If you have been reading newspapers, you would not have missed the massive campaign run by Volkswagen in TOI, capturing straight 12 pages out of 22 in the form of Volkwagen ads. These ads were depicting a grand entry into India, launch of Beetle and expectation of other models entering soon.
Roadblocking, crudely defined, is the big boss of common advertising, massive in terms of scale, cost, and of course, the shock value. It involves capturing a media channel solely by a specific company for a limited period of time. It could be in the form of airtime on TV channels or even radio, or printspace on newspapers. All promotions on that particular media channel are ‘blocked’ by the company, and no other advertisers (primarily competitors) have any space available to them.
Employing this method of advertising does 2 things very well:
1. ‘Shock and Awe’ : A perfect example of a shock and awe tactic, it grabs eyeballs like no other.
2. Showcases super-deep pockets: With the kind of expense it carries, you have to have very deep pockets to be able to even afford it, leave alone evaluating whether it is worth. (Also showcases intent to be in it for the long haul)
My primary question here : Is the attention grabbed worth the millions spent?
The proverbial answer – ‘it depends‘, fits quite nicely here. A lot of factors do go into consideration to evaluate its worth:
1. Penetrating a Red Ocean: Volkswagen was entering a market which was dominated by both indigenous and international players, all working on high-quality offerings. To grab attention here, three things can be done:
a) Do something innovative – remember the zoozoo campaign (even though the market was not as intense at that time as it is now, it was tough enough to direct attention to mVAS which was a non-voice service. Agreed that it too was an expensive tactic, given the number of ads they telecast, it is still cheaper than roadblocking)
b) Creating a Buzz – Tide exemplified this in its market entry, building a hype around the product before unveiling it in grand style (this strategy is discussed by me here)
If we compare the three options above, roadblocking comes across almost as a lazy approach by marketers. It reeks of people not willing to work on creative campaigns and simply throwing money to get something done. So, while it works I am doubtful of the worth of it.
2. Information Transmit: A one-time information transmission, on the lines of what Vodafone did to signal the change from Hutch, is perhaps a justifiable use of roadblocking – to make the information clear for once and for all. This ensures that the people will get the message, irrespective of their viewership choices (the Vodafone campaign was run across Star Network)
3. House of brands vs Branded House
HUL too tried its hand at roadblocking, wherein it contracted first Star and then Zee networks, showcasing 5 of its brands – Lifebuoy, Pepsodent, Dove, Ponds, Fair & Lovely. This, I believe would not have much of an mpact, for the one reason that people do not know that all 5 products are from the same company.
HUL follows a House of Brands philosophy wherein all its products are brands on their own, and not affiliated to the parent company. Hence, the brands are Dove and Pepsodent and not HUL Dove and HUL Pepsodent. Now, since people don’t know that only one company has spend massive amounts of money here, and that the products have a common parent, it would not generate the sufficient ‘awe factor’, reducing the attention garnered, and hence fettering away the one advantage that roadblocking could fetch. Also, whether you really needed to grab viewers’ attention for such established products, is a question that remains unanswered.
Cadbury on the other hand (just for the sake of comparison), will fare better in promoting multiple brands because it is a Branded House, and the products are Cadbury Dairy Milk or Cadbury Bournville. Hence, a string of commercials on different Cadbury products will have a connect with each other.
In essence, I would venture out to say that roadblocking, while effective, is also very very expensive, and perhaps not worth it. Also, the fact that today’s consumer is becoming more and more adept at ignoring commercials, it would not be long before he starts ignoring the roadblocks too (and when he fails at this due to the sheer scale of the event, he will blame the brand – never a good thing to happen)
Let’s hope the energies are soon shifted to being more and more imaginative than expensive on the part of advertisers.