Your Campaign Is Bloody Boring

The reason advertising creatives fail is the same reason relationships fail. We approach them with a checklist, wanting to put ticks in boxes, rather than seeing what they do to our spirit, our minds, our hearts.

What is this checklist and where is it born? Why does it render an ad singularly uninspiring and ordinary; boring even when competent? Why, when asked which radio ads in India have caught my attention in the last one year, did I draw a blank? In a flurry of deadline anxiety, when I reached out to other radio professionals and colleagues, why did they also struggle? Why did the lady who had asked me for this article in the first place, admit to me that even while asking for it, she wondered what I would write, because she couldn’t recall a single radio ad herself?

What happened to the great jingle makers? To the memorable ditties, to the catch phrases, to the enduring characters and the hummable tunes?

My guess? They got felled by the Formidable Audience of One. In an attempt to please just one person, advertisers lost the larger picture. And yes Mr. Client, I AM pointing at you. You: MBA soaked, data obsessed, presentation led, myopic middle rung brand manager. You have forgotten what a song sounds like because you are too caught up calculating its BPM.

I am The Outsider so I can say this stuff. Your agency will not. The team servicing you will just go for a drink and bitch you out and one day they will make the transition from agency to client, and they will become you.

The one who has a checklist. Capture what the boss said – tick. Get the product details in – tick. Throw in that research insight – tick. Capture a prototype of the target audience – tick. Give prominence to that heavy duty logo & slogan that cost a packet to arrive at – tick. Don’t displease legal – tick. Make the world’s most safe, most boring, most irrelevant ad – tick tick tick.

OLX PE BECH DE. I don’t need to jog your memory about brand salience for that to put a smile on your face. Or for that matter, NO ULLU BANAOING. Doesn’t Amul Macho’s Sponge Bath still tickle you? Ok let’s not go only down the irreverent road. How about the Google India Pakistan series? Or the simple cheerful, ye hai India ka tyohaar from IPL on Max?

So simple to understand. Such clear communication. Such clarity of promise. There is no brand book required to understand what these products have to offer.

So like a typical creative person am I saying that the brand book is balderdash? That the research is irrelevant, the data unimportant, those hundreds of meetings and ppts a waste of time?

Absolutely not. They are critical. But dear marketer – you remain ordinary if all these things scream at me from your ad. If your ad looks like the brief wearing a hat. Or the research findings in disguise.

Only when all this becomes invisible, do you become a magician.

Like when learning to dance, we go through the 1-2-3-4, 2-2-3-4 routine. But finally, when on stage, we should be a swan gliding to sublime music. If at that moment, the 1-2-3-4 steps are visible, then the dancer is just a technician. And you are no magician. You are just the formidable audience of one, whom a host of highly talented people are trying to please. While the audience yawns.

So step back. You’ve shared all those amazing insights, all the data, the great research and the astute learnings. Now let the creative guys cook with the phenomenal ingredients that you have provided. Don’t go stirring the pot. Don’t insist on the obvious being stated. Don’t add your pinch of salt. Don’t be the Formidable Audience of One trying to get everyone to please you. Be open to the wonder of a great creative.

Next time your agency comes to you with HAWKINS KI SEETI BAJI KHUSHBOO HI KHUSHBOO UDI, or with hare brained suggestions like using famous love songs such as NOTHING’S GONNA CHANGE MY LOVE FOR YOU for a sweater brand, don’t frown. Give in to the magic. Hindsight is 20-20, but jumping off that cliff – that is marketing courage.

Whether you have it or not, will determine whether in ten years time you are known (read ‘forgotten’) as a middle management has-been, or a visionary marketing maverick.

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