Scale the human touch in advertising

By Thu Ngo

A slight steering away from the Korean fatherhood for today.

On searching information for my part 2, Fatherhood in Vietnam and how it is represented in the reality show, I came across an article on the OPPO “Fatherhood” tied to the brand’s sponsorship for the Vietnamese ver of “Dad, Where Are We Going?”.

Created by BBDO Vietnam, the two TV commercial videos deliver a message that “Fatherhood takes two hands,” depicting moments a father and his kid share without any aid of technology. Or, a smartphone company makes an ad to discourage their customers to use their products.

The OPPO ads somehow resonates with emotional advertisements of Thailand which have become viral through YouTube these days. It seems that every other day there’s a new weepie that tugs at the heartstrings. The most recent: “The Power of Love,” a commercial from Y&R for DTAC portraying a new father being panicked when seeing his Junior crying and having to try to use technology to make the baby stop crying — until he realizes that no touchscreen can compete with the human touch. Another message from a telecom provider urging people to put down their smartphones.

It seems like the Disconnect-to-Connect theme is favoured in advertisements for technology products in Asia market. And in fact, not only technology. Insurance, banking service also join the league of tear-jerking commercial ads which obviously emphasise on “human touch”, “human relationship”, “intimacy” ~ something very human.

It’s increasingly easy to go about our daily life with minimal interaction with real human beings. Chances to exchange small talk or a friendly smile are evaporating as businesses automate their services to be more efficient and profitable. You can stay home, and order everything you need online. If you call a business, you’ll likely get an automated recording, encouraging you to press 1 for this or 2 for that.

Let’s say you do leave your home. Many businesses now have self checkout options, and those will likely grow. This just reminds me of my time in Tokyo. Despite my Japanese language illiteracy, I did not find myself struggling much to use any kind of services ranging from buying a cup of coffee in the convenience store to booking museum tickets. Why? Everything is designed for self-service! And the main point is I find it super duper convenient: I don’t have to bother people but still have my job done. But yep, it is very robotic manner when the whole society acts the same way with no verbal communication.

Looking at the economic landscape of Vietnam today, it is not difficult to realise tech industry is mushrooming faster than ever. Tech startups, software outsourcing companies, e-commerce websites, and mobile app and video game developers are like tides, one after one emerging and penetrating further and further into daily lives of every one. According to Appota’s projection for 2015, Vietnam will witness the rise of global mobile chat applications from local one Zalo to global ones like WhatsApp, LINE, Viber, and Facebook Messenger. Taxibooking apps will enter a heated war and increasing visibility of retailers in mobile marketing. With 22 millions smartphone users in 2014, in short, now is the time to go mobile in Vietnam.

Though technology landscape of Vietnam is still far away from Silicon Valley, from manufacturing humanoid robots like what Japan has been doing for ages, such rapid boom of online services promises that a daily life where man-to-man interactions are phased out to zero is not so far away. At least, again in my case, now I can hardly arrange a meeting with people within my division mainly because of their mindsets: It’s the age of technology! Why do we need to see each other when works can be assigned via email?

So, perhaps this should not be a story of weepie advertisements. This should be a story of how brands and companies can balance the human and technology elements in not only their marketing strategies but also their R&D activities. Instead of chasing images of smart-looking people working in glossy glass-walled buildings holding smartphones, using state-of-art automatic electronic devices, scale the human touch ~ add more humane values to their products, or at least to the way their products are advertised and sold.

Having said all of these things, I would like to end this entry by diverting back the story to the theme Fatherhood with a successful viral marketing campaign of Dove Men+Care soap. The #RealDadMoments campaign from Dove Men+Care was set to coincide with Father’s Day 2014. The video was a bit of a tear jerker at times, kinda silly at others, but all showed the range of emotions that everyone goes through. Yes, EVERYONE. That’s the point.

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