Interview and AnalysisThe nature of our research topic made it necessary for us to conduct an interview, if not multiple, with advertising professionals who had expertise and experience in the field of work as they could assist us in reaffirming the research data that we had collected, besides being the most reliable way to gain an insight into the professional world of advertising – the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes work.
After many unsuccessful rounds of invitations, we were finally able to earn the privilege of two extremely accommodating interviewees who took time off their busy schedules to attend to our questions– Mr. Jerry Yap, Creative Head of The Thinc Group and Mr. Andy Tan, Executive Creative Director of The Thinc Group.
The Thinc Group is a Singapore-based company, a “concept-house” where its employees service their clients through the planning of campaign strategies and conceptualizing the advertisements and commercials. Companies like Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore’s news agency, and Hewlett Packard, an internationally acclaimed brand in computers and computer accessories can be counted their roster of customers
Interview with Mr. Jerry Yap, Creative Head of The Thinc Group
The interview with Mr. Yap went smoothly and successfully, and the four of us were even treated to a tour of the company’s headquarters which opened our eyes to the process by which advertisements were created – from conceiving the concepts to the execution of the advertising campaigns themselves. Unfortunately, he minded having a recording of the interview and we were instead allowed to take down the important notes and pointers as he kindly explained the details, and then gave us examples to further illustrate his answers.
Summary of what we have garnered from the interview:
What is advertising and what are advertisements all about?
How does one create an effective advertisement?
Strict taboos for advertising
How does advertising or advertisements affect popular culture or vice versa?
Product placements/ Celebrity endorsements
Is censorship in Singapore too strict? Does it restrict creativity?
Interview with Mr. Andy Tan, Executive Creative Director of The Thinc Group
Question 1. We understand that advertising and advertisements are important to the continued growth of industry – why is it so? Please explain and state some examples.
Advertising is one effective way of getting in touch with your audience. It is one great way to stay relevant and is a tried-and-tested tool of engaging them on a regular basis. It lets you show that you are constantly evolving, adapting solutions, services or products to meet their ever-changing needs.
For example, have a look at the highly competitive AUTOMOBILE market. Cars today are not just equipped with the latest gadgets and technologies like GPS, iPOD tuners, security systems, key-card access etc. They are also tailored to specific audiences’ lifestyle needs.
At the same time, COE prices fluctuate every month. Imagine if a car reseller or distributor were NOT to advertise every weekend. They will eventually lose touch and lose sight of their audience while your competitors will have no problem jumping ahead in the consumers’ queue. You have to be in the media every week. Even if you have an old product, the need to share the media space is critical.
As can be understood, continued advertising is extremely important to advertise a particular product or a line of products. Constant updating of products at compatible market prices is also necessary to cater to the customer’s needs and wants.
iPOD – a MP3 music player created by Apple Inc.
GPS – Global Positioning System
COE – Certificate of Eligibility, proof that one owns a car in Singapore
Question 2. Your associate, Mr. Jerry Yap, said that there were two types of advertisements in general – the “tactical” advert and the “branding” advert; we would like you to explain the two types/terms in detail to facilitate the readers of our website.
The 2 types mentioned are “generally” what you tend to see or hear in today’s media space. They should not be taken as the start and end of advertising. If we see advertising as a tool to communicate and reach out to audiences everywhere, and that the core of the industry is about creativity, then it would be illogical and ironical to even classify or even define advertising. It can come in infinite forms! There are many other things going on to “brainwash” you that you may not even notice.
But for distinction’s sake, “branding” adverts tend to accentuate the values of the brand in the eyes of the consumer. (think reliable for SingTel, bright for M1, Impossible is Nothing for Addidas, etc). Most of the times, branding ads are used to inspire, captivate, entrance... – play with emotions.
“Tactical” ads can be viewed narrowly as promotional ads, or product-related and specific messages. These are logical arguments to convince you why this product is superior usually via a tangible list of benefits. (e.g., cheapest, SALE, most convenient, “buy 1, get 1 free” etc.)
Some ads are a combination of the 2. They make the consumer feel good while being supported by great benefits.
A good way to differentiate the 2 types would be to look at your brain. The branding ads tend to inspire your right brain. Tactical/promotional ones try to trigger your left. A perfect combination of the 2 can go some way to really convince you!
Having defined both types, let me reiterate that they are just 2 of the most common types you see. And you might get a different response from different creative agencies. (I wouldn’t try to define and classify types of advertising without the time and space to do so.)
We understand from his answer that there are many forms of advertisements besides “branding” and “tactical” advertisements; however, they are the most commonly found. Advertising is a form of creativity and knows no absolute form. We interpret that “branding” adverts appeal to the customer’s wants while “tactical” advertisements appeal to a customer’s needs.
Question 3. After much careful consideration, we have included the following elements in our survey. What do you think of our choice of basic elements?
These are the so-called ingredients that go into a creative dish... and for that, I think you do have the main ingredients on hand. But think about it: every chef cooks his dish in a different way. It may be the same ingredients, but the results are always “mind-blowingly” different. The best way to cook is to find the right chef to cook for the right audience. An award-winning French chef may not satisfy my grandparents’ Asian taste buds. In fact, he would fail miserably in even getting them to the dining table with his elaborate layout.
The point is this: whatever ingredients you use, make sure you whip them up into the RIGHT messaging platform for the RIGHT audience group. A beautiful image or the best soundtrack in a TVC is still a failure if this is not grasped properly.
The communication has to be REAL. Not beautiful. Here’s a real life example to illustrate this mind-boggling statement:
The story of the MISSING DOG poster
Sometimes, the most beautiful image, perfect layout of headline, perfect font-choice or even perfect choice of words and sentences DO NOT WORK!
I had a neighbour who lost his treasured puppy.
He approached me to help to design a MISSING/REWARD poster.
I thought, “Great! Don’t worry man, I have everyday ready here... best scanner, best colour printer... best designer, best copywriter, best photo-retoucher to make your dog’s image sharper and clearer... you will get the best poster ever produced... and get your dog back in no time!”.
So in the evening I proudly passed him stacks of freshly printed posters, in glorious full-colour, with a perfectly retouched image of his dog, complete with an eye-catching headline set in big bold letters against red, and the best body copy (with no grammatical errors or typos) you have ever come across compared to those amateurishly produced MISSING posters you see so often in the lift.
Boy was I so proud of my team and our efforts!
I was proud indeed, until I came across another MISSING DOG poster by someone else. Placing my beautiful poster beside it, I was admiring my artwork, when something struck me.
On the left was the haphazardly done up poster, probably from an amateur using a word document, photocopied in black-and white; the headline looks horribly scribbled, grammar-laden with errors in the copy mixed with Singlish and Mandarin...
On the right is my picture perfect, copy perfect poster.
As I stood back in glee, I had a revelation that would put me in shame:
I asked myself:
Which poster generated the MOST DESPARATE PLEA for help?
Which poster conveyed the utter pandemonium and distress that the owner should be facing right now?
Which poster looked as if the owner HAD NO TIME to sit down to prepare?
The answer is obvious, isn’t it? My perfect poster failed to COMMUNICATE the right message... it did in a cosmetic way... but yet, it failed miserably in sending the urgency and desperation to the poster readers.
That’s when it dawned on me... sometimes the perfect design elements don’t make up the perfect advertisement or messaging piece.
Chew on this!
Mr. Tan used the analogy of a chef cooking a dish to emphasize the point that the raw creative elements that one starts off with do not necessarily mean that one has an especially impactful and successful advertisement – one must know how to utilise these elements together to create an effective advertisement. The message that the advertisement is trying to convey must also be considered before designing the advertisement – the way the advert is presented must also be appropriate to the target audience.
Question 4. Drawing on your experience in the field, which medium of advertising seems to be the most effective and/or popular presently, globally and in Singapore? Why do you think so?
It really depends on the product, brand or service you are advertising for. Each will have an effective medium. For example, property or real estate/condominium ads use the weekend newspapers as the best medium. You hardly hear them on radio. This is because the main audience is people who spend the weekend “house-hunting”, armed with the newspaper as they drive from location to location.
But the main mass media in Singapore seems to be the newspapers, TV, radio and increasingly, web space; that is, if you want to reach the masses without targeting specific interest groups.
If you have a global product or service, the favoured media is the internet or web/interactive space simply because it connects and reaches out to everyone in the world.
An emerging space that is yet untested, but getting really big, is the virtual world space. The likes of Second Life are transforming the 2D web space into a 3D interactive environment. Look out for it.
As he reiterates again, there is no absolute in the strict effectiveness of the advertising media – it all depends on how the message is conveyed. However, the reach of the medium of advertising must also be considered.
Question 5. Many of our surveyees thought that the medium of television to advertise a product and television commercials in general are the most effective method to advertise a product, however, Mr. Jerry Yap, Creative Head of your company said that print advertisements were more effective because they were cheaper, more efficient and had a wider audience base. What is your opinion on this issue?
As mentioned above, it really depends on the product and marketing strategy that you are advertising for.
Question 6. What processes go into the design and final production of an advertisement?
Every agency works in different ways. For me, there are 3 basic steps to every creation: FACTS GATHERING, ASSUMPTION MAKING, CREATIVE EXECUTION.
As usual, there must be a basis for any information or message you are trying to convey to the audience – and that is where research for clear facts and data is required to make the advertisement believable. Similarly, assumptions have to be made as to the effect of each particular component in the advertisements. Execution is just the basic task of getting the ideas in their final form.
Question 7. Our surveyees also highlighted that there were some characteristics of advertisements that they found annoying – repetitiveness, gross exaggeration, forced viewer attention and clichés. What do you think are the worst types of advertisements? What are some of the things that advertisers should strictly avoid in their advertisements?
The worse types of ads are those that are not EFFECTIVE. Generally, they tend to get the main MESSAGE wrong, regardless of whether they had good or bad intentions. They don’t tell you what they are selling. And they misrepresent the right values of the brand.
A clichéd ad may be EFFECTIVE. So can an ANNOYING one. On the other hand, a politically-correct and perfectly sensible ad may get the entire COMMUNICATION wrong and end up totally INEFFECTIVE.
Again, communication of the main idea, notion or message about the product is key to creating an effective advertisement to the target audience. Bad advertisements fail to convey the message and fail to sell the product. Although annoying advertisements are deemed bad and ineffective by some consumers, sometimes they also serve to drill home the message.
Question 8. How do advertisements contribute to popular culture or vice versa?
Depending on which way you see it, advertisements need to stay relevant to pop culture, or the culture of the audience they are targeting. In this aspect, a good ad rides on the culture well, and is reflective of it. This will reinforce the existing culture, even validate it. An ad can also set a trend or lead a culture to new heights, or even start a new sub-culture.
Confirming our earlier notions, popular culture and advertisements are linked in no small way and they influence each other. Advertisements need to follow the evolution of culture to stay relevant to the target audience and also serve to validate the existing culture due to mass representation as an advertisement eventually conveys the message to the target audience.
Question 9. There are many people who think that Singapore’s censorship is too strict but there are some who think the reverse – what is your opinion on this issue? Does such censorship restrict creativity?
Creativity in the advertising world is bounded by several elements and not just censorship. There are business considerations, budget, corporate branding guidelines that restrict the use of certain images or fonts, etc. That’s when creativity comes to the fore, doesn’t it? A good creative adman can work within the boundaries and tight space to produce really effective messages. That’s our job. The smaller the space to move around, the higher the creativity you need to unleash. And the more valuable you will become to your clients. Creating something without boundaries is akin to just being an artist who lets his imagination run wild on his canvas. That is not creativity, in my view. That is unlimited self-expression. Creativity is problem solving. It means overcoming boundaries. And it means marrying business considerations, political issues, censorship, budget and a whole lot more together with artistic vision. The canvas we operate on is much smaller than an artist’s. So, let me ask you: which poses a greater challenge? Which is easier to do? Which requires MORE creativity? Unlimited self-expression that is open to interpretation on a large canvas, or the ability to create something magnificent on a tiny one? You decide!
Echoing the words of Mr. Yap, Mr. Tan also says that creativity knows no bounds! He even states that creativity in the world of advertising, when one is restricted and constrained by so many forces of industry, the need for creativity and is much greater and much more useful and relevant. The smaller the canvas to work on, the more concentrated creativity is resulted.
Question 10. To sum it all up, what do you think is crucial to the effectiveness of a successful advertisement? i.e., what makes a good advertisement?
One word: EFFECTIVENESS. I think I’ve already made my point in the answers above why this is so.
We believe so too! An effective advertisement must successfully deliver the intended message to the target audience to achieve best results, besides being relevant to the present age.