Wednesday, 13 April 2016

How Far Can Creativity Be Stretched?

The rise of digital technology has altered the very architecture of marketing, making the business environment increasingly competitive than ever before. The struggle for market share by various brands in a precarious ecosystem has equally spurred the emergence of both innovative and dark guerrilla marketing tactics. Consumer engagement has assumed a religion worshipped by most marketers with a mystic awe; the kind reserved for kings and deities.

But in the struggle to create cult-followership and engagement, many brands have landed in muddy puddles, which, sometimes make or mar the brand’s perception, equity and profitability in the market. Of particular significance is the classic case of Mountain Dew ad which was widely criticised for trivialising the agony of battered women. The campaign was crowned the most racist commercial in history. From Hyundai’s controversial clean emission technologies commercial to Goldman Sach’s open endorsement of gay marriage as well as the 2015 death wish ad by Governor Ayo Fayose, brands are in a rat race to outsmart the competition with brave campaigns.

Among marketing eggheads, the greatest disaster to happen to an ad campaign is not rejection on the part of the consumers but indifference to the brand’s message. Consequently, a marketing campaign that fails to stir consumers’ reaction – either positive or negative – can be conveniently regarded as a failure. The question, however, remains: where do brands draw the line?

In recent time, Chicken Republic has joined the legion of brands who exploit controversial ad campaigns to drive conversation. On January 15, Nigeria’s fast food brand Chicken Republic ripped the digital space open with a particularly creative but controversial ad that pokes fun at the embattled spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olisa Metuh. Riding on the evidence destruction charge levelled against Metuh by authorities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Chicken Republic’s creative work launched covert tirades on the spokesman.

The ad has stirred both ugly and positive reactions from the online community, and a purported boycott of the brand’s operations. Supporters of the All Progressives Congress predictably acclaimed the brilliance of the campaign while those of the opposition People Democratic Party described the campaign as Chicken Republic’s political bias.

Like every other industry overwhelmed by cut-throat competition, the fast food chain has witnessed the influx of new players with competitive offerings. These players, just like the old actors, are bent on grabbing a substantial share of the over N250billion industry. For a brand which has been slightly quiet lately, it is believed that the controversial ad is a smart way to jump-start a new conversation that wields the capacity to create top-of-the-mind recall for consumers.

The Creative Director of Insight Communications, Mr. Chima Okenimpe, said the ad is an excellent effort but lacking in execution.

“For me, the ad is a brilliant idea, but execution should have been more subtle. Obviously, it was over-executed. It was really not necessary adding some details. The inclusion of Olisa Metuh’s, prison custody and EFCC logo made the ad too direct. Subtlety should have nailed it,” he said.

Chima added: “Chicken Republic should be smart enough to exploit this conversation to market their brand. They can spin this conversation to initiate new campaigns. They could offer to deliver free chicken to inmates at Kirikiri Prisons and exploit the publicity to build on their brand. They can do a whole lot of things with it.”

With a perfect mix of strategy and flawless execution, every brand must be able to leverage on the sort of big conversations inspired by this ad.  While the debate rages on as regards the creativity or folly of the ad, it remains to be seen how Chicken Republic translates this conversation into real value in the days ahead.

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