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Creatives in Advertising: Unearthing the Deepest

14 December 2012

[This article is a humble attempt of the author to connect a literary/artistic tool to marketing/advertising. The author has his opinion on the topic and welcomes the views (good, bad and ugly) of others on it.]

Unearthing the Deepest

captures attention and looks a flashy title at a glance, but I used it for a different reason. Unearthing the Deepest although are plain words but captures the idea that another art like painting couldn’t. This is an example of Ekphrasis. So what is Ekphrasis?

Ekphrasis as written in Wikipedia is (although the page says “lacks precise citations”, I choose to believe it) –
“the graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art. In ancient times it referred to a description of anything, person, or experience”.

Those who have more interest in what Ekphrasis is can read up in detail about it here- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ekphrasis and other sources mentioned below the article. For now, simply speaking Ekphrasis is a descriptive work of prose, poetry, a film, or even a photograph that vividly explains a “different” form of visual art. So there are two art forms – first, in which the original message is and second, through which the original message is conveyed or explained. However, the older Greek definition broadens it to a description of anything, person or experience which enhances the original message/description through its liveliness and vividness. For example a film can explain the idea which is originally painted, sculpted or is originally a film more beautifully to the audience than the original form. This is Ekphrasis.

Coming back to the title of this article, what are Creatives? The word “Creatives” have been used here as in advertising parlance. Creatives in advertising parlance are nouns which mean the TV commercials that you see or a print/ooh ad that you encounter. So for example a Vodafone zoo-zoo Ad campaign had many creatives on air simultaneously. All marketing communications lectures in B-schools stop at creatives. Marketers will do all the strategic jobs of Situation analysis followed by Segmenting, finalizing the target group and deciding on the positioning. They will even set the objectives of the communication and metrics to measure them and in some cases decide the media vehicles to be used along with a media planner. They may prepare up to what are called as brand concepts[1] and carry out concept testing to decide the functional and emotional benefits of the brand to be communicated as to generate a positive response. But the Creatives or the final Ads that we see can be simply said as creative modes of communicating a marketer’s message. So what makes Creatives click?

And what is really the bridge between Ekphrasis and Creatives and how are we going to unearth the deepest of Creatives? Both of the above questions can be answered simultaneously. Recount some ads that you recently saw and liked very much, some of them may be what can be called ekphrastic representation of an idea written as a concept or just as a vague thought, of an experience, of benefits both tangible and intangible and of ideas which can’t be portrayed otherwise. An example of this can be seen in this beautiful ad released by ICICI here –

This was to launch a unique savings account programme where ICICI Bank rewards its customers for making various savings account transactions. The ad uses the Kids’ story as an analogy to describe an experience of happiness at getting something unexpected. This feeling which is an intangible benefit or as they say is the emotional benefit of the bank account is vividly explained through happiness of a child. No wonder the creative is being liked by people. It is a different matter whether it achieved its objectives of new savings bank accounts or whether this was the immediate objective of the firm at all or not.

The technique can also be employed to communicate the brand’s positioning -rather than a benefit or experience -clearly and crisply. Jockey does that wonderfully in their new campaign – “Jockey or Nothing”. The campaign tries to position the inner wear on the superiority of Jockey over its competitors and it gives the Slogan “Jockey or nothing”. To show how superior is “superior” to “inferior” two separate stories have been used which end in taglines of “Unconditional love or no love at all” and “Play to win or not play at all” followed by “Jockey or nothing”. The two stories/advertisements can be seen here –


. Clearly the slogan “Jockey or Nothing” or positioning becomes understandable and impactful for the Target audience.

Jockey’s another ad, which can be called as “the balls ad”, see here –

) uses ekphrasis yet again, where communication of a functional benefit of a feature (Re cut Y-front) is done in such a simple way that not only does it generates humor but it also has more impact (read more product/feature recall). Another reason of Ekphrastic description rather than direct description which may be valid in some product categories is when you do not want to or cannot show the product or the benefit directly. Under wears and inner wears is one such category. I guess you would agree if you have already seen this advertisement.

So why and when Ekphrastic representations in creatives should be used? Ekphrastic representations are helpful in conveying both the intangible and tangible ideas, although the need to employ them and its benefits are different. So when you saw Jockey’s “balls ad”, the impact of the message was more than what it would have been, had it been a direct creative telling the benefits of the Re-cut Y-front in a more direct way. Since this is a tangible thing, the audience would have understood the message in any case, the use of ekphrasis here makes the message what I term as more impactful. However in the case of ICICI, the intangible benefit like the experience of happiness on getting reward points can’t be directly conveyed to the audience. Imagine someone telling you that you would be very happy when you will receive these reward points. Assuming average human cynicism, chances are you would not believe him. The message is what I term less understandable in this case. Hence when the story of children is shown to you by ICICI, all it is doing is making the idea more understandable. The intangible ideas are less understandable or are difficult to convey at all without ekphrastic interventions. Cadbury’s Gems “Raho Umarless” as a concept is a case in point. For those of you who have not seen creatives of those campaigns, here is one of them –

. Recapitulating, we can say that while Ekphrasis improves the impact of a tangible idea, it makes an intangible one more understandable.

Having said all that, I still believe creatives are still just a tactical tool. You can have a wonderful creative here and there, but your objectives not met at all. The ekphrasis and other creative strategies can take you so far. The message should be clear, targeted at the right audience and relevant to them among other things to make a communication a success. But Ekphrastic description is a powerful tool used to enhance both the impact on the audience and learning/understanding of the message by the audience.

Aditya is currently pursuing PGDM (2011-2013) from IIM Calcutta. A mechanical engineer from IET DAVV Indore, it’s
marketing which keeps him going. A Hindi poet, he has written a number of poems over many years. In his free time
he either likes to be alone and think hard or hang out with buddies and not think at all. An Indori at heart, he feels
that Pohe is the best food ever and would want to market it someday. He dreams of becoming a Marketing God some
day (it is a different thing that he considers him one now :D). He will be spending his summer of 2012 doing sales and
marketing for Cadbury. He can be reached at [email protected]

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  • http://www.facebook.com/unbridlednotions Paritosh Anand

    Completely agree. Awesome point made.! Curiosity matters

  • http://www.facebook.com/gaurav.bhandari.2587 Gaurav Bhandari

    But there is an issue with ICICI kind of adverts. I am saying this after the following conversation with my family…
    My parents and sister are among the millions of
    daily soap viewers. They loved this advert with two cute little kids; even
    the song, which is in some incomprehensible language, was on their
    But when I asked my family – “Kiska advt tha wo?” … my sister went blank… after thinking for a few seconds (probably after analyzing the vedio in his mind) my dad said, “It must be of vodafone… they would be selling some new offer or sth free”…. !!!!!… and my mom and sister agreed….!
    May be we (advertisers and marketers community) do not look at advts from general viewer’s perspective who might just enjoy the creativity in the advt, comfortably ignoring the the main part.
    or because the icici advert did not generate any kind of curiosity in the end of it (like the jockey advts did)… icici delivered the whole story with ending.. and my parents enjoyed just that.

  • Aditya Rikhari

    Thanks Chitransh!! Keep Reading :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/chitransh.agnihotri Chitransh Agnihotri

    nice research work . . .novel way to targeting way to convey the message to the audience . . .

  • Aditya Rikhari

    Thanks Manoj for reading… stay hooked for more marketing gyan on the marketers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/manojlohiya.sbz Manoj Lohiya

    superb article. liked the last lines so much “the message should be clear …. to make a communication success” and i got the same thing here also. :)