Monday, October 5, 2009

Lankan Advertising - Bloggers Are The Answer

Talking about advertising in the Lankanosphere's a risky business. One wrong word and there'll be a gang of creatives chasing me down the street brandishing their MacBooks in a threatening manner. Hair dye and tattoos will be flying all over the place and it'll be the only time the many pairs of Nikes ever get a run.

Comparisons, like I believe a good buriyani should be, are fruitless. I know that people chuck raisins and all sorts on a proper buriyani but, as far as I'm concerned, fruit is for fruit salads and desserts. And I try not to compare so many things in Lanka with things in the UK, it serves no purpose and does no good. It's far better to try to accept things in each country as they are, with none of that getting hung up on why x might cost so much more in Serendib than it does in London yet y costs so much less.

Sometimes though, I just can't help it and the world of advertising is one such instance. I peer, gaze and observe the Sri Lankan above the line advertising with curiosity and interest. I wonder why, how and what makes the press, billboard and TV ads work there (here) compared to how they'd work in the UK. Is it unfairly patronising to say that the Brit consumer is more advanced in terms of his exposure and mindset towards advertising?

The great love God Jack Point wrote this post only the other day about some of the radio ads hitting the Serendipitious airwaves at the moment and I think many feel the same about ads on other Lankan media.

If it is patronising then I offer my apologies, but it is what I feel. It's also coupled with my feeling that the UK has one of, if not the most, innovative and imaginative ad industries in the world.

There are two distinct and segregated markets within Sri Lanka. For the sake of convenience I'll call them the rich and the poor.

The rich, that Colombo 7 international crowd, often educated overseas, well travelled and with more disposable income than the entire population of Monte Carlo, are well used to Western consumersim and advertising. When they have to they shop at Odel and wouldn't be seen dead in Majestic City unless it's to go to KFC.

There is one fellow, who used to live in Dehiwala but hasn't been seen for a few months, who makes up the entire Sri Lankan middle class. The rest of the people are the poorer and lower class chaps, the "man on the street" who the advertising on the street is aimed at.

Looking at the Lankan ads made me realise that, if the agencies have got it right, an assumption I'm happy to make but many might argue with, the man in the street is a sucker for the celebrity endorsment. Every other billboard seemed to feature the image of a cricketer beaming at me and waggling a chicken sausage temptingly. The next one would be the same cricketer swigging a bottle of Coke or any other soft drink you care to name, the next would be noodles, oodles of them.

In fact it's a surprise that Mahela and Sangakkara aren't a couple of fat blokes who permanently need a runner, what with the amount of Coke, chocolates and general crap they quite clearly eat all the time. A diet of all that rubbish is evidently not helping Mr Sangakkara at the moment, that's for sure.

In other places there's a smiling old bloke persuading us to buy a biscuit that he loves, or a harrassed housewife struggling to juggle the demands of a busy worklife with feeding a couple of insanely happy, smily and unmoody kids. Of course the answer to all her woes is chicken sausages, noodles and salad all washed down with Coke and chocolate. How ridiculous is that? I ask you, who eats salad these days?

You Lankans are yet to find out about the perils of salad, what with all the censorship and all but, in some parts of London, possession of salad is a serious offence. Some burger places try to hide it in between the burger and the bread but it's rare and discouraged.

But, criticisms aside, people are the attraction in Sri Lankan advertising, unless of course these ads don't work. So I reckon the time has come to get bloggers involved, to decide which bloggers would suit which products.

For starters I think the combined power and sheer wordiness of the Lankan blogging diaspora, yes me included, should write about ninety nine per cent of the tourist board's copy. Ask DD to write some prose to get Suddhas to Serendib. In fact, forget Small Miracle and Land Like No Other, let's use Suddhas to Serendib as the slogan. They won't know what it means until they've been anyhow.

And there are other products that are crying out for the endorsment of the more well known members of the Lankanosphere.

If you sell maps, or own a small search engine with lots of Gs and Os in the title then you need.......... Cerno to endorse your product, though many think that this has been going on for a while as it is.

There are vacancies that need your input. I'm thinking condoms, the extra large ones as well as the extra small. Who could step up to the challenge in the blogosphere?

Dodgy clothes, any suggestion?

For a small fee, perhaps a lifetime's supply or similar, I'd be willing to advertise Barefoot sarongs. I just thought I'd mention that one now.

Ladies' products of the, ahem, you know, feminine variety, who'd appeal to you women, who'd make you switch brands?

Drug awareness campaigns, who could be the figurehead, the person who'd make kids want a clean and drug free life?

Ideas would be most welcome.

Have a spiffing Monday and an even more fantastic week.


Indy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ViceUnVersa said...

:) (wry smile)

David Blacker said...

I think it's a bit more complex than just saying the consumers are either rich or poor and that the rich are all well-travelled colombo 7 types. For instance there're rich businessmen who've never been to Col 7 -- like the car dealership owner in Kurunegala or the crab exporter from Halawatha.

Then within the working-class there are people who've lived in Colombo all their lives and are quite exposed to, say girls in short skirts, whereas a private sector executive working on a tea estate in Hatton -- who considers himself middle-class -- wouldn't be.

There are thousands of people who've worked overseas from Dubai to Italy who've been exposed to advanced advertising, but still speak no English.

I could keep going, but I think you get the picture. SL's largely a non-urban, Sinhalese-speaking, conservative population with an average age of 35.

The reason celebrity endorsement is so popular is 'cos it's a tried and tested method, and brand managers are mostly unimaginative buggers who really don't know much about advertising. Often they're sales or technical staff who've done a few exams and got slotted in. Or they're just a bit dull. It takes an agency with a lot of balls to actually push through something new that hasn't been tried and tested since 1981.

We still advertise detergent on TV for God's sake in spite of the fact that every single detergent is exactly the same with no USP or ESP. Why? Because that's what Levers has been doing forever, so why do something different? A new and edgy route has no guarantee of success, and most clients want guarantees.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

David -Yes, your points I think are valid and I apologise if I appeared to over simplify things in my attempt to explain my observations. Whilst I agree that Lankan consumers have a complex make up the point I was trying to make is that, over here, there is a massive and dominant middle class, whereas in Sri Lanka I feel that the middle class is relatively smaller and the population in general is split more into the rich and the poor.

I think that this is part of the development, if one can call it that, of a capitalist society. Over time the rich aristocracy types will start to lose some of the money made by earlier generations and much of it will get diluted. Also the poorer classes will start to build their wealth through business, travel and opportunity, thus reducing the upper and lower classes and building the middle.

I am no expert, but the celeb endorsement thing fascinates me because of the fact that it's far less popular here than in Sri Lanka, though we still do have plenty of it going on.

I must admit that your line about detergent interests me, out of a quest for knowledge, not picking an argument or anything. Do you feel that it's only something with a USP that should be TV advertised? We still have bucket loads of detergent ads on TV here too.

Thanks DB for the comment.

ViceUnVersa said...

How fancy, Davy has taken it seriously!
Sri Lanka
the paradise isle
I like.

indi said...

that's a fine idea. As long as there's disclosure. Apparently that's being required in US law even

Anonymous said...

RD , your understanding of the Sri Lankan consumer is totally hilarious. Good one !!! That is soooo funnny.

sittingnut said...

how typically head in the sky of you to not even mention the factual data about the size of sl blog audience.
at least indi is open about his, and it is tiny (and growing smaller due to end of war and kottu cocoon tendencies.)