Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cricket now a worrying investment

The dismal performance of the Indian cricket team has implications far beyond a drop in India’s rankings or our prospects for the ICC World Cup.
If we carry on doing as badly as this, sponsors of the World Cup are seriously affected. Let us remember, they are already committed to the spend.
And, in return for the spend, they expect audiences who will receive brand and product messages.
Some of those who receive these mesages will go out and buy the products and services advertised.
And the sum total of these buys will deliver a return on investment that sponsors have factored into their projected sales for the coming year.
And, suddenly, it looks like a large part of these projected audiences will disappear. With their disappearance, sales will disappear as well.
And sponsors are in a fix – because:
1.They are already committed to the spend
2.They still need the sales

The only solution for them is to find ADDITIONAL budgets and chase the audiences wherever they might go away to from cricket. And that’s going to affect their bottomlines.
For other advertisers who hoped to cash in on the World Cup, their problem is less daunting. They have to figure out where to buy these audiences if cricket carries on in the direction it is currently headed.
And if serious money goes away from cricket, one would worry about those who have serious investments in cricket.
Like the various channels who have bought the rights to various cricket tournaments over the next five years. There is no change in the amount of money that they will have to pay over whatever contractual period, but there could very well be a significant downward revision in the amount of money they could earn.
Like the various brands who have signed on cricketers as brand ambassadors. Some of these contracts are linked to performance on the field, some are not. But all these brands will suffer.
I’m not, normally, a prophet of doom. But to fail so miserably three matches in a row suggests that it is not just a matter of poor form of a few players; perhaps we had started believing in our own hype. Perhaps the reality is that we have a poor team today, that we have a poor talent pool today.

And, perhaps, investing in cricket is a poor decision today.

Photo courtesy: Cricinfo

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Who controls the eyeballs?

Karan Johar partners NDTV in its proposed entertainment channel project. “Partners” is NDTV’s usage, not mine. In reality, Johar and NDTV have entered into an arrangement whereby Johar’s Dharma Productions gives NDTV the first right of refusal for any concepts or programmes they might come up with.
In addition, Johar will be the proposed Brand Ambassador for NDTV.
About a year ago, Rajdeep Sardesai left NDTV to join his new partners at GBN to further join TV18 and launch CNN-IBN, and later launch IBN7.
Sanjay Pugalia joined TV18 to launch Awaaz.
Sameer Nair took over as CEO of STAR TV India.
There’s a common thread running through all these developments: all the protagonists were kings of content.
And, as they should in media products, they are proving that content is indeed the king.
It’s not just in the TV space.
The past few years have witnessed bidding wars for editors and all other level of journalists in the print space.
The focus has shifted significantly away from the business heads, who, for almost a decade or so, ruled the media space – whether in print, TV, radio or the Internet.
Today, it’s the kings of content who jostle for space on Page 3, with the sales and marketing professionals considerably lower in profile.
The lessons we can draw?
If you’re investing in a new media product, get the editorial/programming team in place first. The business guys don’t hold the key to the kingdom of eyeballs.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snappy answers to stupid QsOTD

With the Sanjay Dutt judgement due, one expected the media, especially the news TV channels, to go overboard.
But CNN-IBN’s Question of the Day (QOTD, plural QsOTD), asked by the channel after the verdict was delivered, took the cake:
“Is this the best that Sanjay Dutt could have hoped for?” the channel asked.
And thousands of poor suckers will send in their SMS opinions, and watch the graphs on the screen go up and down as if their individual votes have caused the movement.
My QOTD to CNN-IBN: How on earth can I know whether this is the best Sanjay Dutt could have hoped for?
I can have an opinion on what I had hoped for, or what I had anticipated, or what I had expected, or what Bejan Daruwala might have predicted in a newspaper I might have read.
But how the blazes can I know what Sanjay Dutt had hoped for?
Reminds me of a Mad magazine column called snappy answers to stupid questions.
So, here’s the question again, followed by a few answers of mine. Please send in your suggestions for the channel, too.

“Is this the best that Sanjay Dutt could have hoped for?”

No, he wanted a life sentence, so he’s deeply disappointed.
No, he was hoping he would hang, because Afzal is getting all the publicity.
No, he was hoping for a guilty verdict on all counts, because he prefers the jail environment to his Pali Hill residence.

Please, please send in your suggestions!

The Blackberry monsters

There was a time when it was cool just having a mobile phone.

Then came the Nokia Communicator, and it was cool to own a BIG mobile phone.

Then came the smaller phones, the 8310(?) and models like that. And the Communicator became uncool.

Finally came the Blackberry, and discussions at airport queues, lounges and inside aircraft revolved around how awesome this was. And people like me instantly became uncool.

I can't hope to write half as well as writers at The Onion. Click on the headline for their take. I can assure you the story echoes my sentiments.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Open letter to decision makers at news channels

Dear Sirs,

I am one of many millions of Indians who watch news television channels every day. I turn on the TV as soon as I wake up to catch up on what happened in the world during the time I was asleep, and I catch the headlines before I retire each night.

I do this because the newspapers lose out to you in terms of the richness of the audiovisual dimension, because of your ability to cover the instant, because of your ability to take viewers like me to wherever the news is happening.

And in this habit I am not alone. There are, indeed, millions of Indians like me who turn to news channels for information about the state of their village, their town, their city, their state, their country and their world.

Each day, these millions help you earn your living, by watching your channel and increasing your television ratings, which result in your increasing your advertising sales, your distribution and all other sources of your income.

And somewhere, in our naiveté, we believe that you are the most significant player in the fourth estate, that you have a role in maintaining checks and balances in our country, and that the country will improve and prosper because of your efforts and commitment.

And your sense of responsibility.

Which, increasingly, is in conflict with your notion of your commercial well being.

And your cameras cover whatever is more marketable, not whatever is more important.
The most recent example is when ALL of you (yes, ALL) gave short shrift to the bombing of a train in West Bengal by terrorists, and focused all your cameras and airtime on a tragic act by a young boy in Mumbai that resulted in five deaths due to his losing control of his car when under the influence of alcohol.

Inexplicably, not one of the channels even bothers to follow up on either story just a few days on. Were they ever important?

And your cameras can cause people to break the law. And they do.

Earlier tonight, some of the news channels covered an incident where hooligans damaged the house of Mohd. Kaif, one of the cricketers of the current Indian team.

I ask you only one question: would these hooligans have done what they did had your cameras not been there?

They were actors without a script, a stage, a venue, an audience. Without you, they are nothing, they have nothing.

You are the ones who own the stages on which all can perform, you are the ones who decide who can act, you are the ones who write the script, you are the ones with the power to afford them an audience.
This is a considerable power, and, used judiciously, can do the nation no end of good.
Used irresponsibly, as in the Mohd. Kaif instance, it can cause the nation no end of harm.

You are asking us to consider important only that which you consider important.
Over a period of time, I, and all other viewers of all news channels, will decide whether we are in sync with each other, or not.

And if not, we will use the only power that we have left.

And we will switch channels. And with the depressions of buttons on our remote controls, your viewers disappear, your TRPs disappear, your revenues disappear.

And then, you disappear.


A most aggrieved viewer

Brands Under Fire: Not just my Great Expectations

The very best of Indian minds and their take on how brands get into problems and on how to deal with problem situations. My take, here.
And S. Ramchander, one of the contributors to the exercise, writes on his experience in The Hindu Business Line. reports on it as well.
Now you know it’s not just my expectations that are great.

And a reminder. More, on CNBC TV18's Storyboard.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

When I’m murdered, I’ll speak in Tamil

“KOLKATA: The Calcutta HC has held that a dying declaration recorded in a language other than the victim's mother tongue is not acceptable as evidence in a court of law. On Tuesday, a division bench of Justice P N Sinha and Justice P S Dutta of the HC, acquitted a man, who was sentenced to life for alleged murder of his wife. Earlier, a trial court had sentenced Phatik Let — a resident of Kalua village in Birbhum — to life, based on the dying declaration recorded by two doctors in English. The HC not only detected incongruity in the separate 'dying declarations' submitted by the doctors but also noted that the people do not speak in any other language but their mother tongue in their dying moments.”

From a report in The Times of India.

This is how it works. Someone stabs me, and I’m rushed to the nearest hospital by bystanders. In a little while, it is clear that I will not survive. The doctor asks me whether I could make a statement, and I do want to. I want the person who stabbed me to be punished.

So I tell him, “I was walking along the road when John Doe stabbed me with a knife.”

The doctor stops me. He asks me what my mother tongue is. Fighting hard, I try to keep alive for a few minutes more, and tell him, “Tamil.” He tells me I need to make the declaration in Tamil.

As I’m dying, I have to remember a language that I hardly speak?
And providentially at hand should be someone who can both understand AND write Tamil?

And If these two conditions are not met my murderer gets away scotfree?

And the law is not an ass?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Brands Under Fire: Lessons from a dustbin

“There is nothing quite so useless in doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” Peter Drucker, quoted by Kurien Mathews of TBWA India and Ivan Arthur (formerly of JWT, now of AICAR Business School).
Urged by K. Kurian (no relative of the aforementioned Kurien) of the Subhas Ghosal Foundation, the two decide to do some work on Advertising in Times of Adversity. Titoo Ahluwalia of the SGF joins the fray and gets the Foundation’s nod for such a study, and Kurien and Ivan get down to doing with great efficiency what is proving to be something eminently useful, and something that should have been done a long while ago.
Students of AICAR, Kurien and Ivan study four instances of transgression by brands in the Indian context: Pespi, Coke, Cadbury and Unit Trust of India. The process is long and arduous, but, as time goes on, it also gets infinitely intriguing. Kurien and Ivan, as a consequence of many conversations with advertising and marketing professionals, decide that there is much richer learning available if more people were involved.
And they think of an old idea that had been explored by this blogger, in another world and in another context: collaboratively writing a book in 48 hours. The idea is retrieved from the dustbin to which it had been consigned, and it’s scrubbed and given new body and sheen.
Kurien and Ivan now work the phones and e-mails (and so does Titoo, lest one forgets), and invite a veritable galaxy of stars to join the party. The invitation is accompanied by the collation of the work put in by the main protagonists thus far – in itself more than worth a read. This would save participants the effort of doing their own background hunting, and would form the foundation for a day of discussion and writing.
Most of those approached are delighted to be invited to be part of the exercise. Some find the dates inconvenient (this is not an Internet exercise, it’s a PHYSICAL gathering of the writers) and some are skeptical of the outcome.
By now, again as a consequence of discussions, the name of the proposed work changes to Brands Under Fire.
Last night, a busload of the participants arrived at Neral (where’s that? Ask Google Maps), and this morning, panel discussions got underway.
Here’s the list of the panelists, in alphabetical order by surname: Rama Bijapurkar, Mahnaz Curmally, Gerson da Cunha , Santosh Desai, Vijay Gokhale, Kiran Khalap, Pranesh Mishra, MG Parameswaran, Roger Pereira, Gita Piramal, Prof. S Ramchandar, Shekhar Swamy and Prof. Shiv Viswanathan.
And if the panel discussions, moderated by Kurien and Ivan, are an indication, the book will be a must read, unputdownable one.
There are bits of the discussion that you will be able to catch on CNBC TV18’s Storyboard over the next few weeks (thank you, CNBC TV18, for airing the highlights of the discussions and for picking up the tab, with a little help from Allianz). By this evening, the panelists would have completed the writing and, on the morrow, will be on a bus back to Mumbai.
Kurien & Ivan then take all the background material, collate the words of these worthies, work on the introduction and foreword and do all things required to make the collective thinking translate into an informative and entertaining publication.
If you’re wondering why I’m so effusive about how readable the book will be, here’s a sampler of issues raised during the panel discussions:
Brands will increasingly come under fire, and it is impossible to predict where the next danger might come from. There is no way to protect the brand in the event of a transgression, as the new “media”, including blogs and mobile phones, are ever vigilant and alert. Be more and more prepared for the day your brand is in the firing line.
Brands are under threat every day, and the attack could come from anywhere, within and without your control.
Changing media, especially news media: no longer the objective observer, the media is on the prowl for sensation. More importantly, media houses will do all that is required to achieve their own commercial objectives and to handle their own competitive environment.
The role of public relations in the communication mix for all brands will undergo a sea change, as will the need for corporate senior management to acquire more than a working understanding of the function of PR.
The trust that consumers have in news media: with all the over-hyping and the trivializing, does the consumer believe his newspaper or news TV channel less?
Enough said. I’m not a reporter. And I could do the panelists and the authors more harm than good if I paraphrased their pronouncements (read this to understand why I’m wary).
Watch Storyboard for more. When Kurien and Ivan are done, CNBC TV18 and exchange4media (the online partner to this cause) will announce it. Then go buy the book.

BBC story physically abused by Pond’s

When you attribute, for God’s sake quote accurately.
The first line in the body copy of an advertisement released by Pond’s on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women reads thus:
“Every 6 hours an Indian woman is physically abused.”

Since this is a factual statement, it is buttressed by the source for this figure –

I stared at the body copy a few times, confused by
a) The low number – only four women a day abused in India? I thought more were abused in Bandra East on a good evening
b) The fact that the source was the BBC. Then the number must be correct!
c) The fact that the advertiser was Pond’s. They MUST have checked the number out!
d) The fact that O&M created the communication Surely, they must have checked as well!

But it kept niggling, and, finally, I went on to the BBC site referred to and searched for stories on violence against women in India.
Bingo, I found the reference. And this is how it reads:

“Every six hours somewhere in India a young married women is burnt alive, beaten to death, or driven to commit suicide."

Every six hours a woman DIES due to violence – that’s the truth. Not “an Indian woman is physically abused”, as the ad copy says.
And that’s one hell of a difference.
To Pond’s and O&M, just the one pigsandwings question:

And to make the whole issue completely perplexing, a POND’S consumer is expected to SNAIL MAIL the "blue flap" so that Pond’s donates TWO WHOLE RUPEES?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Why the Indian cricket team still rocks

Cape Verde Islands.

What’s common to the abovementioned countries?

They’re four of 147 countries ranked higher than India according to the just published FIFA rankings. Yup, you read that right. 147 countries ahead of my motherland.

And It’ll be a snowy day in Chennai before we see India qualify for a football World Cup.
That’s why I’m not despondent that Kallis scored more than the entire Indian team in the last one day match. We’re still in the top eight at cricket. And we move up for a few months to 2 or 3, and slide back to 6 or 7 at worst.
And that's why Indians watch soccer on TV when India is not playing, and cricket only when India is playing.

Beat that, Baichung!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Economist and premium confusion

Thanks to my father and my schooling, I grew up respecting and trusting media products like The Statesman, BBC Radio and The Economist implicitly.
I still trust BBC (not only radio) and The Economist implicitly.
I always understand what BBC tells me.
I am sometimes confused by what The Economist tells me, mostly because I don’t have a great understanding of the economy, the stock market and money markets.
I logged on to this evening to have a dekko at the non-premium content, and was pleasantly surprised to be offered a day pass to the premium content, courtesy Deutsche Bank. Thanks, DB.
I thanked the sponsor by watching his ad, and carried on to the rare treat.
And I read two pieces relevant to India, parts of both reproduced below.

Nov 21st 2006 From the Economist Intelligence UnitSource: Country Forecast
Excerpts from the article
The booming economy is likely to enable the Indian National Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government not only to remain in power until 2009, but also to relaunch its stalled programme of economic reforms. The government's greatest opportunity to do this will be in 2007, as much of its agenda in 2008 will be given over to preparations for the next general election, which is scheduled to take place by May 2009. Monetary policy will continue to be tightened in the first half of 2007, but will be eased gradually thereafter. Real GDP growth is forecast to remain strong in fiscal year 2006/07 (April-March) and then to moderate slightly in 2007/08 and 2008/09. Strong domestic demand will lead to a significant widening of the merchandise trade deficit over the forecast period, but surpluses on the services and transfers accounts will limit the current-account deficit to around 3% of GDP in 2007-08. Inflationary pressures will be difficult to control.
India's economy
Too hot to handle

Nov 23rd 2006 DELHI, HONG KONG AND MUMBAIFrom The Economist print edition
Why the sizzling Indian economy is more at risk than China's
Excerpts from the article
In contrast, India's economy displays an alarming number of signs that things have gone too far. Consumer-price inflation has risen to almost 7% (see chart), well above Asia's average rate of 2.5%. A recent report by Robert Prior-Wandesforde at HSBC finds many other signs of excess. For example, in a survey of 600 firms by the National Council of Applied Economics Research, an astonishing 96% of firms reported that they were operating close to or above their optimal levels of capacity utilisation—the highest number ever recorded. Firms are also experiencing a serious shortage of skilled labour and wages are rocketing. Companies' total wage costs in the six months to September were 22% higher than a year earlier, compared with an average increase of around 12% in the previous four years.

India's current account has shifted to a forecast deficit of 3% of GDP this year from a surplus of 1.5% in 2003—a classic sign of excess demand. Total bank lending has expanded by 30% over the past year, close to the fastest growth on record.
India's share and housing markets also look bubbly. Draft proposals by the central bank on November 17th to cap banks' exposure to stockmarkets and curb reckless lending only mildly dampened the optimism. Share prices are almost four times their level in early 2003. India's price/earnings ratio of 20 is well above the average of 14 for all Asian emerging markets. House prices have also gone through the roof: Chetan Ahya of Morgan Stanley reckons that prices in big cities have more than doubled in the past two years. Housing loans jumped by 54% in the year to June (the latest figures available) and loans for commercial property were up by 102%.
Indian policymakers seem reluctant to admit that economic growth has exceeded its speed limit over the past three years, let alone slow it.

And now for the dumbest pigsandwings question yet (watch this space, I’ll ask a dumber one not too far in the future).

Can someone please, please tell me: Is the Indian Economy doing well? Or, not?

Bollywood over news on the net

Why am I surprised?

I had done a dipstick on the rankings of Indian news websites and it threw up a number of learnings -- the most significant being that the vernacular sites ruled the Internet news space when it came to Indian audiences.

So I thought it would interesting to see how the "influential" Indian news sites did when compared to sports and bollywood sites. Not on ranking, but on a more qualitative aspect -- page views.

IndiaFM, which is the one stop shop for news and gossip on bollywood, is head and shoulders above the news portals and

It is reasonable to presume that most visitors to are Indians, but the same presumption may not be made for, but, considering the footprint of the TV channels ESPN and Star Sports, a significant chunk would be from India. With this assumption (I'll do a post on India figures of sports sites next week), espnstar gets interesting, too.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

MRF: 3 men and a century

It’s a landmark that I missed. Astonishingly, it’s a landmark that MRF missed and their ad agency, Lowe, missed as well.
The tyre company signs on three cricketers as brand ambassadors. The first, Steve Waugh, has since retired, having scored 32 centuries. The second, Sachin Tendulkar, is the holder of the record for the highest number of Test centuries with 35 of them. And the third, Brian Lara, scored his 34th ton yesterday, and is now nipping at Sachin’s heels.
Now add 'em up!
32+35+34 = 101.
Óne hundred and one centuries between the three MRF brand ambassadors!

And no one noticed it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

pigsandwings questions for TV channels

On live programming, you run interactive exercises that ask viewers to send you text messages.
When these programmes are repeated, the announcements (often through anchors, sometimes through supers) calling attention to the SMS polls or contests or whatever cannot be erased from the video or the audio.

What happens to these messages?
Are they still charged at premium rates to the viewers?

Can you overlay another super asking viewers NOT to vote as the text messages would be wasted?


Monday, November 20, 2006

Hu's watching Brad Pitt?

Hu Jintao lands in India.

Sony Pix has Brad's Pitt's Seven Years in Tibet on the night schedule.

Very cool. Not.

News Television: Too many dumb pilots

I’ve discussed this angst of mine with many senior executives from news television channels in India.
I probably did it for the first time about five years ago, and I’ve kept at it to absolutely no avail.
And by now I think I must be the dumbest of the too many dumb pilots that Richard Bach wrote about in A Gift of Wings.
For the benefit of those who haven’t read the short story or don’t remember it too well, here’s the story in a nutshell:
Pilot lands north-south, sees all other pilots landing south-north, and says to himself, “there are too many dumb pilots.” Moral of the story, protagonist was wrong, the other pilots were right.
And here’s why the time has come to declare myself the enlightened pilot who finds that, in actuality, he’s the master dumbo.
I’m a glutton for news television, and the more I watch it, the more I wonder why.
News television has proven, time and again in the past few years in India, that it is virtually the Fourth Estate by itself. Whether it’s the stings, whether it’s the Mattoo case, whether it’s catching a napping Chief Minister on camera, whether it raises the issue of the correctness of allowing Budhia to run. News television has done it all.
And news products, especially television in this age, have a decided role to play in shaping the future of the country.
And news television works in 22 –25 minute segments.
So we have 22 minutes to solve a problem that grips the nation. A problem like reservation.
So we have 22 minutes to discuss an issue that impacts the future. Like, should we trust China?
So we have 22 minutes to discuss whether India’s youth is beyond redemption.
So we have 22 minutes to debate female infanticide.

So I can make this list longer by another 100 issues in the next 22 minutes.
And I won’t.
Because I’m the dumb pilot.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Monday Morning Blues

Some verse I wrote some years ago. It could be verse, and it could be better.

they said Monday,
and I agreed
they said lunchtime
I agreed
when they said the suburbs

I lost it

give me town, any day
the vibrancy
the people
the architecture
the roads
the sheer energy

who cares for the burbs
who notices what happens there
the burbs or town
the effort’s the same

town gets remembered

sure, there’s more traffic
more distance to travel
and a long way home

but it’s all worth it

I got my way

and boy
what a party it was

the bombs went off like clockwork
cars were smashed
windows were shattered at the Taj
bodies everywhere
and the tv cameras lapped it all up

beautiful photographs
of the dead and the injured
interviews, vox pops

advani and sonia came running
and the cameras rolled once more
they lost count of the dead
and kept changing the figure
and replayed the blood
and the gore
again and again

I told you
town’s better

I wrote this whenever the blasts at the Taj happened, and I tried to blank it out of my mind. And every day I read about the trial of the blast accused, and what I wrote some years ago keeps coming back to haunt me. The perspective then was that terrorists think, they plan, they strategise, not only on the weapons area, but also on the marketing and publicity area.
This was a success. If the same incident took place at Wadala or Antop Hill, it would have been forgetten in a jiffy.
And there's no greater testament that targets are chosen from a PR perspective than the (successful) attack on the World Trade Center and the (failed) attack on the Indian Parliament. There are zillions of softer targets.
But would media cover an attack on them?


That, my friends, is the wealth (in rupees) of Lakshmi Mittal as reported in Forbes’ list of the world’s richest individuals.
I have always struggled to understand figures beyond 8 digits, and I have presumed that there are a lot like me in the world.
So I thought I’d make it easier for myself, and for you.
Like, how many Rs. 2 crore flats on Pali Hill could he buy if all his wealth was liquid?
Ans: 57500
How many C Class Mercedes Benz cars?
Ans: 460000
How many Motorazrs?

Ans: 127777777
How many annual subscriptions to the forthcoming Indian edition of the Wall Street Journal?
Ans: 3846153846

For the benefit of those of us who have to think twice before signing on a single subscription to Forbes, here’s the complete list of India’s 40 richest people.

Highlights, in case you’re in a hurry:
There are two Ambanis.
There are three from the media: Indu Jain, Subhash Chandra and Kalanithi Maran.

There is no one on the list from Advertising. Don’t think anyone in advertising is surprised.

That’s the Sunday lesson over. I do hope you’re richer for the knowledge.
Photo of Indu Jain courtesy: India Today, via Forbes

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Nobody writes about Copper Chimney

This is a messy post. Because it draws from a number of disparate incidents and conversations, and somehow attempts to link them together. I have no clue if it will turn out coherent and lucid, but I have the structure of a post in my head and have decided to carry on, regardless.
I’ll go chronologically.
About a year and a half ago, at an event organized by exchange4media, Ajay Chacko of TV18 commented on the challenges that media products faced, and on what, he felt, could differentiate one from another. It’s a statement that’s stuck in my head, and I reproduce what he said to the best of my memory. “The environment throws up a finite number of news story opportunities. What will differentiate one media product from another is the choice of stories and the treatment of the chosen stories.”
Last Wednesday, Brand Equity did a story on Omnicom that horrified me, in that the story was speculative at best and irresponsible at worst.
Earlier today (Saturday) I had a beer with someone aggrieved by the Brand Equity story (the reason I do not mention his name is to avoid suggestions of name dropping, but he will stand by my recounting of his statement).
He wasn't really aggrieved, but definitely irritated. His point was that nothing Brand Equity reported or avoided reporting would stop the growth and stability of the brand he was custodian of.
And the final disparate link is a conversation I had with Pradeep Gidwani (formerly CEO of Foster’s India) of Red Bull, Asia Pacific at Toto’s bar in Bandra, Mumbai. He was marveling at how nothing had changed in Toto’s in the last ten years.
And we got to talking about talking up brands. And we spoke of Indigo, and of Poison, and of Enigma and Club 9. And then he said to me. “Nobody writes about Copper Chimney. But it’s always full.”
And we spoke of the clubs and bars and restaurants in Mumbai that were “talked up” by the media in the last decade, and tried to think of the ones that were still alive.
Very few of the “talked up” ones, but many of the igonored-by-page-3 ones.
Toto’s and Copper Chimney do not NEED to get written about, because the products are sound. Media can talk up and talk down brands, but the final judgment will be made by a consumer.
And this is where media products will have to take a call: do they cover what they consider to be “happening” even if there is no product promise, or do they cover "boring", but intrinsically stable and strong products?
Pressures of competition cause decision makers in newspapers, news magazines and news channels to search for the differentiator in Chacko’s aforementioned finite number of story opportunities.
And bad and irresponsible and motivated choices can deliver short-term gains in readership/viewership but long-term losses in credibility.
And the decision could create either a sustainable wall that competition will not be able to breach, or a small little entry that could, tomorrow, become a floodgate.
The choice in that decision belongs to the editors.

Sadly, in many instances in Indian media houses, it also belongs to marketers.

Photo credit: Drona, whoever he may be, found on Flickr

The Importance of being Vijay Mallya

Newspapers in India make it a point to leave out names of brands in many an article, and it comes as a stunner when not one, but all the papers including the Times of India take the trouble to highlight brand names.
Vijay Mallya takes over Mumbai racing, and a press conference announces the highlights of the forthcoming season.
And all the major Mumbai papers not only give the calendar heightened attention, they list the sponsors prominently.
So why is this surprising?
One, that horse racing is a sport which has been receiving less attention and column centimeters each passing year. Two, the attention to brands is well outside the recent behavior pattern of Mumbai’s media houses, as can be seen here, and here.
But then, this is Vijay Mallya we’re talking about, not Deutsche Bank or Nimbus. And you ignore him at your peril.
What’s interesting? That Deutsche Bank as a sponsor of racing finds mention in the article, while Deutsche Bank as a brand owner couldn’t make the caption in the photograph of the launch of their own credit card.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Of Blogging and Sanjay Bhatgaonkar

Like I’ve said many a time and oft, I had to understand Orkut because of the amount of time my daughter spent on it.
I understood gaming because my son spent so much time on it.
I understood blogging because my brother spent so little time on it.
And he gave me something to think about. He also gave me something to read.
And I started reading blogs. In February this year, when JP launched
Starting with JP’s blog I’ve been on many journeys, visiting blogs of people who comment on c-o-c, visiting links that c-o-c recommends, and so on.
And every day is a different journey, depending on what JP blogs about, and depending on who comments.
And I become the richer for it.
The blogosphere becomes my library.
I walk in, and I stroll around, and, depending on my mood, I pick up a blog. It could be zigzackly, it could be indiauncut, it could be desipundit, it could be confusedofcalcutta, it could be some random site that I recall, it could be some site that’s linked to mine.
And from there, it could be one of zillions of sites that any of these bloggists sees fit to write about or link to.
And from that blog, the whole journey starts all over again.
And I have no idea where I would start my next journey, nor an idea of where I might end up.
I might start with politics, then read about the English language, then something about sport, and then Godknowswhat.
Imagine a library stocking only authors that you never knew existed.
And imagine picking up a random book and experiencing the pleasure of having discovered a great read.
To me, that’s the blogosphere.
And when I’m in a hurry, I go to desipundit. Visiting desipundit is like asking someone for advice on where you should start. And I thought, what a terrific idea, an agglomeration of the very best that the blogosphere had to offer.
And I read some stuff I loved, some I liked, some I disliked and some I hated.
And that’s the joy of reading: the experimentation, the discovery.
And I thought of how little I knew of this blog world, and how much I’ve missed by the ignorance.
And I thought of a former colleague, Sanjay Bhatgaonkar, from TBWA Pune, who once made a small killing on the strength of an idea: he registered a URL called, and then proceeded to populate it with content. All it had were links to various sites and articles on site navigation.
And he was ahead of desipundit by eons.
And I don’t think he cares about the money that he made. All he cares about is that his idea found recognition in a large, competitive and harsh world.
That is the power of the Internet. The ability to make a Sanjay Bhatgaonkar recognized.
And the power of the blogosphere? The ability to introduce me to desipundit, and from there, the ability to make me remember Sanjay Bhatgaonkar.

CNN’s India focus: Depth, width, numbers and polls

It’s not often that one sees American media products focusing on India, and the special on our country is a refreshing departure.
It’s not a skim-the-surface kind of magazine – it’s surprisingly almost Economist-ish in the width and depth.

The special, Eye on India, is a curious collection of features and ranges in timeline from the very recent to the not-so-recent. The list of stories below is only indicative of all that is on the microsite, but I thought I’d put it there to save you one click.

There’s a poll on the page, too. Asking visitors whether they thought India and Pakistan would ever solve the Kashmir issue. Out of 7000 votes cast when I visited the page, more than 60% thought that the problem was here to stay.

My favourite feature? The one on the dance bar girls.

Helping hand for rural women
'Imitate' gives way to 'innovate'
The new faces of outsourcing
India and China: Rivals or partners?
A eunuch's tale from the slums
Unlikely hero for unclaimed bodies
India takes stage as global player
Bar dance girls on the march
India's energy appetite balloons

Thursday, November 16, 2006

pigsandwings impact: CNN IBN -- Well begun is half done

CNN IBN is currently conducting a poll to identify icons of the four states which form the Golden South.
A welcome addition is the Disclaimer at the bottom of the relevant page on, which states:
"The results reflect the views of internet/mobile users who have chosen to participate in the poll."
This is something pigsandwings had requested of news organisations earlier.
Thanks. Can we have the same transparency on the TV channel, please?

Getting future ready: agencyfaqs and Hindustan Times get comment enabled

One medium on the Internet, and the other, a print publication. becomes a virtual blog, with the reader now having the power to post comments or read others’ comments without leaving the article. If agencyfaqs readers do embrace the opportunity, the possibilities are immense.
From being the world’s number two Internet site on advertising (their claim), they could transform themselves into India’s largest blog – and perhaps one of the top few thousand in the world.
Why not? They already have a base of users, they’ve built the community, they have the advertising, and they are, to tens of thousands, a habit.
And on the print front, Hindustan Times now has the e-mail id of the journo responsible for each article at the end of the piece – making something as one-dimensional as a newspaper significantly (theoretically) more interactive. At least HT has given readers (and their journalists) the opportunity. View this development in conjunction with their web play, and HT is getting future ready.
We live in interesting times – and pigsandwings will be watching developments closely.

More on kite flying: Angelina and India

Angelina Jolie is adopting an Indian baby, the baby will be called India. So said a million news reports emanating from all corners of the country.
The Truth Quotient in these reports?
Zero, as she proved in her press conference yesterday, scotching the rumours and denying that such a move was ever on her mind.
Yesterday, I posted on Brand Equity’s kite flying.It’s a convenient way to “break” news. If the speculation, or some element of it, providentially proves to be correct some day in the future, the paper could always claim, “as first reported in our paper”.
And if the speculation is wrong, who cares?
No one.

This kind of reporting deserves some more attention. A longer post is due, perhaps over the weekend.

No name credit card launched

This, I’ll never understand. Why the photo if the news is not newsworthy? And how is it newsworthy if you don’t mention the company at whose launch Sania Mirza and Sunil Gavaskar were present? Which, by the way, was Deutsche Bank.
Or is it just an excuse to include a “current” photo of a celeb?
If that’s the case, can we be more imaginative and have better photos? Please?
It’s happened a zillion times before, and I blogged about, once, here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Brand Equity goes kite flying

All these quotes from this morning’s lead story in Brand Equity on Omnicom’s plans in India. One possible take out: no one in the advertising business in India, many CEOs included, goes on the record.
Another possible take out: BE is on the world’s greatest kite flying trip.

I underline: all these quotes from ONE story.

“Mehra – who is rumoured to have made over 10 visits to India…”
Sources have spotted Balki and Singh in deep discussions more than once…”
Sources tell us that if this deal goes through…”
Sources close to both men say that their asking price is stiff…”
“Summed up by an advertising CEO thus…”
“The best option, we are told by sources close to the negotiations…”
“The plan, we hear…”
We are given to understand that John…”
Sources point out that John had almost gone into retirement…”
Sources close to the deal say that it is unlikely that the Swamys will sell…”
“Many believe, Omnicom’s biggest challenge…”
“It is believed that bringing Omnicom into India…”
“Omnicom is believed to have approached Sam Balsara…”
“The CEO of another media specialist believes…”
“They don’t have a first mover advantage….”, he says.
“We understand that also on the radar could be…”
“Mehra, we are given to understand…”
There is talk, that in addition to Mehra…”
“Is believed to be poised to move to Omnicom…”
“It’s believed that Mehra has been so regular a visitor…”
“Many believe that Omnicom may be averse…”
“ The last option (which we are told is actually a non-starter) is the hottest rumour in town…”
“We are told that Omnicom is determined…

A few pigsandwings questions:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

HT-ToI: I’ll have to say I love you in a song

I blogged about it here.
Everytime I tried to tell you, the words just came out wrong.
So, as Jim Croce did, I’ll use a song.
Hindustan Times and The Times of India compete, as a commentator on this blog said, in multiple spaces. With The Times of India and Hindustan Times in Delhi and Mumbai. With their FM offerings, with their Hindi newspaper offerings, with ET and the forthcoming WSJ.
And they ink a no-poaching pact.
And Mumbai Mirror is printed in HT's press.
And they launch a JV to start a morning tabloid in Delhi.

And since I’m incapable of describing the confusion, here’s Evanescence taking guard for me, ending with a pigsandwings question:
I hate everything about you
Why do I love you
You hate everything about me
Why do you love me
I hate, you hate
I hate, you love me
I hate everything about you
Why do I love you

Crash courses for airline aspirants


Perhaps a sign of heightened safety concerns.
And in the event you thought this was lunacy on the part of the Indian Aviation Academy, the institute that runs these courses, you're wrong.
Because they run these courses "by popular demand".
The people have spoken. The people asked for the crash courses.
Vox populi can never be wrong.
Nor can the Academy, "the most trusted name for Aviation Training".
Even for crash courses.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The pink paper wars: With enemies like these, who needs friends?

It’s a little over a year since DNA, Mumbai Mirror and Hindustan Times launched in Mumbai, and media buyers know who has won the battle, notwithstanding NRS and IRS figures.
And when news of Aroon Purie’s morning tabloid hit the headlines, almost simultaneously with the news of DNA Money being spun off as a stand alone, life got interesting.
The Times of India and Hindustan Times announce a JV for a morning tabloid. And life gets more interesting.
And, today, an innocuous SMS from a friend at HT asking me to send a cheque for a subscription to their new pink paper in collaboration with the Wall Street Journal interrupts my early beer.
And life gets even more interesting.
And pigsandwings is a blog, not a MSM product, and I can have a blast.
And I think back to the deal between the owners of Hindustan Times and The Times of India when it was decided that Mumbai Mirror would be printed using the surplus capacity of HT’s spanking new press at Panvel.
And I think back at the announcement of a no-poaching pact between HT and ToI.
And I look again at the JV between HT and ToI for a morning paper in Delhi to counter Living Media’s offering (still unclear whether it’s tabloid or compact).
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
Where only HT and ToI exist, in the general newspaper space.
Where only HT and ToI exist, in the Hindi newspaper space.
Where only HT and ToI exist, in the pink paper space.
And it leads me to a pigsandwings question: with enemies like these, who needs friends?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

There’s something about Print

British newspapers fascinate me, and I read them, in physical form or on the Internet, as often as I can. When both aren’t possible and I still want my fix, I visit the Newspaper Marketing Association, UK, a repository of the best of British print advertising.
Not just of advertising, but a veritable treasure trove of research in print advertising, of case studies, of event led advertising and contextual placement of advertising.
Today I chanced upon this example, and it’s a double whammy. Terrific ad, and incredible contextual placement. If you’re in the advertising business, examples such as this will make you fall in love with print advertising all over again.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rd ths n lol!

I can’t understand half the text messages that I receive from my daughter, thanks to her use of text-speak as opposed to the Queen’s English. Now it’s creeping into e-mail messages, and it gets on my nerves. And I keep worrying about Gen M’s inability to spell, about what impact this would have on their writing abilities, on the literature of the future, on the newspapers of the future, on any damn thing in the future that uses the written word.
In India, Aroon Purie saw the future, and launched Headlines Today, a news channel that seemingly understood the attention deficiency of today’s youth. Short stories, crisply delivered, in distinct youth-speak. And I marveled, at the time of launch, at the positioning that Purie had the vision to see. And the channel went nowhere.
Perhaps the problem is that Headlines Today went only halfway into the future. Maybe it should have been christened Hdlinz 2day.
No, I’m not joking.
Because the youth of today are so used to the abbreviated spellings that authorities in New Zealand are allowing students to use sms-speak in their examinations.
Told you I wasn’t joking – read about it on CNN’s site.
And lol!

Bengalooru will remain just as beany

Every publication in India has written about the transformation of Bangalore to Bengalooru, including pigsandwings, which blogged about Bangalore being Bangalored here and here.
And I’ve read a lot of the articles. The most delightful read, not surprisingly, is from The Economist. An excerpt:

“First, the changes, which are nearly always politically inspired, often seem to annoy the locals as much as anyone else. Many Indians, surprised to be told their place names were inappropriate, still talk about Bombay and Calcutta as though nothing had changed.”

And the gem is in the closure of the edit: “A city of beans by any other name will smell as sweet, or beany.”

Read the whole article here. It’s free, and worth a helluva lot more than a click.

National Readership Survey: There’s something rotten in the Kingdom of Benchmark

NRS is the benchmark by which advertising rates are set, the tool that marketers use to measure the reach of their print campaigns. It’s a survey that decides the rate card, it’s a survey that makes and breaks publications. And a survey that could make or break products.
And every year for the past few years, we've been witness to a familiar sequence: the NRS results are announced, disputed immediately after, and corrected after a gap of a month or two.
This year has been no different – except the mess is worse.
Consider this admitted lapse:
Nai Dunia sees an increased readership of 3,84,000 to reach 1,107,000 as per revised data. “NRSC explained that the problem in Nai Dunia was due to a masthead confusion and correspondingly Dainik Nai Dunia has dropped from the 828,000 that the paper was showing to 433,000 – a drop of 395,000” . The entire story on NRS can be read here.
The illustration is just one of numerous instances where the NRS Council has admitted to an error and subsequently found reason to correct it.
Why can’t we reach a stage where the quality of the survey is such that it becomes a trusted, reliable and stable currency?
Why don’t publishers and researchers lock themselves up in an offsite which takes as long is required to solve such problems once and for all?
Why don’t advertisers demand that NRS gets its act together, as erroneous NRS figures may not just result in faulty media planning but in loss of sales?
Why? Why? Why?

The power of blogging

Devangshu Dutta takes the Orkut conversation further in Business Standard, and Howard Rheingold reads a reference to a pigsandwings post which has been further discussed on confusedofcalcutta and sees more possibilities.
Could this have happened without opensource and blogging?
A monologue on a site which is based out of Mumbai, becomes a debate and discussion on a site based in the UK, and further discussed on a US blog.
And DD, a classmate of mine whom I rediscovered in cyberspace, mails to say he’s taken a thread out of the Orkut idea.
The posts just discussed possibilities of matching declared intentions. And I’m wondering about all the possibilities of blogging. More later.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cancellation of Front Page Solus? Orkut Crush to the rescue

If you're a space seller, you know there's no nightmare worse than the cancellation of a premium position late in the schedule.
You scramble and inform your boss. Next, you and your colleagues start calling "friendly" advertisers, advertising agencies and media buying houses.
Finally, you manage to sell the space, at a discount -- and your yield goes for a six.
Imagine a solution that saved you all this pain.
And it's there for the asking.
It was in trying to understand my daughter's fascination with Orkut that forced me to understand Orkut better.
And in this quest, I stumbled upon Orkut Crush, which completely and totally fascinated me. Details here, in case you haven't read the previous post.
And then began a small debate on pigsandwings, and a richer, larger one on that you can read here.
The concept is that media buyers or media departments give media houses blanket release orders for specified positions at "cancellation rates" (for want of a better phrase).
So the next time someone cancels the FPS for The Times of India at 7.00 PM, all that the scheduling department has to do is to pull out the first of the aforementioned blanket release orders -- which, for the sake of argument, CANNOT be cancelled. No making desperate calls, no embarrasment to the brand.
I can think of a number of media buyers who'll buy into this idea.
Any takers in media houses? I'll play Orkut in this game.

Fatter, Younger, Broker

This one is just a load of laughs.

And it's completely relevant, as India gets fatter, younger and broker. We're inundated with a flood of junk food, and just as the western world starts pondering on the dangers of conspicuous consumption of the said junk food, young India embraces the salts and the fats and the cholestrol of mighty multinational brands. And mighty Indian brands.

There are some messages which need spoof and satire to make an impact, and the article in the Onion is one such.

Enjoy. The article, not the junk food. Just click on the image.

Of Microsoft, Xboxs and t-shirts

Received this mailer in my spam box. Read it immediately, as Ballmer is in India and all over the news – perhaps I’d see something I’d missed out.
Problems that I had when I read the body copy:
Is it Xboxs or Xboxes?
According to Microsoft: Xboxes.
Is it t-shirt or T-Shirt?
According to anyone on earth except those involved in creating this piece of communication, T-Shirt is the only acceptable answer.
No one ought to know the plural of Xbox more authoritatively than Microsoft.
And you can’t get more American than T-Shirts and Microsoft.

No name channel launched by newspapers

This was the preserve of The Times of India, now all newspapers have followed suit. Neo launches a new channel, and their brand ambassadors include Gopichand and Sania Mirza. All leading newspapers carry a photograph taken at the launch (except for HT, all carry Sania’s photo), but none of the captions name the channel that is launched.
I’ve always marveled at instances such as this; today, one asks: is the news newsworthy or not?
If it is newsworthy, the content is obviously the fact that a new channel has been launched. That information alone is of absolutely no utlitity to man or beast. What makes it useful is when the reader is given the following information:
What is the name of the channel?
What genre is the channel in?
When will it be on air?
And, to close, a pigsandwings question to all the newspapers: why don’t you realize your reader is more irritated by receiving part of the news than he would be by receiving none of the news at all?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I have a crush on an account executive

What did you do when you had a crush and were unsure about the reciprocation? Checking with “mutual” friends was the basic step. If you were adventurous, you sent a note or a message through an intermediary and hoped for the best.
And, more often than not, you made an ass of yourself.
And Orkut, the wonderful Orkut that we love and hate and love to hate, figured out that this was a pain, and therefore, a balm was required.
And thus was born Orkut crush.
Here’s a question, from a list of FAQs on Orkut: What can orkut do for my love life?
And here’s an answer, from the Orkut site:
orkut can certainly help you connect with a hiking buddy. But, it's also designed to help you hunt for a soul mate.
For more, click here
The principle is very simple. You have a crush on someone (also on Orkut), you register the fact – and no one else can see it. If the someone that you have a crush on has a crush on you and has registered the fact on Orkut, Bingo! Orkut sends both of you a message confirming the interest.
Nice. I wish Orkut was around when I was 12 ½.
So what is a crush doing on a blog on media and advertising?
Stealing an idea.
What happens if Company “A” has a crush on Professional “B” and posted the interest on a job search equivalent of Orkut?
And what happens if Professional “B” could not know of the crush till he (or she) posted an interest in Company “A” on the site?
Saves a lot of companies a lot of embarrassment.
Also saves you a fortune on head hunting fees.
I live. I learn.


ICC Pitch Consultant Andy Atkinson helps drags the cover on during the rain interruption of the ICC Champions Trophy finals in Mumbai.
Two questions.
1. Why is there no branding on the covers (there's more than enough space)?
2. Why is there no branding on Atkinson (there's more than enough space, too)?

Why not Sunny? Why not Azhar?

Three discrete pieces of news, and they make for interesting reading. Hema Malini signs a contract as brand ambassador for Hakoba. Sachin signs a contract with Canon, for a fee that remains “undisclosed”. Saurav Ganguly scores a century.
In Hema Malini’s case, her contract is part of a double contract; her daughter Isha (correction: Esha is how it's spelt, I'm informed) is part of the deal. That’s one way to stretch your celeb career – tie it up with a younger, more successful celeb.
In Sachin’s case, Iconix and World Sports Group are looking at new geographies to extend Sachin’s status as a brand ambassador, even as Indian brands are rethinking using him (Airtel, one of Sachin’s “original” contractees, did not renew his contract).
In Saurav’s case, he neither has a younger “partner” to tag on to, nor can he look at tapping the international market” and he’s trying to extend his celeb career by the oldest solution in the book: performance.
So what’s the point of this post?
The inability of Indian celebs to plan a life and career out of post celebrity-dom. Of all the stars that India produces, be it in Bollywood or in cricket, very few have managed to plan for their lives beyond the life of their professional careers. For example, even a Sunil Gavaskar or Mohd. Azharuddin is rarely seen as a brand ambassador. Other than Amitabh Bachchan (who is a “live” Bollywood star), where are the stars of yesterday seen in TV commercials?
Where does the problem lie? With the stars themselves that they have allowed their brand equity to die?
Or with the advertising industry, that they are not able to find ways to cash in on the brand equity of the stars of yesteryear?
It’s worth thinking about. Stars of the past will cost a brand much less than will current stars. And a number of them will evoke memories, will connect, and will deliver for the brand.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

And the winner is…. Kentucky Fried Chicken

Not LG. Not Hutch. Not Hero Honda. Not Pepsi. Not Nike. Not even Adidas, the sponsor of the Australian team, the winners of the Champions Trophy.
Because the discussion here is about Return on Investment. And while all of us have a fair idea about how much the sponsors of the Champions Trophy forked out for the privilege, there is no information in the public domain on how much Yum! (owners of the KFC brand) paid for the right to be the official sponsor of the West Indies team.
From the time BPL bought the replay bug on (what was then) Prime Sports, non FCT (Free Commercial Time) buys on sports programmes have fascinated me.
Because unlike commercials, these buys cannot be erased.
There was a phase, when BPL was embargoed by the Indian Broadcasters Federation for non-payment, that I used to watch old matches rerun on both Star Sports and ESPN featuring the BPL bug.. and there was nothing the channels could do about it.
And that’s what today’s post is all about.
The advertisers on the telecast will long be forgotten, but those who bought supers (like Standard Chartered Bank and Getz) will derive perennial value from their buys.
West Indies lost the finals. Australia won, and their sponsors ought to have been the biggest beneficiaries. But TV is about both exposure and recall, and, my gut is that KFC would walk all over Travelex if a ToM study was conducted.
And that is the power of a logo on the leading arm, of replays (Chanderpaul’s logo was on the wrong arm in the finals; that’s lost KFC quite a bit). The leading arm of a batsman who has done well is replayed many a time and oft, and, therefore, Gayle’s leading arm delivered a fortune to KFC.
Which brings me to another small battle: the war between the sports shoes majors. Nike sponsors India, Adidas sponsors Australia, and Reebok sponsors Gayle’s bat. Figure out who won for yourself.
There are other learnings from the Champions Trophy – the most important being that even a country like India is no longer able to fill the stands for games not featuring India. Perhaps the debate on Twenty 20 needs to be opened in India; we can no longer claim that India is a country that does not need the super abridged version of the game.
Not there is no value for the sponsor; a glance at the sight screen should give you an idea of how permanent their buy will prove to be.
Quick switch to football, and a new feature on ESPN Star’s EPL broadcast. Sponsor logo on the clock? It came and went on today’s telecast. My prediction? It’ll run THROUGH the match from the middle of November onwards. Can’t predict the sponsor, though I have a feeling that it will be a mobile phone manufacturer, brand name beginning with N.
Photos: Courtesy my daughter's camera.
Photo 1. Empty stands-- you won't see this perspective in the papers
Photo 2. Logo on Gayle's bat -- you saw it many times, and it has sunk in
P.S. More photos tomorrow after I've figured out how blogger layouts work!

Neil Armstrong recently set foot on the moon

The trouble with me is that I read every damned English paper this city publishes (except the Free Press Journal; I can't find it anywhere). And the trouble with me is that some vague headline or photograph or ad just pops out of the newsprint and hits me right in the eyeballs.
Like the one reproduced above, from the November 4, 2006 edition of Indian Express Newsline, Mumbai.
So, what’s the problem, you ask me.
Let me explain.
Like, why is Schumacher in Express Newsline and not in the main paper?
So, we’ll figure it out, I tell my brain. And I read the caption.
And my brain goes all fuzzy when I read about the recent F1 event in Shanghai. Shanghai? Recent?
The trouble with me is that I am a follower of Formula 1 racing. And, therefore, I know that the Shanghai leg of the F1 junket was not held “recently”. Unless of course, you’re like a large part of the population who knows me and believes I’m the world’s biggest nitpicker. Of course October 1 is recent, you say.
No, dear friends at Indian Express, October 1 was a millennium ago. The way the media is evolving, “breaking news” as a phrase is used when something was happening ten seconds ago or is happening NOW, not five hours ago or ten hours ago.
By that measure, “recently” would refer to something that happened yesterday. On a day when the reader is kindly disposed towards you, it might refer to the day before.
And this is something you surely know, friends at Indian Express. And this is something your sub-editor surely spotted. Which means that there was some pressure that forced you to carry the photo despite the said photo having passed the sell-by (or publish-by) date.
So, what’s the problem, you ask me.
The problem is, what’s the difference between what you have done with the Schumi-Dossa photo and what The Times of India does with Medianet?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

pigsandwings impact: ASCI hauls up XXX condoms

Not really. Unlikely that anyone at the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has read this blog. Unlikely that Sharmila Tagore, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi or SK Arora have read the blog. If you haven’t read the previous post on XXX flavoured condoms, click here. Well, at least we were the first to make a noise about it.
To cut a long story short, the manufacturers of XXX flavoured condoms (you can’t get more original than that), have been asked to immediately withdraw the TVC by the ASCI. That’s all ASCI can do: ask. They cannot enforce. Adding muscle to ASCI’s request is Sharmila Tagore, Censor Board Chairman. She, too, asks. She cannot ban it either. Tagore felt that, perhaps, DKT India (the manufacturer of the originally named XXX flavoured condoms) was targeting only “raunchy teenagers”. Therefore, it ought not to be telecast during the Champions Trophy as the programme is assuredly for family viewing (Mandira nothwithstanding).
The product, according to Sutosi Batliwala, GM Marketing, DKT India, would encourage those “who did not use condoms because they were repulsed by the smell of latex,” and not because they wanted to promote oral sex.
Tagore ( I kid you not here) felt the campaign was not “in good taste”.
The Times of India article (where I read about the ASCI request) calls for a couple of whether-pigs-have-wings questions. How come there is absolutely no debate on why SET MAX accepted the release order and agreed to telecast the ads? Why didn’t Messrs. ASCI, Dasmunsi, Tagore and Arora ask SET MAX to stop airing the commercial?

Orkut puts pigsandwings in the news

Pleasant surprise. A post from this blogsite finds mention in a story in Business Standard. Read the whole story on how Orkut perplexes Jai Arjun Singh.

Ram Jethmalani: Interviewee #1

If you missed the interview of Ram Jethmalani by Sagarika Ghose on CNN IBN, you missed one helluva show.
To my mind, it was the ONLY instance in the recent past (the past five years) of an interviewee refusing to be cowed down by the interviewer.
To Ghose’s credit, she has aired the show without editing parts that might be interpreted as being unkind to her – even when he called her a “chip (sic) of a girl”. Especially since she has all the powers to use the scissors (or the delete button in these modern times) whenever and wherever she feels like.
Ram Jethmalani’s ire was caused by the trial by media of his client, Manu Sharma; by their pronouncing Sharma guilty and prejudicing the opinion of the public at large, of the judiciary – without their knowing enough of the law. Ghose was, for once, at the interrupted, rather than the interrupting, end.
Jethmalani had the first word. And the last word. He had all the words, in fact.
The inapt caption on the static photograph (Jethmalani, with Manu Sharma in the background) behind the anchor perhaps justifies Jethmalani’s unhappiness with the media. It wasn’t even original – and CNN IBN borrowed the name from another show on their own channel.
They called it Devil’s Advocate.
Tsk, Tsk.

Or Ram Jethmalani: Actor #1?
There’s a cynic in me that asks the question. Because of a number of other questions. Why did Jethmalani agree to the interview when he could so easily have refused? Why didn’t he walk out of the studio when he got irked beyond a point (if the interview was at a studio)? Why didn’t he throw Ghose out of his house (which I think it was) when she repeatedly referred to his family disagreeing with his decision to defend Sharma?
Why? Why? Why?
The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things. Including, whether pigs have wings.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Have reason, change city name

First the sublime. The pic above is not a spoof, but a reproduction of a classified ad that WAS published.

No, there’s no ridiculous, there’s more sublime. Name changes and more on name changes.

There’s a reason why name changes get on my nerves. I grew up In Calcutta, (since changed to Kolkata) on Moira Street (it still is called that) which was linked to Loudon Street (since transformed to Dr. U.N. Brahmachari Sarani, I think) and Rawdon Street (now Sarojini Naidu Sarani). If name changes were something I couldn’t understand, imagine the shock when I discovered that there was a Road Renaming Department at Calcutta Corporation. Really.

That’s why the post on Bangalore’s name change.

But it’s time to apologise to Bengalooru. Because name changing is not something that happens only for frivolous reasons like a vote bank; it’s been done enough times with only commercial benefit in mind, I learnt.

Some for pure marketing reasons, some from a distinct fascination for sport, some out of pure avarice. Some illustrations are delightful examples at how to put an unknown town or city on the map, and marketers in India could surely borrow from the list below. And, lest I forget, this whole post borrows heavily from wikipedia.

A town called Dhoom 2 or Sholay? Why not? Hot Springs, New Mexico changed its name to Truth or Consequences when Truth or Consequences host Ralph Edwards announced that he would do the show from the first town that renamed itself after the popular radio programme. Ekta Kapoor could explore such an option when launching her next big show. Or ADAG could rename a town BIG!

Here’s one for Dish TV or for Tata Sky. Clark, Texas, renamed itself Dish after the EchoStar Communications' Dish Network – all 55 households in the town were given free satellite television for 10 years. It might not work in a city like Mumbai or New Delhi, but Tirunelveli? There can’t be more than a few hundred households there.

This one for the BCCI. Actually, the Indian Hockey Federation would benefit more. Buffalo, Texas, temporarily renamed itself Blue Star, Texas in 1993 and 1994 when the Dallas Cowboys faced the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl, and later renamed itself Green Star, Texas in 1999 when the Dallas Stars faced the Buffalo Sabres in the Stanley Cup Finals (Buffalo is approximately 100 miles southeast of Dallas; in all three instances the supportive name change proved successful for the Dallas-area team).
Imagine. You change the name of the city and you control the result of a major sporting encounter. Mr. Gill?
Alok Kejriwal, Neeraj Roy and Anupam Mittal – chew on this one: Halfway, Oregon, became the first place to accept the money from a dot-com to change its name to match the web site Imagine a city called or or, God Forbid, But, hey, who am I to argue if the citizens agree?

Another genre? Love for literature. Pippa Passes, Kentucky, originally Caney Creek but renamed after the Robert Browning poem Pippa Passes (which you ought to read, that’s why it’s linked).

Any suggestions? If Mumbai could be renamed after a great piece of literature, what would you call it?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

yahoo! Bengalurued!

This part-of-a-screenshot demonstrates the kind of problems name changing causes. yahoo! Travel is just one of many billions (hey, if Pepsi and Standard Chartered Bank can talk up the numbers, so can I!) who will go through @#$% thanks to Bangalore's name change.

The biggest sports show in India. And it's not cricket.

I’m putting my neck out here. Only because I don’t think there’s a big chance I’m wrong.

The show? Nokia Football Crazy on ESPN Star Sports.


Because it’s about football, and football delivers round the year high quality LIVE content. The Premiership, The Champions League, The UEFA, FA Cup, and so on.
Because football viewership is growing across India, thanks to world class football entering our living rooms.
Because investments in football in India are growing each year, pushing the quality of the game in India. Kingfisher is one. Kingfisher is another. Mahindra is one, and the other Mahindra is another.
As the world becomes a smaller place, more brands with global investments in football are entering India and will spend their marketing money in India. A lot of the A&M budget will go into football. Heineken is one, Nike another.
Because European teams are discovering that India’s a great place to be, and can smell the money on tap here. Arsenal and Liverpool are planning a training gig in India in December, for example.
Because cricket is getting boring, and unless India and Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid can pull off a miracle, India’s interest in cricket will die half way through the ICC World Cup Cricket 2007. By then, the EPL will be on the home stretch, and involvement will be incredibly high. Imagine, cricket losing out to football. It could happen -- and timings WILL clash.
Because the world IS a smaller place, and you can’t discuss cricket with your colleagues in the US, in Germany, in Japan. You can, however, with your colleagues in Kenya and Bangladesh.

Because football games are only 100 minutes long, including the half time.

Because any moron can understand football.

But, most importantly, because the show is incredibly inclusive. To the extent I saw a clip of an East Bengal goal against George Telegraph in today’s edition.
Because the show is vibrant, the show is flexible, the show is chameleon-like. Not that there are no rules and no format; the format is one that allows for freshness.
Because they hit upon, and sold to, a sponsor who is equally vibrant. Nokia is always fresh, ever changing, and ever aspirational.
Thanks to Nokia being a sponsor, a lot of the interactive elements (they’ve got podcasts, blogs, game downloads, clips, whatever) are through the mobile phone. And the mobile phone rulz. The rest are on the net, and that’s ok, too.

P.S.: 1. I haven’t done the sensible thing and checked the ratings. I could have. 2. I do not work for, and am not connected to, ESPN Star Sports or Nokia in any manner whatsoever. I watch Ten Sports and Neo Sports and Zee Sports too. My daughter has a MotoRazr. So there.

Forget the Boys in Blue, choose another colour

Yum! Restaurants, the owners of the KFC chain, negotiated for the sponsorship of the West Indies team for the Champions Trophy currently being played in India.
And going by what I know of sponsorship rates for teams other than India, I wouldn’t believe that KFC would have paid very much in comparison with what they might have paid for a logo on the Indian Team shirts.
KFC India is a significant beneficiary of a decision taken far away, and they have milked it to the opportunity to the hilt with their Bucket Mein Cricket promotion.

And in their story lies an opportunity.
Forget nationalism and jingoism for just a moment, and explore the possibility of, say, Lifebuoy sponsoring the South African side for the ICC World Cup 2007. Or Nivea for Men sponsoring the English squad through their India budgets. Or Pantaloons sponsoring Australia. And so on, and so forth.
That’s the beauty about sport such as football and cricket; photographs and videos cannot ignore one team or the other (as happens in sports such as F1 racing, where the laggards are largely ignored). So when Manchester United plays against Reading, the TV cameras will have to focus on both sets of players, and both sets of jerseys.

And both sets of logos.

If Wayne Rooney scores 5 goals against Reading, replays will show the logos on the Reading goalkeeper's shirt each time the goals are replayed.
For the ICC World Cup, any match that India plays in will be watched keenly by many million -- not one billion as Pepsi believes -- cricket fans in the country. And they will all be forced to watch the logos on the shirts of the opposing teams as well.
The matches will be telecast many, many times in the years to come, and while the commercials will disappear, the logos on the shirts will NOT.

So here’s a freebie from pigsandwings. A list of the teams that India will play against even if we do not make the knock out stage: Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bermuda. Sponsoring Sri Lanka might not be too cheap, but Bangladesh and Bermuda? Go for it.
If you’re more adventurous, sponsor more than one team which does not command too high a price tag, even if the teams are not in India’s group. The Netherlands? Ireland? They too will play matches that WILL be telecast, their players, too, will be photographed. And their logos will be seen.
Just make sure that there’s no conflict with an existing ICC sponsor. To save you the effort in Googling for it, here’s the official ICC site.
May I remind you again that this strategy WILL NOT work with F1 racing?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bangalore Bangalored!

Now that Bangalore no longer exists and shall henceforth be called Bengaluru , (Update: I screwed up; it's Bengalooru) one started thinking of the many people who will go through life changing experiences or incredible stresses.
As has happened with Kolkata and Chennai, Indians will take their time adapting. For example, I still say Calcutta (when I talk in English, I say Kolkata when I speak Bengali). However, the following will go through a little bit of hell:
Google Maps employees: They will have to change all references to Bangalore to Bengalooru and Tumkur to whatever and Mysore to whatever (Bangalore is not the only city or town in Karnataka to go through this name change biz).
Reuters, PTI, AFP, and other news agencies: They will have to change their datelines, or their local journalists will go through hell from local bigots.
All corporates based in Bengaluru: Their Corporate Identity will have to be redone, again under threat from trouble makers.
Airlines and Railways: Their schedules will have to reflect the change, so will their ticketing software, baggage tags, etc.

That’s enough. Any moron could make a similar list, and more.
But the biggest problem? Journalists and pink slipped workers abroad will no longer be able to use the phrase Bangalored.