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Treat consumers as humans, not data: Kamlesh Pandey

The advertising veteran talks about his approach to the medium and what bothers him about the communication we see today

Veteran adman and Rediffusion’s Legend in Residence Kamlesh Pandey has expressed concern over the overuse of star appeal in advertising and said people need to be creative and look beyond casting film stars and cricketers as brand ambassadors.

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In a recent interaction with BestMediaInfo.com, Pandey spoke about the lack of creativity in today’s advertising and how he approaches the medium.

“The kind of work I see is so despicable and atrocious. Can you imagine that 80% of the ads are about getting a film star or a sportsperson to become the brand ambassador? Your creativity ends there. How can you give your best?”

In such cases, you end up advertising the personality more than the product, he said. “I only used Kapil Dev once in one of my campaigns for a bicycle. They take over the product. You think people will see the ad because of Shah Rukh Khan or Virat Kohli but who will believe Shah Rukh Khan who might own a dozen BMWs is driving this little car?”

Asked why people are unable to create iconic ads today, Pandey said people have either run out of ideas or stories to tell, or they are under pressure from clients. He said clients are not encouraging, appreciating or expecting good creative and are okay with mediocrity.

Pandey said copywriters must see consumers as humans and try to connect with them.

Giving the example of an ad for Maruti, he said he drew inspiration from real life.

“Around the year 2000, I used to take my young son to play cricket at the ground. I used to notice a man with his son coming to the same place by bus. I thought, owning a car would be his dream and that’s how ‘Aj aakhon me hai Kal hathon me hogi’ came along.”

Pandey spoke about the importance given to consumer data today and how it might be interfering with creativity. He said consumers are not robots and morons but humans, and consumers are looking for stories that can affect them and add something to their life.

“I think there is a racket going on to package common sense into very complicated words. People write books about it and I am surprised. Coming from Ballia to a Metro, I know people and know how they are going to react. They are me and I am them. I am not just a copywriter but also a consumer. So, if something can positively affect me, it will work regardless of what consumer data says. Consumer data many times is just to fool the clients or to impress them. I have never taken consumer data very seriously, I go with my guts and my observations and my own experience of people,” he said.

“The entire consumer psyche is common sense. Sometimes you do need some research in terms of psychographics and demographics but that is only for the purpose of information,” added Pandey.

When asked if he agrees that advertising is not attracting exceptional talent, he said advertising used to be one of the best career options and people from IIM Calcutta and IIM Ahmedabad were being hired.

“Now, advertising is not able to attract good talent. They are going elsewhere. Even in advertising, I meet young writers who want to write movies. I ask them what is wrong with advertising.”

Pandey said agencies today are increasingly focusing on money and billing and spoke about how his team at Rediffusion had the guts to say no to clients when needed.

He recalled that when they won the account for Eveready, against top agencies, the agency asked for an advanced billing, a concept no one in advertising had heard before. “This is where I credit Arun Nanda, where he could say no to a client.”


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