October 1, 2020

Brand, Media & Advertising

Managing Creativity to ensure marketing success during Corona Crisis

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Image credit: Harvard business review

Enough has been written about the crisis that India and the world is facing and I shall not dwell on that. It’s a war that is being fought and optimists like me are sure that it will be won and our country may just lead the victory parade.

Business has been hit, and how. We were already reeling under an economic lockdown for almost a year and then this hit us. The business I come from, advertising, is certainly the first and often the biggest victim whenever such a dip happens.

It’s in times like these that managing creativity assumes great importance in advertising and creative agencies, not just in India but across the world. In my advertising career of over three decades, I have given serious thought to this subject and have shared my understanding and observations from time to time. And I believe that there is never been a better time than now to reiterate these.

To begin with, let’s talk about Managing Creativity in normal times. Most of the failed or not so successful ad campaigns are a result of an inability to manage creativity. 

Managing Creativity is often seen as a job only of the head of the creative team. That’s the biggest pitfall as creativity in our business is both an individual and collective responsibility. The mistakes Creative Heads often make is that they attempt to fashion their departments after their own person, and that could often be the biggest stumbling block in fresh and impactful ideas emerging. After all, we must remember that essentially advertising is a weak force and nobody buys a paper or switches on a TV set to watch ads. On the other hand, the people down the line very often look at churning ideas that will pass muster with the boss. Mediocrity or stupidity is often the result of this.

Also, very often, these Creative Heads or Senior Creative Personnel decide to strike out on their own, setting up what has come to be known as hot shops. Of all such shops that I have seen during my time, I may not be wrong when I say that less than a fifth of them survived. And I think I am being very generous in this estimation. 

The other error made by these shop owners is that they have very little idea of running a business and even less about how to monetize the creative output. Either they stand firm on their egos and keep refusing businesses if the remuneration is not to their liking or pick up businesses indiscriminately, going way below the norm for an assignment. In the end, it leads to frustration not only for the now owner past creative director, but the feeling travels down the line.

Many of these lessons are applicable in today’s situation. Markets are shut, brands are loath to open their purse strings and they have reasons to do so. First, manufacturing across sectors is not happening at all. Two, inventories are locked up, since the movement of goods that are non-essential is under a complete ban. 

What I have heard a lot of late is – lets take to digital platforms and the reasons offered sound very good. One, most people are glued these days to either their televisions or on to social media. Hence, eyeballs are assured. Two, digital doesn’t require huge budgets. Three, e-commerce platforms can be used since the shops aren’t open.

Yes, eyeballs are assured, even as there is an overdose of social media. I, for one, will be delighted if I never received another Whatsapp message. Yes, digital doesn’t require huge monies as compared to print or television, but should you buy something just because of its low cost? Whether you need it or not? As for e-commerce sites, if goods aren’t in stock, how do you sell? Imagine the situation: You get a buyer interested, he wants to order but is told – we shall deliver in about two-three weeks post the lifting of the lockdown.

And now, lets come back to creativity. It’s a situation where the judgment of the marketer and the ability of the agency shall both be tested. The real questions that the marketer needs to ask himself are: Is my product/service available? Or, is it an offering that needs to stay in the minds of the prospect so that he/she becomes a buyer when things get back to normal? Three, is your message relevant to the prospect today or will it offend / anger / upset him or her? Of course, a judgment on how much to spend and where shall emerge out of these.

For the agency, there are several questions to answer, first and foremost: Is your team cohesive enough to create effective communication as we all work remotely? Two, do you have the ability to think and execute solutions that fit the budgets, considering that the monies available are going to be much less? Three, can you execute effective creative with the available resources where you can’t shoot, its tough to compose or record, your old footage may not be readily available or impossible to access? 

Yes, the point is simple: Are you and your team geared to think and execute in these circumstances? If your answer is yes, then, go ahead and offer your services to your clients. Of course, there is one more stumbling block and I offer no answers for this poser: Digital agencies have flooded the market and are offering their services for as low as Rs. 25K per month. Are you willing to be a part of that race? 

Rajshekhar Malaviya (CEO)

Promodome Communications