Cannes 2010: Understanding consumers' lives for better brand ideas

By Biprorshee Das , afaqs!, Cannes | In Advertising
Last updated : June 23, 2010
In a seminar on Day 3 of the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival 2010, Malcolm Hunter, chief strategy officer, Aegis Media urged brands to look at different places, instead of the traditional ones, for better ideas

Different ideas are what all creative thinkers and brands strive for. But quite often, traditional ideas are what are most exploited. In a seminar at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival 2010, Malcolm Hunter, chief strategy officer, Aegis Media talked about the crucial need to look for ideas beyond the traditional, and the immense scope that the consumers' lives provide for differentiated communication.

Hunter began his discourse on an informal note and continued with it through his presentation. He said that everyone loves to throw big words, such as 'socialisation' or 'convergence'; but few understand the true meaning of these terms.

Taking the audience on a journey into time, Hunter used a short animated clip to show how back in 1974, Martians probably perceived Earthlings to be primitive, when it comes to communicating with each other.

Hunter observed that clients, too, were of the view that there is too much reliance on television; and were curious to know about alternatives.

The digital revolution, according to him, changed a lot of perspectives, as experts and entrepreneurs hailed the medium. However, he warned that differentiated ideas need not necessarily be in the digital space.

Hunter then presented data that was of little surprise. He said that 93 per cent of spends were allocated to the traditional arena, and only around 10 per cent outside television. Moreover, only 7 per cent of television commercials were differentiated ideas, he noted.

Clients have also observed that there are cultural, process and measurement barriers for thinking beyond the obvious. "We are programmed into television-led communication," said Hunter.

Of the many hindrances, he pointed out that often, there are time constraints to think deeper for alternative ideas. And one of the major problems is the fact that by the time traditional allocations are done with, there is not much left.

Hunter said that while huddling all ideas together might work; things could get messy as well. Clients, he noted, do not always understand the big words and fancy theories that advertising seems to be in love with. According to him, clients merely need to know if there really is a different type of idea; if there is a model to develop one; and if ideas could be made simple and easy.

Suggesting a solution, Hunter urged brands and creative experts to look deeper into consumers' lives. "Ideas are born out of life, rather than ideas being forced into life," Hunter said.

Of the insights he found, he noted that consumers are much more interested in their own lives than brands, and more interested in brands than advertising. Consumers spend more time engaging in media than anything else, he added.

Since consumers are brand driven, ideas often come from the brand's benefits and values. Instead, ideas could come from studying consumers' habits when it comes to time, space, likes and dislikes and places they frequent.

The simple process, according to him, is to understand the consumer and know where the brand fits, and then understand how an idea could spread and grow.

Hunter then cited examples of brand campaigns such as Orange's 'Orange Wednesday', Cadbury Wispa on Facebook, Reebok's 'Run Easy' and O2's 'The O2 Arena' as ones that have made the best use of insights into consumers' lives.

"Things are happening, but it is hard work. It is really not a black or white world," Hunter said.

Concluding his talk, he encouragingly said that if the Martians could come back now and observe the communication revolution, they would probably note that the "primitive people" are progressing slowly.

First Published : June 23, 2010

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