Despite more than 25 brands creating cricket- and World Cup-related advertising this year, few seem to have managed breaking clutter with great creatives
It was a simple straightforward question that was put to a dozen randomly selected advertising professionals. Of all the cricket- and World Cup-related Indian commercials that were aired in the run-up to and during this World Cup, how many managed busting clutter?
Nine times out of 10, the silence on the other side of the phone was deafening.
As it transpires, on each occasion, the respondents were feverishly scouring mental landscape for one - one - ad that could fit the description. But that only partly explains the silence. For quite a few of the respondents later apologetically admitted that they couldn't seem to recall a single cricket- or Cup-related ad… regardless of the qualifying ‘clutter-busting' clause. The wonders of unaided recall!
After much thought and deliberation, answers came out. The conclusion isn't very flattering, though.
Ten times out of 10, the surmise was that as far as Indian advertising is concerned, this World Cup had not been able to throw up any advertising winners.
Which is quite sad, considering a minimum of 25 brands used strong references to cricket, cricketers or the World Cup in their advertising these past few months. And there were, at the very least, 64 individual ads (remember, LG's ‘Cricket First' campaign alone had over 20 different commercials) that had cricket and/or the Cup as a conversation point. Here, it may be noted that these 64 commercials we allude to do not include multiple edits/versions of the same ad. So, for instance, Hero Honda's ‘Team Ambition' campaign (featuring Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh) and Pepsi's ‘building hopes' campaign (featuring Shah Rukh Khan, Fardeen Khan and Kareena Kapoor) have been treated as two individual ads. Arbitrary, yes, but we'll live with that.
Of the 25 brands (and we're more or less certain we've missed out a few) that used cricket as a selling point, some stood out more sharply than others. Which, in all probability, is purely a function of share-of-voice. (Incidentally, it took us a good 45 minutes to line up these 25 brands, which says a thing or two about recall.) MAK Lubricants, Samsung, LG, Hero Honda, Pepsi and Reliance Infocomm came to mind fairly easily (of the lot, three were principal sponsors of the World Cup). Videocon, Nokia, Polo, Hutch, MRF, Cadbury Dairy Milk, Britannia, Onida, Sony Wega and SET Max took their time coming. Patience and perseverance are the only things that got Seagram's Royal Stag, Sahara India Parivar, Lay's, KitKat, Toofani (no one quite knows what this is!), Colgate, Director's Special, Eveready and Gelusil into the list.
Share-of-voice certainly had a huge role to play in generating whatever recall these brands enjoyed during the World Cup. Because, as far as the ad industry is concerned, the creatives alone couldn't have pulled the ads through. "I can't remember any that made me sit up and take notice," says Deepa Kakkar, executive national creative director, RKSwamy/BBDO. "Which just shows that for me, there was nothing clutter-breaking. All dot balls." Ravi Deshpande, head of Lemon, shares the view when he says, "Nothing stuck in the mind, which, to be honest, means all of the stuff was very forgettable."
Not everyone is as scathing, however. Samit Sinha, who heads Delhi-based brand consultancy outfit Alchemist Brand Consulting, distinctly remembers the Polo and MAK ads. "They just stood apart because they used the format of the cricket idea, not reliant on cricket, cricketers or the World Cup. They used humour, which is sufficiently different from the rest. I haven't seen MAK's advertising before, so I don't know what the brand is all about, but if this is what they want the MAK brand to be, they have been successful in driving home a point. Polo's advertising has been able to bring out the Polo personality, which is fresh and funny, with a quirky sense of humour. Polo's key difference is the hole, and they have used the ad to drive home that difference well." He admits that most other brands "had the tendency to go into a grey mass" and weren't sufficiently different from one another.
One adman who differs entirely with Sinha is Arvind Mohan, executive planning director, McCann-Erickson. While he thinks the MAK ads are "infantile", he doesn't count Polo among the better ones. "Polo has done better work historically. Polo ads actually amuse you. I don't think it did this time." The two ads that he believes fared better are Hero Honda (‘Team Ambition') and ‘I am Chevrolet'. "These ads tried a new format, a new representational devise, a visual language to make an impact," he says. "They tried to own a space that was distinctive and meaningful." He also thinks SET Max's ‘deewana bana de' ad (‘cricket suprabhaatam') was one of the better pieces of work.
While Suresh Amarnani, vice-president, Quadrant Communications, personally likes the Gelusil ad, as he believes it "achieves a higher residual impact because of the simplicity of its creative idea", he thinks MAK might have something going for it. "I watched it with non-advertising people, and they seemed to like it," he says. "For all you know, it might work in a low involvement category like lubricants."
Varun Mehta, creative consultant, TBWA India, also finds one of the MAK ads (‘googly') funny - because of the execution. "It cracks me up," he says. "I also thought LG's ‘Cricket First' campaign was interesting in the way it took a mature view of putting cricket ahead of everything," he says. "I think LG was also smart by saying they stood for the sport. By not backing any particular team, LG ends up being the winner any which way." Contract Advertising's Creative Director, Parveez Shaikh believes that while no brand managed doing anything remarkable, "among the lot, the Dairy Milk ad was nice". Purely for the record, Reliance Infocomm's ‘Sehwag ki maa' ad is wins hands down - for getting talked about for all the wrong reasons.
For those brands that did cricket-related advertising, there is cause for dismay in something that McCann's Mohan says. Mohan mentioned the Chevrolet ad as being one of the better ads aired during the Cup. The problem is, in all probability, the Chevrolet ad wasn't created keeping the Cup in mind. And even if it was, the fact that some ad folk recalled the advertising for brands that had done nothing cricket- or Cup-centric is bad news for brands that did. Coke's ‘Paanch' ad, Kawasaki Bajaj Caliber (‘Hoodibaba'), Asian Paints (‘har ghar' and ‘Sunil babu'), Mountain Dew and Sprite (these two, especially for the spoofs) were more easily recalled than some of the brands mentioned earlier. Even Clinic All Clear, Thums Up and Fair & Lovely scored to a lesser extent.
Some of this can, of course, be put down to the ‘familiarity factor', but not all of it. The Caliber, Mountain Dew and Sprite ads were laundry fresh. And why should ‘familiarity' apply only to non-cricket/non-Cup ads? Going by that logic, maybe the ads for Pepsi, LG, Samsung et al are being recalled thanks to the advertising they did last year.
The fact those ads that didn't indulge in ‘cricketspeak' won a fair bit of recall opens an interesting avenue of thought…
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