Shailesh Kapoor: What Do You Mean By ‘I Should Know Why I’m Doing This Campaign’?

23 Aug,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor


They are omnipresent. They are on TV, in the newspapers, on the radio, on the hoardings, in the theatres, on Facebook, on Twitter. No matter where you go, a launch campaign of a new TV programme, a new TV property or a new (or being-presented-as-new) TV channel will find you out. Across just the national channels, more than 150 such campaigns of various sizes and shapes are executed every year in India.


Everyone has a view on an ad: Bad ad, good ad, stupid ad, clever ad, and so on. It is natural then that TV campaigns are discussed with great interest in the media industry. “Did you see the promo of the new show on Colors”, “What do you think of the &pictures campaign”, “I really like the IBL promos on Star”, “Jee Le Zaraa looks interesting from the promos”, etc.


One of the professional hazards of my work is that I invariably end up being dragged into these discussions. Either a question is posed to me, or an opinion is stated, more like a cue to respond with mine. Yes, like everyone else, I too have a view (sometimes a more confidential one, having “tested” the campaign in question). But I really don’t know what to say at most times, and my attention is focused on finding an escape route.


The reason for my response is not diplomacy but something more direct and relevant to the idea of a “campaign” (or “ad”, for that matter) itself. Any campaign, across categories, should be designed to address certain sharply stated campaign objectives, i.e., the desired consumer messaging or response the campaign aims to achieve. Hence, the measure of a successful campaign is its ability to deliver on the campaign objectives successfully. Hence, how can one even begin to comment on a campaign without knowing its objectives?


Many of us in the media cannot distinguish between a campaign that does not deliver to its objectives, and a campaign that is designed to meet wrong or strategically-flawed objectives in the first place. The latter is not a case of a bad campaign but a bad strategy. That’s a different discussion altogether. But invariably, the discussion gets mixed up and before we know, we are questioning why the brand even exists!


But there is a bigger problem. Most campaign creators in television don’t even set objectives to start with. I have often tried asking the seemingly innocuous question: “What are the objectives of this campaign?” Some of the answers I have got, and I kid you not, have been:


  • To promote the show (as against promoting competition?)
  • To get eyeballs (you may as well have said “to make money”!)
  • To create awareness (rudimentary as it may be, it’s not entirely inane)
  • To create buzz (still more acceptable, given the ones above!)


Recently, I met an MBA batchmate who is the brand head of a category in one of the leading FMCGs in India. As I shared my predicament with him, he looked wide-eyed and reasonably speechless, before gathering the courage to say: “I would have been sacked for saying any of that even in my first year of work!”


Setting campaign objectives is not an easy task. It requires discipline and debate. In the earlier working model, ad agencies would own the brand and drive this area. Today, the strategy is reasonably scattered across functions: the brand team, the ad agency, the media agency and the research partner. Yes, there are some channels that are objectives-oriented in their approach towards some campaigns, but those are case studies that are far and few in between.


Next time you have a big campaign coming up, try defining what you EXACTLY want the campaign to achieve. The answer may not be as easy as you think, and like it’s often the case, the God may lie in the detail!


Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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