Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The architecture of advertising

My brother, who is studying architecture once told me that one cannot design a building without knowing its purpose. Similiarly, you can't create an ad without a strategy.

Creative without strategy is called 'art.' Creative with strategy is called 'advertising.'” - Jef I. Richards (US advertising professor). The marketing team from the client's side and the account management team from the agency's side usually decide on the perfect strategy and consequently, the brand message. Depending on the creative team and the target audience, the same brand message maybe be treated differently. What happens when the creative rendition of the same brand attribute of a similiar service is radically different in two different countries?

Take the example of Hutch and Verizon Wireless. Both are cellular service providers with the same USP - great connectivity. Both are major players in their respective markets, India and US.

What O&M did with Hutch is legendary. The year was 2003. The basic concept was a boy with a dog which followed him everywhere, kind of like Mary's little lamb. This idea was spread across a series of TVC, print and every other media possible. What followed were awards, accolades and a significant increase in the sales of the dog, a solemn looking pug. The tagline was "wherever you go, our network will follow". The dog was a powerful visual aid symbolising the network and eventually became the Hutch mascot. The TVC was devoid of any unecessary conversation, a lilting background score not only made the campaign entertaining, but also pushed up the brand recall.

Did it work? According to Businessworld, "Hutch saw its subscriber base shooting up by over 70 per cent right after the campaign broke."

McCann-Erickson, armed with a simliar brief for Verizon Wireless created a TVC, with parodies of horror movies and ghoulish looking characters trying to scare a person with tales of a Dead Zone, who calmly responds that he or she has Verizon, and then the slogan appears, "Don't be afraid of Dead Zones". The scare lingers and the message is crystal clear. The brand attribute is understood and brand recall is very high.

Did it work? The ad was released in June 2008 and an October 27, 2008 issue of the New York Times says "Verizon Communications' stock price jumped 10.1 percent Monday on news that profit increased 31 percent for the third quarter, buoyed by surprising gains in the number of new wireless customers. Verizon Wireless added 2.1 million customers in the quarter — to total 70.8 million." Please keep in mind the economic condition of 2008 when you read this.

The premise of the Hutch campaign could in no way be called anything like that of the Verizon campaign. The campaigns proved that similiar strategies can have dissimiliar execution with exceptional results in both cases.

Here I must add that Vodafone acquired Hutch in 2007 in India and Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon and the Vodafone Group. Seems like network supremacy is the motto for this telecom giant.

One from each of the series of Pug Ads and the Dead Zone Ads for you to get an idea


  1. these 2 examples reinforce the fact that you have to tune your advertisement(read marketing strategy) keeping in mind the target audience.

    the target audience plays the most essential role in determining how a strategy will shape up. the social, economical and cultural aspects of the consumer/target audience needs to be taken into consideration while formulating a strategy.

    the hutch ad was successful cause it was simple.
    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”- da Vinci.

    btw, i am curious to know,
    what would have happened if the 2 ads were interchanged - meaning deadzone for india and pug for usa.

    i know its a hypothetical question, but just wanted to explore the possibilities.

  2. IMO, if the 2 ads were interchanged, it may not have worked. India as a market is more into feel-good entertainment bordering on escapism....not to mention that translating the word "dead-zone" into 18 different languages would have been a pain in the ass and maybe, impossible!