Friday, June 13, 2008

Viva thoughtful advertising in Ukraine

I love chocolate milk. Back home in the States, I'd drink Ovaltine because I could offset at least some of my guilt from this indulgence by convincing myself that it's actually good for me since it has all of those vitamins. And it gives me a chuckle when I occasionally remember Ralphy's childhood innocence being shattered as he learned, after waiting weeks for his Little Orphan Annie "Secret Circle" decoder, that Annie's secret message this elite class of listener was "Drink more Ovaltine!" Classic. And, by the way, speaks loads about how some brands approach their advertising - heap on the hype to hook them and worry about substance later.

Anyway, this post is not about Ovaltine. Ovaltine isn't sold in Ukraine as far as I know. It is about its competitor, Nesquik, whose advertising I saw in the park today and which prompted me to write about the big opportunity for brands in Ukraine to build strong, longlasting customer relationships through thoughtful advertising. I know it's not a new concept in developed countries, and not even in Ukraine. Big Ukrainian brands like UMC (mobile operator), Roshen (candy), and Arterium (eh, not really a big brand but they deserve a mention as you can see in the above photo - that's my boy in the cool Gilligan hat) have for years built very nice children's playgrounds in parks around the city. But the point is that I don't think there are a lot of brands missing the boat. It also has gives the brand image an additional shine as being a good corporate citizen.

This summer Nesquik decided to paint the benches in the children's playground in Shevchenko Park, where my son and many other children play regularly almost all yearround. In the States, I would consider this a smart placement, but here in Ukraine it makes a much bigger impact because of the sad state of repair of most public (i.e. government funded) areas. The benches are painted very well normally and are quite ugly when they are. Therefore, I appreciate what Nesquik is doing by at least brightening up the play area, even it is with their brown and yellow colors and logo. I give them credit for knowing where my kids play and recognizing that there is an opportunity to make it more attractive place.

I think Nestle must have received some good feedback, as I saw this morning that all of the benches in the park are painted with Nescafe advertising. Unfortunately, the colors and paint jobs make it somewhat difficult to make out the log and tag line. Again, seems like pretty good placement as I'm sure the several kiosks in the park sell Nescafe coffee and the park is an ideal location for a relaxing cup of steaming hot Joe on this, eh, hot summer day. Maybe they should try Nestea for the summer months.

I noticed another new example of this "thoughtful" advertising on the metro yesterday while riding with my son. Being of about average height, I've always been a bit uncomfortable holding onto the bar when standing. I can imagine that a lot of women and pensioners feel the same way. Wow, I just grouped myself in with the female and elderly market segments. Anyway, Pepsi recently installed dangling handles to make it easier for these people. It's not a particularly creative execution, but it does the job of helping people and making the brand front and center. Sorry for the fuzzy photo, but you try taking a clear photo on a speeding Kyiv metro with a cameraphone in one hand and a squirming 2.5 year old in the other.

I hope these brands are fully leveraging these ideas in their PR and marketing efforts, but my experience tells me that that probably are not. I doubt Nesquik will set up a "free chocolate milk" stand or hand out free mix packets at the playground. Same with Nescafe. I at least hope that they are getting the word out to the public, and that the public shows its appreciation. I, for one, don't plan to try a Nesquik alternative anytime soon, and will begin to make a point of choosing Pepsi over Coke if available (which it usually is not, by the way).

Say what you will about the over-commercialization of society, but I and many Ukrainians would much prefer to stare at a brand's logo or message instead of picking splinters out of our behinds or having our arms fall asleep while riding the metro.