Festive Advertising In India: Damp Squibs And Sparklers

Festive or occasion-based advertising is still in its infancy in India. If you look at most festival-themed campaigns today, they are very direct in nature. They either position the product as the perfect gifting item or offer special discounts to lure customers. Rakhi, Diwali or Eid, no matter what the occasion is, the communication remains more or less the same.

Consider these four festive print ads from Toyota. Can you spot the difference (or should I say the similarity)?

And before you blame the medium (print) or the category (automobiles) for these done-to-death ads, consider the following international print ads for Christmas.

Simple, classy and to the point. This Mercedes ad conveys what it has to in a subtle yet effective way.

Or consider this Christmas print ad from Gillette. Yeah! And we thought men's products could only be sold if we had skimpily clad girls in them.

For any brand to create a clutter-breaking festive campaign, it is important to find a connect between the underlying emotion behind the festival and what the brand stands for. Remember, advertising is not only about hard selling but also about brand building and connecting with your audience. It is about telling stories that people will relate to.

The year 2016 has seen some good occasion-based Indian campaigns in terms of storytelling and brand connect. Here are three of our favourites:

So far, most brand campaigns for Raksha Bandhan have focused on gifting. Amazon takes it a level higher and adds an emotional quotient—the ageless love between a brother and sister. It makes Rakhi not just an occasion to send a gift to your sister but about reliving a memory, about a shared childhood.

This Ramzan ad by Big Bazaar works at multiple levels. It brings out the core essence of Ramzan, it talks about religious harmony and it shows gratitude and appreciation. It also sets a goal for all of us to follow—from "Eid Mubarak" to "Neki Mubarak."

While "cute" in advertising is associated with kids and toddlers, this ad leverages cuteness through the exact other end of the spectrum—the elderly. While the world may think they have retired, they are still young at heart. This ad has a lot of stories combined into one—the furtive glances, the loneliness of old age, the assumptions of the young and so on.

While we saw several occasion-based campaigns this year, these three stood out because somewhere we felt connected, somewhere we saw our grannies, our older self, our younger self and ourselves in these ads.

According to an article published in Business Standard, depending on the category, media spends on festive advertising in the country are pegged between 20 and 30% of a company's annual media budget. Some brands spend as high as 40% of their annual marketing budget for festive promotions. Most of these spends occur during Diwali, Dussehra, Christmas and New Year.

As brands jostle for a share of the consumer's wallet, they see festivals as an important opportunity to attract consumers through occasion-based advertising but sometimes they forget, as David Ogilvy put it, that "you cannot bore people into buying your product; you can only interest them in buying it"

With our major festive season here, let us hope that we get to see some interesting brand storytelling!

Old Bangalore