Sanjeev Kotnala: Digital needs new storytellers

30 Dec,2015

By Sanjeev Kotnala


More and more campaigns in coming times are expected to break in the digital media. The relationship between digital and TV may never reach the TV–print equation. We know how TVCs are used as the starting point to create a print ad. I am not sure if the brand and agencies are taking concrete steps to prevent the situation.


If I am to believe what I see and hear, in case of the brands using both digital and TV media, script is dominated from TV (the costlier media) point of view. This is a silly situation to be in.


It is like commissioning a short story writer to write a longer story if not the complete novel. Now, the only art known to him is to be very precise and hold attention in short spurts.  Unfortunately this at times ensures that long digital ads are not a seamless story. They are a relay of situations repeatedly exposed to make the same point. They fail to build on to the tempo and push the viewer’s anticipation.


We know that longer films are watched lesser number of times. Hence it has to deliver in fewer exposures. Importantly, in digital it needs to hold the audience in its first exposure.


The Nescafe cartoonist is an exception. The film holds your attention as the story moves through paces and he thoughts are real. (link


The brand and agencies have been unprepared to create digital acts and ads that really exploit the media. Couple it with ad avoidance, ads playing in the background browser windows and ad-skipping digital media is known for. Not surprising that many digital film intervention fails to deliver the desired results.


To break this barrier some of the brands like to get the brand association and presence in the very first part of the film.  There is nothing wrong in it, if you could keep the audience engaged for the rest of the film. Audience is not waiting to get engaged with the communication.


Additionally every client wants a digital communication that can get viral. We know it will not happen- unless we have been able to trigger the behaviour of the audience.  Myantra with Whisper, Visit and Pregnancy has demonstrated it.  Again here is a story building up those fires emotions one can easily associate and expect.

(link:,  wait  Visit  and Pregnancy )


On the other side you have that the combinations of the situations are stitched together to make TV edits. In some case original 30 second edits stitched together make a digital ad.


Remember the forgotten movie ads, every 30 second of it was a pearl, beautifully crafted directed and delivered, yes some 240 odd pearls could not hold the necklace together.  CInthol – alive is offline is one such ad (link  It overplays the situation and treats audience as dumb. A classic case of creating for the lowest denominator. Two, the situation is not so common in India.  Lone rangers are still a new breed.


The industry faces another problem. A short film of three to five minutes requires a different mind frame. The creative challenges are different and maybe industry is unprepared for it. Though the argument of basic remaining the same holds true, the end product still need to deliver to a new audience with a different pattern of media consumption.


Before totally blaming agencies we must hold clients too responsible for the situation. They have been majorly exposed to AV and TVC. When they got this license to slow down and consume more time to tell the story, they went wild. The temptation to add and play scriptwriter-director got.


Somewhere clients also need to be trained for the digital short films to flourish. The clients need to be  willing to experiment and take risk. Clients who are willing to cut-the-crap to cut-the-clutter and open to explore the options digital media presents.


I am almost sure that the Kitkat 5-minute blank X’mas ad is not something we may get clients to approve. (  )  I am using this as an example of only experimentation and do not think it was a great ad



Sanjeev Kotnala with 28 years of corporate experience is the Founder of Intradia World. A Brand, Marketing & Management Advisor, he focuses on IDEATION (Harvest and Liberate) and INNOVATION (InNoWait) process and workshops. He is also a certified Life & ‘Mid life transition’ coach.Email tweet @s_kotnala web:




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