Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bringing People Together - How the same idea can engender different executions.

Every product category has a given set of assumptions that mostly form the bedrock of the commercials.

Washing Powders - Clean, white, shine. Airconditioners - Cooling, efficiency, air purification.

Cars - Style, safety, desirability, fuel efficiency.

Likewise, airline commercials over the years have utilised to great effect the basic idea of 'Bringing People Together' or making the world smaller.

This helps them peg the product on a grander theme than the mundane modalities of service, on time performance, safety, connectivity et al.

But even the same idea of Bringing People Together can find widely varying expressions. From the straightforward to the dramatic.

Look at these two airline commercials, Pan Am (1980) and BA (1989). The basic idea is the same but the execution and the visual interpretation are as different as chalk and cheese.

Learning: Most ideas you come up with might already be done many times over but you can still make it fresh, impactful and relevant to the brand context like the BA commercial does.

Pan Am Commercial(1980)

BA Commercial(1989)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The moral high ground - Dove and the issue of real vs imposed beauty

All of cosmetic advertising for women has followed a set pattern for decades. Show flawless hair, flawless skin, glowing, mesmerising and yes tie everything in with a product benefit.

The ingredient 'x' or wonder effect 'Y' that will transform the consumer into an elevated being who swimmingly enters the domain of superbeautifulbeings.

It was a compact that everyone in the industry adhered to. Till someone at Dove thought otherwise.

Dove "Evolution" is like a member of the mob turning state witness. Like they would say at Old Trafford: "It's just not cricket, ol' chap!". After years of using the same production tricks, after effects, photoshop pyrotechnics Dove finds it all very sinful.

Great. But the problem is that sudden declarations of moral high ground are just a little bit suspect. As in the same breath you are also trying to pull down everyone else.

A sniff of vested interest?

What the marketing honchos at Dove forgot was what Ogilvy said: "The consumer isn't a moron, she's your wife."

See "Evolution" video here:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is this the future of advertising?

It is small, cute, almost non-obtrusive and maybe an indicator of the types of media advertising has to adapt itself to in the future.

The key to most brilliant things lies in their simplicity and singularity of purpose.

Chumby (www.chumby.com) is a wireless network device that displays widgets, let's you check email, displays photos, streams Internet radio, displays headlines as they happen, shows you You Tube videos, serves as a wake up alarm...while you go about your morning or evening routine.

It's small. The touchscreen is only 3.5 inches across. The information or the widgets change every 30 seconds. But you can interact with the device. Say a thumbnail of a YouTube video pops up. Just tap on it for the video to play.

Now think. How would an ad widget work with this device? Will it be at the level of a YouTube video. A special offer that opens up as the consumer taps. Or, even a brilliant way to deliver direct mail. The possibilities are endless...

Advertising, it is said, is a reflection of the context we all live in. As technology evolves from the PC to singular web-devices like chumby, ads need to adapt and evolve a new grammar to exploit the medium to the fullest.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A different treatment makes the Nike commercial interesting

At times, the treatment of a commercial becomes the difference that makes it stand out from the clutter.

This Nike commercial is a good case in point.

If you look at the storyline, it is as simple as can be. A league football player making it big-he becomes a part of Arsnel and the perks and the attention that are a given for players in the elite league. And finally, the story coming full circle with him executing the same free kick at the next level.

Simple and straightforward. Except that the camera throughout is from the player's point of view. And because of the different perspective a normal story becomes: "Now, it looks interesting from this point of view, let's see what all happens".

Full marks to this commercial for grabbing the viewer's attention. The first, and the most important task, of any advertising.

How to let the context set up the product attribute - The Corolla way

In advertising there's always the easy way. Take a feature, do the boring brand window, do a couple of close ups with dramatic CGI effects take the music to a crescendo and finish off with a well modulated voice over. Another commercial in a sea of me-toos.

It takes a bit of daring to take the meta level of a singular thought and plug away at it relentlessly. Over the years, the Corolla brand has stood for quality and reliability. The brief has been to reinforce the consensual opinion that this car has rock solid reliability.

With such a bedrock of brand belief all that the current commercial does is to clue in the reliability in an interesting and engaging manner that becomes another chapter in the continuing brand dialogue with its target audience.

Monday, May 12, 2008

When Less is More – What we can learn from Great Cartoonists

Cartoonists ply their craft under an almost similar set of constraints as advertising. The real estate is limited. The brief is to grab attention, get the message across and while doing so engage, educate and at times leave a lasting imprint on the mind of the audience.

So my advice to all aspiring advertising professionals: bone up on all the great cartoonists.

They know how to synthesize complex and varied themes into communication that’s concise and relevant. As this brilliant cartoon by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Ramirez aptly demonstrates. Look and Learn. This is effective communication at its leanest, meanest best.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Logo element as a Campaign Device

Every client loves his logo. (Well most do.) And most of us in Advertising have learnt to ignore the dreaded request from the client when we present a layout... "Don't you think the logo should be a bit bigger; on second thought, a LOT BIGGER".

I have seen many art directors contemplating suicide as an attractive option very, very seriously at that point in time.

But then, the logo at times can become a brilliant device to get across the Brand DNA much to the delight of the art director involved. For instance, consider the two National Geographic ads below:

The campaign works well because an element of the brand – the yellow rectangle is used in an unexpected manner to bring freshness to communication that in essence is pretty straightforward.

Makes for a happy client. Not to mention a seriously happy art director.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Can A Picture become the communication message?

In certain contexts, yes.

For instance, if you want to show that on a hill road there is a danger of landslide, a picture/illustration is better.

When reduced to the functionality of an icon say the 'Men' and 'Women' signs for restrooms words at best play a suplementary role.

At the level of the brand, at times the picture itself becomes so iconic words become irrelevant. For example: 'Marlboro Country'.

In the normal context though a mix of picture and content is the best way to communicate. 

Redefining Dirty Diesel - Why the Honda Ad is a winner

Great Ads always have an unrelenting and singular focus. This ad (YouTube Video below) is no exception. Three quarters of the ad is spent on establishing the percieved image of a diesel engine - dirty, unfriendly (the jingle goes: "hate something") and obviously not good for the environment. The contrast is brought out more sharply by the use of the fairy tale treatment where everything is happy and pure as opposed to the 'dirty diesel'. The last part of the ad when the clean Honda diesel appears the jingle "hate something, change something" takes on an entirely new meaning. Enjoy...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Nice Build up and a different perspective- How misdirection works as a device

In this ad (YouTube Video below), the key lies in the selection, personality and aggrieved tone of the key character. This helps keep you slightly astray of the intent of the ad till the final moments.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

We well, Be well, Bhi Well, on second thoughts give me plain ol’ LUX anytime. (Or, why the right brand name is very, very important)

A new range of beauty soaps is launched. The advertising is strictly middle-of-the-road, safe formulatic as patented over the years by P&G and Unilever. Nice soft focus, a glittering diva (Kareena Kapoor) looking gorgeous endorsing the soap.

Nothing is wrong. Yet everything is.

What is in a name? A writer of repute once asked. In marketing, everything.


Roll it off your tongue. Imagine yourself as the end user a mid-30’s, middle-class house wife. How do I say this name, she thinks: We well, Be well, Bhi Well, Vee Well…will the smart looking shop assistant snigger if I get it wrong.

Why take the chance? Lux, please!

Sometimes, companies spend zillions of monies on research, R&D, retail.

And forget something as basic as the phonetics of a brand name.

After all, there is a reason why Reema Lamba changed her name to Mallika Sherawat, Yusuf Khan to Dilip Kumar, Alwarpettai Aandavar became Kamal Haasan.

Because, if the name ain’t right. Nothing is.

Dhoni Down South – Why the new Pepsi IPL Commercial works

The right mix is important for any ad to work. And if the ad is taking off on a well-worn context the chances of it falling woefully short are very high.

For instance, if you take the Sholay template, Thakur (no arms) has to be just right, even if the characterization is slightly off, it falls flat.

McDonalds has used this device for its ‘aapne zamaae ke daam’ campaign. In that the ‘thakur’ rendition works while the ‘Dharmendra’ rendition is at best average.

Back to the Pepsi IPL ad.

The single point why it works is that Dhoni has totally gotten into the Rajnikant character. The swirl of the lungi, the glint in the eye, the swagger in the motion.

Best of all, we know he’s having fun. And so do we. 

See the commercial here:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Your First Job as a Copywriter

Many aspiring copywriters have asked me this question: "How do I start off?" Do I just jump at the first job that comes my way or do I wait for the 'Big Agency' call to come through.

My answer is that it is not about the first job. 

It is where you see yourself 3 years from now. 5 years. 10 years. 15 years...

A career is not a question of landing the first job earlier than the next guy, especially in copywriting. It is about preparing right for a job you are probably going to do for your entire working life.

So, is grabbing the first job that comes your way the right strategy?

Yes and no. First, think where you want to be: You want to be a writer in one of the top 10 agencies. This is your goal. Never lose focus of that. Now, how do you get into a top 10 agency. It is on the strength of your demonstrated talent i.e, your portfolio.

Now, evaluate the first job offer you have got from any agency.

Ask these questions:

• What are the clients the agency has?

• What is the strength of the creative department?

• Does your immediate boss have any Big Agency experience?

• Is your immediate boss a copywriter?

• Which client or clients you are being put on?

• Does the agency have a creative focus?

The answers to these questions will help you decide whether the agency is the right place for you to start your career.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What does an advertising copywriter need to know?

To begin with, a little of everything. If you can write interestingly and with freshness and insight in a related field, you can learn to apply that writing skill in a business situation.

Where many copywriters (and art directors, etc.) are lacking is in the business aspect.

Your writing needs to speak to the real needs and emotions of the people who buy what the agency's clients are selling. That's true whether you're selling cola to the masses, or computer servers to a small number of engineers. You need to know your market, and be able to talk with them as if you were talking to them personally.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Writing for the Web

Writing for the Web
Your opening words must tell people how they will benefit from visiting the site. You must also give people a brief idea about the nature of the site - what specific product or service is it selling / what free product or service is it offering / what can people expect to find at your site?

The Heading
On the Web, there isn't time for cute headings - people want information and they want it now!
So you need to let your readers know exactly what you're offering in your heading. Your heading should be no more than four or five words - the fewer the better.e.g.

Free Software
Web Design
Improve Your Writing
A Joke a Day
Learn HTML
How to Relieve Pain

Words that Appeal
There are a number of words which have been shown to appeal to readers, some of these are:

Free - New - Proven - Secret - Success - Instant -- Fast --
Simple -- How to -- Save Easy-- Limited time only

Always try to include at least a couple of these words in your ad.

Personal Pronouns
We're all most interested in ourselves, so direct all your comments to you, the reader.
Use you, your, yours wherever possible.

Include we, our, ours throughout your ad, but use I, me, mine very sparingly.

Give Facts. Don't say: make "thousands of rupees" with this scheme, say: we'll "see a 20% increase in sales within the first year" - and it will be more likely for people to believe you.

Use numbers if possible - "101 Uses for Plastic Shopping Bags" is more likely to gain attention, than "Things to do with plastic shopping bags".

Don't use adjectives and adverbs.

Don't be clever if it means some of your readers won't understand your ad.

Organization of Ideas
You should always start with the greatest benefit to the reader:

Expected improvements in finances, health, career, romance, appearance, security, self-esteem

Removing worry

Eliminating unpleasant tasks

Reducing physical, mental pain

End with an Appeal for Action
Always finish your ad by telling your readers what you want them to do:

Click here for more information

Act now

Go to our secure order form

These simple rules will help you create engaging and relevant web content. 

How does one become a copywriter?

Copywriting one of the few professions where a degree is not required.

That means anyone can become a copywriter, irrespective of their age, experience, background and educational history (or lack of it).

A background in English helps. You should also have an enquiring mind, store a lot of information and be able to make lateral connections.

Good copywriters are curious and don't wear blinders. Knowing how to write helps, of course.

But be sure of one thing: while the business of advertising can be fun, it's business, not art.

Ultimately, the clients pay the bills. The goal is to sell the clients' stuff. And, although there are many important things you know about advertising that your client might not, you'll never know as much about your clients' businesses as they do.

Part of your job is to draw that knowledge out of the client. And to distill that knowledge down to a key point that speaks directly to the needs of their prospects, catalyzing a message that's more than the sum of its parts.

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