Effectiveness in advertising
By J Godwin Perera
(Former president of the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing who has served as Chairman of the Advertising Awards Committee and as a judge at the SLIM Awards).

Amongst the many controversial issues raised at this year's SLIM Advertising Awards was the question of priority between 'creativity' and 'effectiveness'. Actually, there need not have been a controversy at all. The fact that there was clearly indicates a surprising inability to see proverbial wood for the trees.

Marketing background
Advertising has to be judged against a marketing background. The legitimacy of the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing conducting the awards rests solely on this premise. To take advertising out of this background and judge it as a separate art form is to deny advertising its rightful place as a powerful communications tool.

Therefore, the starting point of any evaluation process has to be the client company's marketing strategy. From this will flow other strategies, such as positioning, packaging, pricing, placement and promotion of which advertising forms an integral part. Advertising cannot be done without creativity.

Hence the prime responsibility of the agency is to develop a creative strategy. In fact, the strength of an agency lies in its creative talents and skills. This is what sets the advertising industry apart from all other marketing organisations. And this is why agencies have created an aura around the word 'creativity' that sometimes borders on the mysterious.

Let no one begrudge the agencies for basking in this mystique of imagination, for that is their professional licence and privilege.

But marketers need not be carried away. Creative strategy simply means deciding what is going to be said in the advertising and how it is going to be said. This is easier said than done.

The process of developing and honing a creative strategy is a task that requires considerable research, clarity of thought and discipline. That is why a very close client-agency partnership is a prerequisite to any successful advertising campaign.
There are five factors that have to be considered in developing a creative strategy. Firstly, what is the objective of advertising? For example, is it to win new customers or is it to get existing customers to use the product more frequently? Secondly, what is the target customer segment?

Here it is best to develop a profile of the typical customer. For example it could be a lower middle class working mother with school going children or an urban, house-proud housewife who with her husband do a lot of home entertaining.

Thirdly, what is the key product benefit? This can range from convenience to economy to healthcare to timesaving to many more derivable advantages. In determining the benefit, competitive products and customer attitudes must be carefully studied. Fourthly, what communication media will be used? With limited client budgets, a proliferation of print and electric media and the ability of listeners and viewers to switch channels effortlessly. This is one of the most difficult areas for an agency to make recommendations.

Fifthly, how will the message be delivered? What words, images, graphics, colours and characters will be used to make the advertisement stand out from the clutter of, not only competitive, but all other advertisements in that medium and successfully take the customer through the complete communication process of attention, interest, conviction and action?

This is indeed a challenging task for the agency. Because, as communications specialists advise us, no matter what the medium, attention must be achieved within the first two seconds and interest probably in three seconds. Failing that, the entire message will lose its impact. Consequently the client would have wasted his money and the agency its time and energy.

However having succeeded in getting the customer' attention and arousing interest is not enough. There's conviction and action which must follow. To achieve all this the findings of indepth research of markets have to be combined with creativity.

Creativity has been defined as the ability to be imaginative, ingenious, and inventive.

But it is a type of creativity that makes the advertisement effective. Therefore, the bottom line is effectiveness. Creativity must serve to contribute to it. This is one of the fundamental principles of advertising.

Call to seek Indian support in trade talks
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce has called on the government to seek the support of India and other South Asian countries in negotiating international trade agreements.

"The policy and action plans must be aimed at securing optimum benefits for Sri Lanka under these agreements and specifically deal with the leverage opportunities to collaborate with South Asian countries, especially India," it said in a letter to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

It suggested the government appoint a working group specifically to develop a policy framework and action plans to develop the economy through international trade and investment agreements.

The government should set up an inter-ministerial team along with the private sector and trade unions to review all issues relevant to Sri Lanka's ability to exploit the advantages and avoid the disadvantages in the emerging globalised world, it said.

It made specific reference to the World Trade Organisation, the free trade agreements with India and Pakistan and the multi-fibre agreements.

The working group must review the specific skills required to understand the implications of the agreements and the applicable rules, the negotiation skills and develop strategies to enhance the capability of the Sri Lankan team, it said.

The chamber also suggested the government strike a deal with India for the use of Indian rupee and Sri Lankan rupee credit cards in their respective territories.

The government should also review bilateral aviation agreements and negotiate and facilitate private Indian airlines to fly to Sri Lanka, it said.

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