Advertising has taken a different turn altogether compared to what was thought before with eager corporate clients joining ad agencies in designing their product to capture the imagination of people at large. “Advertising agencies in the past was seen as mere suppliers of commercials aimed at a target market but the whole perception of advertising [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Subtle, rather than direct, advertising the core of reaching out to consumers

Interview on advertising trends
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Murtaza A.Tajbhoy

Advertising has taken a different turn altogether compared to what was thought before with eager corporate clients joining ad agencies in designing their product to capture the imagination of people at large.

“Advertising agencies in the past was seen as mere suppliers of commercials aimed at a target market but the whole perception of advertising has changed. Today we work together with our clients in brainstorming to bring out the finest product. On earlier occasions we were not invited into their offices to design such commercials but things have changed a lot, according to Murtaza A. Tajbhoy, Head of Brand Planning and Chief Strategy Officer at Leo Burnett Solutions Inc in Sri Lanka, during an interview with the Business Times.

Having started his career as a junior trainee Brand Executive, Mr. Tajbhoy has been at Leo Burnett Solutions Inc for almost 17 years working his way to the top to become the Head of Brand Planning and Chief Strategy officer.

Earlier he worked in the brand management area for five years before moving onto brand planning that keeps a close tab on the portfolios of Leo Burnett and Publicis Group in terms of strategy development.

He picked up the ropes on advertising while being at Leo Burnett and learnt a great deal from the best minds there while being exposed to experts in the advertising field in India, Singapore and elsewhere in the region.

Brand planning, he points out is a unique concept that looks at strategic development of clients. The core purpose of branding is to understand about the product as a whole. “We say that every brand from a pen to a motor vehicle has a purpose that needs to be understood before communication begins.”

Citing an example of Apple phones, he said a different strategy is employed by them to showcase their products to its people. Apple does not necessarily speak about the inherent qualities of their product but says in a subtle way to entice customers.

Asked to define advertising from branding, he said advertising is a traditional way of looking at Print, Radio and TV but branding plays a bigger role in a broader sense when people begin to associate with products. “Today communications have become so important it is necessary to know what those touch points are. While at home you are woken up in the morning by a mobile phone and that is a touch point. Today it is all about people, their behaviour and we rarely speak about the target market as such for that matter,‚ÄĚ he said.

Delving into advertising, he said product differentiation is all about saying that one product is better than the other or one product contains more features or ingredients than the other.

But today the landscape of advertising has changed with the branding concept coming into play. Referring to an advertisement of clothing washing powder, he said nothing is said about the washing powder but emphasis is placed on children going out, playing and clothes getting dirty which the washing powder takes care of.

“That is the type of communication used in the present context.” He said branding is all about a product when it is being stamped to create a vivid image in the minds of people. International brands of water bottles are advertised in such a way to create images of water falls in cooler countries.”For that matter there are over 150 drinking water brands in Sri Lanka alone and without communication branding is not going to reach people. But it is essential that the essence of branding is defined clearly.”

He said brand planning cannot be done by isolating people. It is absolutely essential to understand the behaviour of people, the end users of the product.

Sixty percent of his company’s work involves understanding people that help to create brands. Some brands have created a space within which they own. He said the work at Leo Burnett involves visiting the marketplace with a cross section of staff from the marketing, planning and other divisions of the company to have a discourse with people.

‚ÄúWe visit all parts of the country to talk to people. We visit their homes and talk to people and how they interact with brands.” Where entertainment is concerned we find that cable TV has made an impact on their lives. A recent visit to the remote part of the East Coast where youth hang around in tea kiosks and at bus stands, playgrounds and at homes of their friends was an eye opener for Leo Burnett staff.‚ÄĚ

Mr. Tajbhoy said that several youths had a burning desire to go to West Asia, South Korea or Italy to find jobs. They also said that they want to come back and start their own business. “We talked to a cross section of youth and learnt that they want to learn IT (information technology). Today youths are armed with mobile phones and learn a lot from their application.‚ÄĚ

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