Out of the box?
“Out of the box” is in fashion these days. I mean the words 'out' 'of' 'the' 'box'. People are told to think ‘out of the box, write 'out of the box' and do 'out of the box' stuff. It is specially talked about in such vocations as are supposed to disseminate information, generate awareness, change behaviour pattern and, often, deal with effecting change in the belief system. Here, in our world, you hear this spoken most in the advertising trade. Having said that I must confess that this set of words has come in to our lives recently. I also must admit that I have great respect and admiration for the expression “out of the box”. It has a certain 'feel good' factor. It is said to imply, if I am not mistaken, that one should think differently, unconventionally, even quite in contrast with the norm. This in itself is quite innovative and, therefore, has a certain special appeal. In the business of communication where even a 'not so developed' country like ours is bombarded with sales messages and solicitations one needs to stand out to be taken notice of. Now, how do we make ourselves noticeable? We go out of the box. If my memory serves me right, this expression started on its journey in the advertising trade first and then spread to various fields including the academia.
During the course of my experience in advertising, now known as marketing communication, for well over three decades I have learnt many such expressions. And I remain ever so grateful to the trade for that. I am still deeply involved in communication and look forward to collecting many different jargon of the trade as they come along. That, however, is not the purpose of today's piece. I would like to share with my readers what bothers me when this expression is used indiscriminately to look for a way to be noticed. When we say we have to break the clutter or attract attention or create excitement we do something that is different. Something that people do not normally expect. It stands out, creates interest and may encourage people to act the way we want them to. In order to start this rippling effect resulting in a wave we do all these “out of the box” exercises. Many examples of such work, especially in the field of advertising and communication, have become legendary the world over. The trend has started in Bangladesh as well. We see things that we are not used to seeing. Some of them stir us and we sit up. Some others surprise us and there are still others that exhilarate us. With the passage of time the intensity of such communication is increasing. May be time has come for retrospection on this post modernistic movement. At this point I'd like to fall back on something that an all time favourite of mine David Ogilvy, a doyen of modern advertising, had told about his own creative works. He said, “I do not regard communication as an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don't find it 'creative'. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product”. He even gave a succinct example to elaborate what he said. “When Aeschines spoke, every one said, “How well he speaks.” But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, “Let us march against Philip”.
This, I suppose, is what communication is supposed to achieve. Out of the box or lateral or which so many ways you describe it, the job of communication is to communicate. And for that we need a complete understanding of our communication by the group that we call the target audience. Therefore, we often hear of communication consumption these days. Have the people consumed the communication that we laboured so hard to make? Those of us who are involved in the job of creating communication should think hard about this. Otherwise we may end up creating something that the boss of the job has been told by his so and so that they liked the so and so advert, therefore….! Or we may create something so out of the box that it flies over the head.
Suddenly I find that I have all this long been speaking about something that I live with everyday while the purpose of this column is to take my mind away from it all. Just a word of caution before I conclude, I would of ask those who create communication, “in order to get out of the box let us not create a new box where we would willingly confine ourselves in an exclusive world and be considered irrelevant before long”.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007