Festival advertising – lighting up hearts or lightening the wallet?

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This article appeared in Brand Wagon, the advertising & marketing supplement of Financial Express, today.

Is advertising most effective when it changes attitude or changes behaviour? The debate is as old as advertising itself. It is believed by many pundits that an ad that leads to a specific call for action and changes behaviour is far more effective than one that merely changes perception. In other words, getting consumers to fly an airline is better than getting them to believe that the airline offers a superior flying experience. Advertising that focuses on getting consumers to change perception or attitude works on the premise that when the consumer is in the mood for that category, the consumer should be pre-disposed to it or at least have it top of mind. Ads for perfumes, candies, ice creams have very little to offer in terms of differentiation —in these categories, advertising is often the differentiator. In this context, I would imagine that advertising during the festive season should be more suited to changing behaviour. Get consumers to go out and buy a specific brand, since they are in the mood for buying anyway. Several categories are a natural fit to festive season spending – fashion, retail, foods, snacks, beverages, consumer durables and so on.

So, how do ads fare in creating preference for their brands? I haven’t been a regular TV watcher of late and so I am going to write about ads that stand out in my memory. First off the block is the Cadbury’s ‘Iss diwali aap kisse khush karenge?’ campaign, which has been running for a while now. The premise that people do not come out in the open and mingle even during festive times rings true in our days of greetings-through SMS. And the creative device of using two postmen to plot this move is sweet. Talking of sweet, Kurkure is an interesting effort. Their mission to find their way into festive gifts has been on for a couple of years now. One would imagine that this is a long-term effort (Cadbury has been at it for what, eight years now?) but as a consumer the product proposition itself is yet to sink in. The ad starring Juhi is also, um. er…sweet.

On the ‘I-was-also-present-during-festive-ads’ corner, I would place the efforts from one of the cola majors and also a consumer durables brand. In one, there were two cute sardar kids behind whom were some festive lights. And in the other, assorted irons, toasters and such like rotated in front of a camera. They both made me switch channels. So much for advertising that changes behaviour. There were also a couple of full page ads from Korean durables for LCD TVs and such like. All of them seemed similar to me. LG India has a scheme whereby they donate Rs 1 to CRY on your behalf and I got to know this from their site thought it may have been mentioned in the press ad too.

The ads that have been really effective were the ones from retail chains. From Croma to eZone and everyone else in between they crammed the newspaper supplements with offer ads. They weren’t meant to warm the cockles of your heart and appealed straight to the head. I suspect they would be able to work out a reasonably clear link to their sales and the investments.

If advertising is salesmanship in print, I guess the festive season offers the best opportunity. Which brands would make the most of it? Not the ones that limit themselves to showing shiny, happy people in advertising.

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