Years ago when I was in high school, we were in one of those classes that were subdivided such that they could be opened up to create one large conference hall. The board dividing them was quite thin such that we got into trouble for making noise when there was a teacher imparting knowledge in the next class. On this occasion, it was the teacher in the next class who was shouting as he taught. He was an interesting teacher and the students he taught would constantly have tales to tell about some story he told, some joke he cracked or some poor guy he insulted.
But that day, we did not have to wait for the stories; we were hearing it all live through the board as he shouted. You can imagine the shock our own teacher (who was not even remotely funny) had when we time and again burst out laughing. He would be writing some formula on the board while we were snickering under our desks. The teacher in the next class was killing us and at times with no holds barred, we’d laugh out loud. This teacher would turn at us with a WTF impression on his face.
That is what is happening with brands and products today. Like our teacher, they are not even remotely connecting with us yet they are the ones in front of us, on our TVs. We are engaged elsewhere yet they have no clue and keep spending money on the same lame TV adverts.
According to Hubspot people are getting better at blocking out interruption-based marketing messages – add to the post about watching TV. Research has it that 90% of people who can skip TV ads, do – Connected Marketing.
Just because the TV is in front of us and in all our homes does not mean that we are paying attention to what is being shown there. Companies in Kenya are head over heels in love with traditional media as their sole means of advertisement. They figure that since we all have TV’s in our houses, we surely must be watching them and faithfully taking serious the content there including their adverts. But that has been a gross miscalculation on their part and here is why:
Yes, we do watch the adverts, some of the time. We watch either when it is really funny stuff like the Brrrr Coca Cola advert or when it has ridiculous acting that we want to make fun of like the Dettol teenager with a 20 year old mum. The rest of the time, we see the advert and change channels to the one without an advert at that time, opting out until that advert ends. If they start one in that channel, we switch channels again to yet another channel or revert to the earlier channel trusting that the advert is over.
But would companies know this? They should because company execs have families and they probably do the same thing when the same adverts are aired. And because they do this in almost every other home, I wonder whether the statistics about the number of TVs in Kenyan households really holds when proclaiming they reach this million number of people. How can they tell for sure that they are reaching a specified number of people whereas the statistics of those with TV’s to those that actually watch the adverts does not correlate? This argument would have held water a few years back when Kenya had only one TV channel but now that there are 14 and counting, not mentioning DSTV. We have the option to shift from one channel to the next and the next until the frenzy of adverts end.
I am making a play here. There is an avenue that has come up in recent years that you as the corporate exec cannot afford to ignore for a number of reasons. This avenue is a platform called Social Media. You may have been very comfortable writing a cheque to some marketing company that usually drafted some actors to proclaim the wonder of your product; that has to stop. You need to stop. Times have changed and power has shifted to the consumer. Consumers now have channels that have lifted their voices to the skies. Whereas you could buy time from TV stations to interrupt their news with adverts and they couldn’t stop you, now they can for just a few shillings log on to facebook and tell you where to shove your product. Pay attention and you will see how people really feel about your product.
The jokes going round about some of your adverts and products have been brutal. “Who comes up with these things?” has been the persistent question. My mum just watches them with a blank expression and always asks, “sasa wamesema nini?” translation, “what have they said now?” The younger generation which is not patient with you, has no brand loyalty to anybody and has access to a myriad of social media tools presents a problem. Just after the XYZ show started, a group was created on facebook and what the participants had to stay was not flattering. I watched the first show which had been hyped a lot and thought it was crap. Those who commented about it on the group were not as lenient. But the bright people at XYZ were listening. They tweaked the storylines, became more assertive and it became the show to watch in town. I was laughing my ass off every Sunday and was sad when it ended. Better still, some of the ideas used in the show were pitched by fans of the facebook group. I remember in the season finale one of the creators thanking their facebook fans for doing what they did.
That is the power of social media. The teacher was in our class yet we were listening and laughing at the jokes of the teacher in the next class. The TV may be in our homes but we are engaging in the social media platforms where we get more than the boring formulas that our teacher was giving us and the tired sales pitches that your adverts are trying to shove down our throats. Until companies leave their comfort zone and engage with us in the social media arena, they will only have themselves to blame. In the mean time, people are having fun butchering their advertising efforts on social media. Yes, if you were here engaging with clients and potential clients, they would tell you to your face the brutally honest truth that you need to hear sooner rather than later. Otherwise, you will end up like Dettol, using an advert that even my class three neighbour’s kid finds corny.
Today, as you change the channel on TV when that long advert comes on, ask yourself, are people doing the same with the advert that I paid millions to place in the middle of this Bulletin? They most probably are.