By Dominic Murray
Just before nine oâclock news, a television commercial comes on. The advert opens with a celebrated local female musician (letâs call her Celeb) wielding a toilet-cleaning agent as she approaches a house. What follows is one of the "strangest" conversation ever.
Celeb: waitâ¦ no thereâs no one from that house (knock, knock)
Woman: (feigning surprise) wait! Celeb is that really you? â¦
This painful to watch TV commercial, is a depiction of a worrying emerging trend in the countryâs advertising scene. Creativity is dead. The quality of ads airing on radio and on TV is wanting. One is left wondering what happened to the once vibrant advertising industry.
As an advertising practitioner, I am as guilty as my colleagues of churning out adverts that donât really meet the threshold of our creative calling. But why is this happening? What exactly ails the advertising industry in the country? To say as is, the creatives in Kenya are sacrificing wit, grace and intelligence in their quest to make the clientâs cash register ring.
William Bernbach, the father of modern advertising, must be turning in his grave at some of the commercials in Kenya. This is because he held the view that the consumer is not an idiot who needs to be fooled, lectured or hammered into listening to a products message.
"The truth isnât the truth until people believe in you; they canât believe you if they donât know what youâre saying, and they canât know what youâre saying if they donât listen to you, and they wonât listen to you if youâre not interesting, and you wonât be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly," he said.
As creatives, we need to get into the consumers psyche. To do this, we need to get off our offices and hit the streets. Spend more time with mama mboga as we write the next Royco radio commercial, talk to âsoldierâ at the gate and find out what he looks for in a torch battery before scripting the next Eveready TV commercial, share a drink with a Guinness drinker and find why he swears by his drink before working on the big Guinness campaign.
Because interacting with the consumer is the only way we can understand what their needs really are. In short, creatives need to get consumer insight right before offering a creative solution. But hereâs the catch. Itâs no longer easy to just have a chat with consumers and find the problems they may be wrestling with.