Ad today, Sad Tomorrow – A Brand Ambassador’s soon to be story!!!

Since the time, Sindhu won a Silver and Sakshi a Bronze for India at the Rio Olympics, their phones (probably endorsed by a Kareena or an Alia) I guess haven’t stopped ringing. Or perhaps their managers’. For, many brands are on their way to signing them as brand ambassadors. For now it’s O.K., for Sindhu or Sakshi to sign on the dotted line in these endorsement contracts and make hay while the medal shines. However not if the Government pushes forth the changes in the Consumer Protection bill which proposes jail term and fine for celebrities in case of misleading advertisements for products they endorse. The intention being to make celebrities also responsible for products they endorse apart from the manufacturers. “Consumers tend to get influenced by the promise made by the celebrities in ads” is the argument behind the proposed move.

As a marketing professional I have never been very excited about using celebrities in ads to push a product. In B-schools every year, one popular project students carry out with the blessings of their professors is to find out the effectiveness of celebrities in an ad campaign. That the study is done regularly conveys that the jury is still out on that. At a superficial level though, it is commonly accepted that use of a celebrity helps break the clutter and differentiate the ad. Though as per me, this is “laid back, lazy creativity” as there are indeed many other ways to break the clutter. Using celebrities is of course a low hanging fruit for those with big budgets and is often deployed as a creative strategy when one can afford. I just realized that this piece is not on whether to use celebrities or not in ads. We will keep that for another Sunday. But on the proposed changes in the law which could stop the party on its tracks for the so called Brand Ambassadors.

Going back in time, I think ads whether print or TV just had people featuring in them and were called as models. And then slowly the practice of plugging in celebrities like actors, sportspersons,… crept in as I mentioned, probably to make the communication stand out. I am not sure when this “celebrities modelling” for an ad morphed into “endorsing the product” and then as we see now becoming “brand Ambassadors” for the company.

She looks like Sonia Sahni to me.

As long as celebrities “featured” in ads for products I guess they were just plain actors parroting some lines. But when they started endorsing brands (making a killing in the process) – that’s when I guess they came into the ambit of influencing buyers’ decision and of course within the prying eyes of lawmakers. In my understanding there are 2 types of celebrity endorsements. First, where a celebrity is used to promote a product which is related to what he/she is doing and is a direct endorsement. For example – A Sachin or a Kapil Dev being used to promote ‘Boost’- an energy drink for children. When Kapil says – “Boost is the secret of MY energy” there is a clear communication to moms that “if you want your child to become like me, do consider giving Boost to your kid”.  Or when Katrina Kaif says – “if you want a smooth skin like mine, use Lux Soap”!

The second category is where brands just use a celebrity as a face in the ads and the products may not be related at all. For example – Amitabh Bachchan featuring in Binani Cement ads.

And probably there exists a third category – where the product is not related to the celebrity’s field of normal work but companies tap into the credibility of the star to push their wares. Though this is not common, we have started seeing this of late. For example, when Cadbury’s wanted to make a comeback after they got hit by the “worms inside chocolate” tornado, they dialed in Amitabh. Amitabh featured in the commercial as “himself”. See the ad here. As you can see in this TVC, he was clearly putting his personal credibility at stake to communicate to consumers that with the many steps taken by the company, “All is well” with the chocolates!

(I’m not considering the social awareness campaigns using celebrities for the moment)

In the whole business of celebrity endorsements, many questions do arise. Do the celebrities who extol the virtues of brands use the product/service themselves? Have they first checked if the claims they are making are true? In the case of endorsing for investment projects,.. do the celebrities vouch for the credibility of the promoters?

The thinking behind the proposed changes in the law seems to be after many instances of consumers landing in the pit after they invested their hard earned money in projects which also had big stars endorsing the same.  At the same time, there have been so many cases where consumers lost money in projects where stars were not at all involved!

It is difficult to believe that consumers are so gullible that they buy a product just because a star endorses it. This premise seriously underestimates the intelligence of a consumer. If just a star endorsement can make a product tick, all those mobile phones with celebrity brand ambassadors must be outselling the I-phone isn’t it???

But whatever it may be, punishing celebrities for wrong claims of a product because they feature in the ads seems a bit farfetched.  A consumer is expected to do his/her bit before deciding to buy a product/service. More so in the case of big investments. Putting the blame on a M.S.Dhoni just because a real estate project he endorsed didn’t see the light of the day is sheer escapism, I believe. I think we should consider celebrities featuring in ads as enhancing the entertainment quotient and nothing beyond that. At the same time as a socially conscious individual a celebrity should be careful in lending his/her name or face to a product which has inherent health concerns a la Gopichand who refused to feature in Cola ads in his prime time! And also do a bit more homework on the credibility of the brand/promoter before signing on the dotted line for the next 1 crore endorsement deal. Or else post the new law it will be “Ad today, Sad tomorrow”!!!

Post script: Will be interesting to know in which category of celebrity endorsements does the Jio campaign featuring our PM fall into???😝😝😝

Waking up “Make In India”!!!

In a week from now, Mumbai will host the “Make in India Week” – an event planned to give fillip to one of Modi Sarkar’s flagship program – Make In India. This was aimed at reviving the interest of domestic and MNCs in setting up/expanding manufacturing footprint in India – a sure shot elixir to tackle the unemployment malady and create millions of jobs. When this Govt. kicked off this initiative, one would have expected more cheers than jeers. However the reality was different. Leaving aside the noises from the opposition which anyway criticizes what the ruling Govt. does in India (this is irrespective of who is in power and who is in opposition), the naysayers included reputed economists and thinkers. They were of the view that it was too late for India to board the “Manufacturing” bus. China is already in the driver’s seat being the “factory for the world” and global companies are already heavily invested in China. Also the general view that with increasing automation in the shop floor, you don’t need much of low cost labour for manufacturing. So betting on manufacturing to generate millions of jobs may not be a cool idea any more. The session during the recently concluded World Economic Forum in Davos about “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” powered by Connected devices, 3D printers, Super Smart Robots and the like,… probably put paid to this idea of the critics. So instead of playing the catch up, the cynics’ view was that India should play to its strengths namely “Services” and invest further in developing soft skills to scale up further.

There is probably merit in this argument. However if one analyses the different states of India in terms of the economic condition it is clear that no state can hope to survive and grow by just focusing on services. For a diverse country like India with a huge disparity in income and social strata an even economic growth can be achieved only with a mix of manufacturing, services and agricultural activities. The top states in terms of GDP in India like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu,.. have a very healthy mix as I noted in one of my earlier posts on “Car manufacturing” in Chennai (Read here). A fourth Industrial Revolution may augur well for developed countries with shrinking population, ever rising wages and diminishing demographic dividend but in India we still need to reap the benefits of the 2nd and 3rd.

So I think that this Govt. is right in pursuing the Make In India initiative particularly at a time when China is facing economic headwinds. The labour in China can no longer be termed cheap with wages ever-increasing to keep pace with the aspirations of the people. Many of the global corporations do not want to put all eggs in one basket that too Made in China😁😁. I know for sure that the Japanese are expanding into Vietnam in a big way for production. So could be other countries like the US, Germany,…,.. soon. So the moot question is are we positioned well to make them Make In India??

logo 2

As the logo of India’s Make In India program demonstrates, there are many cogs in the wheel for a country to be successful in manufacturing that too for the world. Cheap and Skilled labour, Vendor base, Access to cheap raw material, Quality awareness, Access to ports and logistic hubs (particularly for exports), flexible labour laws, Ease of doing business (which applies not just for mfg.) and above all a very efficient infrastructure (Roads, airports, ports, broadband connectivity,..,…) in short a “pro manufacturing eco system”. And for India while all the other cogs could fall in place over time, the biggest challenge is in infrastructure. One would argue that the eco system will be in place when growth picks up and factories are set up. Necessity is the mother of everything you know. For example wasn’t Gurgaon just a “Gaon” before Maruti?? Today it is a recognized Auto mfg. hub. Similarly there are many examples of PSU Units which were set up first which then turned out to be manufacturing hubs in course of time. Goes the argument. No argument can be more specious than this. Maruti was set up at a time when India was a protectionist state where the promoters (in this case the Govt. of India) can patiently wait for more than 10 years for the 1st car to roll out! Same is the case with many PSU units where the overarching mission was upliftment of the society rather than shareholder value or profits! Not in these “QSQT” (Quarter Se Quarter Tak) days!!!😁😁 And in these days of strict WTO regime the Government cannot slap high duties on imported goods to protect the local manufacturers.

So for Make In India to succeed India needs to get the Eco system right first up. While India has a natural advantage in some aspects like availability of not just cheap labour but also skilled, large Engineering pool,.. the road is long for areas like “Ease of doing business” and Infrastructure as I mentioned before. And fortunately the Govt. has rightly recognized these challenges. Its’ for the 1st time that a Govt. website has spotlight on “Ease of Doing Business” like in the Make In India home page, I reckon. See here. It was a pleasant surprise to see the list of initiatives already taken and ones on the way when I clicked on “Ease of Business” tab. And it is also great to see every day in Newspaper one state or the other hosting Investor summits to lure potential investors with Make In India being an important aspect. So while pitching for investments is all right, I think the state Govts. must also focus on getting the infrastructure in place in their respective states which helps not just manufacturing but in general fosters economic activity. Today inspite of higher labour costs if many companies are still outsourcing mfg. to China it is because of their fantastic infrastructure overall which helps to keep indirect costs lower. India’s labour costs is lower but the indirect costs due to poor infrastructure weighs us down.

I think now the world is quite convinced on the intent of the Modi Sarkar to promote Make In India. Now the time has come to morph the intent to reality by focusing on Infrastructure for which the states have to work in tandem with the Centre. That’s what will wake up Make In India and not the raking up of intolerance debate every other morning😩

Make in IndiaToon courtesy: Satish Acharya

Jugaad Vs Anti-Jugaad!!!

In the last 2 weeks, 2 TV ads for different products by 2 different agencies but surprisingly around the same theme of Jugaad caught my attention.  One is for Sulekha.com and the other for Exide Life Insurance. Jugaad is India’s contribution to management theory or so it appears. That the word ‘Jugaad’ has a Wikipedia page attributed to it means, it “has” arrived. And I think it had arrived a decade ago. When we started seeing this term being bandied about in management lecture circuits and HBR articles in the context of a Rising India. Yes the same time when BRICS broke into investment strategy discussions around the globe. For the uninitiated, Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi/Punjabi word that can mean an innovative fix or a simple work-around, used for solutions that bend rules. (Courtesy: Wikipedia). One of the very popular examples of Jugaad which has been trumpeted about is the use of old run down washing machines as giant Lassi makers in dhabas of Punjab😤

So what was new in Jugaad?? The concept of Jugaad I believe emanated from the Indian psyche of use first, then re-use, then repair and use and refuse (to throw i.e.). So when you have a problem in hand, as long as you can just do something and fix it and Chalaofy, its fine. These days for our kids, when their slipper snaps, Snapdeal delivers a new pair the next day. In our time, when a slipper gave way, a safety-pin first came to the rescue to pull along for few days. When that also failed, the cobbler under the nearby tree stretched the life of the slipper for few more days. So the immediate instinct was to do some Jugaad to get it going before we buy a new pair.

It was but natural that the word entered the workplace soon. At factories, warehouses, offices – if there was a problem the first attempt is to do some Jugaad and fix it. And in interviews – questions like “Are you a go getter?” gave way to “Are you a Jugaadu??”😜😜 A supposedly smart cookie who can think quickly and provide a cheap and quick fix for problems at work. So the underlying association for Jugaad was that the solution must be quick to implement, cheap and can be a short term compromise. Nobody expected a Jugaad to be a “perfect” solution.

Awesome-Shower-Jugaad

Now this runs antithesis to probably a Japanese way of thinking. In Japan, solutions are found after a lot of thinking (so not a quick fix), they need to be perfect (turn out to be expensive) and for the long-term.

So I guess the Jugaad instinct is all to do with the economic status of the country and its people. In countries like ours which is still aspiring to be a developed country, our priority is to have a fix. Not be a perfect fix. Need not be for long-term. But should be cheap and quick. While this approach has paved the way for eulogizing the concept of Jugaad as a means of “frugal innovation” in countries like India, it also has its shortcomings. As can be seen in our day today lives. For example in the way our municipality fixes potholes in roads. Just fill up quickly with metal and tar and level it only to do the same exercise again in a few months. A Jugaad solution can prove to be a long-term pain and an expensive proposition. In this context, I am uncomfortable with raising Jugaad to a global management technique and all that jazz.

Ergo, interestingly I notice that the same concept which till recently had a positive overtone is taking a negative innuendo. The liberalization and the Software boom have changed things and thinking. These days we deploy less Jugaad in our lives. And we it seems now need long-term, Quality solutions even if expensive. Now coming back to those 2 TV commercials. As can be seen in these 2 ads Jugaad has given way to Anti-Jugaad and the till now venerable Jugaadu is being loathed upon. In my last post “Writings on the walls” (Read here) I wrote about the aspirational India taking wings in the heartlands. I see this emergence of Anti-Jugaad as another instance of the emergence of Aspirational India where the expectations of people have morphed from being just satisfied to yearning for more.

So, are the days numbered for Jugaad in India? May be not. But the question is – As the country which popularised Jugaad is there a “Good Jugaad” which we can still retain and a “Bad Jugaad” which we will have to do away with?

Postscript: As I am typing this racing against the iPad’s battery life, is there a Jugaad for the iPad’s battery life??? Please call me😜😜

Shuddh Desi Maggi!!!

First the disclosures. I am not a big fan of the 2 minute wonder – Maggi Noodles ever to have hit the Indian palate and plate. In all my life, I would have tasted it may be a few times and I detested it every time. Even when mixed with curd as how Bollywood stereotypes we Madrasis to eat even Noodles 😠. I don’t have nostalgic memories either of how Maggi Noodles helped thwart hunger pangs during some mountaineering expedition,… like how some adults professed as part of the Maggi campaign. The daughter though loves it. And wants more of it. Much to the dismay of the mother and the father. I also don’t have any commercial interests going with Nestle nor do I have a Swiss bank account!!!

maggi_650x400_41432133400

But I have a lot of interest in India and the signals it sends across within the country and outside as a place not abhorrent to business.  In the last 2 weeks, we all know how one Pandeyji from UP got his 2 minute fame under the sun after he picked up few Maggi Noodle packs, tested and declared that the contents were out of set limits. Many other states followed and soon Nestle had no choice but to pull their 2000cr (US$300mn) flagship product off the shelves and indeed away from the mouths of many a child and even grownups.  Leaving many a moms feeling surreptitiously happy when they found a way to desist the urge of their offspring citing the ban 😃.

In India, Newton is a much misunderstood man. When it comes to anything foreign, his 3rd law becomes “For every action, there is an unequal and opposite knee jerk reaction”😄 Either we go gaga about something phoren or go suspicious. There’s nothing in between. I am not for a moment questioning the veracity of the ban or arguing that Maggi noodles is above-board.  I am also not taking the oft-repeated line that in India there are so many other food items if tested would flunk all norms. Just that if the same situation would have been handled in a more compassionate way with a perspective view by the authorities, the Indian republic would not be viewed as a banana type!!!

For example, what if the same situation had played out like this:

  • Pandeyji picks up samples of Maggi noodles, tests the same and finds that the contents are beyond norms.
  • He informs the Central agency – Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) about his findings. (Instead of going to the press and banning the same in UP. What if it was just a batch issue??)
  • FSSAI arrange to do its own tests to ascertain the claim and also make a foolproof assessment. And let us assume that they indeed find the lead content above specified limits.
  • FSSAI informs the Food ministry of the same.
  • Food ministry calls the top officials of Nestle India for a meeting and they inform them of the findings. And gives Nestle couple of weeks to do their own assessment and come back.
  • Now its upto Nestle to accept the findings or prove with their own test results that they are in the right.
  • And if indeed Nestle finds that they are in the wrong, the onus is on them to come up with a plan of action to correct the situation. Temporary recall, change of recipe,…,…
  • They work with the FSSAI authorities and change the recipe of the taste maker which is tested and approved as within norms.
  • Nestle does a launch of the Govt. of India Approved ‘Shuddh Desi Maggi” Noodles with an appropriate campaign and continues its business as usual.

Product recalls on account of genuine safety concerns happen world over all the time these days. A more calibrated approach would have allowed the company time to work backwards with their whole supply chain – producers of atta/maida, spices, suppliers of the atta/maida, the factories which produce the noodle, the factories which make the packaging, transporters, whole sales distributors, retailers, kirana shops,..,.. to minimize damage. I just read a news item today that 300 in a company in Moga, Punjab that supplied spices to Nestle India lost their jobs due the ongoing Maggi noodles tangle.  I am certain under the current uncertain situation, many more will follow. Quietly not just Maggi, but the entire category is off the shelves I am told.

Some are of the view that Nestle itself could have handled the situation better. But I thought that by voluntarily agreeing to pull the brand off the shelves without getting into arguments regarding the test methods,.. they did the right thing. Now from here on they could take some lessons from Cadbury – another brand which faced a much worse situation few years ago. The relaunch of the Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate after the brand faced much ire when worms were found inside the chocolate wrapper is part of marketing case studies in India on the topic of “Recovery Strategy”.  The 2 minute Maggi Noodle must take a 2 months strategic time out and get the formula of their taste maker right not just for my daughter’s palate but also Pandeyji’s.

We have a Prime Minster who is desperately wanting to change the business climate in India and boost investments foreign and Indian. Unfortunately, episodes like the Maggi ban of this kind do not augur well for his intent.

Postscript: A friend told me that the Maggi ban and strangulation of Nestle is our Govt.’s trump card to make the Swiss authorities co-operate and reveal the black money offenders. Wah! “Covert” operations under the Modi regime have gone to a different level I must say😊😊

Image courtesy: NDTV.com

“Ideas Mela” – What an Idea Sirji !!! Part – 2

In the last few years, in airports across the world you cannot just miss one thing. The ambience at the airports may be different, the service levels may vary, but one thing which was common was the HSBC branding at the “Aerobridges” whether it was Los Angeles, London, Delhi, Singapore, Honk Kong or Tokyo.  I’m not sure of the year when it started but if my memory serves me right, it could be 2010/11 when HSBC kicked off its global campaign positioning itself as “The World’s Glocal Bank” and the one of the main medium they chose to carry this message across was the “Aerobridge” at most of the international airports across the globe.  In line with the campaign theme of being a “Glocal” bank, while the medium and treatment were unified on a pan world basis, the creative itself was localized and changed from one country to another.

Aerobridge Exterior

Aerobridge Exterior

Aerobridge Interior

Aerobridge Interior

So much so HSBC earned the moniker – “Airport brand”!!! Though there is nothing novel about branding in airports and this would seem as just another OOH  ( Out Of Home) medium this “Glocal” execution of the campaign simultaneously as I understand in some 25 odd countries in may be around 100 airports certainly falls under the “What an Idea Sirji” category.   In my earlier blog post – “Ideas Mela – What an Idea Sirji” ( read here), I had touched upon a few campaigns which used media innovatively to carry their message across. In this post, I am talking of a few more such ideas which I came across and felt worth sharing.  These are not creative ideas perse’ but ideas where the media chosen were different and hence groundbreaking.

  • Continuing with Airports, in the post 9/11 era we live, going through the long security drill seems unavoidable. As part of this drill is the need to remove our laptops/Tablets,.. and put them in trays for screening. These trays have become a novel branding medium. I don’t know which brand hit upon this first. But now I see that many travel websites like makemytrip, expedia, goibibo,.. have likened to this idea and may be sponsoring these trays and branding them. Airports, travel and travel websites are all related and it seems to be a great idea for these brands though I see a trend of all travel companies jumping into the tray b(r)andwagon and hence may not be so distinctive anymore.
makemytrip trays

makemytrip trays

 makemytrip

  • There was a time in India when immigration counters at airports use to be chaotic to say the least.  Particularly when you are returning home after a long trip you rue the thought of spending an hour again in the maddening immigration line upon arrival.  Some people believe it is unruly even now. But I for sure feel that there is a marked improvement on this front in the last 5-6 years. Wait a minute, why I am talking of this here??? Well part of the solution to the problem apart of training of the immigration staff,…,… has been the introduction of a single line at the end of which people are directed to many counters.  As you stand in the line and wonder invariably of the Incredibility of India, you cannot just miss the branding on the rods which are used to form the line. (Sorry no picture due to security reasons!!)  Thomas Cook was a pioneer in this and used this medium quite well which I feel is inventive. Again, immigration lines, airport, travel, Convenience, Thomas Cook all conjure up an association in the minds and I thought it was a great idea for a Travel company.
  • Airports are not the only place where you stumble upon great ideas. You could in Multiplexes too and that too in obscure places like “loos” like I did.  “Dixcy Scott” a men’s innerwear brand found some strategic spots inside the Men’s washrooms for promoting their wares. I was surprised first, amused later and was impressed finally to find posters with captions like “Aim and Shoot”, “Size doesn’t matter” and “Do not give into pressure” placed just above the wall mounted men’s urinals.  These apparently staid copy lines bring another dimension when placed at the right place. So much for “placement”. Surprisingly I saw this campaign only for some time and I don’t see it these days.
  • When you talk of Ideas and Innovation it is seldom that Fevicol and its ilk get left out.  This time it showed up even in the “Online” space.  In April/May when the spot fixing/ match fixing drama in IPL was dominating the headlines in India, this idea from Dr.Fixit – a Fix all adhesive product from Pidilite was kickass. In that period whenever I was googling for any news on match fixing, IPL,.. invariably I tripped on banners for Dr.Fixit routinely on the side. I noticed this casually once and then when I repeated the search, I found the banner appearing in other IPL related sites as well which left me quite impressed on the smart SEO/SEM work.  See for yourself the visuals.

 Dr Fixit,Online Innovation,052013Dr Fixit,Media Innovation,052013,2

  • In recent times, one can say that the film Chennai Express was a case of a clear box office hit made possible by some great marketing. A film with not so great/unique story line and many other fault lines which could have ensured it to be a box office dud (looking at past films of this ilk) turned out to be one of all time big grossers. And certainly the big bang/big buck marketing blitz and PR played a great role in this.  One piece in this marketing spend which caught my attention was the use of “Train” like cut outs (see pic) with branding of the film inside multiplexes couple of weeks before the film release. The windows in trains which you usually see were replaced with LED displays (like TV) and were continuously feeding promos of the movie including song clips, trailers, Making of the movie,.. As people were waiting outside the movie hall this was a good opportunity to grab eyeballs and generate a positive buzz about the movie and it certainly did. The film took to a great opening and as the cliché goes rest is history. History will record Chennai Express as one of the top movies of SRK.

Chennai Exp Media Inno,Mumbai,082013

  • Staying with filmy stuff, watching Mahabharat on TV every week was part of my growing up memories. Sunday morning was the time to roll on the highways and take some sunbath as you will find no traffic when Mahabharat was on air. Some people attempted to re-create Mahabharat on TV this time on 3D. So the 16th Sep edition of the Times of India carried a full-page ad for the serial Mahabharat. Along with the paper a 3D glass was also given away. Again a different dimensional thought to get some TRP going and for sure a great idea.

Now I’m not sure if the TRPs soared or for that matter if the said channel is continuing with Mahabharat as of now.  Similarly I am not privy to the sales revenues after the above so called great ideas were unleashed. Hence the often heard of “What an idea Sirji, but no impact on sales Sirji” remarks in the corridors of corporate houses and facebook walls will continue and keep us busy.  Nevertheless Great Ideas need recognition and celebration. If you have come across some interesting use of medium, please do share here.

Postscript: There is one more media innovation which I missed to cover here. That is of the use of “Modi Masks” during the last Gujarat State Elections. Among other things it certainly contributed in building the “Modi Persona”. It will now be interesting to see if the “ModI Kites” which have been unleashed recently, help in soaring of the BJP/NaMo fortunes in 2014.

modi mask

Idli,Vada,Bonda and Ad(a)!!!

One latent benefit of the IPL is the opportunity one gets to see a good repertoire of TV commercials as marketers “bet” 🙂 big time on IPL to gain a bigger wallet share of the consumer during the vacation time and the summer season.  To me it is a good time to catch up with what’s happening on the Indian advertising space.  And that’s how this IPL season I stumbled upon a trend and thought its worth sharing. This has been cooking up for a while. Take a look (click on the links to view the TVCs) at the following commercials which have been hitting us during time outs strategic or otherwise:

  1. This ad for CenterfruitThe setting is of a traditional restaurant in Tamil Nadu where the owner is conducting an interview for a waiter. The ad brings an instant smile in your lup lupaees oops lips!!  It’s a fact that like they say a Doctor’s most important qualification is to have a horrendous handwriting, the must-have skill for a waiter in Tamil Nadu is the ability to reel off the day’s menu in a jiffy.
  2. This heavily accented Hindi speaking Tamilian Murthy has been coming in on and off for some time now.  So there he is, again peddling the Voltas All weather AC as he keeps getting transferred in his job from Chirapunji to Kota to Mukteshwar to now Delhi!
  3. The general aversion of the South Indians towards playing Holi is quite well-known now. During this year’s Holi I saw this Idea TVC which captured this idea very well, I thought. (But does a Mallu son call his dad Appa???)
  4. In this ad for Nestle Munch, though the voice over is in chaste Hindi, one can make out that the setting is in Tamil Nadu with Balakrishnan as the character name, typical background score of the South,..,..
  5. Have you seen the latest Coca Cola commercial featuring Karan Johar’s “students of last year” – Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan ?  The ad shows a woman resembling clearly a mami (aunty) from the south and the locale again seems like Mylapore in Chennai. ( Couldn’t locate the video link )
  6. Also one cannot miss this old ad for Gulf oil featuring Dhoni being re-plugged during IPL where a heavily accented South Indian Driver chases his Chennai Super Kings Captain and Hero Dhoni to return his pillow!!!

And there were some more which appeared before:

  1. Havell’s ad film showing a Tambram family doing Homam (Havan)
  2. Finolex ad with a Rajnikant look alike
  3. Carrier AC commercial with Namboothiri as a character
  4. TVC for Parle Full toss with Bharatnatyam dancers in the backdrop
  5. An Ad featuring Kareena Kapoor for Mahindra scooter I think
  6. And the “Help a Child reach 5” film from Lifebuoy which went viral –

       ,…,…

Now you might have realized where I’m coming from. South India ofcourse.   Suddenly I notice that the story behind ads of many products across categories/brands revolve around Tamil Nadu/Kerala/Karnataka/Andhra and Madrasis as people in Mumbai like to address.  Like I observed in one of my earlier blog post “The Punching of Bollywood” – After the big screen, I think it is now the turn of  the ad industry to wake up to the South Indian coffee!!!

 What could be the reasons for this “Kolaveri” (murderous rage) towards South oflate was my next look out:

  • The most logical, rational and straight forward is the “Market”, “Marketing” and “Economics” angle. Which is – that the growth in FMCG, Consumer durables categories in India is being driven more by South India oflate. This is due to the increased purchasing power fuelled by the Software boom and dollar inflows from NRIs.  So to tap into this boom, marketers would like to woo this creed more and more and hence the commercials reflect this strategy.
  • Second is the “Fresh Narrative” angle – For years, films, stories and TVCs were set in North India generally speaking. Caricaturing Punjabis, Sardars may be has become out of fashion and is sounding repetitive these days. The need for a fresh narrative is driving creative people down south.  Could be.
  • The third as per me is the “Kollywood” angle!!! For quite some time (may be till the mid 80’s) Tamil films were admonished for being loud, over the top with no style/content,… But with the advent of some classy film makers that perception changed and more and more South films started getting re-hashed in Hindi.  This exposure to the South Indian culture and life thro South Indian films and their popularity could be another reason for the ad people to venture to the South.
  • Last is the “Move over Bombay” angle – If you look at the origins of advertising industry in India, in the 60’s and 70s the profession was dominated by copywriters from Bombay (Da Cunhas, D’Souzas,..)  And then by people from other Metro cities like Delhi,… In the next wave, we had creative people emerging from the hinterland (Prasoon Pandey, Joshi,..)Though there were excellent copy writers in Chennai as well, they rarely broke into the National scene. However in the last 10 years we see the profession throwing up lot of talented copy writers and creative directors from the South. Balki, Sridhar, Rajeev Rao to just name a few.  Their work is not limited to South Indian brands. From English dominated copy to “Hinglish” copy to virtuous Hindi lines to now Tamil words thrown in liberally (for example Whistle podu, Poda,..,.. ) the narrative of the ads just follow the trend of the professionals dominating the industry.   It is but natural for any creative person to bring in sensibilities he is very conversant with, in his work whether it is art, music, stories, films or for that matter an ad.  Also with actual people from the South writing the lines and directing the artists, it is no more the Andhra type Hindi of Mehmood fame in Hindi films or the ads.

Well, the actual reason could be a combination of all the above.

So be prepared for an overdose of filter Kaapi, Idli, Kaanjivaram, Appadi Podu,..,.. in books, films, ads, songs, videos, tweets and what have you!!!

Post script: Oh, I missed “the only reason” for this trend and how could I?? And that is

“Rajini Sir”

After all HE is from the South. HE sets the agenda and the World follows. Period!!!

Idlivada

“Ideas Mela” – What an Idea, Sirji !!!

Years ago, I was attending a business conference at a resort type place few miles off Mumbai. While our meeting was in a usual conference room and in a typical business setting, there was another business meeting going on albeit in an offbeat mood. I could see quite a few signs of “Ideas Mela” in and around the swimming pool.  Could also see quite a few seemingly “creative” types floating in water on “Ideas Mela” branded floats. On further enquiry, I was told that “Ideas Mela” was an Annual ritual held by a renowned ad agency with their team where they try to unwind and come up with some big ideas for their clients !!!

I’m not sure if the team of Hindustan Unilever and their campaign agency ‘Ogilvy Action’ had an “Ideas Mela” to come up with that brilliant idea to promote Lifebuoy during Kumbh Mela a relegious congregation which happens once in 3 years in different locations in different scales. This campaign which has now got into the coveted list of media innovations in India has ‘Incredible India’ written or stamped all over it.  The brand team has reportedly teamed up with over 100 hotels and dhabas in and around the ‘Kumbh’ site to serve ‘rotis’ that are stamped with “Lifebuoy se haath dhoye kya?” (Have you washed your hand with Lifebuoy?).  Given the fact that ‘roti’ is the staple diet with the North Indians, serving the same hot with a reminder message is expected to reach more than 3 million visitors.  And the massive PR follow up coverage on the unique and interesting campaign that followed is expected to reach few more millions all over the country. Using the ‘roti’ as the medium for communicating the importance of ‘hand washing’ particularly in a mass congregation of the ‘Kumbh’ type is certainly a master stroke and a brilliant media innovation. Roti oops topi  off to the creative team !!!

Lifeboy2

Similarly I was personally experienced to another interesting media innovation on a Sunday morning last year (2012).  As I picked up the Sunday Times of India and began to read, a strong aroma of coffee emanated and tempted me to get back to my old coffee days. It’s been a while since I switched loyalties from Coffee to Tea. As I kept wondering where the strong aroma was coming from, I saw the ad in the 1st page for (again) Hindustan Unilever’s flagship coffee product – ‘Bru Gold’.  The Sunday TOI edition of that day in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore broke the smell sense barrier and came with a strong coffee flavour to lure consumers to the coffee brand. Aroma of actual coffee, ad for the same, newspaper, Sunday,.. all add to the weekend morning mood. I think it was an excellent idea to use a media innovatively.  I realized that HUL had missed out ‘Chennai’ a city of coffee connoisseurs for this innovative campaign.  Well, can a Bru Gold beat that ubiquitous ‘filter Kaapi’???  In the land of filter Kaapi trying to push any other form of coffee would have petered out I guess.

coffee-aroma-innovation

Recently I was also impressed to see another media innovation to promote the World TV première of the film – EV on Zee TV on the 29th Dec 2012. Few days before that when I was in the Mumbai Airport, I could see English Vinglish signboards at the check in counters, boarding gates, near the luggage conveyors,..  I thought for a product with a short life, using such media was certainly low cost and at the same time inventive.  The director of the movie, Gauri Shinde who signed a whole sale contract for the “Best Debutant Director” trophy in all the film award shows this year stretched the film’s branding further when in the thanks giving speech at ‘Screen Awards’ she thanked ‘Screen Veen’ !!! A bit over board no???

English Vinglish Media innovation,Mumbai AP,122012

In Mumbai when I go to office, I see sometimes a car ahead of me with a bumper sticker which says:

“Keep Safe Distance – I work with Fevicol”

A smart media innovation not surprising for a brand which boasts of some great creative stuff in the country!  This idea has limited scope but certainly tongue in cheek!

There’s another media ingenuity which comes to my mind here.  I‘ve seen this (surprisingly) only at the Bengaluru airport.  These days as we all know and endure, the security routine at airports is quite elaborate and calls for passengers to follow certain instructions like putting the mobile phones for scanning, removing laptops from the bags,…,.. So there you have, at the security area of the Bengaluru airport few TV screens which show what are the do’s and don’ts for the passengers. And these are in the form of very well made videos with Zoo Zoo characters of ‘Vodafone’ fame!!!  I don’t recall seeing the Vodafone brand or the logo in the videos. Is it necessary? Vodafone was completing its quota of Corporate Social responsibility I guess. Still no respite from the Tax authorities, though!!!

vodafone-zoozoo

Another one from Vodafone. Though this will qualify for smart ambush marketing, the ingenious use of a medium brings this part of this post. On the final day of the F1 race in Noida ( Delhi ) last year,  it was a “Toll Free Day” at the DND flyway – which many race enthusiasts used to reach the Budh International Circuit. This was thanks to Vodafone which sponsored thisThe advertising message was – “Speed up for F1”.  The idea resonated well with the event which is all about Speed thrills!  That the F1 event had Vodafone’s main competitor “Airtel” as the title sponsor  made it a very innovative and cheeky move !!!

These are just few great Ideas which came to my mind as I wrote this post. There could be many more I’m sure.  My focus was only on ideas which used media differently and not necessarily on “Creative” ideas or Ideas which were just part of some “Cannespiracy”!!! (Ideas which get used only for reaping award at festivals)

I liked the idea of that “Ideas Mela”.  If ‘Kumbh Mela’ can be a congregation of not only bodies but minds and souls as they say, an “Ideas Mela” can be one for great ideas!!! For, today marketing communication or for that matter entire business is all about one “Big Idea”!!!