Would you rather love me for 30 secs or a life time?

The debate on whether television and print as a medium is losing its status of Holy Grail in the advertising community, has been on for quite some time now. Industry pundits will throw stats at you (and I won’t) and passionately argue that India unlike the developed countries still nurses an appetite for 30 sec commercials and full page ads.

So marketers still pump in thousands of crores to get ‘eyeballs’. They believe a full page ad in The Times of India will be enough to get the ‘changing Indian woman’ (just dissected the day before in the ppt). 30 or 20 or 10 is really not the point – the secondage never was, question is: “is television enough to anchor your brand in the lives of consumers?”

Here’s my argument:

We live in an age filled with screens. The television is just one of them – you have a mobile phone, possibly a laptop, a iPod, screens at super markets, screens at malls, screens at railway stations. So why stick to one?

The medium was never the big idea. The big idea still has its special place – it is the reason why this industry exists. The question to ask is what am I doing to ‘engage’ my consumers?

I am aware that ‘engagement’ is a word that is thrown loosely in many ppts, briefs and is the 12th man in the deliverables list. If the 11 players don’t work, we will throw in a 12th man to get them a drink. But there are brands that have taken the business of engagement very seriously.

Consider Pampers Parenting Institute. Pampers as we all know are in the business of making diapers. They could have done ads on selling superior quality diapers with multiple claims attached to it – 3 X softer, 10 X dryer etc. Instead they chose to launch a brand property that enabled the brand to reach out to couples who have walked into another phase in their lives – parenting. Pampers took this idea very seriously – the advisory board of the Institute (or Network as they call it now) includes a diverse group of renowned maternal / child health care professionals and advocates

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Pampers (latest TVC)

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Parents can call or log in to enquire about any issue relating to childcare – health, feeding, development, teething, temperament – pretty much everything related to bringing up a child. Sounds like a terrific place to go to or reach out to when I am just about to become a dad – or even at the middle of the night ‘cause I just don’t know how to put my baby to sleep when her mom is away! The connection that the brand makes with me then is invaluable. They never tried to sell me diapers – by putting up this Institute they told me that they understood what I was going through and wanted to share their body of knowledge with me. Thank you Pampers. When I have a child, I will only buy your diapers.

Most marketers lack audacity in today’s marketplace – fancy MBAs don’t teach you how to connect with real people, made of flesh and blood (and not photo shopped or power pointed); how to locate the sweet spot of their lives where you can quietly slip in and have a word with them about how you can be their mate.

Another great way of driving engagement is to include your consumers in what you do. There have been some brands in India, of late, who have done it very successfully – Tata Docomo comes to mind. Starting from playing with their logo, to playing with their jingle, Docomo had the temerity to leave the fate of their brands in the hands of consumers. Of course, they monitored – tweets were promptly replied to even on National Holidays.

What does that tell me as a consumer? It says a lot about the brand – not inaccessible, accommodating, wanting me to engage with them and is even willing to change their business offering per my needs (pay per call, pay only for the sites you visit, make your own plan etc). Did they tell me about the quality of their network? What about 1 paisa, 2 paisa calls? Yes they did, but did not waste full-page ads for it. Even on television, the launch commercials had no classic telecom network provider shots (woman on phone, man chatting, happy family on phone). They defied category codes.

Here are a few other examples of interesting ideas that caught me unawares…I loved it

T-Mobile ‘Angry Birds’ (Barcelona)

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Coke Friendship Machine

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Being audacious is the first step to reach your consumers. I guess as practitioners we all need to understand that our consumers do not have time to listen. They really do not care about what you want to sell them. But if you can reach them at a meaningful place, with a relevant message that makes their lives easier – they will almost always adopt your brand out of love.

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