If you live in India, you could not have missed the ‘topical’ ads from brands with an Independence Day message. Virtually all brands – from bathroom fittings to durables, Chinese & Korean brands included carried out an ad linked to the day.
As Brand Equity pointed out, ‘Independence Day brings out the worst in brands‘. I can’t fathom the ROI brand teams expect or track out of such activities. A simple, ‘how does this advert benefit my brand?’ is usually asked of the agency and agonised over many meetings before any investment? Why is it different with topical ads linked to Independence Day or Republic Day? Take the Oyo Rooms ‘branded content’ (I guess that’s what it would be called) for example. It certainly would not be a cheap affair given the celebrity casting. The film has no link to the brand or category which it is in. We’ve seen a tangential reference to the category or brand in some films, which are high on entertainment quotient – the reference to ‘Shhhh’ in a film sponsored by Schweppes or the reference to a drink in the short films sponsored by Royal Stag, come to mind. The Oyo film had none of it. If awareness was the objective, it was a pretty expensive way to achieve it.
Topical ads, when done right work well for the brand. The operative word, being the ‘brand’. As I said earlier, topical ads link a brand to the news of the day and can deliver far greater impact than regular one-off ads. Most of the ‘topical’ ads related to Independence Day have a forced reference to freedom and little or no link to the brand. And with virtually every brand creating such ads, it is a blind spot with hardly any ad being noticed (which is the first requirement) – right down to the mandatory use of tricolour. So why do brands still do it? It is the ‘fear of missing out‘. Brand managers have to justify what they did during such topical events and the easiest way out is to get the agency to do ‘something’. And the fear of missing out on an opportunity (however irrelevant and ‘false’) drives such activities. What say?