Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in May-Jun 2019

5 golden rules to communicate effectively

By repeating the same words in our communication, we are robbing them of their effectiveness.

Have we become desensitised to advertising?

A wise man once asked when was the last time a piece of communication wowed him.

Or, to be precise, a slogan just wowed me. Then I wondered, “who wrote this?” Didn’t ring a bell honestly. I tried hard recalling a couple of examples that might pop up in my mind – nothing!

Maybe my standards suck so let me put you in the picture.

Imagine yourself on a Sunday evening, comfortably sitting on your couch enjoying your TV soap. A grumpy mother-in-law typically says: “Iss ghar ki bahu ban’nay ke khwab dekhna chor do.” You mumble to yourself that you have probably heard this before and you click another channel. At the top of her lungs, a newscaster announces: “Government officials ne iss incident ka notice le lia hai.” What does that even mean? You have heard this hundreds of times and it has lost all meaning. Meanwhile during a commercial break, you hear: “Now presenting... ab pesh hai... with a new and improved formula... better than other products...lasts longer... works better... for your healthy child... secure your family’s future... twice as strong... five times better and so on. Well, everyone in this business is guilty of writing plenty of such lines for one reason or another so I should stop right here. But I hope you got the picture.

When it comes to scripting, copywriting and any other form of communication that is based on words, we are entering an era of desensitisation. Be it the redundant statements of politicians (or the way they are delivered through the news anchors), TV or print ads or messages of public interest – almost nothing grabs our attention.

I could argue that this is because of the short attention spans we have developed because of social media. But the wise man now asks why is it that despite social media, we still like global ads? Why are more and more people signing up for Netflix, Amazon Prime and other sources of new content? We still like, share and comment on Indian ads or Super Bowl commercials while we remain oblivious to the local ad that is running right in front of us. I hate this wise man but his logic is sound. He speaks the truth. It is not about being desensitised to content; rather, it is because we are not at par with global norms in terms of scripting techniques and lyric writing. Ever heard about words doing the magic? The magic isn’t happening so often.

The same song-and-dance routines do not cut it. It is human nature to want change. Similarities and repetition lead to boredom. We are the only species that can come up with 500 different design ideas for a wooden chair. We make them, sell them and use them. On the other hand, honey bees are still creating hexagon designs on their beehives. Millions of years and still one design. I hope I did not offend honey bees but that is the beauty of being human and we ought to be true to our nature in whatever we do. And who understands this better than us who design communication and use words in order to be both effective and sensitive to the target audience.

"The art of copywriting is not about reinventing the wheel," the wise man said. "It is about rearranging words smartly and expressing them in the right tonality."

Every word has been spoken, every story has been told and there is hardly anything we can truly create from scratch. But what we can create is the newness every time, by simply rearranging them in an imperfect manner. Don’t make it too perfect and it will capture attention. Life is imperfect. It is like rearranging the furniture in your living room. The sofa goes to the right and the bed to the left and all of a sudden you feel great about them, despite the fact that you were living with them for years. You were only desensitised by their presence in the same spot.


When it comes to scripting, copywriting and any other form of communication that is based on words, we are entering an era of desensitisation. Be it the redundant statements of politicians (or the way they are delivered through the news anchors), TV or print ads or messages of public interest – almost nothing grabs our attention.


I asked the wise man for some advice on what to do to rectify these shortcomings and deal with this desensitisation. He gave me these five golden tips.

1 Tell them a story
Conversations make stories and stories connect with humans. Technical talk connects only with customers and you are only a customer when you are buying stuff. At home, we want stories.

2 Don’t love your words too much
Words lose their effectiveness when repeated too often. In your head, you love them but others may not, so don’t hold on to them; explore new ones. Urdu is so rich, yet still unexplored in advertising. Indians are not ashamed to use Hindi. We have managed to create a pool of limited words for advertising.

3 “Simple is creative”
So said Einstein. The wise man reinforced it. What else do you need? No one is going to think about the crystals and enzymes and the complexity and power of the double or triple agents of the washing powder you use – except in the minds of brand teams and agency boardrooms. Real people are comfortably numb to these things, so don’t bother.

4 Preaching is out of fashion
Nobody is stupid. We need to stop lecturing. Even if you have a good point, don’t rub it in. Nobody enjoys being slapped. There is always a better way to tell people that your product is more effective than what they are currently using. Wit, humour and entertainment are the best strategies to follow. The bandwagon of girl power is done to death and hence, has become desensitised.

5 Everyone wants to belong to something A sense of belonging is cool and rewarding at almost every level. When we sell identities, people love it. If you are going to show a mom, make her a super cool mom. Why do we love superheroes? We want to belong to their world. Familiar, prototypical and repeatedly used characters are not cool.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in the ocean of communication and I hope it made sense.

I did not tell you who the wise man was but I will tell you this. Whenever I want to give my ideas more weight, I present them as ancient wisdom in order to make them authentic and believable. If you can get the reference, you will know I did not create anything here. I just did some rearrangements.

Asrar Alam is Creative Director, Spectrum VMLY&R.
asrar@spectrumyr.com