"The rubbish we produce each year is in sharp contrast to the great stuff we produce," was indeed a thought-provoking indictment from a senior colleague in the advertising industry. The presentations for the Advertising Club's annual Ad Review started with a show of some of the better television commercials that hit the air last year.
There was the well-known Fevicol adhesive commercial - villagers in their colourful headgear huddled together in a lurching truck on a rustic road. Then, there was the thanda matlab Coca-Cola commercial in which the charming Aamir Khan offers three thirsty women a drink in a sugarcane field.
There was the Center Shock commercial that had an old barber offer his young customer a unique solution to get the tonsorial look he desires. Last, but not least, Adhikari aired the clay-model commercial for Amaron batteries, based on the story of the hare and the tortoise.
Among the print and outdoor advertisements Adhikari singled out offerings such as Procter & Gamble's Ariel hoarding, The Economic Times' "knowledge is power" presentation and the Tata Sumo ad. Adhikari believes these were the pick of the year.
But the meat of the presentation came when Adhikari conducted a small survey of advertising on television and in the print medium in December last year. He chose 77 of the biggest spenders on television for the month and 50 of the biggest spenders in six popular magazines.
These advertisements were evaluated by 40 advertising and marketing professionals, each of who had between four and six years' experience. The advertisements were judged according to five categories:
Appalling - should never have been released
Wasted - says nothing, quite forgettable
Basic - sound message
Worthwhile - sound message with a creative flair
Good - sound message, with a creative flare and well produced
Excellent - exceptional
The panel found that no advertisement scored higher than 5. Among the top presentations in the good and worthwhile categories were ICICI Prudential's retirement solutions, Asian Paints, Pond's moisturising cold cream, Raymond and De Beers diamonds. These represented eight per cent of the top 77 ads.
Adhikari points out that about a third of the advertisements scored between categories 3 and 4, and 40 per cent scored between categories 2 and 3. Among those in categories 2 and 3 came commercials such as John Players readymades, Garnier Nutrisse, Tata Tea and Borosoft soap.
Adhikari's team rated commercials such as Sanket No1 paan masala, Bridgestone tyres, MDH masala, Kamla Pasand paan masala and Microtek Technology among the bottom of the pile. "Somebody actually paid to get these on air," he commented, acidly, and added "This is what consumers actually get to see on television and in print. They grit their teeth for 60 seconds and brace themselves for the next offering when they grit their teeth again."
The print medium fared even worse. No ad was rated more than a category 4 and only 20 per ent of the 50 chosen ads made it to categories 3 and 4. These included World Gold Council's offering, Palmolive Personal Wash and Mahindra & Mahindra's Scorpio.
Adhikari's team found 66 per cent of the ads forgettable and 14 per cent appalling. Among the "appalling" category of ads fell the likes of Racold, Charagh Din and Diwan Saheb. Among the "forgettable" ones were WagonR, Royal Stag and Blenders Pride.
However, many in the audience disagreed with Adhikari's findings. Some pointed out that the Sanket No1 ad had given the "brand leaders in its category a run for their money" and that an ad that might have ranked higher on Adhikari's list might not have been good for the brand. But then one could never be sure about that.
Others insinuate it's not always the agency's fault that such work finds its way to the media because clients often insist on a certain kind of advertising. But Adhikari holds that an agency must educate a client who is new to advertising. . "About 80 per cent of the work that was adjudged "rubbish" came out of well-established advertising agencies rather than small, relatively unknown "hole-in-the-wall" agencies," says Adhikari.
Adhikari ended his presentation with a plea for more consistently good advertising output and hoped the audience had left feeling a bit uncomfortable and motivated to do something about it.