if you don’t win you are a loser’, I think that would not be a good thing to propagate. Little children should not be termed as losers because the only thing celebrated is the first prize. The responsibility starts firstly from parents, teachers, society - and then brands and marketers.
What impact does such advertising have on creating consumer preference for the brand (in either instance)?
KK: Any advertising that connects to an existing brief will be strong advertising. It will change behaviour. So in this case it is connecting with the belief that I must help my child become competitively superior and it connects to that. Which is why, it will create consumer preference.
SK: The fundamental objective of advertising is to create consumer preference for the brand. So any communication that is well thought through and is rooted in consumer psyche and well executed will create consumer preference. In the context of competitiveness of children, celebration of winning will definitely add to creating consumer preference but one must add a watch out. For example, the ‘Daag achche hain’ (Dirt is good) campaign for Surf says “Let kids be kids, let them play, and don’t restrict them.” So there is that side of the coin as well and it’s not only about winning. Can’t we just celebrate the joy and innocence of childhood? Are we just creating winning monsters out of them? It’s all about the balance.
There is a deluge of such advertising. So is it possible that the contrarian approach (laying emphasis on participation and not winning) works better among mothers? If yes, is it possible for a brand to do this consistently, or for more than one brand to toe this line?
KK: It is not about the contrarian approach but what works for a certain category. If there are a large number of people who believe in this approach then it would work. Overall, the big trend is that people are looking at the role that the brand plays in their lives, because in most categories the products are on parity. So what brands are saying is, “Let me explain to you my philosophy of life and how I look at life and therefore show you where I am, what is my place in your life.”
Are there enough people who believe in this (contrarian) approach? Sometime back, for an ad, we spoke of ‘truth’. Very soon in research we found out that nobody wanted it, as mothers said, “I don’t want my son to grow up like dharamraj as he will lose in today’s world.”
SK: This could work but it all depends on the product that you are talking about. From an advertising point of view, can there be a contrarian approach? Of course it can. ‘Let children be children is a contrarian approach’ - one doesn’t not have to worry about the kid being perfectly dressed or worrying about germs etc. I think both sides of the coin can work. It’s just that winning is obviously the larger discourse in a competitive world. A brand could do it consistently as long as it is very well crafted and relevant. I would love to do a campaign for a brand using the contrarian approach. After all, who says, ‘You have to win!’