Archive for April, 2008

On the right track

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Social networking with tags , , , on April 30, 2008 by manuscrypts

Saw the new Fastrack TVC on air –  Shut up and Move On, but I didn’t see it there first. Fastrack is a brand whose communication i try to follow, simply because i feel that somewhere they’ve got the pulse right.  Of course by doing that, they also end up making customers who don’t fall in their TG demographics (me, for example :D), but thats fine so long as they keep their TG is happy.

So when i read here that a new campaign was on, i googled for the new TVC. Couldn’t find it, and then suddenly remembered that Fastrack is also on Twitter, and knowing the way they’ve been updating, I was sure I’d find a link, and i did. And that’s what’s cool about Fastrack. Not only do they get their communication right, they also experiment extremely well on platforms like Orkut, Facebook and Twitter, which means, unlike the usual lip service that’s done regularly by brands, this one’s actually interested in social media. Even their website seems to be on a wordpress platform.

A search for fastrack on Orkut would throw up quite a few pages with dozens of fan clubs, the largest one having more than 23000 members. Facebook has a few pages and at least 2 fairly large groups. Around 70 followers on Twitter. Just goes to show how well it can work when a good product is also a brand that is willing to have a conversation with its customers.

Even their regular communication smacks of attitude. I remeber a print ad that had a ‘No conditions apply’ with the image of a bull sitting on a closet between ‘no’ and ‘conditions’. Liked it so much that i checked the sale out, and thats how i bought my first Fastrack watch. So Fastrack’s brand manager, take a bow 🙂

Coming back to this ad, it is apparently targeted at singles between 15-25, and has an underlying theme of the generation’s penchant for instant gratification and variety seeking. While they have weaved in Fastrack quite well into a good storyline, i really didn’t like this one as well as say, this, but i think that’s more a problem with the basic premise rather than execution. The basic premise being the promotion of superficiality, especially in relationships. Yup, it perhaps is just another sign that I’m really not the TG 😉

until next, don’t SUMO , have your say

PS. Meanwhile, the other blog celebrated 5 years of existence yesterday 🙂

Who let the dog out?

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags , , on April 24, 2008 by manuscrypts

When Vodafone took over Hutch, many were concerned about the pug. But this put everyone’s concerns to rest. However, a lot of communication after that was dogged about its non – pugness. But suddenly, in the middle of perhaps the biggest media event in oh, okay a couple of months – IPL, the pug decided to make its return with what possibly might be regarded as a CSR initiative – to tackle Alzheimer’s? Of course, it could also be a CCR inititaive. Don’t worry, you’re not out of jargon touch, I just made that up – Customer Care Response :D. Now that’s really making the most out of now. No, the hatred is not so much for the ad as it is for the frequency. In fact, the music is extremely good.

My queries – even though the pug’s popularity reached dizzying heights (so much so that the only thing missing was a Bharat Ratna) how important is it in the Hutch communication plan? More importantly, is it okay to use it on and off? Would that kind of random usage amount to inconsistency in communication?

On a larger plane, if media in general keeps getting fragmented, how relevant would consistency be across platforms/media. Would it be better to have a core idea with different manifestations across media or would the idea be dictated by the medium? Like i wrote a while back, going by the current trend (in India) the former seems to be the strong favourite.

But if the audience differ across media, isn’t it better to communicate something that’s contextually more relevant, even if it means sacrificing consistency? Does the audience really have time to sit and analyse that the communication i saw on the net differs from the one on tv with respect to tone/ objective/ any other parameter. I really don’t think so, especially since the internet will force brands to give up control.

And that brings me back to Hutch – on the same media, targeting the same audience, with no contextual crutch, perhaps consistency is important.

until next time, a pugilist for the cause of giving up control 🙂

IPL – Can we have some cricket please?

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags on April 23, 2008 by manuscrypts

Notice, that its not a break from cricket. Mine is almost a contrarian stance from the cricket pundits as well as a section of the players and viewers who feel there’s too much of cricket on TV. To me, the latest form makes me feel as though I’m watching an NBA playoff (i don’t, still.. 😉 )- celebrities, entertainment, and a game that a lot of people are passionate about. Also, its a testament to the times we live in, similar to what’s happening on the web. Tests- Journals, ODI – Blogs, Twenty20 – Twitter… dwindling attention spans….

The campaigns did their job, maybe thanks to the media avalanche, and although there were concerns that the ‘karmayudh’ was a rip off from an old Fox TVC, it didn’t gather enough momentum to dislodge the creative+media strategy, nor did the internet ban (Internet Prohibited League, anyone?) Meanwhile, many teams created websites and TVCs. SRK created controversies and a music video. Airtel has created an Indian Fantasy League and a facebook app for it, although it does strange things to my facebook page layout. In addition to the Bollywood team owners, Akshay Kumar and Hrithik Roshan were seen endorsing teams. And, as a result of all this and many other things, which I’ve not been able to catalogue, like the names and phone numbers of the cheerleaders, the viewership just skyrocketed.

So, what’s the problem? The problem, I feel, is that I’m reminded of the way Bollywood functions now. The satellite rights, the mobile rights, the overseas rights are all sold before the script is heard, and the movie is declared a hit even before the audience decides whether its right for them. So, whether its a hit or a flop, its a hit anyway financially. In between all this left, right and centre hitting, the public is a mere spectator. Yes, that is their role, I agree, but being the end audience it feels very undemocratic. The connect is that HypePL, at least it seems, has gone so overboard in making sure its sponsors are pleased that it doesn’t spare a thought for the user who is viewing primarily for the cricket. So, by pushing that ad in, if the bowler so much as hesitates in his run up, you’re spoling the experience for the user. And brands which are doing it beware, you might be getting eyeballs, but each eyeball is a negative equity score. I already hate that irresponsible girl who can’t remember to get her damn tie, or keeps her socks in the right place. With lesser frequency, I might have loved it. More on that tomorrow. Hutch (yeah, no publicity for your new brand name), Hyundai (iRRITATING), go look up the word ‘overkill’

until next time, Let TVCs not kill the cricket star, sign up here

Desi Onion

Posted in India, Internet with tags , , on April 22, 2008 by manuscrypts

Quite a while back, after several months of ‘The Onion’ fandom, I wanted to start a similar site for India. Well, if not a site, at least a blog. In fact i even squatted on the blogspot url – ‘pyaaz’. Well, I’m happy to announce that the site has been launched…..by someone else.

A tweet from Sanjukta alerted me on the site – Career Pigeon, which seems to be a part of TechTribe, a career networking portal, make that techie career. The site is definitely inspired by the Onion, but it makes quite a decent effort to adapt the content to the Indian workplace scenario.  The site also has the latest Amul creative (wonder if they took permissions for that), Amul being a good example of how good creatives can still rule.

What is funny (no pun intended) though is that the TT homepage has no links to this. In fact, considering the fact that job portals – old and new are grasping at any straws for differentiation, and this seems to be a good engagement device, I’d have thought that TT would’ve at least communicated this, if not hyped it much. And its not as though this is the first edition, it is the second. I agree with WOMM in general, but a little bit of seeding does help. To be fair, maybe they did send a mailer to the TT database, which I’m not part of.

until next time, hope it has a safe flight

Reach out

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Internet with tags , on April 21, 2008 by manuscrypts

Last week, I read an article that gave the ‘share of the pie’ picture of different media in India. As expected, print is still king, though TV is fast catching up. Internet is still fighting to touch 2%. Meanwhile, something else i read quite sometime back says how an online video ad gives an 84% recall as against a 54% for the same ad on TV. So, why wouldn’t brands be more digital than TV?

I might be over simplifying it by putting it that way, but the power of the medium seems to be only measured by its reach. And that’s when the marketing gurus (including self proclaimed ones) are crying themselves hoarse saying that engagement is the key (at least until we get the new term). So, then, is everyone trying for a balance? Similar to Nikhil‘s comment on a post a while back, are marketers using offline for reach and online for stickiness? You wish. Thats generalisation, but there are too few examples for me to not generalise.

While it is claimed that it is the lack of broadband penetration that is preventing the web from manifesting its true potential, I think, from a marketing standpoint, its also the mindset. If engagement was the mindset, don’t television and radio also offer some opportunities, at least some, if not the multitude that the internet provides? Interactivity still means SMS contest, without context.

So, its all pointing to the fact that different media are used with a simple logic – x numbers of my TG can be reached through that medium. And what do we do after reaching them – Why, show them our ad, what else? And until that midset changes, would it really matter if our broadband penetration suddenly zoomed?

until next time, reach out, engagement in?

EnGROSSment

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags on April 18, 2008 by manuscrypts

Yesterday’s, and for that matter today’s big story has been the apparent ‘Daraar’ in the Malaika-Arbaaz marriage, and the subsequent revelation that it was some sort of half baked PR gimmick for a skin cream. Poor Mumbai Mirror had to even apologise to readers, though thats okay. Why? Because it throws light on the fact that the divorce of a star brother and an item girl morphed into reality show judge can make the headlines. You can read all about it here, here and everywhere. But that’s not what this post is all about.

I’ve already written about my views on endorsement. While i understand that it makes sense in some cases, the above skin cream debacle makes  endorsements look really gross, but that perhaps is only a result of the reader’s/viewer’s obsession with  the lives of others, but then again, is that media created?  Also, why am i digressing??!!

While stars endorse brands, they themselves are brands. So like every brand, they have a lifecycle, and like every good brand, they try to leap onto the next growth curve and avoid the decline part, by constantly updating and upgrading themselves and sparing no effort in trying to make themselves constantly relevant to the audience. The sports stars can only do it with performance. And they all get slotted – Dravid with stability, Sachin with stability and sheer brilliance, Dhoni as the new Indian spirit and so on. Movie stars have it slightly easier as the kind of movies they are seen in and the kind of activities they are seen doing (remember SRK and the whole OSO promotion hungama during the cricket match) all contribute to their brand attributes. But over a period of time, the kind of ads they do also decide their brand image, which is perhaps why stars are increasingly choosy about the brands they associate with. It also explains why an SRK would do a ‘Panchvi Pass’ to reach the highly monetisable kiddy brigade which Aamir (TZP) and Hrithik (Krrish) have already tapped.

Which brings me back to the girl who danced on the train, and increased her star power. This gimmick would’ve heavily reduced her credibilty factor. So, while this stunt created  buzz once, would the public believe it the next time she endorsed a toothpaste with that toothy smile? (that’s in case they were believing it all this while). Arbaaz doesn’t have to worry because no one asks him to endorse anyway. The ‘stars’ are now blaming the tabloids and the PR guys, but the damage is done. This might be a good lesson for the stars who agree to act out brand scripts that clearly impinge on their personal lives, and its most definitely a lesson for the brand guys who resort to such half baked gimmicks, that clearly take the consuming public to be sub moronic.

The best comment i got on this issue was when i broke this news to a twitter friend. She said, “Are you sure it’s for a skin cream? Would’ve made perfect sense for Fevicol”. 🙂

until next time, are endorsements only skin deep? 😉

Appy times

Posted in India, Social networking with tags , , on April 17, 2008 by manuscrypts

And that much talked about day is finally here. The Orkut applications have started their invasion. When I logged in today, what do is see beneath my daily fortune – ‘New! Add applications and customize your profile with songs, games and much more. ‘ With the launch of MySpace slated later in the evening today, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Was that by design? 😉

Though these days, orkut has been relegated to a routine daily check, i dived in to see what’s on offer. A lot of stuff seems to what a Facebook user would be familiar with – Horoscopes, ILike (music), Teen Patti, India Dekha, TopFriends, Slide TV, Flixster, iRead, IPoke etc. But there are also stuff which i have not seen – Chakpak, an application from the website with the same name, based on Bollywood, and Typeracer, which is a typing speed testing game.

The latter already seems to be making waves, if I am to believe the various tweets that i have heard. I confess that it is quite addictive :). Interestingly, C2W also has an application, based on Hangman. Wonder if there’ll be copyright issues like Scrabble. Though I am yet to try it out, what’s cool is that apparently one can one’s own version based on fave movies etc.

I’m not quite sure how this would affect Facebook, them specially becaue apps has been one of their USPs. For all those who grumble about Facebook being confusing, Orkut with apps might be the answer. For the regular Facebook users, it does have a huge first mover advantage, which Orkut will take some time to overcome, if it does, at all. And where will MySpace and the desi versions figure in all of this?

until next time, go apply yourself 🙂

PS. Looks to be a big day for Indian social networking. Big B going to blog, i read here.