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#OpinionsThatCount: Are creative ideas becoming hashtag centric?

The number of likes and shares a campaign garners means a lot these days. When everything is turning into a hashtag, does content matter? Best Media Info talks to advertising and marketing professionals

Roshni Nair | Mumbai | January 30, 2017

hashtagDigital is on everyone’s mind. It is the new place to be. It is the cool kid at school everyone wants to hang out with. It is the latest trend everyone wants to latch on to.

In this race to add digital footprints, brands and agencies are taking the hashtag way. Hashtags are catchy, they are a part of people’s everyday lingo and, most importantly, they trend on social media platforms. Therefore, it is not surprising to see most campaigns today having a digital leg that is powered by a hashtag.

So, are creative ideas becoming hashtag centric? Are agencies and brand custodians thinking more in terms of hashtags and how to get a campaign trending first on the back of a strong idea and story? Best Media Info tried to find out from advertising and marketing professionals.

First let’s hear from the advertising fraternity.

Vivek Srivastava Vivek Srivastava

Vivek Srivastava, Joint Managing Director, Innocean Worldwide

In the good old days, the coupons were a way of measuring responses. They were then replaced by phone numbers with a call now message and then SMS short codes. The intent was to bring in a modicum of measurability of efficacy. Yes, there is a new-found liking for hashtags that are derived from headlines or brand baselines. It provides a meeting ground for analogue level creative thinking with digital landscape. Some are really good hashtags, ones that bring the proposition alive like the #KonaKonaKotak, or stoke interest in a campaign like #India’sMostLovedCEO, or an SUV brand that puts crowd-sourced hashtags on its handle, giving people their 15 minutes.

As is often the case with all such devices, they can become the tools of navel gazing too! What makes such an indulgence easy is the availability of ‘for hire’ influencer groups that make it possible to trend anything. However, the real consumers, especially the millennials who are bred on this stuff, know what’s real and what’s not. This to my mind will be the best check. But as they say, the abuse of any new device is the best barometer of its capabilities.

Hemant Shringy Hemant Shringy

Hemant Shringy, Executive Creative Director, BBDO India

The way people consume advertising has changed. You have to get them to participate or else you lose them. Hashtags that give them purpose of having a conversation and putting their point of view forward, or take action on the ones that make sense. And ones that just put a hashtag symbol before the baseline don't. All of it has to stem from the big idea that is rooted in the brand and not the other way around.

Ananda Ray Ananda Ray

Ananda Ray, Creative Head, Rediffusion Y&R

As far as I can tell, no idea has been deliberately hashtag centric. Nor is there a desire or effort to make it so. Having said that, hashtags seem to appear at the end of the thought process, like an addendum. "I have this idea what hashtag I can use to get people trending.” This doesn't work with me. When was the last time you or anyone you knew actually used a brand hashtag? Likely, never. Hashtags help with trending. But now hashtags themselves are trending within advertising agencies. I try and avoid them. Unless I believe it can or should mean something to people. Otherwise, they're just a fad. Like how posting on Facebook was considered a digital campaign, and a must by people who knew nothing about the digital world. Hashtags represent engagement and communication. And without meaning, resonance (built by the campaign itself) and depth really mean nothing other than the satisfaction of agency/client egos: "Wow! Everybody's gonna be talking about #discountedshirts!" You wish!

The view of Brand custodians:

Siddharth Banerjee Siddharth Banerjee

Siddharth Banerjee, SVP, Marketing, Vodafone India

While we live in a world which has gone digital, the best ideas will always be rooted on keen insights and communicated via fantastic storytelling. So, the basic foundation of effective communication remains the same and anybody chasing hashtag trends and viral views is well served to remember this. That said, consumers today discover and consume content and communication across diverse platforms and hence unifying devices like hashtags help. Specifically on using hashtags, one key success factor we have found is that a good hashtag should balance the essence of the brand story while allowing it to enter popular conversations and hopefully popular culture. That explains why we find #BeSuper to be a powerful thought for Vodafone – it is fertile enough to travel across different social media and activation platforms and consumers love different expressions of #BeSuper whenever we activate it on relevant occasions – from being associated to a ZooZoo emoji on Twitter to being on contests during the Vodafone Premier Badminton League.

Karthik Lakshminarayan Karthik Lakshminarayan

Karthik Lakshminarayan, VP, Media Planning & Strategy, Vibrant, Reliance Jio

In my opinion creative directors’ thinking ought to remain brand agnostic and media neutral. Also, today’s creatives are still largely reflective of brand promises and good creatives connect across audiences. While a sizeable metro audience is hashtag addicted, the purchasing audience is not hash tagged as yet. This has been recognised by the creative directors and hence they continue to remain true to the brand. This trend is however changing fast with major telcos and their data services, so it’s not long before hashtags define creative briefs.

Pankaj Rana Pankaj Rana

Pankaj Rana, Business Head, Mobility Division, Panasonic India

No, I don’t think that creative ideas are becoming hashtag centric. As a brand custodian it is more important that you have a strong content – strong idea or story – which gives reason to the customer to invest time in your brand. Campaign trending is something which will automatically follow if you have a strong content. A quirky hashtag definitely adds value as it helps garner instant attention/eyeballs. But when you design content which is hashtag centric or with the objective of getting it trended, it might come across to the customer as something not genuine and trying too hard to get their attention or impress them and is not appreciated much.

Amit Gujral Amit Gujral

Amit Gujral, Head - Corporate Marketing, LG Electronics India

“Certainly hashtag helps in making campaign conversation more searchable and increases overall reach. But I think the core campaign idea still remains the key factor in the overall campaign strategy. Considering the growing importance of digital medium as an approach we ensure a creative idea should be more open and flexible to accommodate new age marketing tactics and should result in wider impact.”

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