Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Back from the graveyard

To be honest, I have been neglecting this blog. I wanted to write, but I ended up ranting, putting up really boring stuff... and, voila, no readers. Excuse me, people. I believe I have managed to wake (no telling what a healthy dose of bad coffee can do).

Therefore, I'm back. Bigger, better, brighter. It's a new me and new blog. Am I changing the format? Possibly not. Am I changing the content? Definitely.

Hurry now. This offer lasts until the stock runs out. Get your stuff today. Free.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fact and factories

I see a few different types of planning departments at work. Some of them are part of huge assembly line that we call an advertising agency. Others work as a convergent point for the a discipline we call advertising. Yet others work as a supplementary service for the core advertising practices. And, of course, there's a final type, like my very own department, that keeps shifting its role.

The assembly line planners live as part of a smooth machine that flows from client to servicing, from servicing to planning, from planning to creatives, from creatives to servicing again, then to production, events and whatever.

The convergent planners serve as a think tank for servicing, creatives, research, events and even the production departments, and the machine is laid out in a spherical format, not a linear one.

And... *sigh*... those poor planners who work in a dark dinghy corner on the factory floor, to be summoned if and when they are required... I don't even know how I'd describe their job. These shops, no matter how well running, are probably cottage industries, not destined to become any proposition of magnitude (emphasis on probably).

Strangely enough, there are planners available, as it seems, for each of the situations. There are those who would prefer to work as part of an assembly line, free of worries of exploration and always with their work clearly cut-out by somebody else (managers, service people, clients... whoever, as long it is somebody else, it's fine). Born to bear the flag of mediocrity and never accomplishing anything bigger than a pay hike, these planners probably would always remain the mainstay of the industry.

The convergence planners are a rare breed, and not surprisingly most of these people end up writing best sellers or making headline news (positive news, dude, not a dope scandal). Naturally they may face a resistance, of different magnitude, from even their own agencies. But, when that obstacle doesn't exist or is removed they tend to move on to the Olympus (Mythili Chandrashekhar, Martin Lindstrom, Al Ries).

And, the cave-dwelling planners? Well, those lazy bums are there just because their agencies felt they need planners (it's kind of fashionable too) and they applied because they were just looking for a job, any job. Now that their only experience is of planning, they are kind of stuck with it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Not much meaningful anyways

There is no meaning. There are only associations. All the concepts we use are meaningful only in the context of what we associate with them. To a kid who never seen a bird, apart from the sorry fellows living in his father's poultry a bird would not mean flight, much less freedom. In England they have a dozen words (hence a dozen concepts) to identify rain in multiple forms. In Bangladesh we have two dozen words to mean love, and all mean something slightly different from the other.

Advertising people know that. And, that's why the fight is always on to associate brands with stuff that we find relevant. Associating Mountain Dew with extreme sports and associating Lux with Aishwaryia Rai are only two examples. There are so many ways to do exactly that. Banglalink has chosen and extensively used a warm, vibrant and friendly color. Pepsi has used images of high energy fun in everything. Coca-cola has built stories around the word "thanda". Levis has used sizzling models through and through.

The problem begins when the association becomes "it" for a brand. Take Grameenphone for an example. The theme of Stay Close has become so all encompassing for them that no other value, no other story or no other image gets even the slightest of chance there. Good for a short burst. But pretty bad for long term brand building, eh? The same goes for the new Arku Spice campaign. Nice that someone is associating the color red with a campaign for chili powder brand. But, what to say when there's nothing else to it?

Why don't we remember that the audience of today are already tired of the information clutter around them. MTV has brought down our attention span down to a maximum of 3 minutes, and an average of 600 commercial stimuli has taken our capacity to retain to a new height of fragmentation. We are easily bored and we don't care to remember anything for long. Yesterday is always one year back, and the likeability for even the most popular commercials hardly go beyond 3 months. The question is simple - do we really need to overkill an association and make the audience filter it automatically out as garbage? Or do we build on powerful stories and images that are always fresh and innovative while keeping the associative stuff in the background?

It's easy to get associated with boredom and overbearing. You don't even have to try for it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Let's reinvent the wheel

So, I keep hearing this again and again and again and again - "Let's not reinvent the wheel." I hear it so often that I often feel the urge to shove the wise-guys cracking the wheel line under the wheels of a railcar or something. Damn them, and damn the advise to not invent the wheel. Let's never shy away from reinventing the wheel. It might bring quite a few practical benefits:

  • An alternative design: A square wheel may be no good for a cart, but it may come mighty useful in a locking mechanism or some other machine.
  • An alternative material: A wheel made of cotton may be of no use outdoors, but in a hospital or something it might come very useful.
  • An alternative process: Burning a wheel may be very useful when you need to speed up the process, instead of curving it.

And, above all you can always have the joy in knowing that your superior intelligence have never depended on someone else to invent the wheel for you. Cheers.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Look, Mummy. There's an airplane up in the sky.

This came to me so suddenly that I had to put it down. Forgive me if I'm grossly wrong. This is how I decided to define the three key components of an agency:

Servicing: Always speaks in a manner that spells "I know" (it's helpful to induce confidence as much possible). Core competence ideally should be people skill and organization.
Creative: Always speaks in a manner that spells "I don't know" (it's fine to be oblivious of reason as long the gut ruts in the right way). Core competence should ideally be imagination and a skill to express that imagination (through writing, designing, singing, whatever).
Planning: Always speaks in a manner that spells "I shall find out". Core competence should be analytical abilities and a very steep learning curve.

I kept the skill to understand brands and the skill to judge communication out of this, as both would apply to all three groups. Now, can I go and hang myself from the next street lamp for the sin of stating the obvious?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

C what I mean?

After a long time, posting something to with planning. It's about the 5 "C"s I've found absolutely necessary for good planning:

Category Insight: How does products and brands behave in a category. That category could be something as wide as "FMCG" or something as narrow as high-end mobile mobile handsets. The client should be able to help with buying habits, market challenges, competitions' strengths, and more. A retail survey and household survey should also be able to help at that. Quantitative? Qualitative? I'd say both.
Consumer Insight: The tricky part, and total planning job. Mining for consumer insights isn't an easy job. Conventional marketing and behavioral research may not deliver the appropriate insight at all. An entire range of stuff - from experiencing the consumer with and open mind and an open heart to taking a look at biological features of psychology - may be needed before coming to the the insight to make or break history. This alone is enough to keep the planner busy with both high-end studies and living a fully social life. Surprise draws attention, but meeting expectations works to hold them on.
Cultural Insight: Never to forget that the homo sapience is a social and cultural being, evolving fast in the cultural direction. There has to be solid insights into emerging trends as well as cultural bedrocks, hallmarks and landscape of the field of operation. Even at a global scale this is a total necessity. It is often wiser to ride on the existing cultural paradigm than to fight it. You really don't want to interrupt you audience who is already pressed against time and fighting against your thousands of competitors trying grab their attention.
Communication Insight: Competition mapping for an advertising professional isn't really about the merchandise they are selling, rather it is the communication they are selling. I'll strongly insist upon that we don't get carried away by the "creativity" of some of the communication that come out. It is important to draw attention and "disrupt", but are measuring these communication for their impact (i.e. is it translating into trial or retention?) and, of course, their shelf life. Even the most memorable works of advertisement these days hardly have a shelf life of more than three months. The clutter and the race towards greater creativity is just getting way too much. Sometimes it might help us to be completely non-creative, if we are sure of what we are doing.
(and last, but not the least) Client Insight: The client is a many headed beast. Living too close to the brand and burdened with business cases, they mostly miss all the points there are. It is primarily important to understand how far the client is ready to go and what syntax would get through the client's cute little head. Without this there is no selling of creative material or strategies. The consumer/audience don't give a flying rat's ass to what the CCO or CMO of a company is going through, but they do care about the creative material they experience. And, at that lies the Achilles' Heals of advertising. Damn.

Consumer Insight I can manage most of the times. Cultural Insights I devise out of thin air. Category Insights I have on an on-and-off basis. Communication Insight I can borrow. But, that last-but-not-the-least Insight I never get, almost. Sad.