Mumbai: The Big Picture Summit 2022, organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on November 16 and 17, was attended by various top executives and officials from advertising, film, television, marketing and OTT fraternities.

In a panel discussion Nov. 17, Madison World president and chief executive officer Sam Balsara noted that advertising has undergone many changes. Opening the conversation, he said, “I started working in 1972, and advertising cost few thousand crores, and there was a time when advertising was just about announcing product availability and stating a manufacturer – that I’m the best – this was considered a good advertising approach for probably decades.”

He added that everything has changed, but on another level it can be argued that not much has changed. He thinks back to his favorite definition of advertising, which was given by a humorist – named Stephen Leacock – “Advertising is the science of arresting human intelligence long enough to make money out of it.”

Balsara continues: ‘I have not found any definition that, ideally, more accurately describes advertising. The fundamentals of what we try to achieve in advertising have not changed much. Of course, the volumes have changed. that was the total outlay of AdEx. It is currently worth around Rs 90,000 crore. Global AdEx, just for perspective, is now $880 billion. So certainly advertising works for marketers, and I think there is widespread acceptance whether advertising is really the gas that fuels the entire economy or the machinery that keeps the wheels of the economy moving.”

Continuing the discussion on how advertising has changed, columnist and founder and managing partner of Counselage India Suhel Seth said, “I think advertising has changed for the worse. Previous advertising was about civilization and creating things in collaboration with clients, and the relationship was both mutually beneficial and respectful. Unfortunately, nowadays, agencies are treated by clients as suppliers and the overall relationship has become unequal.”

He understands that previously, there were times in advertising where they would sit down and co-create campaigns, but those were created based on deep consumer knowledge and a rigorous approach to learnings and insights into consumer behavior that could be then weave and work in the narration of the creativity produced.

He argued, “We don’t have the kind of people we had in advertising in the good old days, and the reason is that we don’t pay enough. When you pay peanuts, you get monkeys – and the tragedy is that ad agencies pay peanuts because clients mess with advertising agencies that don’t have the guts to tell clients they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“In the good old days, when the customer asked us to jump, you would say ‘why’ – today you ask ‘how high.’ creativity suffers,” Seth stressed.

He also recalled how previous liberal arts artists also worked in clients’ offices. “I don’t hold a grudge against MBAs, but the MBA was the worst disaster for ad agencies because to the people who handled management by heart, who have no idea about Shakespeare or Tagore, who have no idea about the sensibility of music, being asked to produce insensitivity-free advertising,” he says.

Seth went on to say that he has a different definition of advertising. For him, the purpose of advertising is to invent desire. “It’s not to inform – for that you have to go to Google, Yellow Pages or Wikipedia. What I think was advertising – is that it was about creating magic. It was about engaging the consumer with the brand through the medium of creativity».

It also shed light on the proliferation of media. In the old days, customers asked about billboards, TVs and cinemas – that’s about it. Today’s diffusion is enormous: it is digital. India has changed dramatically. It’s no longer consuming English-language ads; it is consuming advertising that is vernacular. It is regional to the point where regional influxes are actually carried out all over India.

Expressing his views, Seth said that one of the dramatic changes is that because of the rush everyone seems to be in, less time is being spent on strategy and agencies are becoming more tactical. This is not advertising; this is salesmanship.

“They also don’t prepare for brands with the rigor we used to. For example, there were partnerships between Madison’s creative and media agencies. “Now, rather than collaborating on communications, I see media agencies as a mailbox or an amplifier to broadcast communication,” he said.

Seth also expressed his concern, saying that the advertising industry has stopped being inventive and innovative. “We’ve gotten more and more risk averse. Because you’re talking billions of dollars spent and nobody wants to take the risk,” he said.

“Another thing is that people want to manage not the consumer, but the client. When you start managing the client, you immediately forget about the consumer. Nowadays, it is very important that the CEO and his wife are happy, rather let the other go around,” he said.

“Today, we are also fraught with a lot of social tensions in our society. Religion, which was in the background, is now in the foreground. There is discrimination; you have political importance. People who use social media are bullies and trolls customers and businesses to pull advertising, which is really an attempt to convey something in a creative way,” Seth continued.

Ogilvy India’s head of strategic planning, Rohitash Srivastava, believes that in an ideal scenario, advertising has become comprehensive. “Before we were concerned with changing people’s thoughts and beliefs. And the behavior part was kind of missing, you change a person’s mindset and then let them behave however they want. Now with the arrival of digital and technology, the The promise of technology was that we’re going to change behavior, we’re going to drive behavior change. So that was the ideal scenario. And that’s why I’m saying now that advertising in an ideal world is not just about thinking and feeling; it’s also about thinking, feeling and do,” he stressed.

He goes on to explain that, in reality, the advertising industry has become more schizophrenic than ever. And there’s a lot of speed, but there’s no speed.

Srivastava adds, “There is no sense of direction; you are trying to do a lot, but there is no bigger plan. And this whole short-term thing is really killing the industry. as salespeople Now, the role of marketing is to create a facilitated environment, so that the scalability of the product increases, not the sales themselves. But today’s marketers are so concerned about that precise moment. And when sales happen, they forget the larger tasks of marketing and advertising to create the conditions for scalability over the course of weeks of marketing. That’s exactly what I mean by ‘short term.'”

Furthermore, information is confused with knowledge, he said. “There’s a lot of data out there, and it’s called dumb data because you have to look for the right meaning to make sense of it. And then, within that, there’s data that’s readily available, and then there’s long-term data, stock studies and that all amounts to a lot of hard work. All this desire to go through spreadsheets and excel sheets is blinding us to the human stories that are happening and what people are really thinking. So whatever data comes in, you want to react to it,” he said.

Srivastava revealed, “Discernment is disappearing. And this whole thing of people being more precisely wrong than approximately right – before, being approximately right was such a great gift – In fact, we were paid so much because we could make decisions in gray areas , and there was a creative courage to be more or less right. But this whole obsession, to be precise, is really making us wrong.”

TAM Media Research CEO LV Krishnan commented on the creative aspect of advertising: “Things have changed so much in the last 50 years that we have seen advertising kick off in India. The only thing that hasn’t What’s changed from the first year of advertising to now is that nobody knows that the 50% I spend on advertising is a total waste.”

He further explained that until and unless the whole industry puts a finger on it, the tests in terms of advertising will continue.

Krishnan added, “Before, for every communication element, there was a branding and advertising placement strategy, and once that was done, you knew exactly what kind of execution needed to be done. But today, even though these two definitions are not thought out, the execution is already happening in the field to create effective communication.”

He is of the opinion that, now that everything is digital, it is no longer a strategy. There is simply a local influencer using a brand and attempting to show it to their followers to prove that this is the brand they use. These influencer and social media marketing campaigns are not aligned with the national campaign broadcast on television or in the national press. So it’s getting more tactical. Most of the campaigns we’re seeing now are more tactical in nature.

Balsara went on to reveal that of the $880 billion, 60 percent of all advertising money today is spent on digital and not print, television or any other medium. He believes that the arrival of digital has effectively killed the big idea, which we all craved, and that big production budgets are now a thing of the past.

Srivastava agreed that digital is a big part of customer spending, and even within digital, the performance part, which is called performance marketing, is becoming really significant. And in that sense, the role of the big idea is sometimes compromised.

Seth said, “Clients and agencies want a particular campaign idea and then try to force the potential into many other media options, whether it’s YouTube or Twitter.”

“It’s tactical; advertising is no longer about the consumer. It’s about the customer. And when advertising is about the customer, advertising suffers because the consumer is evaded and ignored,” he concludes.

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