Putting Strategy First
Published in Nov-Dec 2022
Whenever you come across an ad or a campaign on any media platform, you tend to remember its creative or executional aspects, such as the story, the plot, the characters, the situations, the humour or any of the creative elements which bring the ad to life. Creativity serves as the cornerstone of any advertising campaign, where its ability to not only inform but also engage deeper feelings in audiences is typically gauged from an execution or ‘final output’ perspective. While creativity lies at the very core of the advertising industry, one cannot overlook the fact that fuelling that creativity is a world of insights and strategic decisions that are made before any executional elements come into play.
Since the advertising industry is creative-driven one, the usual reviews of advertising campaigns we see are from a creative standpoint. However, strategically driven reviews of successful creative campaigns serve to dissect the creativity that stands at the forefront and offer a behind-the-scenes experience of the campaigns. Before diving into strategic driven reviews of campaigns, it is important to understand what governs a good strategy and how it can be gauged.
1 A Well-Researched Market: When the campaign feels like it is perfect for the current circumstances and fulfils a space in the market that was previously unoccupied, it achieves the right objectives.
2 Targeting the Right Audience: Many products are meant for a multitude of people, but whether a campaign represents the right kind of audience targeting is made evident through strategic elements of creative execution, such as tone of voice, brand personality, emotional benefits etc.
3 Insights That Make Sense: Insights don’t always have to be a revelation; they can be a deeper truth about the audience, the brand, the category or the market which nobody has really thought about. Leveraging the right kind of insight serves as a common ground for speaking with the audience.
4 Results That Actually Benefit the Business: Advertising is pointless if it does not benefit the business in terms of increasing brand value or garnering more transactions. David Ogilvy once said, “When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative’. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”
While there are other measures for strategic effectiveness, these serve as the foundations for a strong strategy with the potential to guide creative energies.
**KIA Sportage’s ‘Different is Good’ Campaign** When KIA entered the Pakistani market, it was the only C-segment SUV available at the time. It made sense for this vehicle to enter since the only locally assembled upgrade for a high-end sedan owner used to be a Toyota Fortuner – which required them to pay over twice the price for a ‘next car’. Sportage fulfiled this gap by offering luxury sedan owners the experience of an SUV for a lower price. However, the biggest problem was that people in Pakistan were too conservative when it came to buying cars other than Honda, Toyota and Suzuki. From an audience targeting perspective, KIA could have come up with a campaign that spoke directly to those loyalists, but instead decided to target individuals who were open to the idea of ‘change’, reaching for the low-hanging fruit first in order to start building momentum. They would be the first to try out the new vehicle. The insight hinges on a very real aspect of society – the resistance faced by those who ‘change’ the status quo and how being ‘different’ is considered a bold move – to support the idea of ‘different is good’. The results of the campaign were evident with the number of Sportages spotted on roads across the country during that time.
***Jahez Khori Bund Karo* (Stop Dowry Mongering) Campaign** A campaign that was meant to create a buzz through the use of influencers and effective advocacy turned into a national movement when people started to support the cause without even realising that this was a campaign. Launched by the UN Women, this campaign built its case around patriarchal notions of honour by strategically making forced dowry akin to haraam khori – a disgraceful deed. While the creative tools used in executing the campaign included integration with morning shows and the use of henna as a device to create relatability, the strategic thought process involved evoking Pakistani men’s self-respect. The way this campaign targeted its audience involved multiple layers, where women were encouraged to join the movement, men were expected to make a commitment to not participate in demanding dowry, and families who were looking to marry their children were encouraged to acknowledge the message. The campaign targeted government officials who would take notice of the movement and introduce policy-level interventions to address the issue. What is also interesting is the timing of the campaign, which was launched during the peak ‘wedding season’ in Pakistan – December to January – thereby adding to the strategic development of the campaign before it could go into execution. The campaign was a massive success and went viral across the country.
***Chai Wala Biskut* Launch Campaign** An underrated campaign that didn’t quite make headlines, but managed to get the job done for the business was the launch campaign of *Chai Wala Biskut.* Entering the plain-biscuit segment dominated by EBM’s Sooper would have required big muscles in terms of spending, but the campaign managed to penetrate a portion of the market with its strategic approach. The most impressive aspect was that the campaign did not target the same demographic as Sooper – instead they reached for younger audiences who were more receptive to trying out something new, by tapping into a cultural space that surrounds these youngsters when they are consuming tea at dhabas. From the branding of the product to the tone of voice, Chai Wala Biskut posed itself as an attractive new offering for these youngsters, who in turn would influence other audiences into trying out the new biscuit. The plain biscuit category contains biscuits that are usually consumed with tea, and Chai Wala Biskut – as the name suggests – intended to tap into that space and build an association with tea time. It achieved this objective soonerthan-expected, especially since it was positioned in this way from the very onset. The campaign was able to propel Chai Wala Biskut towards success, garnering over one billion in sales with only six percent of the market within the year of its launch.
While the list goes on for Pakistani advertising campaigns that made a difference strategically, these campaigns deserve to be lauded for making sure that strategy came first. The next time you come across an interesting campaign, gauge whether or not it has the potential to actually increase value for the business, rather than just make audiences feel good about watching an ad. After all, that’s why businesses spend so much on advertising.
Muhammad Ali Khan is AVP/Manager Communications at JS Bank. He previously worked at Synergy Dentsu and Spectrum VMLY&R as Associate Director Creative & Strategy.
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