Guest post: What is an effective creative idea?

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About the author
This is a guest post by Seema Gupta. Mrs. Gupta is a Professor at IIM Bangalore and teaches, consults and trains in Digital Marketing. She writes at her blog – DigitalMarketingTadka.com.

Creative advertising or idea is ‘attention-getting’ and catalytically relevant representation of brand position and NOT straight translation. For an idea to be effective and creative, it has to be generated in a form that is detailed enough to be executed and tested. Additionally, it has to be amenable to multiple executions to prevent wear-out.

New Framework for Creative Advertising – ‘EmBRACED’

1. Engagement: It can be achieved by keeping people at the heart of conversations, by co-creating and by sharing. For example, Reliance when it launched GSM, asked consumers to click on a banner ad and voice of Hrithik Roshan greeted them and asked to provide two numbers – one of self and another of a friend. Thereafter two min free call connected the two friends allowing them to experience Reliance GSM service and allowing Reliance to test its service.

2. Big idea: It is an attention getting way of dramatizing the brand’s key proposition, which is unique and sells. It is also known as consumer insight or Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

Rules for Big Idea are:

a. The idea must be a proposition – a proposal or implied promise to the consumer
b. It has to be unique – a claim that competing brands do not offer
c. It must sell – must be an important driver of purchase intention.

For instance, Cadbury was initially targeted at kids and later when the market saturated, it targeted to adults based on consumer insight that ‘there is a child in each one of us’ and the ad showing a girl dancing in the cricket field to the lyrics “asli swaadh zindaki ka”. After few years again the brand arrived at another big idea of making Cadburys synonymous with sweets and associated itself with festivals as sweets are an integral part of Indian festival celebrations with the campaign ‘kuch meetha ho jai.’

3. Relevance: It is the usefulness and appropriateness of an advertisement or a brand to the consumer. The brand should connect at a personal level.

For example, ‘A day in the life of Chennai‘ by Times of India used NaakaMukka, (meaning mother tongue, father nose), is a phrase used in a folk Tamil song capturing the duality of life. It became the basis of the campaign to launch Times of India in Chennai (considered to be dominated by Hindu that claimed that only it understands the Tamil culture) in 2008 to coincide with the anniversary of the city of Chennai. The big idea in the ad is the story of actor-turned politicians, which is an integral part of Chennai politics, starting with M.G. Ramachandran to Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi. They become popular film celebrities and win adulation of people and then enter politics and engage in misdeeds and the same public then burns their effigies. Hence people were shown to be the ultimate jury. The originality of the ad comes from its rawness, which depicted in many ways the culture of Chennai – from the busy by lanes to the bustling markets. The background score “NakkaMukka” brings a healthy downpour of local flavor to the ad. TOI ad was successful as it was relevant to the local people through the film content, narrative, music, and visual storytelling.

4. Aesthetics: The creative advertising has to be well designed and stylish. It is not a matter of beauty but of harmonious construction. For example, in the Old Spice ad ‘The man, your man could smell like’ Isaiah Mustafa symbolizes sex appeal and moves seamlessly from bathroom to atop a horse and then in a boat. The underlying message of sexuality was communicated aesthetically with the help of symbols such as Oyster (an aphrodisiac), riding of a horse and wrapped in a towel. The ad was targeted at females who would buy the male body wash for their men and the ad succeeded as it turned around the fortunes of a trailing brand.

5. Complexity: The creative advertising must be able to convey multiple meanings, see product in new light and it must have novel combinations of elements. Polysemic incongruity may be there when certain elements used in ad are bearers of meaning other than the one they usually have. If consumer resolves incongruity then it leads to sense of self-esteem and positive affective reactions.

Taj Image Via.

For instance the Taj ad signifies the grandiosity and sheer size of a Taj Luxury Hotel where men and women clad in business suits are sitting atop an elephant and playing polo. It combines unrelated ideas of business travel and entertainment and ‘foreign ’ and ‘Indian’ (elephants and polo). This synthesis gives the ad a creative streak and makes it visually appealing and eye catching.

6. Elaboration: Ads must contain unexpected details or finish and extend basic ideas so they become more intricate, complicated or sophisticated. An example of Happydent can be illustrated here. The ad shows how Happy Dent is employed by servants for various lighting needs. The ad begins with a man on a bicycle who seems to be running late for an errand. The man keeps on running, after his cycle breaks down, crossing people similar in clothing and looks to him perched upon streetlights, on garden lights by the pool side, finally reaching an ornate palace. Here, too, there are people perched on pillars, even on a table under a lamp shade and hanging from a chandelier. Underneath the chandelier is a dozing king about to be served his meal. The latecomer pops a Happy dent in his mouth, mounts the chandelier and flashes his dazzling white teeth all in one fluid movement, setting off a chain reaction in all those precariously balanced men, thus lighting up not just the palace, but the whole kingdom. The music brings about a metaphysical effect required to lend credibility and to build the suspense. The line that goes is: ‘Tera tan roshan, tera man roshan… to jahanroshan’. The ad seems to be based in early twentieth century in a princely state of India, what with the car and clothing. This is to lend authenticity of the need to employ humans as means of lighting. The servants shown in the film are trained malkhamb (an ancient form of Indian gymnastics).

7. Divergence: The ad has to be original, surprising and novel. An interesting campaign was done by a theatre ‘Hutch Ranga Shankara’ to promote their theatre festival. Everyone loves drama, be it in cinema or real life. Based on this insight, they planted professional actors in various locations to enact scenes from real life. One from those was a husband and a wife sitting in a restaurant and fighting when suddenly the wife slaps him and leaves the place. The audience was unaware they were staged and got completely involved in the drama. At this point, they held out boards that read, ‘For more drama, come to Ranga Shankara’ and distributed leaflets with the festival schedule.

Marketers can make creative ads if they excel in one or two elements of the EmBRACED framework. They should not target excelling in all, as that is not possible.

The framework has been adapted from Smith, Mackenzie etal, (2007). Modelling the Determinants and Effects of Creativity in Advertising, Marketing Science, Vol 26, No. 6.

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