Mahadev Srivatsa
Guest Article

Advertising binge and cringe - spotlight on ed-tech

It's high time ed-tech sees a 'har ghar kuchh kehta hai' or ‘fevicol ka mazboot jod hai, tootega nahi’ kind of campaign, says our guest author.

Ever watched an ad and wondered, when will this ordeal end? Or, did an ad get you hooked right from the word go, with you humming the jingle or voicing the punchline, that eventually became a part of your memory? That is the power of advertising.

The exciting world of ad films is an adrenaline roller coaster. From the storyboard to the execution, the main aim of creating ads is to present the brand in a way that it becomes memorable.

In many cases, an ad has become synonymous with the product itself. An impactful ‘taste the thunder’, ‘secret of my energy’ or ‘the mint with the hole’ immediately conjures up an image of the product in your mind. The emotions a communication conjures mostly stir your like or dislike of the brand almost instantly.

In this age of social media, these opinions very soon can become viral and impact brand imagery. Enough reason for marketers to not invoke any cringe or negative emotions.

Marketers work relentlessly to create visibility for their brand and its proposition within the already cluttered space. Given the advertising clutter around most media properties, their creativity is all the more put to test when the communication breaks. First, the ad needs to stand out and then effectively deliver the message. And, the customers bear testimony to the win or the failure of the campaign.

Though this goes on and on throughout the year, impact media properties like IPL see the most action. Despite the tournament having two new teams and getting stretched to almost two months this year, the advertising spends are roughly estimated to have grown by 11%.

Given the next five-year IPL media bids have created new records, it's a testament to the fact that it still is the most preferred medium for marketers for a cricket-crazy nation like ours. No wonder, every year, IPL matches look like an advertising blitzkrieg, with more ads than the overs bowled in a match.

This year too was no different. There were a plethora of brands vying for consumer attention. While a few delivered memorable campaigns and made us binge, the majority of them made us cringe!

What was a noticeable pattern was that three brands (quite likely amongst the top spenders), all belonging to different industries, stuck to an old formula in advertising - “say it thrice/repeatedly to make it stick.” Given the spends at disposal, these brands should have definitely invested more on the idea and creative piece, rather than burdening the media planner for impact alone. This results in an absolute cringe.

However, over the years, every industry has produced memorable communication, while these pieces of cringe continue to pepper on. So far, the only exception, unfortunately, remains ed-tech.

Ed-tech may be in an evolving stage, but spending is not. Over the last three years, the spends by incumbent ed-tech brands have dominated IPL and many premium media properties.

Advertising is an old art, and it is yet surprising to see many players with deep pockets go downhill with their ad campaigns. Instead of showcasing the product with innovation and out of the box thinking, consumers are served the done-to-death formula of using a celeb ambassador, who may have no connection with learning and education.

False promises, claims of exponential success, poor copy, bad picturisation, inappropriate casting, etc., result in a massive cringe, one that all of us, including the consumers, have grown past. Plastering of top scorers on billboards and print, fostering a fear-led narrative for competitive exams, are all ideas that are done to death and need a fresh and more positive outlook.

On a positive note, lately, one of the players focussed on providing higher education, came up with a campaign thought that was well crafted and executed. It also extended the same thought using a celeb, making him an inherent part of the idea, rather than a force fit.

In my opinion, this is surely a binge. For any advertiser, it is a delight to tick all the boxes off the checklist - from worthwhile storytelling to conceptualisation to visualisation, followed by a clear call-to-action.

The point here is that today, we are equipped with the finest of technology, with an opportunity to communicate with our audiences across various channels. As brand custodians, we have the most exciting opportunity to leave our consumers with an impression of our product and features that will either add value to their lives or leave them with a memory of the brand.

So, rather than repeatedly bombarding ads across consumer mediums, ed-tech brands need to start thinking long-term and build inspiring pieces of communication to foster a positive image. The very premise of ed-tech is simplified learning and a fun experience, and who better than players in ed-tech to inspire people through wonderful pieces of communication. It's high time we saw a 'har ghar kuchh kehta hai' or ‘Fevicol ka mazboot jod hai, tootega nahi’ kind of inspiring campaign in ed-tech.

Hoping the next season of IPL throws up more binge-worthy and less of cringe-worthy campaigns, especially from all of us in ed-tech. Now that would be a binge-worthy, ‘What an Idea Sirjee’!

(Mahadev Srivatsa is vice president - marketing & brand strategy, Practically)

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