Sucheta Dalal :Do annoying commercials work?
Sucheta Dalal

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Do annoying commercials work?  

April 16, 2010

This question recently bothered me. Because of two commercials currently on air during the IPL coverage. One cell phone ad features actor Akshay Kumar, where he laughs like a mule, and the sound is so grating, it shoots up the blood pressure by 40 points. Guaranteed to turn you off. Then there’s the Karbonn mobile phone commercial, starring cricketers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, and it is flashed while an over is being bowled, often blanking out live match coverage, leaving fans seething with rage. Good old David Ogilvy once remarked, “You can’t bore your consumers into buying your product, you can only interest them into doing so.” Of course, he didn’t mention anything about annoying your way into the consumer’s heart and mind, in his days no such practice was followed.

Clearly, marketers and their ad agents aren’t such fools as to be wanting to annoy viewers deliberately. Surely there must be something to gain from this nefarious strategy. And going by the little research conducted in the West so far in this matter, there is some method behind this madness after all.

Here’s the general consensus: What essentially happens is that irritation through ads does lead to a degree of brand memorability, the consumer’s anger aiding in that process. It’s more than likely this tactic cannot work in the long term, but what it does in the immediate term is to create brand awareness pretty swiftly. And especially so for smaller brands that lack the ad budgets and the resources to carpet-bomb the media. So the clutter-break strategy is the reason for unleashing annoying creative on hapless viewers.

But research also indicates another thing: emotionally assaulting a consumer can never work in the long term. It can only induce a negative response. And I totally agree with this view. This strategy is like your neighbour chucking a stone into your house to attract attention. He does get that for sure, you notice and remember him vividly, but will you maintain good relations with him, would you invite him over for a drink? Very unlikely, even if he looks like Brad Pitt. So to my mind, releasing annoying ads is a very stupid ploy and is sure to damage the brand’s perception in the market place.

I’ll give you two examples. I conducted a small research of my own with my Facebook buddies, all in the younger age bracket. And every single one stated that they would never, ever purchase a Karbonn Mobile, so furious are they with the brand. Another thing: Notice that I do not even recall which cell phone is being hawked by the Akshay Kumar-Mule laughter ad. So even the quick awareness theory is questionable. Because the moment that ad comes on, I instantly switch to watching Krishi Darshan on good ol’ DD. —
Anil Thakraney

-- Sucheta Dalal