Worn out with use, white coats hit credibility crisis

By , agencyfaqs! | In Advertising | September 26, 2005
Senior advertising professionals feel that using pseudo doctors in adverts can rebound on brand owners if not handled responsibly

It can be toothpaste, shampoo, soap, edible oil, or & #BANNER1 & # even detergent powder - the list of products endorsed by 'the person in a white coat' is quite long.

The reasons are quite obvious: For the general consumer, a person wearing a white coat is easily mistaken for a doctor, one of the most trusted professionals in our country. In fact, the 'doctor' image adds credibility to a brand.

But from the advertisers' perspective, white-coat endorsements don't represent the doctor community. They have their own rationale behind such advertisements.

As Priti Nair Chakravarthy, executive creative director, Lowe, says, "In such adverts, no one claims that they are doctors, but the white coat indicates that they are from the fraternity. And products that claim such eminence are all scientifically developed. So, more than assurance, this method of communication is used to authenticate the scientific research that has gone into the manufacture of the product."

However, Chakravarthy is also quick to add that only dearth of proper creative ideas leads to such advertising.

What ever may be the rationale behind such adverts, the big question is whether such adverts are able to influence the consumers?

Advertising professionals such as Rajiv Raja, executive creative director, Bates India, and Josy Paul, national chairman, rmg david, are of the opinion that such adverts have lost credibility over time.

As Paul says, "The idea of communicating through a doctor has become very clichéd. Agencies that still fall back on such outdated ideas take for granted that the consumers are ignorant."

However, there are ones, who feel that white coats are still very effective. Asha Kapoor, executive director, Sudler and Hennessey, the joint venture partner of Rediffusion Healthcare, says, "Such adverts are in no way creatively inferior. And if such adverts make a rational promise, it's very effective."

Even Raj Kurup, regional creative director, Grey Worldwide agrees with Kapoor feels that although such adverts are outdated, by no means will they fade away completely.

He says, "This category of ads is known as 'demos' (demonstrations) and are a tried and tested formula."

Kurup provides a rationale to such campaigns: "While the 'person in the white coat' might not have an impact on consumers in the metros, the medical institutions that certify the merit of the product certainly do influence them."

He continues: "On the other hand, consumers from smaller towns are easily influenced by pseudo doctors. However, if the brand's claims turn out to be false, then it loses the consumers' faith permanently."

There are other advertising professionals who feel that misuse of pseudo doctors and other such symbols in a communication can actually rebound on the brand owners.

As R Lakshminarayanan, executive director, Mudra group, says, "Such campaigns are only justified when they are supported by scientific evidence. And if such symbols are used irresponsibly, the strongest verdict comes from the consumers, who reject both the claim and the brand making the claim."

© 2005 agencyfaqs!

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