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Creative directors tackle social media police with a pinch of salt

Today when anybody can become a judge or commentator and voice opinions on Twitter and Facebook or other social media platforms, it is of utmost importance for a campaign to fill in the good spaces of a consumer’s mind. Does it mean social media restricts creative freedom? Or does it take a good idea to places?

Creative directors tackle social media police with a pinch of salt

Today when anybody can become a judge or commentator and voice opinions on Twitter and Facebook or other social media platforms, it is of utmost importance for a campaign to fill in the good spaces of a consumer’s mind. Does it mean social media restricts creative freedom? Or does it take a good idea to places?

Akansha Mihir Mota | Mumbai | January 31, 2017


A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is, it is what consumers tell each other it is, said, Scott Cook, Chairman of Intuit, director of eBay and Procter & Gamble.

Gone are the days when consumer feedback was received a month or two later. Now is the time when people start reacting the moment an ad is released. Earlier it was only television and people were forced to sit and watch an ad whether they liked it or not. The maximum they could do is share their dislike with three or four people. In today’s time, content is transportable and therefore you are watching it on TV and YouTube, Facebook, etc.

Importance of social media

Jaideep Mahajan Jaideep Mahajan

Jaideep Mahajan, NCD, Rediffusion Y&R, emphasised the importance of social media. He said, “There is no denying that the world is moving towards digitisation. And to survive, we need to condition our creative juices in a way that we capture all spheres of a consumer’s life. It doesn’t matter who is creating, whether the new-age digital creatives or the old-school advertisers. Only what is being created matters. So to sum it all, people today want new in every new way possible. And our job as advertisers is to give them new in whichever way they think is not possible. That is what makes us set ourselves and the brands we work for apart.”

Social media feeds on extremes

Social media is a very sensitive space and works in extremes. It requires strong stimuli to keep it functioning. Either an idea has to be very good or very bad. Either created with great intentions or created with the evilest ones. It ignores the average ones.

Kapil Mishra Kapil Mishra

Kapil Mishra, Executive Vice-President and Executive Creative Director, Contract Advertising rightly added, “Social media feeds on either Ram or on Ravan. Ordinary mortals are not allowed. So a creative director should feel extremely happy when he/she has a great idea. And feel extremely scared when he/she has a really high-quality bad idea. Same works when you have a very sensitive idea and a very insensitive idea.”

“One good thing about social media is that you immediately get your feedback. It works like how a weekend works for the movie business. So if you have created an idea which can happily destroy your brand, you don't have to wait for weeks. You will know it before you will want to know it,” said Mishra.

Social media is a platform where everyone has a point to make. There is no filter. Even if one single negative comment floats in the market, there would be others who would see the negative comment and believe it. Like this, the negative word spreads like fire in the forest. The same implies with positive feedback too. People like to watch good campaigns too.

A good insight can go to places

Shobhit Mathur Shobhit Mathur

Shobhit Mathur, NCD, Hakuhodo Percept, believes if an insight is strong enough and Sei-katsu-sha is in place, then a campaign works in all mediums and does good. Mathur went on to explain the term ‘Sei-katsu-sha’. At Hakuhodo, they believe that most consumer research is like a painting of people in which the artist has forgotten to fill in the faces. For advertisers, of course, what's missing is the most important piece: a true understanding of the people they're trying to connect with. Since the 1980s, the centrepiece of the Hakuhodo philosophy has been the Sei-katsu-sha insight. ‘Sei-katsu-sha,’ which literally means ‘living person,’ stands in contrast to the word Japanese marketers typically use for consumer, ‘Shohisha.’ ‘Sei-katsu-sha’ expresses the holistic person — an individual with a lifestyle, aspirations and dreams. All the branding work they do in partnership with our clients follows from the Sei-katsu-sha insight.

Is it easier for social media agencies?

When asked if it is easier for social media agencies to create campaigns that work best for the digital space than for mainline creative agencies, Mathur explained, “What works is insight. What works is something that relates to a human being. Even if it comes from a 40 feet high hoarding or it comes from a banner on a particular website or it comes through a web campaign or comes through a television commercial. If that piece of commercial has a good insight and is talking to Sei-katsu-sha then it is bound to make a difference.

Create good ideas irrespective of the medium

Varun Duggirala Varun Duggirala

Earlier, it was only TV, outdoor, print and radio to advertise on. Now with the spell of digital, a creative director gets reaction on his creative the moment campaign is on air. Have times become challenging? Varun Duggirala, Left Brain and Co-Founder, The Glitch, answered, “We need to be a little more careful now. It is not that before there were not backlashes and people would not complain. But now, the backlash has become more immediate and can really become very large very quickly. It is more of a challenge and depends on how people take it.”

Mathur thinks that a creative person should not worry about the social media criticism and take it with a pinch of salt. He said, “Creative people should not worry about what the social media mongers would say. It is absolutely right when one says a lot of good ideas are held back. Social media is a very integral part in our life today, but it is not the only thing. There are going to be critics because it is an open platform. There is no filter. What are you going to create, that will make everybody happy. If you are creating something that is going to make everybody happy, that means your creative needs to be very safe. That would be something docile and bland because that is something which is going to cut through everybody.”

Mathur further said, “To my mind, there is a very disproportionate numbers of armed chaired quarterbacks who are posting on Facebook and Twitter. They are judging anything that’s happening. Being sensitive is different. I am not saying one should create whatever you feel like without being sensitive. But being safe just for the sake of a social media judge is not something that I would second.”

Troll is bound to happen

At times a few creative campaigns get trolled on social media. For example, the Times Jobs CEO and Jack & Jones-Ranveer Singh campaigns. These campaigns were bashed heavily on social media due to their insensitive approach. It was not they were purposely made to hurt the feelings of people. Obviously, the agencies that made these campaigns might have thought of creating something out-of-the-box and added a witty quotient. There were a few people who appreciated the campaigns but were trolled. In fact, Jack & Jones had to offer a public apology and remove the ad.

Saurabh Dasgupta Saurabh Dasgupta

Innocean Worldwide is the agency that made the Times Jobs ad. Saurabh Dasgupta, Former National Creative Director, Innocean Worldwide, commented on the social media reaction to the Times Jobs ad, “Which is great! At least it got noticed. Some trolled it but a lot of people had positive things to say about it.”

When the Pan Bahar ad with Pierce Brosnan was made, the agency might have never thought it would be trolled heavily on social media. The client must have paid crores of money. They might not have known then how social media would react. We can only judge that once the idea is out and it is very difficult to pre-empt that.

He further said social media is not a matter of worry for the creative directors. In fact, it has worked in favour of the creative fraternity. He said, “I don’t think social media restricts creative freedom. In fact, social media helps creative people to take the message far and wide. My audience is restricted for an ad on TV. But with the help of social media, the same ad is reaching everywhere. The campaign duration has stopped mattering to creative people. There are people who are engaging with my ad on YouTube, which was done five years back. Longevity of an idea goes up on social media.”

It has become very important for creative directors to understand the medium well and create something that doesn’t get social media battering. All this implies that does social media restricts creative freedom or it enhances creative thinking? Does it helps get consumer engagement or it gives too much power to the consumers? It only means Social media is very important.

It is rightly said, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. Although social media has given power to the brands to get consumer insight, engagement and results, it has added a lot of risk of being badmouthed, screamed and judged by social media mongers.

Anil K Nair Anil K Nair

Anil Nair, CEO and Managing Partner, Digital L&K, Saatchi and Saatchi, said, “Yes, I think many people are still behaving in an old fashion and not kind of giving it an active thought. I think it is important to keep social media at the back of your mind. After creating the campaign, one should do some kind of filter check on social media -- a test for likeability and shareability on social media.”

When an idea goes to the creative director’s table, there are multiple things that he will look at -- from an effectiveness of an idea to how many conversations they can generate from an idea.

A good creative will always have some negative conversations, but I don’t think they really impact the brand’s health that much. Any good creative work always has an opposing view. That also becomes a benchmark of good creative work. However if your overall thinking as a brand is questioned on social media, that is when we need to be very careful in the kinds of topics that we choose for storytelling.

The right way

Talking about the right way a creative mind should work, Mishra said, “However, while thinking of an idea, one must not put any fear in mind. The head should be held high. It's your mind, your world, your canvas. Paint whatever you want. But when you take them out, think of all those hungry sharks waiting for one drop of blood. Good harmless ideas usually don't get trolled. Bold ideas get. And the brand has to take that call whether it wants to associate with a bold idea for the sake of the boldness or boldness for any greater purpose.”

Social media is of immense importance for creative directors nowadays. Every creative director thinks of social media at the time of ideation because social media is the correct acid test of any campaign. Even if it is a TV campaign, social media is going to pick it up for either wrong or right reasons.

Mahajan added, “No matter how much effort we put into a campaign or how many awards it bags, nothing changes if it isn’t picked up people. Any good creative becomes a successful campaign only when it is talked about.”

It is not just creative directors who have to be fully cautious of social media but strategy and planning teams have an equal participation in the performance of a campaign. They are the ones who help the clients to put forward a campaign on different mediums in the right way. They understand the consumers very well.

Upasana Roy Upasana Roy

Upasana Roy, Head Strategy, Digitas LBi, explained how a strategist mind works keeping in mind the social media police. She said, “One of the roles of a digital strategist is to always keep a keen eye out for new trends and conversations that are happening on multiple platforms. This sometimes helps brands ride on trends and become a part of relevant commentary that’s happening online; however these online trends are mostly based on action and reaction – so, both positive and negative sentiments, are therefore, bound to occur. However, there are also times when we get briefs that run the risk of venturing into a overtly negative space. We evaluate these briefs objectively first, and then we intimate the brand about the possibilities of negative traction on the topic online. This exercise generally culminates into creating multiple routes of communications, that might help us tick the same objectives without running the risk of too much negativity.”

Mathur summed it well, “There are bound to be different opinions. As individual creative people, we must absorb, we must accept and then learn to ignore a lot of voices out there and listen more to the inner voice. If you are worrying too much about what people have to say, then you are forgetting that we actually have the power to influence them.”

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