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Seduce rather than sell, Bakshi at Ad Club's 2002 review

MUMBAI: The Ad Club Mumbai Ad Review is becoming one of these eagerly awaited opportunities for the advertising and marketing fraternity to get together and take stock of what's going on in the business. And this was more than evident in the 2002 Ad Review which was presented by marketing maven Rajeev Bakshi, the chairman of Pepsico India at Mumbai's Taj President Hotel on 17 February.

Present in the audience were several top advertising head honchos, big wigs from the print media, advertisers, mid-level media, creative and client servicing professionals.

    "The year 2002 witnessed unmemorable creatives due to excessive emphasis on promotions and discounts. However, ad agencies captured some of the concepts well"

Bakshi, a "believer in brands and one who supports advertising related risks", gave the marketers viewpoint and refrained from talking about his own company's advertising in 2002. But he immediately plunged into consumer ka Dil kya chahta hai while ably interspersing his presentation with humour (the way he pronounced "SEC C" and made it sound like "sexy").

Bakshi, who admitted that he had received different bits of advice from his peers on how to go about making the annual Ad Review presentation, primarily talked about three major concepts which were evident from the 2002 trends: Youth stretching, Savvy subsisters and excitement around consumerism.

Bakshi mentioned that when one studies the strong undercurrents of "what lies beneath" these 2002 trends, one would get an idea of "what would fit in to the continuum" of ads in the near future.

Speaking to indiantelevision.com, Bakshi said that 2002 witnessed unmemorable creatives due to excessive emphasis on promotions and discounts. However, he added that the above mentioned trends and concepts were captured well by the ad agencies in the year under review.

Bakshi also mentioned that the challenges for the future include: shifting from "selling to seducing" as the excitement in the buying experience is critical; ensuring that "imagination leads to experimentation (on behalf of the consumer) and thereby risks" maintaining a sense of "lightheartedness."

To give you an idea of what he what trying to say, here are some excerpts from Bakshispeak …

Concept one : Youth Stretching

"Youth Stretching" is being pursued like never before and the anthem of this generation could be Aamir Khan singing Kohi Kahe… with gay abandon in the film Dil Chahta Hai.

Some of the characteristics of the "youth stretching" phenomenon are:

* More than 47 per cent of the total TVCs (TV commercials) in 2002 addressed the youth-oriented categories (denims, soft drinks). The year 2002 also witnessed a trend where advertisers projected youthful values even in categories that were traditionally targeted at the older age groups (durables, insurance, banking and finance).

* Indian advertisers must look at maturing as well as younger consumers because the aggregate size of the population in the 25-44 years age group is almost as much as the 5-20 years age group. It is not necessary that Indian advertisers must blindly follow the greying marketing of the developed nations in the west.

* India is still a young country with more than 58 per cent of the population below 20 years. The key is to determine whether the target audiences are young enough to enjoy or old enough to afford.

* The mindset of the first children of liberalisation (who were exposed to a new phase of consumerism in the 1990s) is different. This generation doesn't harbour any guilt in acquiring wealth, showing it off or spending. In fact, even the elder "young-at-hearts" are keen on enjoying youthfulness longer. The Mastercard TVC showing the older male willing to give his wife several joys in life demonstrates this.

* There is a conscious casualness about this generation of people. This generation of "chilled out" adults takes life less seriously. The advertising fraternity reflected these trends by creating ads and TVCs aligned to this way of thinking.

In fact the ICICI Prudential ad (Retirement sirf kaam se) talks about retirement but it isn't about retirement as it shows a relatively younger person. Even Cadbury's chocolate ads showed slightly older people (husband and wife cheating on each other for the sake of their Cadbury Temptations).

* The people belonging to this generation are enthusiastically burying their socialist mentality. They are looking at more opportunities and resources to keep their age at bay.

* There is sense of "youth feel" (entrepreneurial spirit), "youth think" (creativity and imagination) and "youth do" (trying out new things, experimentation and enjoyment) which permeates through all levels.

* The current breed of "young-at-hearts" has a lot of ambition, aspiration and is opportunistic. Its members are not necessarily rebellious but will not cringe from using every trick in the trade to succeed. They relish the prospect of realizing their dreams and aspirations. This was aptly shown in the Standard Chartered Bank (Hoga Hoga) TVC.

* The "young-at-hearts" are also restless despite being successful at a young age. Maruti Udyog's Wagon R TVC showing an architect indulging in pleasures obtained by training his pet Doberman dogs.

* A new phenomenon which was noticed was the death of aukaat(social status). The "young-at-hearts" don't care whether they are living beyond their means; instead they indulge in savvy money management and deal making.

* This generation also believes in networking in a system where the old networks have been pulled down or are no longer valid. This was effectively portrayed by the Bacardi Breezer TVC.

* The current generation also accepts western experiences (cuisines, fashion, recreation) with a certain degree of rigidity - without compromising on traditional Indian norms.

* It tries hard to avoid culture conflict. India's level of absorption of global trends versus confidence of culture shows it being placed between the rigid countries (Vietnam, Malaysia) and the progressive countries (Singapore, Hong Kong in China and Taiwanese youth). This was amply demonstrated by the Pizza Hut's masala pizza TVC. In fact, several western food joints in Delhi switched over to chicken tikka within a month and deviated away from their westernized offerings.

* This generation is a complex blend of modernism and neo-traditionalism. A person wears a Versace designer outfit one day and then goes to Vaishno Devi the next day.

* In fact, traditional values have been given a new meaning and are being interpreted differently. For instance, patriotism today is not about nationalism - it is something which instills a sense of pride in being an Indian (Sabeer Bhatia is a role model for this generation who believe that Indians can do anything).

* There is an increased commitment towards nuclear families (although joint families are breaking down) with males and females taking equal responsibility in sharing all the household duties.

* The current generation is also adapting itself to the e-communities syndrome with "cellular relationships" and "e-mail or chat relationships". In fact, effective communication has ensured that the cellular phone has been transformed from a cold business tool to an agent of enjoyment. Consider the popularity of the Samsung N620 "Ring Sing" TVC. The Nokia 8910 Titanium TVC could be considered as a metaphor for virtual proximity.

* There is more openness and fewer inhibitions. Take for instance, the success of a bold-themed film like Jism which hasn't evoked any protests from the consumer activists.

* The new breed of consumers believes that life is no longer about being a spectator. It seeks active enjoyment and bonding with brands.

* Advertising also used the element of "flirtation" with Shahrukh Khan wooing Preity Zinta with the Hyundai Santro Zipplus TVC.

* Clearly, advertising instilled a sense of "the way you look is what you are" - ably demonstrated by the Clinic All Clear TVC.

* But advertising in 2002 also impressed the significance of "simple concerns being real concerns" as demonstrated by the Fair & Lovely TVC.

Concept two: Savvy subsisters - emergence of SEC C

The important phenomenon witnessed in 2002 was the emergence of SEC C (socio-economic class) and its ability to challenge the SEC AB groups. In fact, SEC C symbolizes "a dream world of possibility rather than the real world of probability".

Bakshi showed a clip from Mira Nair's movie Monsoon Wedding and its memorable character PK Dubey (brilliantly portrayed by Vijay Raaz) to signal the emergence of SEC C. Dubey has an e-mail ID printed on his visiting card but doesn't know how to pronounce the same; whereas the maid servant who he is trying to woo is familiar with the term!

Bakshi argued that the SEC C consumer in India "mocks Maslow's hierarchy"

* In terms of media exposure, SEC C is catching up with SEC A and B. SEC C people are getting brand conscious and fussier about brands. They have started dressing well and eating out. They are acquiring white-collar paraphernalia.

* The number of bike owners and car owners in SEC C has increased by over 500 per cent. Ditto for several other categories which were considered to be the fiefdom of SEC AB.

* Images of the teasing fun-filled family need not be associated with the SECA people but appeal to SEC C as well. In fact, the Whirlpool (consumer durable major) family's fast forward ice TVC has drawn a good response from SEC C.

* Ads directed at SEC A obtained better recall amongst SEC C. Does this show that broadbasing of TVCs at multiple audiences has become a challenge which ad agencies must take up?

* SEC C people seek more enjoyment and liberation from everyday grit. The LML Freedom TVC captures this trend well and also drew a good response.

* Familiar faces and universal spaces bring aspirational brands closer to the SEC C target audience. For instance, Anupam Kher's Close Up Lemon Gel toothpaste TVC could be a good example of this trend.

* SEC C is also being seduced by charismatic reality as shown in the Sunsilk shampoo hair TVC.

* SEC C also believes in the "buy now pay later" syndrome. They have moved away from the "fear to dream" complex.

* SEC C has started looking for more ways to "power the engine of their aspiration".

Concept three: Excitement around consumerism

In 2002, the main challenges for ad agencies was to create communication which appeals to different aspirations of a segmented consumers and powers their insatiable demands. At the same, the creatives had to stick to neo-conservatism. The key aspect was customer retention at any cost. In fact, the BJP government has coined a new phrase to the middle classes - namely the productive classes.

The main characteristics of the advertising that should propel a new wave of excitement around consumerism include

* From just 'mmm' to 'wow' - Center Shock chewing gum's local TVC which cuts across all SECs.

* Excitement around adventure - the new global Landrover MUV ad

* Vicarious excitement - Monopoly's global ad revolving around a sibling who doesn't feel guilty of grabbing money from her own father.

* Excitement of "out there attitude" - Levi Strauss flyweight jeans' global TVC.

* Excitement of obsession

* Excitement beyond cricket - Nike's new TAG TVC.

There is a need to come up with new variants (Pepsi blue could be a striking example) and discover connotations of what constitutes typical Indian humour. There is also a need for advertising to create mega spectacles - something which hasn't been noticed in India (on screen as well as off screen) recently.

The writing is clearly on the wall for ad agency professionals

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