N. Shatrujeet

When ads start becoming strikingly similar... Part II

The first part of this story analyzed how creative coincidence is natural. Here we look at whether this occurs when agencies do not try hard enough in terms of ideation

Creative coincidence exists, and with good reason. "We think in linear terms when it comes to strategy," explains Zarvan Patel, executive creative director, Rediffusion-DY&R. "Now it is likely that, thinking linear, two or more brands would have arrived at the same communication strategy. So, the execution is likely to be in the same territory. What Dairy Milk and Lehar talk about is ‘inability to control oneself'. Now the category (snacks) is such that ‘uncontrollability' is an obvious line of thought. And you look for a creative idea that demonstrates this in a manner most relevant to the consumer. In the case of ‘Govinda aa la re…' too, both Pepsi and Coke were running on the route of relevance and logical patterns."

Talking about the ‘Govinda aa la re…' example, Agnello Dias, executive creative director, Leo Burnett, says, "Creative people look for stimuli from what is around them. And if all creative people search for stimuli in the same square mile, creative coincidence is bound to happen. Coke and Pepsi are both multinationals that draw a lot from cultural nuances. It is but natural that both creative teams hit upon a soundtrack that best captures the spirit of Gokul Ashtami. If you ask two housewives, I'm sure they too would come up with ‘Govinda aa la re…' It's just that we (Coke/Leo Burnett) hit the air first. The one who finds the idea first scores, while the second makes a graceful exit."

One thing that emerges from the CDM-Lehar, Coke-Pepsi and Top Ramen-KitKat examples is that in all three, the agencies concerned had similar briefs: uncontrollability, a symbolism of Gokul Ashtami and sudden wealth. And all the agencies tapped the same creative reservoirs for ideas - while trying to strike a strong ‘Indian consumer connect' (tradition, festivals and Hindi movies).

What this suggests is that coincidence is even more natural, as advertisers try and address consumers using ‘common national sentiments'. Which explains the proliferation of ads with traditional Hindu wedding settings, suhaag raat scenarios, Hindi movie spoofs, antakshari situations and the like.

But the issue that this raises is, doesn't coincidence reflect on agencies not trying hard enough in terms of ideation? That agencies are thinking of the most obvious ‘consumer connects' (increasing the incidence of coincidence), instead of seeking out novel ways of reaching out to the consumer?

"I don't think agencies are as guilty of plagiarizing as they are of not trying hard enough and being mindlessly unimaginative," Umesh Shrikhande, director, Euro RSCG India, is in agreement. "What you see is frighteningly similar work in category after category. This indicates the lack of ability to explore fresh insights and tread new ground. The same old formulae are being put to use. Having ‘Govinda aa la re…' for Gokul Ashtami is the best example of doing the most predictable thing. Even the common man will name the same song."

Dias too admits that there's something lacking. "Agencies do succumb. But tell me, if you were brainstorming for a client and you don't get a brilliant idea, you can't ask the client to wait. And even if you do, he won't wait for you. So the agency has to fall back upon its usual bag of tricks… not original, but workable ideas."

He also pins part of the blame on market research. "Market research comes out with its typical inside-the-box recommendations. They show stats and figures to demonstrate how the consumer likes to see ‘mother and son in ad', ‘festivals in ad' and other reflections of society. Now the client has spent so much money on research, even if he knows that all this has been done before, he shoves this down the agency's throat in the belief that his money has been wisely spent. How many clients have the courage to junk research findings and ask for an original idea?"

For his part, Patel feels that it all depends purely on whether the idea is working with the consumer or not. "Whatever gets you the desired response from the consumer is good. What's the point in having an original idea that fails to get a response? I wouldn't fault agencies, but yes, you can argue that agencies should push a bit harder. But then, one can equally argue that how is an agency to know that it isn't pushing hard enough? Everyone thinks they're the first ones to crack an idea."

Point taken. The only problem being that the consumer is getting so many messages that, through sheer coincidence, are trying to similarly ‘connect' with her, she might find it difficult to distinguish between the brands being advertised.© 2002 agencyfaqs!

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