Monday, November 06, 2006

Guest Rant: Promoseven Strategist, Talal El Kateb

I know I haven’t been called in for a second interview by the diablogger extraordinaire but I feel like ranting and I believe my only outlets for such drabble is here or on 2-ply pink toilet paper. I’ve run out of the latter.

I feel like venting about research if you don’t mind… well I’m glad no one does. You see I am a firm believer in the power of consumer knowledge. The more you know about those you’re targeting the better you can communicate with them and the easier your task of selling to them… ooops… I meant your task of making them believe in / love / feel affinity for / emotionally bond with… your brand.

But here’s a doozy: how many times have you regretted even asking your client for ad pre-testing when the response was not to your liking? How hard was it to convince your client that pre-testing is meant to give more ammunition to the creative team rather than bore a hole through the bullseye? How close were you to suicide when your client saw a piece of research and asked you to craft a piece of communication around its findings in the most literal way possible?

It just feels like it’s taken us agencies eons to finally get clients to buy into the fact that research is always beneficial to their marketing efforts, only to see it abused in the hands of the number-crunchers, the black or white viewists and those that use research as a safety, existing for the sole purpose of covering their butts when things go wrong… “Wasn’t my fault! Research said adults trust their family doctors with their lives. I don’t know why having them endorse our life insurance product didn’t work out!!!”

Here’s the pickle: yes I am a firm believer in the importance of consumer knowledge, but I’m also an idealist who believes that advertising can change the world, or at least the behaviour of a select few.

You see, research will have banks believe that it’s the Asian population of the UAE who are most prone to saving, the national population most prone to need investment guidance and symbols of status, and the Lebanese populace most prone to taking out loans to fund their Porsches and Maseratis (that last one was a non-PC joke but I’m sure all the Lebs out there feel me).

Sales figures and market share will have us believe that the average Saudi family will always opt for either a gas-guzzling SUV for their extended family to cram in for those joyous Friday picnics on the corniche; or a moderate, affordable Toyota Camry or Corolla.

Are these stereotypes true?

Most definitely!

Should they guide our brand and communication strategies?

Of course not!

I know I’ve used terrible examples above but I know you know what we all know: research and data should set the backdrop but it’s up to us mighty planners of the new age to write the screenplay.

Now that we’ve succeeded in convincing our clients to shell out a small but hefty percentage of their marketing budgets on research, the next step is making the best use of that research instead of just turning it into a brief. On a final note…


Thanks for letting me vent.

Diablog: As always our pleasure.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pre-testing has never been much of a friend to advertising, some of the best ads produced by the industry would have flopped in pretesting. I think it has a lot to do with the methodology we tend to use.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous ISH said...

Planners are going to have to move on from research based, most major clients are going to have there own research division if that doesn't exist already...

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets take Lebanese people who sell their kidneys for a flashy car...i think the challenge is taking it further. So why? Is it because women tend to channel their lack of power though men, materialistic? Just a thought....

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whilst product truths are dangerous to live by i.e. this chocolate bar has more milk in it, lets play on the milk angle

I think consumer truths which are brutally honest are to an extent a great friend in developing strategies, it's just a shame our industry is too weak to guide our clients into brutal honesty - when does a large majority of people eat McDonalds? Nope, not on the family day out, nope not whilst doing the shopping but BEFORE and AFTER heavy alcohol drinking sessions.

That's a consumer truth that would never be allowed to be used as a strategy.'s true.



2:07 PM  
Anonymous GB said...

Honest people have no friends. Know one wants to hang out with someone who reminds them how fat they are...

2:19 PM  
Anonymous farrukh: copywriter & journalist said...

Hey there Talal,

Loved your rant. Good that we have our friend 'X' and diablog.

The problem of clients taking test research literally is as old as test research. Next step locally is educating clients about test data being a tool, not a solution. It could be used best for finding out what's not working rather than trying to find out what would work best.

Research can never take the place of imagination. Having said that, the right facts and data can sharpen the creative output to touch the target where it really tickles.

Also, would it not be fun to involve creatives in the research - art directors might not dig focus groups but curious and inquisitive copywriters definitely would.

Having a clear picture of what the target looks, talks and behaves like can bring the copy alive many times.

The Ad Blogger

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one, as in N O, has to be told they are fat, just be told the truth in order to connect. Why is so much advertising poor? Because it runs off into the conceptional hills where no one can find it, connect or understand it.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The truth??????!!!!! HELLO!!! Are we wa*nking off? Or are you one of those people who have been so caught up with the Campaignforrealbeauty that you actually believe that the truth has a chance in advertising!

Think of the last ad you worked on and tell me there wasn't some form of bending the truth which in essence is a lie...

6:49 PM  
Blogger X said...

Getting a little carried away their anonymous your premise says alot about your beliefs on the intelligence of the consumer...

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My point exactly X, the reason why advertising is so bad is due to these no hopers who, rather than sitting and thinking 'actually there is a product truth which could be a real hook' they instead think 'nah, I wanna go on a shoot and eat good sandwiches, giggle giggle, slobber slobber'

Thankfully, this punk is a dying breed as now, advertising is actually starting to require talent

12:55 PM  
Blogger X said...

Talal always great to have you on the blog, any other Diablog frequents that want to send in rants please feel free.

Email is available at my profile.

8:21 PM  

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