Friday, February 26, 2010

The Fun Gun !!!

On a visit to the United States, Charles de Gaulle was honoured at a banquet in the White House. Seated beside his wife was an official who spoke no French, but who tried to engage her in conversation by asking

"Madame de Gaulle, what do you think the most important thing in life is?"

"A penis", she replied.

The crowd was stunt at the audacity of the guest....

Overhearing, her husband said frantically "I believe, my dear, that in English it is pronounced 'appiness."

Language and its nuances are very important in relationships.. especially between clients and their agencies...

Blast your week end folks...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Titan & Aamir Khan - perfect couple !

Titan is the other name for watches in India…for the one follower who came in to the monopoly of the Indian market in 1987-88 fully diversifying into jewelry as well in 1994 by 2003 had upset the apple cart.. Changed the rules of the game.. huh why rules.. change the game it self …Now that is not the reason why the new ad finds a place in adformula … in fact whenever I found celebrity endorsement I have (most of the time) found myself scathing in my attack on laziness as a strategy that ad makers employ when they make a star sit (stand/bath/run/drink/wear/dress) lift the produce (soap/shampoo/energy drink/petrol/pen) or whatever and say I am this and that because I used this…. In class I give the example of Dyna soap and Kathrina Kaif to prove my point…..

Aamir and his association with titan is really endearing… it proves the ten commandments* that I strongly hold dear and think as must for advertising guys to adhere to whenever they have a famous face to help you sell the product in the short term and build your brand in the long term…

1. Thou shall not take into service a celebrity, for want of other choices.

2. Thou shall not employ a celebrity, who is there, everywhere.

3. Thou shall not appoint a celebrity who is outdated/ controversial.

4. Thou shall not sign up a celebrity who doesn’t really connect.

5. Thou shall not hire a celebrity who lacks expertise in the category or at least who is a total misnomer.

6. Thou shall not engage a celebrity because everyone else is behind him/her.

7. Thou shall not hire a celebrity, just because the competitor has one.

8. Thou shall not assign a celebrity with every brand in your product mix.

9. Thou shall not utilize a celebrity without the advertising strategy in mind.

10. Thou shall not slot in a celebrity without a personality study of the
Celebrity and the brand(s).

*From “mechanics of celebrity endorsements” Advertising express- August 2006- Sabu M Nair

Now having said that it is not only the gelling that the brand and the celebrity is having in this ad, it is also about the equal weightage given to both so that the star do not eat on the brand (vampire effect) . It is also about the continuity that the stars persona is enjoying and such continuity being consistently taken in by the brand for its prosperity.( Remember the Ghajni ads and the Mangal Pandey ads). It’s about the celebrity not being seen for too many brands and in discontinuous intervals and when seen in all fun and fancy that fits his image…It is like a perfect marriage, even though there is nothing in real life called a perfect marriage…

A watch is not just a time device now…it is not just an electronic device that covers a small part of a man’s framework…. It is not even an essential part of your wardrobe if I may say it. Thanks to Titan and the first set of Aamir ads which made it look like “if you do not have a set of watches in your wardrobe, you are a looser” feel and the feel stayed through out the “be born every day”ads to “what’s your style” and to “be more”.. The sales figures of the past decade talks…..Titan as a category leader for sure has done its job- both of category development and its own brand development … their ads always had been simple, strikingly different and leaving a smile on the viewer.. this one is strictly in the same mould and the most striking feature is the consistency… brands and their managers who get bored of their advertising and strategy even before the TG does, have to learn a lesson or two from this partnership…

Kudos to the team at O&M and Titan for being consistent, continuous and creative ! ( this is not forgetting the latest brand extensions of Titan like the eye+ the worth and value of which is yet to be decided and the fact that O&M handles its advertising as well)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Fun Gun !!!

A young college girl came running in tears to her father. "Dad, you gave me some terrible financial advice!"

"I did? What did I tell you?" said the dad.

"You told me to put my money in that big bank, and now that big bank is in trouble."

"What are you talking about? That's one of the largest banks in the state," he said. "there must be some mistake."

"I don't think so," she sniffed. "They just returned one of my checks with a note saying, 'Insufficient Funds'."

This is true for the adguys who jump the gun as well.. I dedicate this edition of fun gun to all my students who are joining advertising ..... happy week end to all others !

Friday, February 19, 2010

Crouching audiences, hidden products - Part III

My article as appeared in the Advertising express magazine of February 2010...... continued from part II

The Audience Intolerance Threshold Quadrangle

The above discussion sufficiently makes it clear that when over used, Product placements in TV and Cinema can backfire and be counter productive. In this angle the concept of Audience Intolerance Threshold Quadrangle needs to be visited.

The Audience Intolerance Threshold Quadrangle is an after effect of four elements....


Too much of importance to one or two products in a programme


Clumsy lining up of many products, with no editorial justification


Long-winded sales talk done by hero & heroine of TV programme, as if it is part of the story..


The unholy relation between the media, advertiser, his agencies and the producer of the programme ignoring the TG

These four elements of the Audience intolerance threshold quadrangle need to be analyzed in the changed conditions and the better audiences that watch TV and cinema as compared to the past. Marketers need to understand the reason why not all communication (ads and product placements including) do not work with the market place.

Marketers have to get more realistic about the common sense of the average TV viewer /movie-goer and analyze the four factors before finalizing on a product placement deal next. The audience who grabs the remote on a commercial break cannot be made intolerant by showing long advertisements that pretend to be part of the show/movie which in any case will compromise the artistic quality of the show/movie.

Marketers have to bear the Separation principle, where it is a must to maintain appropriate separation between the programme and the advertising content. How appropriate is appropriate, is a question that marketers have to ask themselves before adventuring with a parade of products and brands, to glare from the story with prominence, to bore the people with patter and to reveal the unholy partnership to the angry target audience. People in countries like ours will not understand that this is a method of revenue generation for the producer of the film and hence tolerate it.

Greedy marketers will have to take care of the prominence part, the brand staying on in the show/movie and irritating the viewer. It is better to pass off and be remembered than remain there and not to be seen at all. Greedy channels will have to avoid parading, (the naked display of brands in an easy route to make money) to avoid people switching off the show and going to other channels. Greedy script writers will have to rethink, next time they pen dialogues that starts and ends with brand names, an easy recipe to disaster. And the greedy who is who in the marketing world- the advertiser, the ad agency, the product placement agency, the TV channel/cinema producer-director-script writer, the sponsors- each one will have to think how fair it is to over do this?

How long will this last?

How much over cooking can you do?

When TV programmes go abroad this ends up in even bigger troubles. For instance the UK media regulation authority Ofcom came heavily on Sony TV and its Indian Idol programme for blatant use of “LG KP199 mobile phone” and its virtues which violated the rules there.(This was when the programme was shown in UK for the people of Indian origin who lives there)

Guidelines for making it better

1. Distinguish between serious involvement and low involvement, whether in TV or in cinema and treat them suitably. Avoid serious programmes.

2. Product integration should be the aim, not some how product insertion which will look artificial.

3. Do not treat product placements as an opportunity to advertise alcohol and cigarettes in surrogate.

4. Use it only when editorially justifiable and to enhance practicality.

5. Try being in the back ground-Remember, passive placements with a trigger, scores more than others.

6. Bring in regulation- self is better, and ASCI can also form guidelines, at the earliest.

7. Measuring the effectiveness of product placements should be more seriously dealt with and care should be taken to make it believable.

8. Be innovative- Like Maruthi Swift which introduced the car for the first time in the film “Bunty aur Bubbly”

9. Be target specific… If you are selling women’s wear ,insert your brand and its message in a “Balika badhu” and not in “the buck stops here”.

10. Look for noticeability . It doesn’t help you being in the parade.


Product placements are a wonderful opportunity to reach the target audience, who are captive, without transferring to them a feeling of ‘being sold’. Since it is a best tool for passive learning, it can work wonders as seen in this article. It requires co ordination of all the parties involved, proper planning, and a realistic and long term approach to reap the benefits without throwing the audience into intolerance. The rule is simple- reaching more eyeballs and /or staying more time in those eyeballs need not mean more sales.

It is the proverbial golden goose, this whole business of product placements in the content, but greed should not kill it like the one in fables.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Crouching audiences, hidden products - Part II

My article as appeared in the Advertising express magazine of February 2010......

Why YES and why NO to product placements?

Belch and Belch identifies the following advantages and disadvantages of product placements in TV and Cinema 4 which in Indian circumstances will be applicable as under.

Why yes?

1). The number of TV and Cinema viewing populace is ever on the increase (in1999 the Indian spend on movies and theatre was just 1 % whereas by 2003 it rose to 4.6% of the total spend) and this results in more exposure for the products thus placed. Combined with this, the ratings of individual programmes if high also makes sure that, the so placed product falls in more eyeballs. If the programme is a popular serial, more people see it again and again and thus the opportunity to see (frequency) also goes up.

2). Products that become part of the silver screen or the TV screen acts as a supportive media in promotion. If the in programme product placement is followed by an Ad of the same product in the next commercial break, the possibilities of a brand recall is quite a high than in a simple ‘commercial break advertising’.

3). Source association is one prominent advantage of product placements. The star or the programme and its appeal will automatically transfer to the product placed with the star in the programme. The tales of Tom cruise wearing the Rayban Aviator and the Oakleys in Top gun and MI –2, and the effect it created in the sales of the brand are oft discussed and celebrated.

4). Recall and acceptance among the target audience have been proven to be high in case of product placements. Media planners note that brand recall in case of a normal advertising scene is 18 per cent, but it is three times more – 53 per cent – through product placements in films. Studies indicate that the acceptance of such product placements on western audiences of Cinema is high when the placement is prominent and not hidden (Gupta & Gould 1997).

5) Product placements (if done with common sense) can achieve the best of passive learning and that is proven to be the best to sink in with a brand name into the Target Audience’s mind. People go to cinema to see cinema and watch TV to see the programmes in it and not the commercial breaks. They may tolerate the commercial breaks but not the Commercials that are squeezed into the programme in whatever garb and pretence. In films since there are no commercial breaks the problem is even acute. Slight attention like the way SBI atm’s and its availability in every corner , in the film “Jab we met” and Fevicryl being used by every one in the film “Tare Zameen Par” are beautiful examples.

Why no?

Prohibitively high costs that the production houses charges, without much justification whatsoever is one basic disadvantage in this field. Of course the one main selling point is the CPM rates due to the high exposures, but many times the high cost isn’t valid simply because there is no proof of cost effectiveness. This however doesn’t mean that people are reluctant to be part of such marketing activity but on the contrary are too very happy to be part of it.

The time of exposure is another disadvantage, in product placements. Long drawn scenes, just to make sure that the product on scene is shown long enough, will be precarious. Even otherwise, long exposure is not a guarantee for strong recall. Some times prominence plays a key role and the time of exposure doesn’t matter at all. Media planners are yet to derive a solution for this perplexity.

The advertiser should have a control over when and where his message is placed in a media vehicle. Unfortunately in product placements, it is not possible and lack of control is evident. The producer of the programme, because he has accepted money, from the product owner, will place it ‘somewhere’ but that may not be effective. For instance, no soft drink major would like their products (after having spend a lot of money) placed in the villains den, where the ‘bad guys’ are planning next round of activities, accompanied with liquor or some times even inspired from liquor.

Competition and clutter had made this advertiser breach into the editorial space necessary, but now the ghost follows it there as well. The combine of voracious Programme Producers, insatiable Product placement agencies and naive Marketers has made it all clumsy and clutter is visible here as well. A serial where the hero uses particular denim and a specific brand of hair gel and sufficient care taken to ensure repetition of the brand name, and even a discussion of the virtues of the said brands will cause a chain reaction. Audience apathy will not be that far as the producer and director thinks.

5). Lack of professionalism in the circle is very clear the way things are being taken for a ride now. The more the product is placed, the more prominence for the brand(s) is thrusted upon the programme; the better is the assumption which may turn to be disastrous.

6) Lack of measurement indices is one thing that should make the marketer think twice as to how effective all that throwing in of money will help the marketer to achieve his ROI and that too in testing times like this. Measuring product placements in TV is almost next to impossible. In cinema the results can be judged more, as reported by the western media that when Tom Cruise wore a Ray ban aviator the sales went up by 40 % and with his Oakleys in MI 2 the sales shot up by 80% (Time, January 1998). This is because, cinema gets audiences who are there having made a voluntary choice of exposure, and having spent money for entertainment, unlike television audiences whose involvement and degree of attention is questionable. Moreover, research suggests that people in a cinema hall, no matter what their age and movie going frequency is, actively participated in viewing experience and actively interpreted brands that they encounter there (Delorme et al 1999). But a time tested, believable mechanism to measure the effects in quantitative terms is yet to evolve....

To be continued.... >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Crouching audiences, hidden products - Part I

My article as appeared in the Advertising express magazine of February 2010......

Mandira Bedi, in sizzling attire walked around the sets of “Deal ya no deal” and in between made calls from her mobile and attends them, the mobile phone makers name is visible, and the CSP’s jingle goes on air again and again in what would look to the common viewer as just another happening. Big B, in KBC2 signed in a particular bank’s cheque and made sure that it is shown to the camera, to get full attention of the viewers. So Did SRK and many others. It has been here for long. The Rishi Kapoor starrer “Karz”, is one example where an entire song was shot with a back drop of Emami , the skin care brand. It is still going on and his son and the “Rocket Singh” film,I am told is full of brands that make a parade.

All these are examples of product placements in Indian TV programmes and cinema. But the hero of a popular serial in star plus who got affianced in a Fair and lovely commercial would score the first position for being innovative to the core … the commercial went on an on in the serial (in the serial and not in between) and that irritated a few eyeballs, but crept in passively into most of the brains that saw it. The quest is on-- to place products in TV programmes without causing audience frustration and yet delivering the message.

The Ofcom Broadcasting Code of UK defines product placement as “the inclusion of, or reference to, a product or service within Cinema or a TV programme in return for payment or other valuable consideration”.

Practically speaking, Product placement is a marketing practice intended to purposely slot in products and brands into the body and content of cinema and programs in TV which in most cases is done in a delicate manner so that the main content of the program (the story line in the cinema) is not diluted. That is an ideal situation, which is often violated and people are driven to believe that the programme makers have more fish to fry than it meets the eye.

Types and effectiveness

As TAM India describes,there are three kinds of product placement in film content – Hyperactive Placements, Active Placements and Passive Placements.

1. Hyperactive Placements: - It happens when the product placement is blunt and blaring and no attempt whatsoever is made to distinguish between the programme content and the product in question. Ramya Krishnan and her description of the famous Chennai jeweler in the Sun TV programme Thanga vettai shall be quoted here. Hyperactive placements, which is accompanied by a supportive trigger (Like an ad of the product in the consecutive commercial break) leads to a big increase in brand awareness

2. Active Placements, are again showing products or making the name heard in overt fashion, such as a man talking about a Maruthi Zen and later driving away in one. The Hindi film “Guru” and the 1960 mercedes benz is an example. An Active Placement, when with an additional trigger, according to studies, leads to a 17 per cent increase in brand awareness. Spykar Jeans and the way it is smartly inbuilt in the script of the block buster move Namaste London falls in this category. The same film also incorporated other brands like “Bharat, Hutch small recharge and a host of others in it.

3. Passive Placements are subtle insertion of the product in the programme without making it too very obvious. Surprisingly in India it is more effective than the other two particularly in films and programmes when combined with an additional trigger, led to a whopping 191 per cent increase in brand awareness. If you have seen the film “Chak de India” the way brands like Aaj tak, ESPN, Ultra tech cement and Puma was built in passively will prove the point. Mc Donald’s in the same film, where a main twist of the story happens ,didn’t stare at the viewer but helped a lot in building the brands Indian ness, passively.

Depending on the indispensability of the placement, (Russel 1998) has identified three major types of product placements- i.e. screen placements, script placements and plot placements.

Based on the level of incorporation and the intensity of the merger with the story line, product placements on the silver screen is classified into three--Implicit, non integrated explicit and integrated explicit (d’Astous and Seguin 1998).

The more explicit it is, the more will be the unholy relation between the partners of the total programme. However and whatever be the types, Product placements are on the rise. In the overall ad spends of brands in 2004 where it was just a 3 % allotted for product placements now it has gone up to six per cent last year and analysts predict that by 2007, product placements would include almost 12-15 per cent of the total advertising spends of brands.

Why product placements increase?

a. Easy and big money- for the product placement agency and for the programme producer

b. Absence of legal restrictions, clearly defining the border line between programme/editorial content and Advertising.

c. Commercial break ads are not taken seriously and are not considered trustworthy. In programme placements rectify this negative perception by facilitating passive learning.

d. Increasing operational costs for broadcast houses makes it imperative for them to looks for other revenue sources.

e. Clutter and audience fragmentation is making the world of commercial breaks increasingly murky and this makes product placements grow.

To be continued.....
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