Eliminate the Ads


How about having a TV Channel where you need to opt-in for viewing selected advertisements, instead of having to take all the noise and nonsense of a huge number of ads in the middle of a cricket match ? And, why not pay more for such channels ? It is annoying to be bombarded with ads when one is at the edge of one’s seat, trying to make sense of what just happened in the match.

I do not understand why cricket stars have to endorse products and make money, all this leads to a plethora of meaningless ads. Let us ask whether any star will ever use the product he is endorsing – it is really for the masses who are forced to view these endorsements and be damned. The star and the channel make the money, we only pay and pay.

The timing of the ads in a match is most irritating – when a wicket is down, then they play the ads ; when a four has just been struck, they play the ads ; when a critical moment in the match is approaching, they interrupt and play the ads. Even good ads like the Vodafone ones (which do not have a star endorsement on the TV ad) are annoying when it gets overdone. Well, it is clear that such companies have money to burn on sponsorships and advertisements, no issue with that. But they also have to choose the right moments – especially at the beginning, during drink breaks, in between the two innings, and several other right places : brands should never annoy viewers.

I have a policy of not touching “endorsed” products, I have blogged about this point before. For one, there is no meaning in such endorsements. Secondly, the endorser has more attraction to the viewers than the products being endorsed ; Thirdly, the product price has to be higher than the mean pricing for similar brands, considering the marketing dollars being spent on hugely expensive TV channel air time. Given this combination of factors, any decision is going to be based on “emotional” factors rather than hard core data points, in selecting a product or a brand.

I will go for an ad-free TV channel anytime and am prepared to pay for it. It may be available, but I am yet to experience a completely ad-free TV. Sometimes I feel that movies are better seen at the movie theatres wherein the ads only appear at the beginning and during the intermission, or see movies on the internet. TV movies, like high-octane cricket matches and other event telecasts, are ridden with huge number of ads which sometime go on for as long as 4 to 5 minutes. That’s too much of waste of one’s time, and too much to bear in terms of mostly useless messaging.

Technology is moving fast, and other developed countries have many such options, so it is not going to be too long for ad-free channels to arrive in India. How they will make money is anybody’s guess. Let us wait and see !

Enjoy the World Cup Finals today between India and Sri Lanka at Mumbai………

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
2nd April 2011
Mumbai

Consumerism Vs Austerity


These days the domestic market in India is driven by unabashed consumerism. It appears that the foreign brands in clothing, hand bags, personal accessories, spectacles, watches, et al, are very well established and entrenched in consumer’s psyche. The brands to beat are these foreign brands.

Of course, there are Indian brands which are also doing well, but only after they have upgraded their design to suit the rapidly changing consumer tastes and vastly improved their marketing and consumer reach. The international brands in any category are more expensive to be in sync with their brand proposition and positioning in the market. If a locally made watch from a premium, well established brand costs INR 6,000, you can be sure that a similar-looking, well-positioned international watch from the average brand category (I am not talking about the Omegas or Breitlings here) would cost in the range of 40 to 50% more. People pay for these brands due to their international brand appeal.

One needs to just walk into one of these new malls and observe what is going on. Previously and even today, there are still window-shoppers, who spend time browsing around and rarely spend. However, you would be surprised to find “focus” shoppers who come in looking for one specific brand of something, do not care about the price tag, buy it and walk out. These are the well-educated, well-informed, focused shoppers who do not wish to waste time in comparison shopping.

I wanted to write this piece more because “austerity” as a virtue is disappearing. The Gandhian virtue of making do with scarcity in some innovative manner, has all but disappeared these days. If we want to write something, we pull out a clean sheet of white paper even at home, or go to a new page of our diaries. There is no re-use of anything, nowadays you just get rid of something which has been used. And, we buy a new laptop, or a new watch, even if we already have a good laptop or a good watch. This overuse of resources by individuals and communities will eventually lead to over consumption of available materials. You can extend this concept to food, water, clothing, housing, etc.,

I am not recommending anything here – a gleaming new car, or an Apple laptop, is always a better thing to have. But the thought process behind making that choice needs to be strengthened and fine-tuned. I do not wish to belittle the same as “succumbing to temptations of the new and better”. It is just that, “are we spending some time analysing the need for something new, while we do have something similar already working well”. Or, “are we planning to gift to charity what we do have, when we are replacing the same with an extra consumption of something new”.

Well, youngsters these days do not think along these lines. It is too much of unnecessary analysis in their opinion probably. If you want something, just go and get it. It is funny that when I went recently to get a new wallet, the one that really met my requirement for storing all my “cards” and stuff turned out to cost twice than what I was prepared to spend. So, I suspended the purchase, thinking let me look around more later on. What is the urgency – no one really looks at the brand of my wallet. It needs to meet my expectations first !

While austerity as a concept is now lost in the Gandhian era, with India having reached the fast highways of consumerism and consumption, it would be worthwhile to make an assessment however quickly, to determine the need and criticality of the purchase. There is no harm in going forward after that analysis, either with an Indian or an international brand of choice. But let us first think whether something is really needed, and also reflect on our origins sometimes……though it is difficult for youngsters to do that having no comparable benchmarks ! However, for guys like me, there is always a reference point which existed even 10 or 20 years ago. So, it is always a comparison in the mind between couple of data points !

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
25th July 2010
Mumbai

Playground


The economics and politics as applicable for the rich and famous are widely divergent from the otherwise normal economics and politics for a nation/its people.

Nepotism and favouritism come into play when the rich and famous wish to do something.

All this is evident in the recent sordid saga of IPL (India Premier League), which has become one of the largest sports franchises in the world in less than 3 years. But as is always the case in India, sports is not dominated by sports personalities, but by powerful politicians, vested interests, movie actors, and industrialists/businessmen. There is always a mess in such an environment, and too many cooks spoil the broth as well.

All possible rule violations are being cited in the media when it comes to awarding of sports franchises to various teams, all the marketing gimmicks are being analyzed to death by the Income Tax Department, everyone associated with IPL is getting investigated, and every morning newspaper brings forth some new minor scandal in the IPL saga.

It is really a pity how cricket is getting embroiled in such a scandal, which would eventually spoil the name of cricket, though there is enormous fascination for the sport all around the country. IPL is a pride for the entire country, establishing a brand new sports operation which is now being globally envied. It was indeed a shame that a leading minister got involved in one of the contracts for a new team franchise, and that led to his quick eviction from the Central Cabinet of Ministers. He was a success story in his own right, and it was a real pity to see him go. He might come back, but would be weakened as the question on ethics still hangs like a Damocles’ Sword on his head. His name is yet to be cleared.

On the other hand, we see the leader of IPL getting guillotined by the powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India, which has been run by politicians and/or businessmen so far. Till money was being made in tons, everyone was happy, but now that the government is investigating, all and sundry want to abandon IPL, or find a new leader for IPL, washing off all their past sins.

At the end of all this, cricket will still survive, but schools will soon introduce “Ethics 101” and “Integrity for the Rich 102”, etc., because it is quite apparent that people who make it tend to violate ethics rules, and bask in the glory of it all, simply due to their “Marketing 101” being successful in an outlandish manner. We cannot let go of all this under the guise “well, all this is private enterprise”.

If an entry ticket to a match can cost USD 100 or more, and if access to all matches and parties costs USD 50,000 then it is very clear – the haves will have all that can be had. No rules are sacrosanct for them. Even the law enforcement agencies will bend backwards to accommodate the rich and famous. One rule for them, the rest have all the other right rules to be followed diligently.

And, they fly to Phuket on a chartered plan which costs approximately USD 70,000 for the round trip ! Well, all that money needs to be spent, correct ?

Further, scheduled flights and passengers are getting shortchanged to accommodate the cricket stars and cricket officials – this is the ultimate penalty for being cricket fans. You miss your flight, or going to get delayed because your flight went missing !

Welcome to the playground for the Rich and Famous ! Indian Sports !!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
24th April 2010
Mumbai

Advertising Blunders


India in general produces excellent advertisements……..the advertising industry is very mature and produces original, high-quality advertising. Much better than many other countries.

So, I was surprised, nay really taken aback when I saw couple of recent, hard-hitting advertisements. While I agree that they were effective in driving home the message to the audience, I totally disagree with their “correctness”. One of these ads was from Hindustan Lever about their Rin soap, which proclaims in an almost obscene manner that their soap far outshines the Tide soap/detergent from Proctor & Gamble, in a directly comparative advertisement, which shows both the products and the outcomes of using the respective soaps. Where is the need to create and position an ad like this, without understanding the impact it would have on intelligent viewers ? In my opinion, Hindustan Lever has been pushed down a few notches in its business ethics and propriety – it is very critical not to hit below the belt at the competition in an overt, public manner like in TV advertising, and it is very important to only project the positives of one’s own products. We learn this repeatedly in the marketplace, and I do not understand why a company of the stature of Levers would stoop down to such tactics to win market share ? Is that more critical than playing fair ? Looks like the marketing mavens of HUL and their advertising agencies crossed the line on this one clearly.

I saw another ad which upset me seriously. This one is from an organization which I admire. It shows a guy in a nightclub leaving his girlfriend for another girl, he then turns while leaving with his new girlfriend at his now old girlfriend, and is happy to note that she is being wooed by a new guy almost immediately. The ad was unmistakeable in its message. I am not going to say anything more, but the ad ends with “Daily Plans” and/or “Nightly Calling”.

I think marketing is under serious pressure to gain attention, visibility and new converts. And, the demographics is changing rapidly towards a new generation of youngsters. No issue here. But what are the value systems we are driving at ? It is OK to ram competition and their products publicly and take umbrage if they protest. It is OK to switch plans with multiple girlfriends and boyfriends. The list goes on and on. I think it would be better for the organizations pushing their products or services to do careful research before launching their advertising blitzkrieg.

The same thing applies to car and bike advertisements, which are endorsed by famous movie stars and cricket stars. Will Shah Rukh Khan, who endorses the Hyundai Cars, ever actually buy and drive a Hyundai ? The association of products/services with famous figures is not wrong, but it should also make sense for the type of audience that the ad is targeted at. I am sure marketers and advertisers will surely prove that the Hyundai brand got a huge pickup due to Shah Rukh Khan. But will any specific buyer purchase a Hyundai because of this factor ? He is going to do his own research before deciding on a Hyundai, it depends on his aspirations and affordability. If the aspiration of an individual car buyer is going to be driven by what Shah Rukh Khan or Sachin Tendulkar actually drive, then that aspiration could potentially be never realised. Not every car buyer can afford a Ferrari or a Prado.

I am watching the deterioration of the advertising creativity in India. I will also probably write about advertisements which have truly impressed me in an ethical, proper manner with a strong message delivery soon.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
3rd April 2010
Mumbai

Twittering Ministers


It is a sign of the advanced “connectivity” and “reality” times that we live in today.

Ministers – Indian Ministers – tweet !

I examined the concept of tweeting and dropped it. I have a Facebook account, but am not a regular user. My blog posts get automatically posted to my Facebook account, and I do get some comments from the closed network of friends connected to my Facebook account. But I did not really think that one should spend an awful lot of time on Facebook updates. People seem to be doing exactly that. And, Marketing Managers and Corporations seem to be getting excited about all this stuff. May be the demographics are in work out here – mostly it is the youngsters driving the next digitial revolution, and what they think and share could be mined for increasing business potential manifold. Some such thing.

But older guys, and that too Central Government Ministers in India ? Wow, this phenomenon shows that there could be a revolution brewing in the mindsets of politicians. May be it is better, more effective way to reach out to young voters, and voters-to-be. Yes, surely that is one objective of blogging and twittering by politicians. May be to show that they are totally transparent in their political and personal lives. May be to show off that they could handle the latest gadget and communication technology. May be there are other reasons for twittering.

An excellent example of ministerial twittering is that of Dr Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for External (Foreign) Affairs, Government of India. His profile can be seen at his website “About Shashi” . Obviously, with his excellent credentials, he can be expected to twitter, I guess ! His tweet can be seen at “Shashi Tharoor’s Tweets” .

And, it is no wonder he ran into trouble with the monolithic Congress Party diehards and his own boss, Dr SM Krishna, Minister of External Affairs. It will be difficult for senior folks to digest the fact that one of their own is not only discussing but criticizing policy matters – like the new Visa Policy and previously the austerity measures proposed by the Finance Minister – openly and publicly via the twitter mechanism, which instantly propagates such remarks around the globe.

It is interesting to see the Government’s response to digital attacks – please see the news coverage below on Dr Tharoor’s tweets :

“Tharoor’s tweets opposing new visa rules irk govt”

“Krishna ticks off ‘tweeter’ Tharoor”

“Twitterati hails ‘witty’ Tharoor”

Well, my own opinion ?

Better not outflank the ranks and annoy the seniors. Its OK to tweet on matters of public interest, but not on own Government’s policies. How is Dr Tharoor going to face his colleagues in an official Cabinet Meeting, or a meeting of bureaucrats ? Why not tweet on how to improve the education system, the public distribution system, or how to use India’s “Soft Power” on the world stage in layman’s terms ? Or, on many other things that Dr Tharoor is capable of, with his eminent background and pedigree ?

Well, whatever it is, Dr Tharoor is a trend-setter in Indian Government with the use of Twitter. I hope ministers can communicate to their bureaucrats and their electorates using twitter, and enable the mechanism to be used widely in government circles.

Cheers,

And, Here’s Wishing You All a Wonderful, Prosperous, Healthy and Happy New Year in 2010,

Vijay Srinivasan
31st December 2009
Mumbai

Eye Wear Selection and Pitfalls


After much investigation I selected Nikon Progressive Lenses and Stepper Titanium Frames for myself a few weeks ago.

Earlier I had used Essilor Lenses with Crizal coat, which is supposed to automatically remove the fog in the glasses when you step out of an air-conditioned car for example. But, unfortunately Essilor + Crizal did not work for me, don’t know why. The Crizal coat peeled off, and after two years of use, I was not happy with the extra payment that I had made to get that coating. I never saw the word “Crizal” on the lens until and unless I sent my warm breath on my glasses. A disappointment, I should say !

So, when the time came to replace my glasses, I wanted to select something other than Essilor. Almost all optical shops had Essilor, demonstrating their marketing prowess. The sales man generally tried to push Essilor, but I was firm. Consumers do have a choice, don’t they ?

I selected Nikon. But it also came with the Crizal coating. So, I had to accept. But I got a deal – my current glasses’ Crizal coating will be redone for free, even though the new shop was different from the old one wherein I had gotten the Essilor + Crizal. I thought it was a good deal.

But, I made a mistake on Nikon. The optical shop made a mistake rather. I wanted a thinner glass, meaning that the optical index needs to increase from what it was currently. I wanted it to increase from an index of 1.46 to an index of 1.57, which would make the glasses thinner. Since I had selected a nice-looking, stylish rimless Titanium Frame from Stepper of Germany, I wanted to ensure that the glasses can be comfortably seated on the frame. I was given an assurance that this is entirely possible.

But, when the glasses came, they were as thick as my current glasses. So, I rejected them !

Yes, rejected the same, though I had paid 45% as advance. Because, the glasses were made carelessly with the old index, not the new index ordered. They were almost as thick as the current glasses !

The shop accepted my rejection, and agreed to redo the glasses ! That would be a clear loss for them !!

Today, I picked up my Stepper Titanium Frame with thinner glasses. It looks good, I should say. Consumer should win, especially after paying top dollar, or top Rupee !

Hence, it is important to do a quality and material check before accepting what one has ordered. Most people accept what they have ordered, without bothering to check the trueness to the order. You shouldn’t do that. Not only that, check the power again – the numbers may not be exact ! You will be amazed when you get detailed enough. Then the ROI will increase !

Cheers, and Happy Selections !

Vijay Srinivasan
20th December 2009
Mumbai

Pesky Telemarketing


Intrusive Telemarketing seems to be back with a vengeance.

Telemarketers from the Finance Industry are the worst. They pursue even if you had not shown interest during a previous call, and even if you have clearly warned them off not to call again.

The “Do Not Call” Registry does not seem to be working. Any such system wherein the customer has to list out the service providers and their numbers never will work. Why should a customer “opt out” ?. I would rather prefer an “opt in” system, sort of a “Please Call Me” Registry.

Of late, the number of calls from leading Banks and Security Brokerages is on the rise. I usually cut off immediately, stating that I am not interested. But we always underestimate the power of computers – mobile numbers keep flashing on the system, pushing telemarketers to pursue specific numbers from an intelligent database.

I hope this matter will again receive the attention of the authorities and courts. The disturbance caused by unsolicited SMSs (text messages) is on the rise as well. SMS could cause mobile phones to be affected by virus. Most messages are unwanted. Recently, I have started receiving messages similar to the ones we all get via email – lottery results ! The latest one reads like as follows – “Your Mobile Number have won (bad English) 500,000 GBP and Nokia E75 in Dec 2009 Nokia Mobile Draw UK. To claim winning prize, contact Dr. David Email : “.

Well, this also shows mobiles are trying to take the place of PCs/emails !

Have a good weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
19th Nov 2009
Mumbai