Advertising's 'social' connect


K V Sridhar Mumbai
We’ve done well at Cannes so far. If I may put it bluntly: We are in our comfort zone. Past performance is an indicator of this. Barring 2015, when we were down to 13 metals (includes a Grand Prix), in most years, we’ve  hovered in the 25 to 30 metals bracket. So, this year will not be unique in that sense.

But, if you look at the quality of metals, the picture changes dramatically. Four golds, a Grand Prix, Agency of the Year title in health care, stand-out media work, Indian agencies seem to be ticking the right check boxes this year. We now need to move to the next level if the status-quo in terms of overall metals tally has to be broken.

That will come if we raise our game significantly. Some may argue that Indian work at Cannes this year has been mostly about celebrating social campaigns, genuine brand-building work seems to have taken a bit of a back seat. I think otherwise. I  do not see a problem with social- purpose advertising. If there is a message a campaign wishes to convey and if it can bring about a change even in one person’s life, I don’t see a problem with it. Branding such work as scams would be incorrect if it has gone through the necessary due-diligence process.

My limited point here is that even if an agency has picked up a cause or an issue to espouse, co-opt a big brand who will partner you in this initiative. The scale will automatically increase as a result. The accusation then that the campaign wasn’t visible  or created only for awards will not hold ground. The brand will bring its high profile to the campaign and visibility will go up across platforms where it is taken.

Brands seem eager to be a part of this because many of them  are using the social messaging route to be relevant to consumers. And as companies walk the talk on corporate social responsibility, social-purpose communication will gain importance. Marrying the brand and  social attribute then will be key. ‘Touch the Pickle’ for Procter & Gamble’s Whisper - the Glass Grand Prix winner of 2015 - is a good example of how the two were merged.

If the brand (Whisper; the leader in feminine hygiene) had to make greater inroads into Indian households, taboos associated with the issue (in this case a woman’s menstrual cycle) would have to be addressed head-on. The same goes for Medulla’s gold-winning work titled ‘Last Words’ for the Indian Association of Palliative Care at Cannes this year. Terminally-ill patients speak their last words quite often to nurses who take care of them, not family-members. The need for palliative care was driven home beautifully through videos that captured nurses who spoke of their real-life experience with dying patients.

Same goes for Hindustan Unilever’s attempts to give the trans-gender community a voice through the ‘6 Pack Band’ for its tea brand Brooke Bond Red Label or its initiative to help married couples in rural areas speak to each other through a mobile service for Wheel. Social-purpose advertising requires skill, innovation, gumption and the right attitude.
The author is chief creative officer, India, SapientNitro

First Published: Jun 24 2016 | 12:37 PM IST

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