Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A good brief for a not so good product – A battle lost

It happened about a couple of years ago when I was handling a consumer durable major back in India. They wanted to launch a new color television – 29”.

The unique selling proposition according to the client – “this is a picture-in-picture television”. Meaning, you could watch more than one channel at the same time.

And this product, was the only one of its kind in the market at that point in time that gave the opportunity to get the audio feed for 3 channels at the same time. One channels audio would be beamed through the televisions speakers, and the other two through two wireless headphone sets that were provided free with the television.

And you could actually see 6 different channels at the same time. So this was a 6PIP with 3 Audio channels.

The moment the client briefed us and demonstrated the product, I had a creative brief in mind. To add to my enthusiasm of having cracked the brief even when the client was briefing, it was a $250,000 campaign including media and production.

My boss was gleefully happy, he would comfortably cruise through his annual targets if this campaign would come through. My branch manager was jumping up and down a couch, like Tom Cruise. Professing his love for this client. I was also happy, dreaming about a fat increment and a reprint of my visiting card.

But before I wrote the brief I had in my mind and set the ball rolling, I wanted to be sure about the product. I wanted to test it out for a while and I also wanted to test the product on a couple of guys from my agency.

The findings weren’t quite encouraging. Being a visual medium, even on the 29” screen if you had 3 different pictures running, one couldn’t concentrate on his picture. So people either let their eyes wander (which happened most of the time) or miss some audio trying to catch-up with a visual in another screen.

The result, it wasn’t a pleasurable experience. It seemed a painful technological innovation to digest.

I went back to my bosses and told them my findings. I wanted to go to the client and say the product wouldn’t work for 2 reasons.

1) The viewer couldn’t simply concentrate on his visuals and sound
2) The cost of this product – I could buy three 25” (there used be a TV of this dimension those days), keep them in three different places and three people could peacefully watch without distractions.

The bosses wouldn’t agree, they were in fact quite pissed off with me. They wanted the money more than the client. I was reminded about the story of the “Goose that laid golden eggs” my father had told me when I was young.

I was too small a fry to be heard. The result, I went ahead to produce what I think one of my best briefs till date. That resulted in a television commercial (big budget, my CD flew places – as usual), a barrage of press adverts, some good number of POS material and all very good quality and very creative. This also resulted in our agency getting a couple of metals in the Abby awards (conducted by the Bombay Adclub) and some in Chennai.

The agency got the monies and awards, the branch head & the CD were there all over. It was a good PR exercise for the agency. But the television didn’t sell, the brand was not doing well. Eventually the account was lost.

We killed the goose with the greed of finding a huge haul of golden eggs, the result we killed the goose and from then we couldn’t even get the one golden egg she laid per day.

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