08 October 2015 14:11:52 IST

Is your advertising spend being wasted?

Advertising is glamorous business, but it can be wasted quite easily. Here are a few examples

What is your daily newspaper full of? I’m sure you will say ‘scandals, rape and crime’. But let’s leave out these titbits for now, and focus on the ads. While there may be hundreds of ads of various sizes and shapes, conveying a variety of messages and offers, two categories — e-commerce portals and real estate — have dominated the spending with full-pages, pull-outs, jackets, special positions, front-page soluses and what have you. Why are these two categories dominating the spending?

One suspects that e-commerce companies are flush with funds and keen on expanding their market share, while real estate developers are probably a bit desperate, considering they are sitting on inventory and home-buyers don’t seem to share their sense of urgency in grabbing the keys.

How effective are these ads? Do they actually work or are companies going overboard with their spending? The best judges of the effectiveness of an advertisement are the clients, who release the ads, and agencies that create them. Success, or otherwise, depends on the objectives set — awareness levels, footfalls, enquiries and maybe even sales. And yet, even without the information required to form a judgement, one could make a call based on one’s intuition and experience as a consultant and, more important, as a consumer. Let me start with the e-commerce example, even if it is a bit dated.

Flipkart’s Big Billion Day struggles

Last year, around this time, Flipkart created a tremor in the market by announcing the Big Billion sale with huge ads, TV commercials, teasers, radio spots, hoardings and online ads. The build-up was phenomenal and the response, overwhelming from the length and breadth of India. As a consequence, in a couple of hours, the server crashed, igniting much hostility and anger on social media, as disgruntled and unhappy customers went to town with their complaints. The promoters then apologised to the public at large.

While the apology might have retrieved the retailer from a sticky situation, it brings us to the original premise: was the adspend wasted? Could the same results have been achieved with less spending?

The advertiser must, no doubt, have asked himself/herself this after the event. Having said that, however, I must mention that I have a lot of admiration for Flipkart as a company, for having expanded the market for online goods across the country. Today, online buying is not only a phenomenon in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, but also in smaller towns. Flipkart must take the credit for that.

Even the fiasco has to be understood from this perspective. I am told that Flipkart had planned and rehearsed for an excess of demand of a few hundred times, but who could expect an excess of several thousand times? It is difficult to plan for events such as these, but better planning can lead to better results, as I will attempt to demonstrate.

Why is Sunday an off day?

Two Sundays ago, I was sitting at home when a two page ad of Grofers hit my eye. How could it not? It was so big and they promised to deliver before the ice cream melts. I ordered nine items — nothing exotic, but simple stuff like papaya and pomegranate. As luck would have it, they only had five of the nine items I had ordered. What is the point of all that advertising if the back office is not in place? Wasn’t that advertising wasted, even if only partially?

This is the point I am making, which leads me to the second category I spoke about in the beginning of this piece — real estate. Every Sunday, they release huge ads, more in hope than anything else, I guess. Be that as it may, I see the ad at 6.30 am and call the number which is boldly listed on the ad — invariably there is no one to answer the phone at 6.30 am. At that time, this property is on top of my mind and if the call had been answered, chances are I would have even seen the apartment by 10 am. But it did not happen, and the company called me at 3 pm. Tell me, who is awake at 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon?

So that’s the story of different ads at different points in time, for different products and services with varying degrees of success. The question I ask is simple — have you got your back office and support services ready before you release those big ads? Advertising is glamorous — sexy even — but it can be wasted. Don’t let that happen to your advertising.

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