The Cup ended, not the cup of woes!!!

watch-cricket-world-cup-onlineOne of the supposedly grand event of Cricket – the ICC One Day World Cup ended today in a whimper. What was built up as an epic clash between the 2 Trans Tasmanian teams – Australia and New Zealand in the finals today turned out to be a boring one sided match with the Aussies ruthlessly grounding the Kiwis depriving them of their maiden World Cup win. And for us Indians, post our rather meek surrender to the Aussies in the Semifinals, today’s final was more of a side show. Not just the match today, but If you look back at the rather drearily long World Cup in the last 40 odd days, right from the league stages to the knockout there were hardly 4-5 matches which were exciting. The Semifinal match between South Africa and NZ must count as one of those matches which brought viewers to the edge of the seat I would reckon. Most of the other encounters were either one sided or falling to a predictable pattern. And more so, all the India matches were drab affairs though as long as the team was winning we had no qualms of the same.  But as an avid cricket enthusiast, for a major ICC event as the World Cup, there were very few matches which would be subject to post mortem again and again during water cooler talks in offices and paan shops in the coming days!!

I guess this trend has not just started with this World Cup. Over the years, the One Day format though extremely popular has been slowly entering a coma. But the just concluded World Cup I reckon has sort of hastened the Rigor mortis. It will be interesting to look at the possible causes for the same:

  • As a format, is it getting stuck between the Classic Test Match and the glamorous T-20? Test match cricket has its own old world own charm. A battle between the bat and the ball looks more engaging in a Test match. Even today, while a cricketer can earn by being a T-20 specialist, he still have to yearn for recognition until he proves his mettle in Test Cricket. On the other side T-20 with a soccer kind of format demands less time, is fast paced and throws open enough mauka (in this season how can I miss a mauka to use this term?😜) for innovations. In this – is the One Day Game with its tiring predictability losing its charm? You could just watch the last 10 overs of the 1st inning, then may the last 15 overs of the 2nd inning and still would not have missed the gist of the match!
  • Is the ICC in its quest to popularize Cricket killing it? Today we have a clear Class divide among the teams. One bunch are the established teams which are strong. Then we have the other bunch which are the “Associate nations” which are the emerging teams. They don’t get to play competitive games often and are a deprived lot. When both the groups are bunched together, most of the league matches turn drab where the established walk over the emerging. While it is true that the weak teams must get exposed and get opportunities to play the stronger teams often, in a World Cup most of these matches are boring affairs. One solution could be to have a pre-qualifying stage league matches among the Associate nations and get the top 2 to be a part of the established teams and go through with the league and knockout phases.
  • As in many other games like Tennis for example, Cricket is also going the “Powerplay” way! Ofcourse this has nothing to do with the format. But increasingly in the One Day format – the domination of bat over ball due to sheer power has left everything else redundant. So the team batting first routinely amasses 300+ scores these days and walks away with the match. That also means that the skill of Cricket is pushed aside by the captain’s skill of calling the coin right at the toss. Well, most of the times. (Like in the India Vs Australia Semifinal match in this World Cup, the loss of toss by Dhoni turned to be the 1st nail in the coffin). One can argue that in the Test match format there is still room for a batsman with elegance, a spinner with guile and players with skill but in One Day and the T-20 formats – increasingly it is “Power” which is at “Play”. So the urgent need for may be bowler friendly conditions and an even-steven contest between the bat and ball.
  • It’s a no brainer that any game becomes interesting if the course of the game and its outcome are unpredictable. But frankly today in the One Day format the only unpredictability is when there is rain and the two gentlemen Duckworth and Lewis come into play 😄😄. The D/L method is so intriguing that it many times it has turned a docile match on its head and turned it interesting. It’s another matter that my friends from South Africa will have a different view on this 😄.
  • To be fair to ICC, they have been introducing a few innovations into the One day format like Batting Powerplays, Bowling Powerplays… to bring in some twists to the game. But just that these are few and far between and have not been able to shift the dial.

So for the ICC, the “Cup” must have ended but when they do an honest assessment of the recently concluded World Cup, they would realise that their “Cup of Woes” has just begun.  Which is to find ways and means make the next World Cup really engaging, interesting and exciting and not a 2 month long dull and drab affair with very few “rewind worthy” moments!!! And make (One Day) Cricket live up to its original cliché of “A game of glorious uncertainties!!!”

Postscript: After reading this, if you felt a “No, no, these grapes are sour” sense omnipresent in this piece after India’s #Wont Give It Back became history last Thursday– it is purely coincidental 😜😜

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“Viral” fever and the Marketing “mauka”!!!

As India kicked off its campaign to defend the Cricket World Cup with a high-octane league match with its arch rival Pakistan, for Star Sports it was a perfect ‘mauka’(opportunity) to milk the moment. And how it did!!! With a very interesting commercial which is now part of marketing folklore showing a Pakistani fan eagerly waiting for the mauka to celebrate a Pakistani win in vain in the last 5 world cup encounters. The ad had all the ingredients to make it “viral worthy”. Soon the commercial indeed went viral and is even today much talked about. Newspapers wrote about the ad, online editions carried the link, In YouTube the ad got a few million hits, the ad got shared in social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp,… and also got written about in innumerable blogs,… No wonder the makers decided to spin the one ad to a ‘Mauka Mauka’ series as seen thro’ the eyes of the same Pak fan for all India matches so far. If you notice, while the 1st spot (the India-Pakistan) one was shown again and again, the subsequent ones were just aired few times just enough to carry the story further. Because by now the Mauka fever had become viral and you, me and all of us became Star Sports’ unpaid brand ambassadors by sharing the every new ‘Mauka’ spot as soon as it was aired!  And that is the point I am trying to drive in this post. For a marketer trying to promote his/her brand it makes sense to make the commercial “viral worthy”, sit back and relax as consumers multiply the reach of the brand.

Mauka

For small brands with limited budgets, this approach comes as a panacea to achieve high share of voice with low ad spends. And for big brands this gives the potential to get more bang for the buck! This (to make their ads viral worthy) seems to be a very simplistic and obvious solution in front of marketers. However a casual review of the TVCs which we see day in and day reveals that this approach may not be so obvious. In a typical day except for 1 or 2 TVCs which are viral worthy the others are mostly the usual drivel. For example, on the same day of the Ind-Pak match there was just another ad which was viral worthy. That was the one for Fevi kwik – again smartly playing with emotions coinciding with the Ind-Pak encounter while at the same time driving home the brand’s promise – ‘Todo nahi, Jodo’. Brilliant stuff.

So what makes an ad go viral?? My take:

And the best part is some of the good viral worthy ads spawn off spoofs (as seen in the Mauka series) and other versions (did you know a slow motion version of the Ind-Pak fevikwik ad was created and uploaded by somebody which is really funny) as well which keeps the brand top of the mind for extended periods!

For small/start up agencies/production houses one such viral campaign is enough to leap frog them to stardom. Who had heard the name – Bubblewrap Films before the Mauka, Mauka campaign?? Or for that matter who knew Vishal Malhotra the model who is the Pakistani fan in the campaign a month ago?? Now I do!!

In the pre social media/smart phone/internet days a good ad will be just talked about may be by a few people who are interested in the subject. In these times, they don’t get talked about but they get shared, and shared many times over across many platforms.

So a new brand, limited budget with mass offering??? A smart idea would be to spend time and resources to create an ad that is spot on viral worthy, have a few releases with the limited budget and then make sure to leak the links in all social media platforms. (Ironically, even a day after the Ind-Pak Fevi kwik ad was released, its link was not uploaded on YouTube!!!) And then follow it up with plugs in the media about germination of the Big Idea, making of the commercial,…,…

Just one note of caution. It’s not just ads which are viralling today. Songs, documentaries, jokes and so many sundry stuff. So, soon it will become a battle to win in the viral space as well.

And once I finish this post I am going to share this in different platforms not missing the ‘mauka‘ to viral this post!!! (And contributing to the viral velocity of the ads ofcourse!!!)

Postscript: It’s another matter that an Ind-Pak encounter that too in a World Cup doesn’t need promotion at all. But Star Sports had to promote it due its obligation/commitment to its sponsors, advertisers,.. I guess. Having said all this, I do feel that the Mauka, Mauka campaign is now getting a tad boring. What was natural in the 1st 2/3 spots seems artificial now and is losing steam!!! So there the other lesson – Even a What an Idea, Sirji when over flogged becomes – What a boring idea, Sirji!!!

One has now lost count of the ‘Mauka’ spoofs hitting YouTube every day now!!! And they seem better than the Star Sports version of the Mauka ads being released now 😦 😦

Sir, a Plus budget!!!

In India, come Feb, it’s time for the release of the mother of all blockbusters – “The Union Budget”. While even the blockbusters of the Khans are just in the vicinity of few 100 crores, this one flies in the space of thousands and hundreds of thousand crores. Isn’t it interesting, that the whole nation awaits with bated breath to find out how the Govt. of the day is going to spend “it’s collective” money in the next 1 year??? So too I was yesterday, when Arun Jaitley the Finance Minister rose oops sat down to present what I would think as one of the most significant budgets in recent years for our country.

budget

Since yesterday afternoon, we have been fed with hours and hours of programming in all current affairs channels with experts dissecting the budget. After having gone through these boiler plate stuff for so many years, I get a feeling that the reactions are mostly pre-determined irrespective of the content of the budget. As in, the verdict on the budget is along expected lines. Panelists from the ruling front sing panegyric paeans on the budget while those from the opposition usually sing the “disappointing” tune rather petulantly :(. Also for experts. For those with leanings towards the Govt. of the day, it is a transformational budget and for those in the other side of the divide it is “trashformational”!!! And for CII – any budget is a 9 on 10 budget!!! This satirical piece – Budget Criticism 101 from The Unrealtimes I feel is not a satire at all but the Annual reality 🙂 🙂 . So I thought why not analyse the budget through a normal aam admi prism devoid of any ideological/political tilt?

As a responsible tax paying citizen of the country, I look for the foll. In the budget:

  • Does the budget spell out initiatives which can fuel growth in the Indian economy? Overall Economic growth brings in investments, increases jobs for all, raises salaries,…,…
  • Is there any transformational/game changing idea (or is it Big Bang) which has longer term impact for the country? – Like De-licensing, Gram Sadak Yojana, Aadhaar, GST,…,…
  • India is notorious for its archaic regulations and laws. Is the Govt. doing anything to make life simpler for doing business – local or foreign?
  • What’s in it for the poorer sections of the people – which is still significantly big in our country?
  • Finally what are the signals being sent by the Govt. of the day?

Looking at the Modi-Jaitley budget from the above perspective, my sense is that they have presented a “Smart” budget. They know very well that the expectations of all sections of the people are very high and had to do the balancing act to appease everyone. At the same time, elbow space for tough decisions is only available in 2015 and 2016. Beyond that the Govt. gets into re-election mode.  It appears to me that, from whole lot of things they need to do (which they have promised) they clearly prioritized the ones which needed to be attended to in this budget. And put off a few for the future. And I feel that’s the way to go.

  • The budget indeed brings in focus back to economic growth without being apologetic about it. Focus on infrastructure, Corporate Tax cut, Job creation,.. signal that.
  • Though there are no new transformational ideas in this budget – to be fair to Modi – he didn’t wait for the budget to announce a few. Ideas like the Jan Dhan Yojana, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Make in India – all transformational ideas were kicked off last year itself. This is a welcome sign. Finally GST gets a final deadline.
  • Cleaning up gets a lot of attention. Whether it is Swachh Bharat, Clean Ganga or for that matter Black money cleansing!!!
  • The Universal Social security net for all Indians is an interesting initiative. That it is through the insurance route comes as a relief. Otherwise India could end up suffering like most of the European economies with very high long term liabilities.
  • The Govt. has clearly for this year atleast prioritized on domestic investors rather than foreign if one looks at the introduction of SETU fund …and no major FDI relaxations.
  • The pandering to salaried class interests with more income tax cuts or other gimmicks have been I guess postponed for years closer to 2019!!!
  • Again things like flowing money to Smart Cities, Digital India are on hold in this budget. Means could tap the private route for these initiatives or will be taken up in the coming years when tax collections are more buoyant with better economic growth.
  • I see a lot of critiques on the increase of Service tax rate from 12.6% to 14% which will overall shrink our wallets. But I think this is a clear attempt to prepare all of us for the introduction of GST which will be at a higher rate of may be 16%!

Any budget proposal will have its share of misses. And there were a few in this too. However overall, I think it is a Smart, Working, Balanced budget which sets the tone for the economy to grow in the coming years. Taking up a few important issues and implementing them is better than announcing a slew of initiatives and outlays and messing up the outcomes. So in that sense Sir, it is a Plus budget!!! And I guess the FM scored well if not a centum!!

Budget2

India has indeed reached a sweet spot. We must now be in a hurry to change its status from #WorkinProgress to #JustArrived!!!