The 10-second challenge

Written by fe Bureau | Updated: Jun 21 2011, 08:18am hrs
What can be done in 10 seconds Not much is what a snail would say while crossing a street; A lot I can get my lunch is what a cheetah would say chasing its prey; I can either catch the train or get late for dinner if I miss it is what an office goer would say while returning home and I can either be successful in getting the message across or look for alternate employment is what the creative director of an agency would say while finalizing the TV campaign for his client.

Creativity in TV ad campaigns has now to be delivered in 10 seconds flat. And there were many such 10 seconds available in the just-concluded Indian Premier League tournament (IPL). With the ICC World Cup and then the 74 matches in IPL 4, the 10 seconds actually result in many hours of ad spots. Cricket being an opium for the masses of India, the effort to get their attention to sell a product in the midst of all the excitement of a match cannot be anything less than executing a war plan. The time available is both the canvas as well as the limitation. Hence, creativity in developing a campaign may have no limit, but its performance has a 10-second timer.

As if the challenge of the 10 seconds was not enough, the execution of the campaigns and delivery of important product messages needs to be completed between two overs where there are already many spot bookers in queue and the viewer wants to take a much-needed break at the same time.

Brands need to be built in this short time-frame. One of the best ways to do this is to repeat the campaign after a few/every over. It goes without saying that if the packaging is not proper, no matter how many times it is repeated, the message will never go across and can even be detrimental to the success of the product. The viewer has got the remote of approval for the 10-second campaigns which, at times, even disturb him when he wants to see a replay of a dismissal of a batsman. Hence, there cannot be a substitute for an original and highly creative 10-second campaign which has a strong recall value. Actions, jingles, punch lines... all need to be in-sync with the final brand image which is sought to be established for the product. Other mediums of advertising, like outdoors and the digital, where stills and punch lines are put up, need also to be made use of to help supplement the TV campaign. Only then can a brand truly take off.

One such brand which has had a reasonable amount of success is the Zoozoo campaign of Vodafone. Initial delivery of the message from Vodafone using the Zoozoos was done in spots which were more than 10 seconds. Gradually, less amount of time was required to deliver the subsequent messages. All this was/is planned and executed when the cricket tournaments were/are on. With the outdoor, digital and merchandise options which the business house has explored, the result is that the brand has a decent fan following across all ages and is also a hit on social media -- Facebook, YouTube, etc.

Another campaign which had a similar roll-out -- longer campaigns initially and then getting reduced to the minimum required -- is the campaign of another telecom service provider, Idea. The punch line has turned out to be the KPI (key performance indicator) for this campaign and does not require to be even mentioned here..!

In the process of building brands in 10 seconds, the brand of brand ambassadors too got built over time. Film stars and cricketers who help build brands, also made themselves visible during the ICC World Cup and even in the IPL 4 matches by occupying a prominent seat in the stands. The celebritys brand gets a boost when the next visual which the viewer sees after watching the celebrity cheer the teams, is an ad campaign where he/she is the endorser of the product. Inundating the viewer with a recall message of the brand and the brand ambassador could not have been easier.

The 10-second spot also exists on the radio, a medium which is picking up in metros, semi-urban and rural areas. The world of Frequency Modulation (FM) is yet to arrive in its complete glory. Creative messages in the minimum possible time on radio are also an important avenue which the business world has seen and exploited. The reach of the radio in India is much more than that of television. Further, the worlds second largest mobile phone market (by numbers) fuels the growth story of the radio industry with mobile phones increasingly becoming what a transistor was many years ago. Making effective use of one more 10-second spot which can be synchronized with the campaigns run at the time of cricket matches, makes more sense.

Just as there is much more of cricket these days as against what we had years ago, so also there are many such 10-second spots now created in the electronic media where brands are built. Even the attention span of watching a hoarding which may have a cricketer as an ambassador is not more than 10 seconds. The game plan, however, remains the same bombard the viewer with repeats so that he will remember the brand/punch line even when woken up in the middle of the night.

Indeed, much can be done in 10 seconds, but in the brand building world how much of this actually translates to increase in revenues for the business house is a question the ad world has never been able to answer with certainty.

The author is a partner with Deloitte Haskins & Sells. These are his personal views.