Subhas Warrier
Guest Article

“I miss the days when we used to develop a good three-month campaign”

As ‘content’ evolves, our guest author reminisces about the good old days of media.

During the satellite TV boom time, the fight was between a 30-second TVC vis-à-vis a media plan that could stretch the media dollar a bit more. Anything more than a 30-second TVC, was a luxury and a bone of contention between the creative heads and the marketing/media minds.

Then came the long format era, a storyteller’s dream come true! It meant the death of the traditional media planner, who used to thrive on the reach and frequency game. We used to use a term called ‘Shovel effect’. The big CPG brands of the world threw their weight around with short edits. In the long format YouTube era, we are suddenly witnessing, dare I say, the death of the CCD (clever creative director), because he can’t think in 30 seconds anymore. Everything is in epic proportion, so much so that I’m now not even sure about the definition of long format.

The question really is, what makes a campaign more memorable, or go viral? Is it 100 TVCs of 20 seconds each in an animated cartoon series format, or an epic five-minute glory of the mobile phone and its bizarre features? I believe this gasping need to go viral is killing the creative challenge that we were traditionally very good at. We forget that the virality of these pieces is short-lived.

I was mostly on the media side of the business for a very long time. I used to have an occasional smug face when the client used to turn to the account director and demand that it is a creative challenge, to fit the storyboard into 25 seconds. So, “can you please find a way because I can’t let my media dollars get chipped away so easily?”

To understand the trends, I scanned through some recent festive commercial messages. I noticed that 75 per cent of the pieces were of epic (in length terms) nature, with a duration of over a minute, and 43 per cent of them were more than two minutes long. I personally feel that half of these random set of communication (not TVCs anymore) pieces, could have been done in under 30 seconds.

Some of my friends in the industry might agree that in advertising, Hinglish has been ‘bastardised’ and it is time to be a little honest with ourselves.

Today, social media, micro-blogs and content syndication are some of the skill sets that we have had to hone. Tweets have become longer, up from 140 to 280 characters.

However, the 140-character trap and the Insta lingo have demolished the language etiquette, hence, making it difficult for the writers to connect meaningfully in the long format. It is also the scale in which petabytes are generated and consumed. We have to write fresh content for an aggressive social media account every 15 minutes in an eight-hour day. There is this mad chase to catch on the trending subjects, day in, day out, almost 24/7, 365 days a year. We are facing burnout much faster these days.

I reminisce about the days when we used to develop a good three-month campaign that was mostly a 30-second TVC. Now, we are churning a series of small campaigns and it runs into reams and reams of content every day. The only thing that has not changed significantly is the remuneration model, or has it? I am afraid we are still fighting the old argument… “Bhai, kitna deta hai,” particularly now with rising gasoline price, while on the other hand getting clobbered with, “Kitne mein dega, bhai?” Paranoia!

Today, we are pitching on elevators all the time. Aren’t we better off with the shotgun treatment of the 30-second TVC that we were formerly known for?

(The author is co-founder of Kochi-based Sensibly Weird Company, a multi-disciplinary creative solutions firm.)

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