Does festival advertising need to be rethought?

The same old advertisements dressed in different clothes are becoming obsolete now.

Come August and Indian households are unknowingly gearing up for a two-pronged attack through the end of the year – A wave of wishes on family WhatsApp groups and an assembly line-like supply of similar advertisements.

The first appearance of either of the two means the bugle call of Indian festival season has sounded.

Few people disapprove of the constant flow of multicultural festivals in India. However, the lack of diversity in Indian festival advertisements has started to creep into the consciousness and may soon annoy people more than their uncle’s poetic wishes about the magic of Diwali lights and the beauty of the spirit of Christmas.

Think of those countless advertisements that show smiling families, ultra-clean homes, sweets and baskets of chocolate laid out nonchalantly on hand-polished tables, they look like candid photographs that have been taken for hours of reshoots.

These ads also love to touch the hearts of viewers. Rewind to Amazon India’s Diwali 2021 ad which showed us a mother-son duo meeting the man who helped find a hospital bed for the boy during the second wave of the coronavirus.

Is the ad good? Yes it is. But, these advertisements become too much. Amazon ran similar emotive ads for RakshabandhanSurf Excel has also made a name for such advertisements for Holi.

“I see emotional storytelling more and more often during the holidays – something that makes my throat ache. Again very effective but now increasingly used,” says Prashant Gopalakrishnan, founding partner and business strategy, Talented.

These video ads are accompanied by a litany of print ads that scream deals and discounts in oversized font sizes near a festival. From smartphones to televisions to laptops and even an ironing machine, everything is affordable during this time.

Because the Indian consumer plans for the year during the festive sales, “the race to get an on-air campaign that cuts through the mess starts months in advance… They’re also ready to splurge more than their capacity mainly because of the offers displayed,” explains Gopalakrishnan.

Iraj Fraz, Creative Head, North, DDB Mudra Reveals They Listed Recent Party Ads Involving Housekeepers and Security Guards and Stopped After Listing 11 and Take Professional Oath of stay away from it, for at least a few years.

“The industry needs to spare them for a while and look for new targets of celebratory bounty in our stories, even if that means resorting to the use of evergreen ad favorites — kids and dogs,” Fraz says.

That doesn’t mean that all festival ads are outdated or boring. Some stand the test of time, whether it’s Netflix’s take on those 2016 ads or Cadbury’s AI a d featuring Shah Rukh Khan in 2021 and Facebook Pooja Didi in 2020.

Exhausted agencies or conservative clients?

Good creative work emerges from committed artists. Now, given the distribution of almost similar ads, the assumption that ad agencies are running out of fuel, or customers aren’t too eager to endorse out of the box the work becomes stronger.

“I think it’s very wrong as an industry to blame the customer,” said Vikram Pandey (Spiky), National Creative Director Leo Burnett. He says agencies need to sit down with clients and show them the different ways to run a festival ad and it doesn’t always have to be “diya and mithai.”

Talented’s Gopalkrishnan states that “creative freedom is not a challenge at all as long as the intention is there to stand out”. He credits new-age brands like Cred, Dunzo and Livspace with spearheading the challenge to stand out.

People look to their elders to understand how they overcame a challenge. So where does the current generation of adland creatives look for inspiration?

For Spiky, “there is a lot to learn from the western world when it comes to their Christmas advertising” as they too, in a way, follow similar festival advertising codes. One campaign he touted was that of Harvey Nichols Sorry, I spent it on me by adam&eveDDB. “We have to question ourselves.”

Gopalakrishnan believes that brands must also take responsibility for fostering excellence. He talks about REI, an American outdoor retail and services company, which shuts down on Black Friday and urges people to do something outdoors.

“We definitely need more risk-taking marketers. Luckily for us in India, we’re seeing more and more of them.

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