Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Jul-Aug 2020

Ideas Without Borders

Sarah Fahim on how creativity can bridge the social divide.

In the words of Mark Twain, no original ideas exist in this world, only original people. I would extend this to: every new thought is inspired. It is common practice in advertising to draw inspiration from local and international contexts, even if the media realities of global audiences vary significantly.

A big idea that works universally may fall short on execution in underserved media areas, as can be the case in Pakistan. Case in point, across Pakistan, urban pockets have better chances to access digital media than people living in rural areas. Yet, one could argue that creativity has the muscle to overcome these disparities. Strategic thinkers are trained to create bridges and overcome barriers. Globally, the ad industry is often accused of being non-inclusive. It is an easy trap for ad people to fall into – creating ideas for media-savvy audiences and isolating the rest because of economic and technological factors.

We usually do not think about markets such as the UK and the US from a rural-first lens. Nike’s Kaepernick campaign and similar ones, although emotionally impactful and able to stir the global conversation, do not reach those who largely go unnoticed in the capitalist world. Why does this happen? Do marketers believe that this segment of the population will not spend money on their brand? Whether this is a classist issue or not is a complex debate. Creativity, however, possesses the magic to overcome such issues. The point of this article is to encourage marketers, creative thinkers and strategists to develop ideas and experiences that are truly far reaching. To keep the considerations and process bite-sized, a three step model is recommended.

Scalability: Ideas that have opportunities for longevity are not only easier to sell, they are also more efficient. Expand the positioning idea courageously. See how far the brand can go beyond the pre-rolls and display ads.

Shareability: Would you, as the audience, want to talk about the idea you are about to pitch? Would you share it on social media? If it doesn’t inspire you, it probably will not inspire others.

Simplicity: If you can’t explain your idea to your parents in 10 seconds, it is not as simple as it should be.

Mapped on to these principles and taking inspiration from international markets, here are a few ideas that have the power of efficiency and inclusivity embedded in creative thinking.

1. Papa John’s Pizza (Social-First)

Americans love football and the New York Jets is a much loved team. Papa John’s designed an edible logo on their cheese pizzas. It cost less than $20,000 to develop and was launched during the National Football League prime season.

Why the Idea Worked: Because it had built-in shareability. Creative ideas often rest on the media and cultural environment – which in this case was the National Football League.

Could it Work in Pakistan? Could a brand leverage a similar idea for the Pakistan Super League? This would mean making the pizza available outside urban retail spaces, thereby fulfilling a similar role that social media does in America and creating incremental reach and affinity among consumers who live outside urban centres.

2. 7-Eleven (Bring Your Own Cup)

Consumers who walk in with their own cups get a free Slurpee’s at 7-Eleven retail outlets. Although the stakes are high (production and logistics depend on consumers buying into the idea), it is simple to follow through and meets the objective of increasing footfall in 7-Eleven retail spaces.

Why the Idea Worked: Because simplicity and shareability were at the core of this idea. Despite the dependence on consumer buy-in, the idea has baked-in PR value and the potential to make quirky headlines and thereby overcome geographical or economic barriers.

Could it Work in Pakistan? What if a juice or milk brand created a pop-up or an ‘on-wheel’ promotion asking people to bring their own cups for free drinks? For campaign scale, think social and digital content. Eid-ul-Azha campaigns will soon occupy our screens and spaces and the spirit of giving will be a big part of the messaging. However, such a strategy, no matter how emotionally charged, has become fairly common. This promotion offers food for thought applicable to such times of the year.

3. Celebrating KINDness (Kind Snacks)

This was a low-cost campaign of people showing kindness to one another and being rewarded by a snack brand.

Why the Idea Worked: It has scale and shareability and feels universal. Kindness is welcomed everywhere in the world. It also had a direct connect with the brand which makes it simple for consumers to understand why Kind Snacks decided to reward acts of kindness. In a loftier world, this could also be taken as a ‘brand love’ evoking effort.

Could it Work in Pakistan? What if activations or integrated campaigns went down this route? The same idea could apply to most brands looking to engage semi-urban and rural audiences. Rewarding acts of kindness is a simple thought and when simply executed could work well for many brands.

4. UNICEF (Good Shirts)

UNICEF designed T-shirts emblazoned with items ranging from vaccines and mosquito nets to high-energy biscuits and water pumps. Each T-shirt cost the same as the item on it and when purchased, the item was given to deserving people. The idea plays on the basic human instinct that people like to tell others about the good that they do. A simple idea that motivated people to donate more.

Why the Idea Worked: Donation-driven campaigns are nothing new. What is new is the approach – the spirit of giving activated by social recognition.

Could it Work in Pakistan? What if a clothing brand ran a similar campaign in cities, smaller towns and villages? Research proves that generosity is more likely to exist among people with lesser means. Why leave out any towns and focus merely on urban areas?

All told, the simplicity of an idea goes far beyond economic markers. Although behavioural factors define audiences, creativity has the power to bridge the gaps between economic and cultural groups. An idea with muscle will always be able to achieve that.

Sarah Fahim is a planner at Ogilvy Pakistan.