Thursday, May 17, 2007

Marketing Funda : Absurdism In Advertising

In an interesting research paper by Leopoldo, John and Gautam at Oklahoma University, Absurd Ads are defined as those which have pictures,words,visuals or sounds which the viewers perceive to be irrational, bizarre,illogical and disordered. Going by that definition, 90% of ads that we see can be classified as absurd ads.The origin of the concept of absurdity has its roots in drama and literature. According to theorists, the use of absurdity in advertising is derived from literature and drama.
There are different type of absurd ads.
a.Surrealism
b.Anthropomorphism
c.Allegory
d.Hyperbole.

Surrealism is associated with distorted images,dream imagery and imaginative worlds ( Sunfeast). While Anthropomorphism is trying to connect /explain a non-human with a human(Chintamoni of Icici?). Allegory is the description of something in the pretext of another( Hutch dog ). Hyperbole is gross exaggeration to make a point(Happydent). ( From the above authors).
What I feel is that Absurdism in Advertising is a continuum. There cannot be an ad that does not have a dash of any of the above four types.Hence we should be placing the ads somewhere in the continuum where one extreme is the absolutely absurd ads like that of Happydent and the other extreme of an ordinary ad with less absurdity like the latest print ads of SBI. So I can put a hypothesis saying that it is a choice of whether the communication should be rational or non-rational. Orbit for example chose an rational one for its main brand and an Absurd ad for its variant Orbit White.
It is interesting to look at the reasons for marketers to go in for absurdism in advertising.Primary reason is that they don't care because all these postmortem and analysis is done by academics. Marketers often create hyperbole or absolutely bizarre ads like Centershock
to
  • Create excitement
  • Aid Brand recall
  • Change the mood of the brand
  • Reposition
  • Entertain the viewers
  • Spent the money they have for advertising ( joking...)
  • Reminder ads
  • When they have nothing rational to say about the brand.
  • When nothing rational works
  • All positioning opportunities are taken by the competitors.
Source: EFFECTS OF ABSURDITY IN ADVERTISING: THE MODERATING ROLE OF PRODUCT CATEGORY ATTITUDE AND THE MEDIATING ROLE OF COGNITIVE RESPONSES by Leopoldo, John and Gautam