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  • Writer's pictureSamradni

Seducing Strangers: What goes behind an advertising campaign?

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

If you are one of those, who really admire the advertising industry, then you must have surely watched the‘Mad Men’ series.

If you are someone who has just developed some interest in the field of advertising then, you must go and watch the ‘Mad Men’ series.

Either way, it’s a must.

It’s a little dated, sure, but it gives you a realistic understanding of ‘What’s it like working in an advertising agency?’

This blog post is a little different than the ones I’ve written before; this will have examples from my journey in advertising as well as a few other brand examples.

The book that I will be covering in this blog is ‘Seducing Strangers’ by Josh Weltman. The author of the book was also a part of the ‘Mad Men’ crew and was responsible to provide inputs that are in sync with what actually takes place in an advertising agency!

The book covers various instances from the author’s life in advertising, and what’s great, is that I could relate to them so well.

It’s something I have encountered myself, right from the part of crazy deadlines to meet, market researches to understand exactly what the consumer is trying to tell, and of course loving your client when in reality, you hate them!

Let me start with a quote from the book “When I get asked…what’s the secret to success? I just say, Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise!”

Let’s look at the top 5 instances from the book which made an instant connection with me.

1. The great Bill Bernbach, founder and creative director of Doyle Dane Bernbach, once said: “Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.” He meant that if you get out there with a compelling promise and the product fails to live up to expectations, it’s doomed.

Back in 2015 while I was working at Lowe Lintas, I was assigned three HUL brands to work with.

One of them was Pepsodent.

Now let’s look at the category of toothpaste in India, its dominated by Colgate with a market share of over 50%*.

Pepsodent had to come up with a new campaign that positioned the brand as ‘New and improved Pepsodent’.

We conducted multiple market research analysis to figure out what works for Colgate users and what works differently for people currently using Pepsodent.

We came up with multiple insights, the communication we came up with is the one given below- have a look

From the first look of it, it clearly points out the problems you might be facing and the solution for that is Pepsodent.

However, an important point to note is that communication is just one part, how well your product performs is still the most crucial thing.

Even if the consumer was satisfied with the ad and wanted to try out the product, it eventually depends on whether the product satisfied the consumer to have repeat sales. The campaign did not help increase the sales as much as we expected it to.

Because the fact of the matter is that multiple kinds of research may not still work for the brand, does that make the advertising bad? No.

Does that make your product bad? Not really.

It’s possibly just not working the way you expect it to. You maybe need to work harder.

2. Discovering the one thing that makes customers tick that no one else has ever figured out is what ad agencies refer to as the consumer insight, and it’s the single most important element in the development of effective communication.

“Aur janaab… kya chal raha hai?” “Fogg chal raha hai!”

This is one of my favorite case studies to analyze, how a new brand like Fogg took over the FMCG giant Axe in the deodorant segment.

What was their unique insight that they chose to focus on?

The fact that consumers need long-lasting deodorants, however, they are not aware that the brands they are currently using are ‘gas-based’ which reduces the duration of time till the fragrance lasts.

Comes in Fogg, with their bold claim, shaking the consumer to sit upright and realize what they are missing out on.

Their ad communication highlighted this so well, and the results are clear, today Fogg holds the largest share in its category 18%*

3. The money is in telling people they’re right and to keep on doing what they’re doing—preferably with your particular brand, product, or service.

I was working at Lowe Lintas around the same time that another team from my unit was working on this ad campaign for Freecharge.

If you haven’t seen this ad, go ahead and do that first-

The focus of the entire team was to strike the right chord with its target audience, the millennials.

Now when you are communicating to the target audience which is already evolved, knows the right things to do, etc. You cannot possibly preach them, the communication needs to be tweaked in a way that it resonates with them.

The ad captured all the right taunts that Indian kids face from their parents, this was a great link that they established.

The brand did not go around telling people, what you are doing is wrong.

Consumers were already recharging their phones from various apps, they were now just asked to move to FreeCharge to do the same.

4. There’s no reason to keep trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. It’s a lot easier to change the shape of the hole.

While working at Ogilvy & Mather, I was working on a brand campaign for Lodha real estate.

Now when it comes to advertising for real estate, the game is very different.

There is no impulse buying here, so you are expecting your communication to be so strong that a person wishes to invest 5cr or more into your property.

During the time we came up with this campaign, the field was flooded with many real estate players talking about their amenities, their location, etc. but Lodha wanted to stand out.

We couldn’t possibly communicate the same thing that others were talking about. So we introduced the concept of a correlation- living at a Lodha property is like living in your own castle.

We changed the shape of the hole, have a look below-

5. The people you’re presenting to may not like your ideas for the same reasons you like them, but if you find a relevant general principle or insight on which everyone in the room can agree, you’re halfway home.

Working for an NGO is a different feeling altogether.

Lots of parameters involved, right from the fact that you are short on budget, you need to move consumers to act in an area that is not that welcome.

While working at Ogilvy & Mather, I was privileged to be given an opportunity to work for an NGO- The Akanksha Foundation.

It works towards providing quality education to children.

If you ask people to come forward and teach at an NGO, they may not react as well.

But if you find a common ground where you highlight how easy it is to ensure you contribute towards someone’s learnings, you can notice a difference.

Look at the campaign we came up with

The aim was to showcase famous personalities from various streams, coming forward and spending some time teaching at an Akanksha foundation school.

Now, it was important to ensure that these are famous personalities, or else the ‘influencer marketing’ would not be applied here.

Within a short span of the campaign release, the number of teacher applications went up.

The main reason being, the focus of ‘it doesn’t take a lot of time’ instead of just straight away talking about ‘come and help an NGO’.

This project also won an EFFIE award, and even today it holds a place very close to my heart.

To conclude, every advertising campaign goes through a lot of effort from both the client-side as well as the agency side. It's all about analyzing which one made the cut, and which one slacked to learn from each other.

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