The debate on whether advertising merely reflects society or shapes it is an age-old one. It is believed advertising largely mirrors societal trends rather than shape it. One could argue that public service advertising or generic advertising for a category has the power to change behaviour or attitude that could shape an entire society. Packaged drinking water is ubiquitous in India nowadays; it wasn’t so just a few years ago. It all did begin with advertising that promoted bottled water. But the change could not have happened through advertising alone without the society feeling the need for such a category thanks to their hygiene concerns. Similarly public service advertising that changes behaviour (incidence of drunk driving, as reflected in the hugely successful campaign for TAC, Melbourne) in a society is also a reflection of the society’e need to reduce accidents & deaths.
Advertising reflects the mores of society but it does not influence them.
~ David Ogily
Classic FMCG or consumer goods marketing also seeks to reflect the changing consumer. Marketers and agencies constantly strive to deeply understand the consumer’s motivations and triggers. They are always on the lookout for large societal shifts or trends that can be reflected, or better still, capitalised in advertising. The way women are portrayed in advertising over the years would make an interesting debate (perhaps in another post). Suffice to say that stereotyping of women is rampant in advertising – it is either objectifying her or portraying as the perfect homemaker. But such portrayal is merely a superficial reflection of the consumer. The real challenge is in tapping on a deeper societal change and conveying a brand message that relevantly captures that change.
A recent example of that would the marketing messaging of Fastrack, from Titan; and it is not just about a single ad. It is the overall package – the product, the key message, executions over time and the tone of voice & personality. Over the years, it has pegged its messaging to not just reflect but capture the imagination of youth in India. The ‘Move on’ campaign being a memorable one. Tanishq’s latest ad for wedding jewellery is in the same mould.
Agency: Lowe Lintas
Kudos to the agency for developing the strategy and creative; and to the client team for approving it.