The Unthought Known

Advertising is about many things. Pushing products- selling diapers, cars and Space Tourism. But above all, it remains a quest for one person to convince a large group of people to believe in one idea. The ability to proclaim  that you would feel fairer, taller, stronger, among a host of other adjectives, remains at the core of that idea. 

How to develop this idea, is something creatives and planners strive for all their lives. George Tannenbaum, who deciphers advertising, and copy writing especially, had the following to say in his latest blog post-

What I've found is that most copy is already written. It's buried in the depths of a too-long client brief. It's on page 37 of an annual report. It's in a sales spiel from a company employee. A powerpoint from a "product specialist." It's all around you in a way a building is all around you if you're standing on a pile of bricks.

Our job as creatives is to hear and see everything.

And from that hearing and seeing find a soul. A voice. A cadence. The truth.

It's like writing a biography of an author from reading his books. What is her perspective? Her interests? What pisses her off or makes her laugh? How does she make you laugh?

Because they don't listen, a lot of creators are really decorators.
They put filigree on things, they dress them up. They aren't much more than a fresh coat of trendy paint.

The first ad that came to my mind while reading this was the classic Rolls Royce ad by David Ogilvy-

One of the best known works of Oglivy, one that he chose to put in his bible on the profession- Ogilvy on Advertising- this ad captures the thought of looking at the things already available on the brand one works on. Ogilvy quotes the Technical Editor of THE MOTOR, which must have been an auto magazine in that day. 

Modern day skeptics can obviously say, that this works in a long copy setting, but the thought process remains  the same. Most great advertising, is about understanding and bringing to the fore the unthought known, and yet most brands choose to struggle between work that highlights the obvious knowns- 
The staring-in-your-face USP's, or the crutches of humor or celebrity to anchor their brands. Result- Brand awareness remains high, emotional connections remain low, and customers choose based on the best value proposition in the market, and not on the emotional connect with the brand.

The Missing Cult

In fact, it remains vitally interesting to me to see the number of customers who choose a brand based on the deal  they're getting at a given point in time. Maruti Suzuki, which remains the largest selling auto brand in India, today struggles to actually have an emotional connect with its core audience, and frequently talks about its cars' ability to draw an audience. And yet, leaving out the Swift, none of its cars carry what can be called as a 'cult' appeal. Granted that mass manufacturers of products that sell in convenience category are not supposed to have a 'cult', but nearly 20 years of marketing to the masses, should have made at least one of its cars dear to a specific type of people. Today, each Maruti Car stands for the same thing- a safe choice. 

Global car makers are today making a focussed attempt at marketing to India- right prices, latest designs (as opposed to launching old body types in the Indian market) and a focus on sending the right signals to the market. Volkswagen, with its Polo and Vento is already becoming a clear winner in terms of customer preference in recent months. Absolute numbers tell a story that's different- Maruti has way better distribution and manufacturing capacities, and ability to undercut every player in the market. But the Polo and the Vento are new and shiny- they  belong to the 2010's, unlike every single Maruti car that remains a rehash of its 90's avatar. 

But this is being too simplistic, for this only focusses on the product front. On the advertising front- Volkswagen has tried some basic stunts- The talking ad- they have already focussed on creating a buzz in the market. Why hasn't Maruti tried some stunt ever? Because they can afford to, and choose to, play safe.

The Unthought Known in this case, and in every other case in Indian advertising, remains unexplored, and faded out for the trash we are expected to see.

There are however, a few notable exceptions-

The Chevy Beat, ad by W+K-

and this is the Swift ad-

May be I'm blind. May be I'm just too sceptical. May be I just have a point. And its ironic that the ad for the Swift has the brief and the insight stated on screen. 

What do you think?


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