Facebook Creative Shop’s Mark D’Arcy, DDB Mudra Group’s Sonal Dabral Discuss Advertising in India


SonalDabralMarkDArcy650Facebook Creative Shop chief creative officer Mark D’Arcy spoke with DDB Mudra Group chairman and CCO Sonal Dabral during a recent trip to Mumbai, discussing the changes to the advertising market in India. Highlights of their talk were published in a Facebook for Business post.

On change in general:

Dabral: The first thing brands must know is that it’s not just change itself, but the speed of change. For people, there is tremendous stress in urban life and working to achieve what they want. So one way that brands can make a difference is to empathize with people and help them navigate these changes.

D’Arcy: Observing the cultural zeitgeist is a big thing for brands. At Facebook, we often talk about marketing for people, not at people. The messages that brands deliver should contribute something positive to the conversation. What you’re saying is fascinating, that brands play a role as cultural touchstones. They’re a part of the societal fabric.

Dabral: Absolutely. I’ll give you an example. Big Bazaar is like the Walmart of India. It brought the retail revolution to India, made products available to Indians who could have not otherwise afforded such things. Big Bazaar plays an important role in people’s lives.

Keeping this in mind, we worked on a “Making India Beautiful” campaign for Big Bazaar. We released one small story each week showing a change that’s happening in India, and the way Big Bazaar is playing a part in that change. In one film, a male executive comes home carrying a nicely designed mop and bucket and begins cleaning the house — something that traditionally only women were expected to do. It’s a piece about how gender roles are changing in the home. In another film, we show a grandmother buying shorts for her granddaughter, again reflecting the evolving mindset in what were otherwise considered to be “traditional” homes.

We are emotional people, and we are melodramatic as a culture. We cry more, laugh louder. We need good stories. We are all about heart. Brands need to understand that. Local and international brands that do that succeed. Most Indian advertising has emotion, as well as humor. It often tells stories about the love between families. It is something that advertisers have borrowed from Bollywood, and that Bollywood borrowed from religion.

On digital:

Dabral: They’re talking about it more and more. Digital used to be something we could also do, but it wasn’t a primary offering. Now it’s coming into the conversation earlier, depending on the target audience. Any brand trying to reach the youth is thinking digital. And India is a youthful audience. 65 percent of the country is under 35 years of age.

D’Arcy: If you think back to 1997, when we first started doing things on the Internet, it was a novelty. Every new platform starts out like that, but eventually the efficacy-to-novelty ratio shifts. The data becomes overwhelming, and what was a small thing becomes the central thing. Ultimately, it’s about people. You build campaigns for where people are.

Dabral: We need to be out front, but not too far out front of our clients. Digital will be hugely important for India. It has already democratized entertainment. You can buy a 5,000-rupee phone and still get the same video as someone who bought a TV. You are no longer limited by where you were born or how much money you have.

On creative:

Dabral: There’s a lot of visual and sonic bombardment in India, and ads need to break through. In India, people actually look for ads to entertain them. So it’s very important for ads to be entertaining and rewarding.

Marketers understand there is a new paradigm. Historically, brands have pushed messages down peoples’ throats. Now you need to give — give an ideology, give something back.

For the complete conversation, please see the Facebook for Business post.

Readers: What did you think of the statements by D’Arcy and Dabral about advertising in India?