PSAs need to hit hard on the emotion button compared with regular product ads. BestMediaInfo spoke to creative industry experts to understand how different or difficult it is to make a PSA compared with a promotional brand film
Akansha Mihir Mota | Mumbai | May 12, 2016
It is a common thought that advertising is all about selling. Actually it is more about creating affinity towards a thought â be it the thought proposition of a brand or a service or a social cause. Succeeding is easier for the product, brand or service since itâs a matter of spending money; however, succeeding with a public service advertisement (PSA) is a huge task because it deals with change of deep-seated habits.
PSAs have a social message for change imbibed in them, be it about child education, road safety, cleanliness, hygiene, polio awareness or any other socially geared subject. Hence, it is very important that one must have a personal life experience on the initiative before ideating for a PSA.
They need to hit hard on the emotion button compared with regular product ads. The ideation for PSAs is different as they can be implemented with more conviction if one can personally relate to the cause. To make a good PSA, one needs to have âintentâ to bring about a change in society. One needs to have feeling and a sense of responsibility to make a great PSA.
The governmentâs CSR directive for 12 per cent investment in in social messaging has also pushed a lot of corporates into PSA.
In recent times we have seen Maruti Suzukiâs latest road safety campaign, P&Gâs Shiksha initiative or Mumbai Traffic Policeâs âDonât drink and driveâ ad film or the tuberculosis ads with Amitabh Bachchan, and Vidya Balan asking women to fight for private toilets at home. Even master blaster Sachin Tendulkar has been lending his voice for skillIndia.
BestMediaInfo.com spoke to the creative fraternity to understand how different or difficult it is to make a PSA compared to a promotional brand or product film.
Difficult, or just different?
Largely, creative leaders certify that PSAs are more difficult to make because of the high impact expected from them. While brand-centric communication is aimed at making a brand aspirational, shiny and achievable, PSAs need to bring out a dark side to the fore which might not be acceptable to many.
Saurabh Dasgupta, National Creative Director, Innocean Worldwide, said, âThe ideation for PSAs is a different ball game altogether. I am saying this because 'the problem' is the âdefault settingâ in any society and it is not an easy job to change that setting in the minds of people."
On a slightly deviated note, KV Sridhar âPopsâ, Chief Creative Officer, SapientNitro India, pointed out that an effective PSA must have a personal insight and a rock solid intent to bring in change. This is what makes creating a PSA a more difficult task for creative teams.
Sridhar commented, âA lot of PSAs is difficult and at the same time easier. Easier, because it is an opportunity to put across your point of view through an ad. If we donât rely on life instances or we donât have a point of view and no emotional connect with the issue, then we cannot make a good PSA. Intent to bring a change in the world, feelings and responsibilities towards society play an important role in making a great PSA. In contrast, in product ads, we can only play up the brandâs point of view.â
But some creative stakeholders donât find the two types of advertising very different from each other. Ideally, the basic concept of convincing the consumer is common to both.
Nisha Singhania, Co-Founder and Director, Infectious, feels that there isnât any difference in creating the two ads. She explained, âIn both, we need to connect with people and change their attitudes and behaviour. To create impactful communication in both cases, the starting point needs to be what people care about.â
Dasgupta elaborated on the major difference in the âTGâ. He said, âWhen we create communication for, say, a FMCG product, we focus on certain sharply defined target audience and within the group there are insights you can work upon. When it comes to a PSA, the target audience is so broad-based that you have to go beyond the ordinary and look for a much bigger argument.â
He added, âThe average FMCG or durable advertising promises a change that consumers are looking forward to, while social issues are the backdrop against which cultures thrive and hence they seldom reflect on the foreground of our thinking. Hence the need to change behaviour is not priority. The 'it canât happen to me' myopia also works as a strong deterrent to acceptance and subsequent behaviour change.â
Sridhar noted that the motivation which is necessary for a CSR or PSA for an NGO is mostly lacking. âOne does not spend much money and time on such ads. Everybody thinks that being clever will get an award but when it comes to PSA, cleverness will never get an award.â
The Celeb Stunt: Does it help?
Celebrities have a huge strength to attract eyeballs and this attraction has often been misconceived as âimpactâ. Same is the case with social messages which seem to work well with famous faces endorsing them. But is it a fool-proof method?
We have seen Amitabh Bachchan promoting the âDo boond zindagi keâ for polio eradication and the recent âTB Harega Bharat Jitegaâ for tuberculosis. Aamir Khan has vouched for a cleaner India; Vidya Balan has promoted sanitation and Parineeti Chopra has backed girl child education in Haryana.
Celebs have their own premiums, though it inflates the cost of production tremendously. So the real measure is whether the increased cost is in promotion to the increased impact, if any?
Rajiv Rao, National Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather, the agency behind the polio campaign, said, âIt is not necessary to use celebrities in ads and it completely depends on the concept. One can use them to oneâs advantage depending on whether the idea needs the celebrity. But just using a celebrity doesnât make the ad great.â
There was a time when creative thought PSAs get awards, but nowadays awards are linked with results. One canât just make a film and fetch an award. It has to lead to some change. Making a PSA is one thing and making it work is yet another.
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