FriMi Ad Vs. Seylan Ad. Advertising copycat or marketing genius?

The recent YouTube commercial launched by digital payment app FriMi is creating heated debates among the marketing/advertising experts in Sri Lanka. I have seen many people condemning the FriMi ad as a “shameless copycat of the Seylan Bank Albert Uncle TVC from the early 90s”. Some people are even pointing this as an example of ‘creative bankruptcy’ of millennial marketers.

 I have a totally different opinion about this. In my view, this ad is a great example of marketing genius to solve the biggest marketing communications challenge in the 21st century.

 See, the challenge of marketing today is to cut through the ever-increasing clutter of thousands of brands screaming for consumer attention on a plethora of media touchpoints. In such an environment, marketers need to be smart enough to use a bit of “psychology” in their advertising.

The job of an advertisement is to get a brand message across to the mind of the target consumer and create a lasting impression until the consumer responds with action. To do this job effectively in today’s cluttered media environment, you need to get some help from already established frames of reference. Instead of struggling to re-invent the wheel, you can effectively activate an already established mental schema in your target customers mind as a frame of reference, and then go and stick your ‘point of difference’ right next to it.

This is using heuristics to find a shortcut into the mind of the consumer, which is perfectly a legit tactic to use. The team who created the FriMi ad was “creative” in that sense, to use a bit of psychology to create a piece of effective communications.

You should never look at advertising creativity the same way you evaluate a painting hanging on a wall of an art gallery. Great David Ogilvy himself once said, “if it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative”.

The issue is, for most people who talk about “advertising” and “communications” in Sri Lanka, still the words like “heuristics” “behavioral economics” “mental schema” “frame of reference” sounds like Greek and Latin.

For most of them, advertising is a “form of art” (which nobody wants to accept into an art gallery) sponsored by a client's marketing budget. In my opinion, the FriMi ad team has not done anything unethical. We have seen in the past, a sequel to a famous “Kimbula Udella” ad of 80’s was created in early 2000’s to sell the Gowi Setha lottery. They used the same psychological shortcut, to hijack the famous line “Sirisena ge udalla kapenne nathuwa athi”.

 Finally, let me say ‘Well done FriMi!’

Here's the old Seylan Bank Ad

This is the FriMi Ad

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