I wanted to start this piece by talking about technology. But all the phrases I thought of were total clichés. We’re living in exciting times. Technology has advanced beyond man’s wildest blah blah yada yada yada. We KNOW technology is doing insane things in and to the world, okay? And to advertising. One look at any international award shortlist is proof enough of that. We don’t EXACTLY know all the things it can do just yet, but it’s good stuff. Exciting stuff. Yeah.
Clients, well, at least the marketing types on the client’s side, know this. So they want to go digital, they want to come across as people who KNOW how this whole interweb thing works. They want to connect to audiences on Facebook, be their web-pal and Whatsapp bunny and be a never-moving presence on their mobile phones.
Whose job is it to make sure they end up looking good doing this? Ours. We, who surf the net and look at digital advertising blogs going, “Did you see that? Did you SEE that?” and curse our luck for not having come up with it first. You can’t fault us for trying, you really can’t. Honestly, if we had a rupee for every time someone in an agency says “Let’s make an app”, we wouldn’t need to ask clients for money to sponsor that app. The same goes for QR codes. We love QR codes. The West has moved on to other things, but boy, do we love our QR codes and apps. And you know what? That’s fine. Because despite the fast growing number of internet and smart-phone users in India, we’ve not reached that place yet where we invent technology, rather than emulate it.
But you’re considered a dinosaur if you don’t think digital, so we try to jazz our ads up with some technology, and sometimes end up forgetting the most crucial part of the ad.
I don’t think we can afford to do this.
Think about it.
The internet has shortened the attention span of the average consumer to the amount of time it takes a kitten to twitch its nose on Youtube. So whatever fairly expensive app / social media activation / execution of digital genius we come up with, will stay on his or her mind for at the most a few minutes. Unless it's wildly engaging, exciting and you’re giving away cool, free stuff with it. And you can’t really foresee what someone is going to find engaging or exciting. For the love of God, a tubby Korean rapper just clocked 2 million hits for dancing like the 1982 edition of Anil Kapoor. You can’t predict this stuff.
But you CAN focus on the idea, rather than the medium. In ‘Hey Whipple, Squeeze This’, Luke Sullivan gives this piece of advice to writers putting together their first book: “Spend time making the concept great, not the execution.” Yes, presentation is an important part of any ad, but it’s not the MOST important part. A polished execution will draw the eye, but unless the content is good enough, that eye will stray, that consumer will forget.
Case to the point: Avis. This is what one of the first ads in the 1962 ‘We Try Harder’ campaign looked like.
Nothing fancy, I’m sure you’ll agree. But the idea – we’re no. 2, so we try harder – you can’t question the quality of the idea. In fact, the client loved it so much that they’ve been using that line till now. That’s 50 years.
As for whether it will resonate with present-day consumers, well, that’s where the technology came in. When Google decided to reinvent the campaign for the digital space.
The new ads are simple, charming and interesting. Just like the old ones, but more interactive and based on user-generated content. Which just goes to show that technology can make a good idea great and a great idea even better.
But first, comes the idea. Always.
Vedashree Khambete is an ACD with Mudra, a writer at heart and a total grammar Nazi at times.