Of insights and missed opportunities

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A couple of recent TVC’s that I came across made me think about insights and execution. One is for MAX New York Life Insurance and the other for Maggi Cuppa Mania. The Max NY Life is about this guy plunging into a lake for a swim. NOT a favourite of mine but I thought there was a great insight in there. A lot of us do curb our instincts when we have other responsibilities to think of. Not being able to resign from a job for fear of family & financial commitments or settling for something less expensive (as shown in the ad) seem genuine and relatable. A potentially winning insight. But why did the ad leave me cold? Similarly with Maggi Cuppa Mania – the insight of ‘hunger can strike you anytime’ is a universal one and fits in well with the product. But as a viewer I felt the execution could have been madder. Instead of the bee chasing sequence, imagine the scene where Indiana Jones is running to avoid the boulder rolling behind him. If he stops to have a Maggi Cuppa, then it is funny. Or so I think.

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An insight in the advertising context, could be a true and fresh expression of the consumer’s experience with the category or brand. In plain English, it is a response like ‘Ah, that happens to me’ or ”I agree with that’ after seeing the ad. The old Cadbury’s ad (‘Kuch baat hai’) was perhaps based on the insight that there is joy in ‘bringing out the child in adults’ to do things unabashedly, spontaneously. The famous Liril waterfall ad with Karen Lunel was based on the insight that for the average Indian woman, her only private space is in her bathroom – she spends the rest of the day in the midst of her extended family. It is her space & time for fantasy. One little known ad that I thought was insightful is the one for La Salle suitcases. The proposition ‘space for more’ was dovetailed neatly into the insight that on when it comes to travel, there is always that something that you forget to pack or don’t have space for.

Are all succesful ads based on an insight? Perhaps not. But are successful brands built on an insight? Most definitely. Increasingly ads are about entertainment and if they gain acceptability by entertaining why look for an insight? The hugely successful ads for Bingo – did they have an insight? But the brand was created on an insight – Indian consumers were looking for novelty and excitement in existing snacks. The brand delivered with a unique combination of Indian flavours.

But simply having a great insight is not good enough. The creative idea must take that several steps forward. My favourites:

Folgers Coffee

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‘Wake up and smell the coffee’ is a common phrase. The people at Folgers took a cue from that and came up with this insight: even the ‘I-am-not-a-morning-person’ in all of us wake up to coffee. The TVC done in a sappingly sugary manner had cheerful rays of the sun beating down on people, only for them to be annoyed. Thank God for Folgers. Check out their ambient idea featured here. The line says, ‘Up before you want to be?’


Even if they don’t say so (in that rare instance), women always feel that the ultimate symbol of romance is a diamond. The guys see it as a means to ‘have their way’ . Alternately, guy talk would be about ‘If I don’t give her a diamond, forget about the cricket game on TV’. The tagline captured that beautifully and the ad executions have always had that tongu-in-cheek quality about them. This perhaps is the best example of a double-barrelled communication.

According to Wikipedia, ‘the famous advertising line “A Diamond is Forever” (attempting to discourage diamond owners from putting their older diamonds onto the secondary market, thus limiting competition) was coined in 1947 and the company has created many successful campaigns since then. One of the most effective of these has been the marketing of diamonds as a symbol of love and commitment and thus the ideal jewel for an engagement or wedding ring.

California Milk Processor Board (Got Milk?)

I had written about this earlier. Ads across the world have extolled the virtue of milk. The typical consumer reaction was, ‘Yes, I agree with you – milk is good’ but it never moved them to consume more milk or look at it differently. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners took the decision to link it with America’s favorite snack or meal. A cookie without milk is just a cookie. It was captured superbly in the line ‘Got Milk?’. The initial set of ads and bilboards had a half eaten cookie or sandwich along with that thought-provoking poser. They changed the theme (but retained the tag line) recently, perhaps to appeal to the new generation.

Among the Indian examples, I can think of the Effie winning ‘Bindaas Bol’ campaign to encourage men to ask for condoms. It is based on a true insight and the execution was fantastic. Monster’s previous idea of ‘Caught in the wrong job?’ was insightful (wonder why they junked that for their new monstrosity). The ‘Hari Sadu’ ads for naukri were based on a fantastic insight – that people quit their bosses, not their jobs.

Any thoughts on this topic?

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