Musings of the Dream Merchants

Musings of the Dream MerchantsKavita, Founder of Voiro (and one of the most inspirational leaders I have worked with) is an early bird and the most thought provoking conversations one can have with her are first thing in the morning. We were debating why marketing is usually perceived positively, while advertising most often gets a bad rap. Most of us have ad blockers, we consume content voraciously on platforms that are ad free and exclaim in dismay when we see the same detergent ad (usually the same rehash of stereotypes) for the nth time right in the midst of a nail biting soccer moment!

Reality check : Isn’t advertising a component of marketing? If so, why are we so averse to ads?

 Marketing is about creating an experience for a brand, while advertising becomes the action of the brand that is sometimes taken too far, too fast, too much!  While I’m quite happy to read about the wonderful brand that Amul built and relive the nostalgia, do I really want every screen to sell me super- sweetened drinks at all hours of the day, especially if I am trying to stay off sugar? Being landlocked in Bangalore during Covid, the first thought that came to my mind was the ocean. If marketing is akin to watching the ebb and flow of the waves and contemplating a swim at sunset, advertising becomes the act of being dragged under the waves and feeling the sting of salt in your eyes.

Advertising (I believe) sometimes fails in the understanding and messaging to an audience in depth, beyond the markers of  – “F, 35-45, Tier A, shops online for shoes, watches soccer, only pays for books & music”

Are these markers really enough to understand me as a consumer,  and be relevant and contextual to my world?  When and how do we delve deeper to apply audience intelligence about consumers beyond this cursory collation of data? Are we unable to understand a consumer beyond the extent where we seek to serve them “the right ad, at the right time” in ~ 300 milliseconds using technology and dicing an individual’s brand affinity and viewing fingerprints, or in  the cookie crumbs they leave behind? In a world that is incrementally virtual and the fear that we are constantly under surveillance, one often believes that ads are an unwanted portal to “the eye in the sky”. True, a lot of data is collected by ad tech companies, advertisers, agencies, brands, ISPs and even my mobile network provider!

Would I choose to watch ads if there are reassurances that the information collected about me is anonymised, that advertisers and brands have measures in place to prevent fraud and have measures of security that my data is not sold to a third party? How often do I want to view an ad? What kinds of ads do I want to see, at what frequency and when? Perhaps we could create a subscription pack of ads, where I can state what ads I want to see and take control of my ad views in exchange for free music or movies? Just like Spotify lets me curate my music and uses proprietary algorithms and machine learning to elevate my experience. The more I listen, the more I am understood and the more relevant the music recommendations and ads (should) become.  

I believe that the need of the hour is for ad tech companies to build more open, transparent processes that are accessible to consumers who have been denied these controls for too long.  As a marketeer myself, could I try to understand what my customer’s desire before I serve up a whole buffet that they are most likely to reject? 

Leo Burnett rightly said (and this is more relevant than ever) and I couldn’t agree more…Let's gear our advertising to sell goods, but let's recognize also that advertising has a broad social responsibility. - Leo Burnett