I tweeted earlier today – ‘Wondering if TV/ print ads should have a feedback sms no./ mail ID…’

Think about it…when was the last time you saw an ad in print or on TV that you thought broke new ground in the fundamentals of advertising? I remember some brands including a sms number or a mail ID for further product information – most insurance ads have this. I also recall some brand of lubricant oil adding a ‘to get this whistle as your ring tone, sms <number>’. Good enough, but not close to what I had in mind.

Then there was Karan Johar’s star power at display in a paint ad featuring Kareena Kapoor – one of the very few ads that I recall including a credit for the agency that shot/ produced it. There were print ads that carry some kind of coupons/ forms too, but those are specifically to extend the message held in the ad, not about the ad itself.

Online/ digital platforms have already enabled 2-way communication in advertising – you can interact with ads on your digital TV, on the ads you see on Facebook or even those ubiquitous banner ads all over the internet. But, where it really matters is in conventional print or television ads, which seem to be staggeringly stuck on the good ‘ol ways!

But, how about creating a feedback mechanism for ads, either on TV or on print, using simple social media vehicles like an email ID/ twitter ID/ sms number? Consider the advantages,

  • It adds yet another outlet for brands to connect with audiences – not just on the product, but on the concept of the ad too. This could be particularly useful for products which have a low involvement, say, like Coke or Pepsi, and they’re forced to ride on star power to capture attention than on any communication about the products’ USP/ benefits.
  • Could this be one of the modes to judge the efficacy of ads? Rudimentary, yes – but a method nonetheless. I’m largely oblivious to what ad agencies do, in this aspect of advertising, so please correct me if I’m talking rubbish.
  • For agencies, it perhaps creates the personal branding equivalent of those tiny credit notes you see on print adverts. Would the client agree to let the agency add a number/ mail ID for feedback? Possibly, if the goal is to gauge feedback on both the product and the advert’s concept itself – the former benefits the brand, while the latter benefits both the brand and the agency.

Interestingly, ads have largely remained a one-way communication, but with social media (that includes text messaging, if you consider its potential in a country like India), they can become a conversation. Also, people are already commenting on/ about ads (mostly TV ads) online – the problem is that it is scattered all across Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, blogs and random discussion boards. And, all that is being done with no hope or interest of making/ effecting a change – its just as one-way as the ads themselves, with no intent or prupose but to speak ones mind out. So, why not channelize the effort by creating a formal communication mechanism?

The objective behind such a move could be many – could brands/ agencies act on feedback? I see tons of tweets on how the world now hates the Tata DoCoMo Friendship Express spots – I find them thoroughly annoying too. Some tweeter said that the passengers are behaving in such demented stupor because they’re being taken to a correctional facility for delusional behavior! Sure, I LOL’d at that comment, but if I was Tata DoCoM or its agency, I’d be terribly worried, given the number of spots I’ve booked across channels. Could something be done to correct the situation?

The other ad I’d love to pass feedback on is the Nestle eclairs ad which has bizarre situations to see how long the eclairs lasts in someone’s mouth! One spot has a couple of school girls watching as fellow students/ teachers splash water on themselves from a leaky/ faulty tap. Great example for school students in the name of prank, huh? The ad even goes on to add that 36 people splashed water on themselves while the girls were chewing on the eclairs.

And then, there are true conversational possibilities to increase stickiness. We’ve seen a few ‘keep watching’ ads – the most recent one being the Saif Ali Khan starring Airtel Digital DTH ad that created a filmy story and unveiled it in parts. If there was a feedback mechanism in place, can the viewers decide the fate of the ad’s characters – almost like a television show? Why not?

Perhaps, if such feedback mechanisms are in place, with the use of social media, we’d switch channels less frequently, than now. As for print ads, similar opportunities exist, but opens a communication channel to collect feedback, notice trends or even effect course correction!

Another question – why would people spend money (on sms) or time (on email) to give feedback? Do people even discuss advertising with such passion? Brands/ agencies sure need to crack the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question, but a good starting point is to clearly articulate on what is being planned for the feedback they receive.

Any kind of response/ action by brands/ agencies would definitely cost money, but I suppose its the brands’ prerogative to see the cost-benefit analysis and if the additional cost outweighs the negative sentiment received via feedback. Brands could possibly plan for the additional cost of enabling feedback-based corrections by planning limited run/ variants of ads…what say?

This post is not meant to undermine the creativity and value addition of advertising agencies – neither does it imply that crowd-sourcing could build better advertising campaigns. The objective is merely to explore 2-way communication possibilities of advertising, so that it benefits the brand and the agency.

This Adage post by Josh Bernoff talks about marketers’ dilemma of talking and listening at the same time – not entirely relevant to my post above, but a valid enough read.

Update 1: Murari tweets: @beastoftraal Check out QuickAndMore by Publigroupe/SwissCom http://bit.ly/8O8siE was developed by a Blr co Ramsoft http://bit.ly/6aANqR. Great stuff, this!!