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Creative Marketing

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 What is driving marketing communication today — creative or strategy? A lively discussion on this much-debated topic was a fitting launch pad for the sixth edition of Businessworld Marketing Whitebook 2010-2011 at ITC’s Grand Central, Mumbai. Top media and marketing professionals gathered for the unveiling of the book that focuses on buying behaviour and consumption trends in different service and product markets.

The panel discussion, anchored by Suhel Seth, managing partner, Counselage India, saw spirited participation of the luminaries of the marketing world. Among them were Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director, Ogilvy & Mather-South Asia and India; Arvind Sharma, chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett India; Shashi Sinha, CEO, Lodestar Universal; Karthi Kumar Marshan, head-group marketing, Kotak Mahindra Bank; and Rajesh Jejurikar, chief of operations-automotive sector, Mahindra & Mahindra.
The point of contention was, what comes first: creative or strategy? Jejurikar said that in an ideal world, communications are based on strategy. However, due to little product differentiation, one is faced with a challenge of tailoring the strategy for an overcrowded market. In such cases, he suggested, one should do an exciting creative that will help break through the clutter. Piyush Pandey was quite clear that strategy and creative are inseparable. Giving an example of the Nirma washing powder campaign, which started off with radio jingles and then went to television quite early, he said that the idea was to capture the consumer’s interest and get dealers to stock their product — and it worked.
Shashi Sinha favoured creativity as the main driver for marketing communication. He said that while one may say polite things about the balance between creative and strategy, at the end of the day what matters is what the consumer sees on screen. He asked Pandey, what was the strategy behind the Kuch Khaas Hai Zindagi Mein advertisement of Cadbury, which had a girl eating the chocolate, dancing and evoking an emotion of ultimate joy for 13 seconds? The advertisement captured the imagination of consumers because of the creative. Therefore, it is the creative which will drive the show, strategy may play a role in the creative development process — it is a building block, but what we see is what matters.
Continuing on this line of thought, Arvind Sharma said that basically everything we do hinges on: who are we talking to? What are we saying to them? How are we saying it and how are we placing it? Sometimes planners and marketers answer these questions. So, they are all critical elements in the process. He agreed with Pandey’s thought that at the end of the day teams huddle and come up with the answers.
Karthi Kumar Marshan had a very interesting anecdote to narrate. He said that in his first campaign for Kotak, which he personally endorsed and produced, one out of three people mistook the campaign to be that of ICICI Bank. He added that advertising is about getting people to take notice of one’s brand and have a preference or liking for it. But data shows that in celebrity endorsements, 80 per cent of the people remembered the advertisement but not the product. So, if one is putting money on the table for people to come up with an idea, the least one can expect is that people remember it, otherwise why spend so much money on campaigns?
Suhel Seth wrapped up the session by observing that ultimately we are in the business of market creation and increasing market share. It is not about which brand won the most awards, it is about growing your market share.
The interactive session with the audience saw some interesting queries. A young executive from Kaya said in an advertisement for baby products, the baby looks at the creative and the mother looks at the strategy — so how does one address the gap between the two? Pandey responded saying that planners did not really follow this thought process while creating advertisements for baby products. Jejurikar said the advertisement for their Scorpio car, showing cars coming out of tennis courts, was not aimed at children, but it caught the imagination of children. There were many instances of children forcing their parents to buy the car.
The finale of the evening was unveiling of the Marketing Whitebook. The panellists were joined by Prathmesh Mishra, AVP-operations (western region) Pernod Ricard India, and D.D. Purkayastha, managing director and CEO, ABP Group to do the honours. Five people won return tickets to Goa sponsored by SpiceJet along with a copy of the Marketing Whitebook priced at Rs 499, in the lucky draw. The presenting sponsor for the evening was Seagram’s Blenders Pride and associate sponsors were DELL and EIILM.
(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 08-02-2010)