2015 – Exploring the iceberg


2015 – Exploring the iceberg

 

The past years 2013, 14 we touched the ice berg with higher digital spends, long format story based ads, adoption of online shopping and flourishing of e-commerce businesses and better and more impactful government advertising. In the coming years we shall explore the iceberg and comprehend its magnitude. The developments in 2014 will continue and better in 2015 and also the year should see (I hope) new trends responding to the changes happening around.

The adoption of internet and its influence in communication and advertising will continue with higher growth rates. A recent report by McKinsey & Company and Facebook said India would add close to 300 million internet users by 2018 to make up an online population of just under 500 million people. While this trend is acknowledged by the advertising industry, the adoption of this trend in the rural areas is still to be explored. Few pioneers like HUL with its Kan Khajura Tesan have taken steps in this direction; with more than 80 million internet users and increasing consumption of low cost, internet enabled smart phones in the rural markets I hope to see more work in this space. Internet and mobile multimedia is used more for entertainment in the rural areas unlike urban where the use is more for social purposes. This insight should lead marketers to create more entertaining content for the rural population in 2015. What happened on ground all these years should go online, catering to masses; things like music, performances, plays and movies are likely to go online and accessed through mobile phones.

The rural markets have been paid attention in some industries but there are certain trends that will influence consumption and communication in the rural space – like rural doesn’t always mean poor and bottom of pyramid, there is rural rich as well and they are consuming brands; with luxury car brands, branded consumer durables and electronics getting a fair share of their revenues from the rural space. Another very important trend is about the rural children with access to satellite communication and internet are growing up with similar aspirations like their urban counterparts. Hence we can’t discriminate between an urban and rural kids as they are viewing the world with same lens. Hence the psychographic targeting will become more important than geographic targeting. Going forward rural marketing will go through a sea change.

Another trend that took shape in 2014 is the spending on the digital mediums and this will continue unprecedented in 2015. According to the latest findings of the Digital Advertising in India Report by IAMAI and IMRB, the online advertising market in India is projected to reach Rs 3,575 crore by March 2015, a growth of 30 per cent over last year. Along with increasing spends what was seeing in the year gone by and also with their plans for coming years was the maturity of the clients w.r.t. digital adverting; they are taking bold decisions and are understanding the immense possibilities that comes with digital. Having CMTO i.e. Chief Marketing Technology Officer will become common in the coming years.

The next trend is a problem of sorts which will aggravate in the coming years, and what needs to be seen is how the industry deals with this. The trend is that many category of products are becoming commodities due to the presence of search and aggregating technologies; they loosing brand value and hence the ability to charge premium for branded products. Take for example the airlines industry where once the brand was the most important variable in the decision making criteria i.e. business travelers sweared by Jet Airways. Now due to the presence of google and other aggregators which throw the cheapest tickets for the searched routes, price has become the most important variable and the industry has gone into this vicious cycle of downward spiraling prices. This leads to a compromise in services, losses and hence today a profitable airline is an achievement. This is true for many industry like many financial services and also consumer durables where the customer may visit a retail outlet to get all the information related to a product but purchase online. The concept of branding that created emotional connect with its customers and there by commanding a premium is failing to do so in spite of increased investments.

With most activities in the purchase process happening online the scope for creating human connection is reducing and hence in the coming years brands will be redefined by the experiences they create online and offline. Marketers have forgotten this and are now having a very transactional relationship with their customers over the internet and emotional affinity is taking a back seat. I hope in the coming year some will wake up and act to break this spiral.

Some other trends that will take off from 2014 is rise of e-commerce and online shopping, the online shopping behavior that was seen during Diwali in 2014 will continue in 2015 and players should build their infrastructure accordingly. Making ads for government which was seen below dignity of any professional advertising agency has changed for good. With the new government’s progressive vision, today advertising agencies take pride in contributing to governments actions. Corporates, agencies and people all are participating in issues of national importance, this was seen in the Swachh Bharat campaign in 2014 and going forward more such campaign and better integration will be seen.

Being more selfless, fresh, more engaging and telling stories that connect with the people will be the mantra in 2015. We saw hints of this happening and some pioneering brands and agencies working in this direction; if this is the take-off, 2015 will see the real flight and that makes it an exciting place to be and to watch out for.

 

Note: Originally published in the Financial Express in early 2015

 

 

 

 

Create. Collaborate and Compete.


 

Advertising has become more complex today then ever before, there was a time when all channels of communications were controlled by advertising agencies but today advertising has gone through a significant change today we have more then two dozen specialist agencies specialized from creative planning to digital executions. Apart from loads of channels to communicate to the consumers have changed, people themselves have changed.

A recent study published in Times of India points the average age of the consumer had dropped dramatically, for instance an average car buyers age had come down from 45 to below 30. This change not only affects the target for marketing but it also changes the media planning. Hence one needs to look at the content of communication in the context of message consumption therefore it is extremely important for the communication content creators to understand the contextual targeting. The moral of this story is if the creative and media planning or digital planning agencies do not collaborate then how the hell are they going to create a relevant campaign?

 

 

 

In this ever-evolving complex world everything is linked to everything and not everyone can be experts in everything. Super specializations are hear to stay and the intelligence lies in learning from each other and working as a team even if the team you are supposed to work with, belongs to a competing holding company. If a creative agency can collaborate with a film production company, which also works with competing agencies can happen with out any hesitation, then why not collaborate with another competing small agency on a project in the interest of a brand?

Bigger and traditional creative agencies can learn a thing or two from modern design companies which have learned to co-create and collaborate with technology companies for starters take a look at the design winners from Cannes this year. Small and nimble agencies have realized this early enough and are raking in now. Now it’s the turn of the biggies.

We all are witnessing the results of coalition government with out any collaboration. I urge all the communications channels to come together and get to learn from each other and march ahead into the new age communication era.

After all the solo sulking days have gone, as my friend Agnello puts it “jo tera hai wo mera hai”,

 

 

 

How to end the debate on “cult brands” v/s “iconic brands”?


 

One of the biggest debates in the marketing and advertising circuits for a while has been on what makes a brand cultish? Any popular brand, which is not cultish, is generally considered as Iconic brand. Well does this call for debate or clarification? I am only qualified to do the former, let me try and put forth my understanding and learning before I let others to vent theirs.

Whether the brand has a cult / iconic status or not it must definitely stand the test of time. Both these statuses demand a brand to stand for values beyond functionality and must be rooted in popular culture and find a place in people’s lives over a long period of time.

Cult Brands: Apple, Volkswagen, Harley Davidson, Star trek and Benetton.

 

 

 

The word “Cult” originated from Latin word “Cultus” meaning worship or religious practice. And by extension it had started to connote the cultural aspects of religion like rituals, ceremonies, myths and personal sacrifices, miracles etc only later “Cult” started being associated with obsessive to faddish devotion to a religious myth or a religious leader or object of such devotion.

Now lets look at contemporary meaning of “Cult” in the context of brands:

Cult brands are the brands, which dare to be different and celebrate that difference and therefore posses the power of the loyalist who come together on a common ground for the common values and ideologies.

Cult brands are the brands, which are more evolved to just talk about functionality or the benefits of the category they peg themselves much higher in the human value systems, like upholding truth, honesty, simplicity, perfection and goodness. They intelligently tap into innate reserves of human conscious.

“ Star Trek” became a cult by being a crusader of human rights by juxtaposing humans and aliens, war and peace, racism and space born humanitarians all in an adventure story of planets and space.

Volkswagen” achieves with Beetle, all with utter common sense. Harley with it irreverence sense of fantasy and adventure. Apple does with its child like simplicity and perfection producing magical joy to the end user.

Now try to fit any Indian brands? Mahatma Gandhi? Osho? Thums Up? Old Monk? Royal Enfield? Rajinikanth? Mona darling? Its your turn to pick..

 

Iconic Brands: Coca Cola, Nike, McDonalds, Lego, Rolex, BMW Mini, Marlboro and Vespa.

 

A purist definition of “Icon” means an image; a representation of a sanctified personage; an important and enduring symbol; an object of great attention and devotion.

As mentioned earlier Iconic Brands posses the ability to transcend from product benefits to become part of people’s lives and of their popular culture. And they also have the ability to tap into collective desires and anxieties of people for instance Rolex taps into the desire to be successful, Coca Cola taps into the emotion of happiness, Marlboro into the need of freedom, Lego into the need of imagination for children.

Therefore the brands endure as long as the human needs exist and over a period of time they become synonymous with the values to become “Objects of desire or devotion.

Lets try to fit some Indian brands: Tatas? Amitabh Bachchan? Sachin Tendulkar?

Godrej ? Raymond’s ? Wills? Bajaj? Hero? Scooty? Nalli’s? MTR?

While there will be less debate on what make a brand Iconic or Cult, I recon their will be heated debate on which Indian brands can make it to the list.

The debate has just began.

 

 

 

 

 

Creation of Gandhi font.


Or is he a different type?

In hatred he saw love. In fear, courage. In weakness he saw strength. And in violence, truth. In cruelty he saw kindness. In anger he saw humanity. And in struggle, he saw peace. He saw things through his soul that are invisible to the eye. Yet through his eyes, we can still see the shining light of humanity. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. A different type.

Above are the words came out of Agnello Dias when I told him about my intention to create a font for Gandhi.

” There is no god higher than truth.” is what he said and is what got imprinted in my mind  ever since I was a little boy, my grand parents always told me stories of Gandhi at bedtime, I am still a vegetarian thanks to the impression he made on me. I am just a spec in billions who follow him. Once he said “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

When Indian Industrialist Vijay Mallya salvaged the pride of a nation by bringing back the priced possession of a man who owned nothing. The day New York auctioneer announced auctioning of Mahatma’s spectacles the nation put her head down in shame, as embarrassed Indian government’s  desperate attempts to stall the action failed, Mallya’s $1.8 millon came to the rescue.

His glasses has a deep significance to all Indians, when he gave away the glasses in 1930’s to an army colonel he said ” these gave me vision to free India”. Today as we live in a free India we still are slaves to violence, terrorism, untouchability, communalism and many more evils. A young nation celebrates holiday on his birthday than his wisdom as Nitesh Tiwari one of our copywriters put it.

How do we make him and his vision relevant and how do we make people try to see the world through his eyes? Than the Idea of a typeface created out of his glasses came about.

Typographers from Leo Burnett went on to create this marvelous Gandhiji font in Devanagari and the team is working overtime to launch english and other Indian languages.( an up-date:English, Devnagari, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada are available ) The website went live last night http://www.gandhijifont.com

What’s the best way to keep Gandhi’s spectacles away from auctioneers than this?


Creative v/s Media.


 

Why creative agencies win media awards?
 
Be it Cannes or Goafest, why is it creative agencies steal the thunder from media guys? What is it about awards which brings magical enthusiasm from creative agencies? What can media brothers learn from hated separated cousins?
 
Believe me I am a neutral party here. I have worked in the same office and shared the same table and mind space with some of the media legends of today to name a few: Shashi Sinha, Ambika, Nandini Dias, George Mathai, Ashish Basin, Lynn, Hiren Pandit, Ravi Kiran and many more, I had the privilege of interacting with them every day,at leat thosedays there were no egos no fighting for credit, just partnership and respect for each other’s talent and thinking.
 
It pained me when I heard the whispers last night at Media Abby Awards, who deservers more credit or have right to enter a co-created idea. I truly believe advertising is not a solo game, it’s a large team game, often there are more than playing eleven behind the scenes who contribute most. It’s unfortunate to see them not collaborating insted confronting.
 
As the new leaders grow-up in this new collaborative and co-creative world these differences hopefully fade away soon.
 
Back to my original point of why creative agencies win more media awards than media agencies?Because of their emotional affinity and proximity to the heart of the brand and the passion for awards and most importantly ideas, media teams look at the scale and innovation while the international juries look for freshness and relavence of ideas. Added to all this is packaging and presentation of ideas make a diffence to winning, creative agencies tend to do a better job of the later.
 
No wonder Creativeland Asia stole the thunder yesterday by winning 2Golds at the media Abbies as Leo Burnett Sydney did it at Cannes last year by winning Media Agency of the year.
 

DeBundleling to ReBundleling.


Everyone needs to reinvent him or herself every now and then to make him or her relevant to the changing environment around us.  Human needs or brand needs, business needs or even nations are no different from each other.

Early nineties were the most frenziest times I have ever seen in my 33 odd years in advertising. Opening-up of economy, Microsoft & Google revolution, satellite television, Infosys vision and Ganguly’s audacity transformed a timid nation to the most ambitious one in the world today.  This change had its own impact on Indian advertising. Good old boy’s comfort zone of 15% commission had come into close scrutiny, lazy bum’s were thrown out, Microsoft and Adobe replaced proofreaders and cut-paste artist, kickbacks were officialized as negotiations and media buyers emerged as new heroes for clients and villains for traditional agencies.

In short 15% been reduced to 10% to the traditional agency and 5% went to media thereby separating media from creative. Today traditional agency is been reduced to just a creative agency for television scripts, clients buy media planning, media buying, digital planning, digital buying, mobile, events, promo, direct, PR, consumer research, insight mining, brand strategy, design even stock images and film production are bought directly.

While the theory of specialization sounded good and arguments of rupee efficiencies were appreciated, clients across the world were caught in a new dilemma, while brand managers can deal with creative TV scripts and brand strategy rest needed specialists (who never existed) Today most of the clients have 10 specialist dealing with content and contact management, while stand alone performances of each vertical is spectacular, collectively they added up to nothing as far as the brand’s emotional equities are concerned hence the emergence of IMC leaders in MNC clients ( Integrated Marketing Communications) who are seeking a single point to orchestrate brand communications. Today it is not surprising to see agencies like Crispin or Droga 5, even our very own Creativeland Asia or TapRoot flourishing as they are offering integrated solutions and orchestration of ideas as opposed to TV scripts by partnering with medium specialist. If big agencies do not get it yet god help them, smaller ones will gulp them and digest them in no time.

Agencies need to go back to 20 years and get champions of ideas. Today what independent small media neutral \ new age media agencies are doing is nothing different from old agencies approach of Integrated solutions to brand communication and orchestration of brand ideas in all mediums.

DeBundeled verticals are getting bundled again in smaller integrated agencies and hope the big ones are listening.

Being Pops.


What the heck if pretty girls call me Pops? What’s the fuch if people think I was born in the same year as Zora Sehgal ? What the hell if people try to find similarities between Balki, and me thinking that I am his Pops? What the shet if Arvind Sharma’s driver introduces me as his saheb’s “papaji” ?

It’s not easy being Pops. Yes. It’s not easy to be Big B’s Popsji, Chennai’s Mr.Pops, Miss Universe Sushmita Sen’s Pops, Chiranjeevi’s Pops garu, Balki’s Pops & Tweetaratti’s kvpops. “Baap re” its difficult to take loads of affection, respect and love.

“Pops” made Kondiparthi Venkata Sridhar a brand, and proved to the world, power of naming and branding. Imagine Mr. kondiparthiji.  What did I do to deserve to be called Pops?

Simply nothing.

In early 90’s when Chax and I joined Lintas as creative heads of one of their Bombay units, Alyque Padamsee was at his wittiest best when he hired an ex- military Major as chief administrator. Now one can imagine the hierarchy and bureaucracy ruling the floors of Express towers.

In such an office there was a quite shy-ish six-foot young copywriter named Sridhar existed. Since the culture did not allow bosses to be nicknamed, poor little baby-faced Sridhar was christened as “Baby Sridhar” and me, months later by default became “Papa Sridhar” and then came a livewire called Asha Rishi an account executive who started calling me Pops.

By virtue of my personality people felt it’s an apt description of me. Chax my partner in crime need to take some blame for not resenting in fact he started a chain of jokes on Pops. Around mid 90’s advertising and marketing media suddenly became big and they took up the mission of making Pops stick in people’s heads.

In old day advertising guys used be real characters with some quirkiness, Alyque with his diction, Kersy with his suspenders, Chax with his Gandhi glass and signature beard, Piyush with his handlebar mustache, Prahlad with his cigars and hat, since I had none, “Pops” helped me to be remembered.

All jokes apart, the changes that came along with the name Pops are: made me look wiser, acquire patience, forced me to listen to people and lend my shoulder, made me stop leching at young girls once they call you Pops. Convinced me to adopt young talented kids and above all reminds me to make my bucket list every morning.

As the cliché’ goes: the rest is history.

( Written specially for Impact magazine.)

What’s in a logo? Ask GAP.


After a public outcry on the social media, “GAP” withdrew its modern logo and brought back classic blue box.  Couple of days back Airtel launched its new logo and again it’s the social media, which has been critical, harsh and unkind, before we get into merits and demerits of the opinions, lets look at what goes behind designing a logo and how to judge one. Because consumer outcry is one thing industry peers is another thing.

To be fair I just want to gently remind our tweeting and status-updating judges the parameters to judge a good logo and view the design in the context of a telecom brand. Iconic logos have a simple yet magical qualities of evoking an emotional response in you for instance when you look at the golden arches of McDonalds you feel happy and hungry at the same time. Ever thought why this happens? It’s the colors, which does the trick. Yellow arches make you smile while the red McDonald’s background makes you feel hungry. It’s unbelievably true that the color red makes your blood pressure soar and also makes you feel hungry.


When you judge a logo you need to keep five simple things in mind:

Symbolism:  The symbol used should signify and communicate something about the brand’s ambition or vision in a clearly identifiable way while keeping the historic, cultural and category relevance in mind.

Style: The style should communicate the personality or functionality or special attributes of the brand like: indoor, outdoors, cleanly, orderly, open, friendly or a closet.

Typography: Type should communicate certain feel and vision of the brand. Type should tell you weather the brand is stiff or flexible, bold or fragile, feminine or masculine and so on in an instant way.

Relationship: The graphics, icons, type and color used should have a relationship with the target group and company values, goals or aspirations.

Color: Colors used should represent and relate to the business and its aspirations. Color should communicate the intended message or emotion instantly.

Now lets keep these parameters and look at some telecom logos thru my point of view (not the creator’s):


Vodafone: Uses speech mark as a symbol to communicate about the brands ambition. Needless to say how simple it is for the people to comprehend and connect with the brand and the category. Styling of the graphics is near perfect to represent the preciseness with its orderly alignments and placements. Typography is bold, confidant yet very friendly with its lowercase usage. Red is the color of passion and action provides energy and excitement to the brand. Overall all the elements are used to perfection and a classic example of art and science of design coming together. Logo designed by Brand Union.

Uninor: Inspired by nature and its role in innovation in Scandinavian culture this propeller like symbol was designed to communicate the delicate balance of movement and change. Uses a very purposeful tranquility feeling by delicately designing the symbol and the typography. Very delicate thin san serif font used to enhance Scandinavian design esthetics. White, blue and black are used in the identity to enhance the “Inspired by nature” feel.

Docomo: Uses its name that means “every where “in Japanese (DOKOMO) this logo designed for the Indian market to communicate “Do the new” hence fun typo design keeping in line with the brand promise. Styled to perfection to connect with youth and VAS users. Graphics are designed for flexibility to be used freely. Colors are young and vibrant bring in fun and energy. This logo keeps the evolution of the consumers in mind to bring in flexibility for co-creation by the consumers. Designed by Wolff Olins of London.

Airtel: Uses alphabet “A” in lowercase in a very causal yet dynamic way, spiraling “a” almost gives you a feeling of a tornado, generating lots of kinetic energy. Styled in a vibrant youthful way to communicate to the changing Indian consumers. Typography is youthful and inviting by using lowercase and reiterating its values of friendly approachable service. Color red used for depicting energy and passion of the brand. Designed by Brand Union again.

Designing or judging logos is a very difficult task especially for telecom, which deals with more interfaces and touch points than an airline. Redesigning and implementing a new identity is a mammoth task, takes months to reach every circle leave alone the streets.  While the new Airtel logo may just have fallen short of critic’s expectations, it may well create enough excitement in the market, who cares for critics who are interested in what could have been done and in the missed opportunity? When people embrace the change with open arms.

Hope we can fill in the “GAPs”

Adman, Conman and Superman.


Sometime I feel ashamed to introduce myself as creative, Ad guys are the most pompous lot they alone title themselves as creative. Tell me who is not creative? Engineers who design innovative combustion chambers are not creative? Con men of Mumbai who run ticketless travel insurance are not creative? Mothers who invent new ways of giving concocted medicine to kids are not creative?

All of us are creative and talented in our own way but than why some succeed? What does it take to be a successful creative person in advertising? Is it the ability to write, think or connect? Or is there something above all this?

Indeed there is.

As kids all of us have painted, played some sport or other, sang songs, danced to the tunes of Jackson, made interesting faces in front of mirrors, wrote poetry to impress girlfriends\boyfriends and told cock and bull stories with innovative twist, didn’t we?

It’s all about relentless pursuit of chasing what we enjoy most, if we were to continue to paint may be if not MF Husain at least we would have become a Laxma Goud, If not Sachin at least a Parthiv Patel isn’t it?

Now coming to the point, What if didn’t chase any of the above and what if we didn’t grow-up at all? Simple. We would become a successful adman. Yes indeed “Enthusiasm” is key to success in advertising that too child like enthusiasm! At 55 can you get excited about motion control games? At 45 can you get excited about two extra spark plugs in an engine’s combustion chambers? Can you get excited about milk proteins in toilet soap?

I believe if you are excited you can excite anyone exactly the effect a kid can have on you if you are watching Powerpuff girls for the 20th time. If you don’t get a hard-on when you discover that your product is 0.3% better than the competition than you are not on.

Apart from your ability to write, visualize, tell a story, use experiences and observations from life, your zest for life is as important. If you can connect like a grand mom, posses crooked ways to find a solution and have a relentless urge to remain in the limelight like a superman than it’s your turn to be an adman.

Did I say “Chaddi-man?”

Creation of Gandhi font.


Or is he a different type?

In hatred he saw love. In fear, courage. In weakness he saw strength. And in violence, truth. In cruelty he saw kindness. In anger he saw humanity. And in struggle, he saw peace. He saw things through his soul that are invisible to the eye. Yet through his eyes, we can still see the shining light of humanity. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. A different type.

Above are the words came out of Agnello Dias when I told him about my intention to create a font for Gandhi.

” There is no god higher than truth.” is what he said and is what got imprinted in my mind  ever since I was a little boy, my grand parents always told me stories of Gandhi at bedtime, I am still a vegetarian thanks to the impression he made on me. I am just a spec in billions who follow him. Once he said “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

When Indian Industrialist Vijay Mallya salvaged the pride of a nation by bringing back the priced possession of a man who owned nothing. The day New York auctioneer announced auctioning of Mahatma’s spectacles the nation put her head down in shame, as embarrassed Indian government’s  desperate attempts to stall the action failed, Mallya’s $1.8 millon came to the rescue.

His glasses has a deep significance to all Indians, when he gave away the glasses in 1930’s to an army colonel he said ” these gave me vision to free India”. Today as we live in a free India we still are slaves to violence, terrorism, untouchability, communalism and many more evils. A young nation celebrates holiday on his birthday than his wisdom as Nitesh Tiwari one of our copywriters put it.

How do we make him and his vision relevant and how do we make people try to see the world through his eyes? Than the Idea of a typeface created out of his glasses came about.

Typographers from Leo Burnett went on to create this marvelous Gandhiji font in Devanagari and the team is working overtime to launch english and other Indian languages. The website went live last night http://www.gandhijifont.com

What’s the best way to keep Gandhi’s spectacles away from auctioneers than this?