Thursday, September 14, 2006

De Constructing Communication - Learning from the Dream Makers

There seems to be a cultural revolution happening in the country right now. Especially so when one looks at the usage of media and its usage of content.
And the surprising bit is that we have finally come full circle with media that have reinvented themselves through their content and their audiences.
There is no medium stronger than one that makes you think. More appropriately, Rethink

Not long back I had the privilege of being part of a workshop called Media Works at Bangkok. 160 odd participants from across Asia. As many ways of speaking English as understanding it. However, one thing that connected us - the need to communicate and be understood in the manner we wanted to be understood.
I think somewhere down the line, we, as media professionals, have lost the passion to communicate. Its is disheartening because the media that we use is so atuned to flexible communication nowadays.

I think the biggest and most effective media illustrations come out of film directors and playwrights nowadays.

We are still grappling with spots on radio and at the most vignettes and RJ mentions. Lage Raho Munnabhai celebrates the power of the medium and launches one of the most powerful communication strains through the medium. While we negotiate with terms like "Studio Invasion", it twists that term to take a revolution to the streets.
Is it possible? Why not?
Maybe not in such cinematic proportions but, we are not so dead to romance in our day to day professional life, that we fail to realise the beauty of a thought, the full potential of our tools. Flashback to Rang de Basanti, a nation moved to the streets through media, TV, radio, street activation. Its happeing in real life as we see drama unfolding on the Jessica Lal case everyday.

Today, we have a multitude of films being made to address need gaps that exist, in requirements of entertainment and emotional surrogacy.
After all that is why we are communicationg. Right?
To form an emotional bond with our consumers. One that may not last over time but when it hits, it hits that elusive chord. Who cares if KANK is not a technical movie marvel, it communicates to an audience faced with urban angst, a society on the move and creates as much sociological debate as entertaiment anxiety.

The critical part is that though these films find their own audiences, they are made by directors who want to tell their story. Its content that pushes the envelope, that gathers new moss and helps rebuild a traditional, near dead medium into one that starts talking to us. And, its architects are not scared of taking that first step.

And to me that is the difference in what they do and, what we are doing. The brand is "our story". Our leap into the imagination of the consumer. And, if we are not able to take that leap with all the irreverence that we have for already set practices and benchmarks, because we are working with deadlines, or the client is not going to understand, or the media partners will never be able to implement, its a sad waste.

The bottomline is that we have not been able to hone our mind space into taking a "thought leader" role.
We are still debating how Star Plus has come back to its original space of Saas Bahu with its new offerings. Why are we not appreciating the biggest thought revolution of the last 2 yrs - cinema, that has gone through a churn and come out looking bolder, more open and of course smarter.

What is it that our movie makers have realised that we are missing. How come they have crossed benchmarks that exist, to accomplish with media, dimensions of a different kind ?

Today, Pepsi puts Rajiv Bakshi upfront on TV with a hand to heart guarantee. I personally think its a damned waste. All the strategies that the Client, the Agency may have formulated and researched and debated upon, fall flat.
There is a certain mood that exists when putting out any communication. The new Pepsi ad, Mr. Bakshi withstanding, looks to me as a desparate attempt at damage control. As it looks to most people I have interacted with. So, while Pepsi knew it had to go to the market with some form of communication, the tack taken smacks of immaturity. Absolutely no thought gone into attacking the problem with more innovation. Putting the "Big Man" on may have worked when consumers were less evolved. Unfortunately, today your communication needs to evolve out of its myopic existense.

Our movie makers realise that the whole texture of society has changed and is forever on a roll. To attempt to derive a behavioural change, one needs to move away from the superstructure of societal relationships and target the sub text (pardon me for my socio-political roots). Therefore, a Rajiv Bakshi will not induce an erstwhile cola consumer to revert to user status. It will just make one think why the big man had to make an appearance himself. Hitting at the superstructure will only result in such overt expressions of reaction and no substantial differences in behavior.

It is not the medium that fails us today or our intelligence but, our own imagination and courage to do things our way......


Abhigyan said...

That's a great piece..and gud if you are getting it published...

I agree with you totally about communication planners (I personally think there is great merit in merging the roles of account and media planners, the planning should be constant) getting caught up in details. As for me personally, the greatest challenge lies in the distribution platforms - it makes-or-breaks media. In the west, print is losing out to the Internet, TV to DVRS, and all audio-visual entertainment to the digital medium.

It has become a cliche now, but the content becomes king, because the distribution channel (the medium) might vary, but the content will be constant and hopefully consistent. Hence, the need for Focus, or creating sporting properties for me (hehe).

P.S. I personally think Pepsi had no other option for damage control.

Simpu said...

Another statement from another Pepsi official Indra Nooyi stated that strategy only holds good once. Once it is used it can only be benchmarked against.

However sadly when I look back at the work I wonder if it would require much effort to find differences between one from the other.

But the thought is inspiring!

svety said...

Absolutely Vipul. Unfortunately its just the thought that is inspiring. But i guess a good thought is a good start.