Guest Column: To win and how to win - The always good question in advertising

Advertising - the shiny shop front of marketing, is famously not a fixed entity.

It moves, morphs, adapts, transfigures, gets deformed and always rests with a new face every few months.

Cycle. Repeat.

Whenever one tries to make an educated guess about a fundamental characteristic of something that is defined by constant variability, it's like randomly pointing a camera at a crowd and expecting to find a familiar face in the photograph.

The more people you know, better your chances of finding a familiar face. ‘How much you know’ then becomes a coveted skill.

The fundamental hypothetical to ponder today is
'what will win an award?'

Before daring to design a blueprint for this conceptual palace called ‘award-winning campaign’, I find it’s always better to first walk around the house that advertising already lives in –the house called ‘culture’.

Every cornerstone of cultural taste-making has undergone an upheaval in the recent past. From the glamour-stricken winners of the Oscars and the Grammys to the casually serious rules of who gets to be a YouTube/Instagram celebrity and even the matter-of-fact question of which type of scientific research gets awarded the big grants and which branch of science and scientist gets more air time; we will find a thread running across and even, remotely, connecting each and every sphere – a craving for gravitas.

Gravitas, that can lift one above the din that’s created by rote abuse of the pithy mantra 'content is king' to the extent that we are all serfs to shallow engagement.

There's a growing awareness and an exponentially increasing proof that the mirror has finally become the subject - that society has started reflecting advertising as much as an ad poaches from society.

With great power is supposed to come great responsibility only after one realises that responsible wielding of power is actually an option.

The ad-world at large seems to have acknowledged and accepted its role in the cultural spotlight.

Here are three simple thumb rules that I've found to be effective not just in creative award-thinking but also in putting every creative in a state of existential paralysis on the way to a breakthrough campaign idea.

Strive for genuine NOT just new

There’s no shortage of novelty ideas and innovations. If an idea is not based on ‘genuine’ insight aiming for ‘genuine’ impact, it’s just ‘new’ for ‘new’s sake

Be transformative NOT participative

It’s increasingly easy for everyone to participate. Not just in ones and twos but en-masse. One more participant will not make a difference and only ads that make a difference are worth their wins. The aim should be to change the way something is perceived or re-write the rules of normal

Memorable, yes, but memorable for what?

What is the ‘one’ thing about the ad that will stay long after the ad is over? Is that ‘one’ thing deserving of accolades?

All of this is written with the knowledge that data will show the way, but planning, media and copy will have to walk the way together.

Big Data has given way to Big Culture.

Just as an algorithm can find the most important piece of information in seeming junk data, well-intuited advertising can point to hidden sense in the most obscure and absurd piece of culture by elevating it to the heights of artistic merit and genuine impact.

So, to all the media planners, copywriters and data scientists working unsurely on the next campaign; if you hold in your hands a thread that no one but you could have found, just give it a bold and confident tug.

Awards will come.

(The author is the AVP, Creative Strategy - WATConsult. The views expressed are personal and may not subscribe to them)

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