Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I’m gruntled after reading this one

In one of my favourite reads of all time, PG Wodehouse wrote, “I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.”
To me, then, it was a bizarre experience of a non-word bringing out the richness in meaning of a real word.
And it’s happened again. Jerry and Joe Long, writing on George W Bush’s post-presidential plans, talk about how he plans to “replenish the coffers.” Except, they can’t remember when he plenished them in the first place.
Great read. Go there!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Winsome loses some, wins lots




A model claims that she's been the victim of online fraud to the tune of Rs. 21,568.
That's not a lot of money to merit long articles in The Times of India and DNA (two newspapers I saw reports in).
The article is propped up by a photo of the model, Ankeeta Mukherjee. Obviously one from her portfolio. Does her a world of good.
And I spoke to a media planner friend, Poojary at TBWA, and asked him how much the space would have cost Ankeeta had she bought it.
If it appeared only in The Times of India's Mumbai edition, Ankeeta's gain is Rs. 2,97,840. If the story has been carried by all editions, she's gained Rs. 6,12,000.
And that's only The Times of India.
Not a bad loss, the twenty odd thousand. And Ankeeta's PR consultant has earned his beer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why India is out of the Big Mac Index: Where's the beef?

Still on economist.com. Looked at the Big Mac Index. Couldn't find India.

Why?
Clicked on link offering explanation.
Found this:

Burgernomics is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity, the notion that a dollar should buy the same amount in all countries. Thus in the long run, the exchange rate between two countries should move towards the rate that equalises the prices of an identical basket of goods and services in each country. Our "basket" is a McDonald's Big Mac, which is produced in about 120 countries. The Big Mac PPP is the exchange rate that would mean hamburgers cost the same in America as abroad. Comparing actual exchange rates with PPPs indicates whether a currency is under- or overvalued.

And since McDonald's in India doesn't serve beef, we aren't considered for the index. It wouldn't be an apple to apple comparison.
I have no beef now on India being excluded.

India cleans up corruption act

Was on Economist.com. Looking for sports articles under articles by subject. “Corruption” caught my eye. Clicked link.
Here’s what I found:


EUROPE: Albania's government
No power, no glory
A tale of corruption and power cuts
UNITED STATES: Political corruption
Investigating Alaska
State and federal officials are facing a pile of indictments and inquiries. The common thread: oil
EUROPE: Political scandals in Italy
Courting trouble
Now magistrates take on the centre-left
MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA: Sierra Leone
As you were
Peace, and now elections. But not much else to brag about
THE AMERICAS: Brazil
Fight in the favelas
Rio cracks down on crime. But the police are at least half the problem
BUSINESS: Business in China
Dirty dealing
Despite a clampdown, corruption remains a formidable problem
LEADERS: Nigeria
Mission impossible, nearly
After fraudulent elections a new and tainted president faces a mountain of problems

Look, ma, there's no mention of India!
And why am I surprised? Just a few days ago, a friend and I were trying to recollect the last time either of us had paid a bribe to anyone. Couldn't remember...

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

When is a story a story?

When a Telugu filmstar turns 52, as CNN IBN feels?
Is it ever a story when someone turns 52?
In case the channel runs out of stories, here’s some help.
Bill Gates turns 52 this year as well. As does Indra Nooyi.
As do a few million other people.
And if you’re really in a fix, try people who turn 53. Or 51.

Or, for chrissakes, just pick a number!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Good news is no news

That’s all one can infer from two unrelated incidents of the past month.

Piyush Pandey completed 25 years at O&M. None of the MSM products saw fit to write about it.
Yashpal Khanna completed 15 years at STAR TV. None of the MSM products saw fit to write about it.

Let a mid level manager resign from O&M or STAR TV and it will be breaking news in the media focused dotcoms and will form part of a larger story in the advertising and media pages of newspapers.

Attrition is a story, retention or loyalty is not.

Of people to have a drink with

I can’t remember the precise exchange, but it went something like this:

“I’d walk a mile for a PG Wodehouse”, was Rex Stout, on PG Wodehouse.
“I have walked a mile for a Nero Wolfe,” was PG Wodehouse, on Rex Stout.

And a friend of mine starts a blog (http://www.plaincurdrice.blogspot.com/, where one is promised stupid answers to snappy questions) and has my blog as a link under “Glad to buy a drink anytime for…”

I’m always delighted to have a drink with you, Shirty. As I have been delighted to do for the past 25 years!

Of Orkut, of Big Adda and of ego


When I first came across Big Adda, I said to myself, hey, I've heard about this earlier...

Then I remembered, hey, I've written about this earlier...


And here's a part of a post written in October 2006 likening Orkut to addas.


I am on no Orkut group. I once got onto a Ryze group, but did nothing with it other than post a rudimentary profile.Orkut means nothing to me.

But it means a lot to my daughter.She’s part of a number of groups on Orkut, including one that discusses Osho chappals. I swear that’s true.

And she Orkuts (no reason why it shouldn’t be a capitalized verb, if one can be Bangalored) for an hour or so each evening.What she’s doing on the Internet is what another generation did outside of it. She’s catching up with like-minded people – not all of them anonymous and unknown. As time goes on, the group shrinks into grouplings and grouplets, tighter and tighter as the Orkuters find more and more common ground.

Objectors to Orkut should take a look at the Orkuts that we have had for years in the real world. Like the adda in Kolkata. Like the kitty parties anywhere in India. Like the Lion’s Club, like the Rotary, like chess clubs and carom clubs. Like the Laughter Clubs, like jazz societies and poetry readings and drama groups.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Depends on what "only" means to you

I always knew that Nokia was big. I always knew that they sold lots of phones.
But it took their battery recall for me to understand just how big they are.

As Nokia says in their "recall" ad (part of which is reproduced above), there are "only" 46 million batteries affected.

I love seeing a word like "only" next to a number like "46 million".
Especially since 46 million = the populations of Mumbai + New Delhi + Kolkata + Chennai + Bangalore.

That's a lot of batteries.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Piyush Pandey wins Silver

No, not at Cannes. Not at the Abby's. Not at any award ceremony.
He completed 25 years with O&M on the 31st of July. And, surpisingly, no one tom-tommed it.

What a story. In an industry which is going through an acute talent crisis, and attrition management is the foremost responsibility of CEOs, 25 years in one agency. And yet, it seems to merit no attention in the media.

Cool.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Peter Mukerjea to get out of recruitment business?

Towards the end of last year, newspapers in Mumbai reported rumours on Peter Mukerjea’s imminent departure from STAR TV. In the absence of any official comment, at that time, from STAR or Mukerjea, rumours and gossip were published as fact and as news.
And one would think that those who were so keen to know what Mukerjea was up to eight months ago would still be as keen – but they’re obviously not.
Peter Mukerjea’s non-compete with STAR ended yesterday, and, today, he’s free as a bird to get out of the recruitment business of INX and into the media business at INX Media.

And not a single newspaper reported the milestone.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Miel’s Story: why JK Rowling is OK!

There’s a part of me that is livid with the whole marketing razzmatazz of the Harry Potter phenomenon. Young children desperate to own a copy even when they can’t read more than primers.

And then I spoke to my niece, Miel, all of eight. She’s now a big girl. When she’s bigger, she’ll read all the Harry Potter books. She still bought her own copy at Landmark, Chennai. And she sent me these few lines on her experience:

"I woke up at 5 o’clock and I rushed to Landmark, I got the Harry Potter book and I was so excited I got a tattoo. Then I was with my friends Nihara and all. Then I had a hat, a black hat with stars on it. I felt so happy when I got the book that I had to jump! And I got my pictures taken and I had to feed a SS Music girl with cake. I can’t read the book but I read some words in it. "

Harry Potter got Miel excited; got her so happy the she had to jump.

And I think to myself, what a wonderful book.

Even if I haven’t read a single Harry Potter.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Of cricket and eyesight

Cricket teams on the verge of winning have considerably better eyesight than cricket teams on the verge of losing.

Thank God for lightmeters.

And rain.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bloomsbury WILL announce 8th Harry Potter or new series by Rowling

Because the franchise is too big, and makes far too much money for Bloomsbury and Rowling to walk away from.
It’s naïve to believe that they would throw away the considerable investments made in both Harry Potter and JK Rowling. The 8th Potter book, if ever written, will sell like hotcakes – as will the first book in a new series “by JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series”.
If I were Ladbrokes, I’d open books on both, the 8th Potter and the first non-Potter Rowling.
And I hope they would acknowledge the fact that they got the idea here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Of Harry Potter and Scotch whiskey

We’ve all heard of how more Scotch is sold in India than is bottled in Scotland.
Now, if this report on ibnlive is to be believed, more than a few million copies of the latest Harry Potter have been sold in India.

“In India, pre-release orders have run into several millions and bookstalls will open by 0600 hours on Saturday so that everybody can have access to the book on the same day. Separate stalls have been set up for those who have booked their copies in advance. Over one million copies have already been sold online.”

So says ibnlive.
The problem is, according to friends in the publishing industry, less than 2,50,000 copies of the book have been imported into India.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Do we know it all? Of Fest-O-Comm and Santosh Desai

Last Sunday, I decided to forgo bridge and Bacchus and instead conduct a day-long session on event management at Pune’s Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communications (SIMC).
One thing led to another, and the students wanted to discuss their annual event, Fest-O-Comm – and the biggest problem confronting them.
The Symbiosis credibility and reputation ensures that the most successful professionals from the fields of media and communication are always willing – calendars permitting – to visit the campus to deliver lectures, be on panels, and so on.
The problem is, Symbiosis has an auditorium that seats 650, and SIMC has only 150 students (both seniors and juniors put together). How does one fill up the auditorium so that, say, a Piyush Pandey or a Rajdeep Sardesai is not offended by empty seats?
SIMC invites colleges from across the country to take part in the fest and, yet, it is an uphill task to get the audi filled to the brim.

And the students are a worried and despondent lot – and I hope I’m able to find a viable solution to what is surely a vexatious problem.

And I think about all the seminars and symposia and talks I’ve attended in the past few years. And I am reminded of the poor attendance at a Santosh Desai review of the year gone by when hardly anyone who was anyone was there; of seminar rooms at FICCI Frames attended by audiences in single digits; of a Subhas Ghosal Foundation lecture delivered by Javed Akhtar given a miss by industry stalwarts.

Does nobody want to learn anymore?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Harry Potter: the end is the beginning

On July 21st, a few million kids worldwide will buy a copy of the new Harry Potter, and a few million parents will buy a copy of the new Harry Potter for their few million kids.

And the sum total of these few million will become more than a few million, and these more than a few million owners will read the new Harry Potter back to front immediately after having a copy in their possession.

Because the first level of cool will be the ownership of the book.
The second level will be the knowledge of the ending.

And the second coolness will be achieved only by reading the book back to front.

And don’t be surprised if you quiz a few people who claim to have read the book in a few hours and none of them knows how the book began.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Buy the new Harry Potter! Get fame, free!

Today’s consumerised society presents any number of get-famous-quick ops.
And the next one is imminent.
Be the first one to stand in a queue (it won’t be a queue yet) for the new Harry Potter. My advice: start tomorrow morning (Monday).
I guarantee you that the major news channels, the major newspapers and the major dotcoms will interview you immediately. Perhaps the international wire services will as well, and you could feature in a story in England or in America as part of a larger Harry Potter story – to prove that the Potter phenomenon works even in countries like India.
Yesterday, a news channel covered a Lagaan promotion at Landmark bookshop LIVE for over an hour! That’s potty.
And now they’ll go Potter.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Schizophrenia at ibnlive

This is getting ridiculous.
Three senior staffers at CNN-IBN blog on Rajnikant and Sivaji on ibnlive. First off, it was Anuradha Sengupta, who called the film crap – and Rajni fans came down on her like a tonne of bricks.
Next it was the sports correspondent, Sanjeeb Mukherjee, with a poorly written piece that borders on the irresponsible and the inflammatory by making the whole Sivaji phenomenon an Aryan-Dravidian polarisation. The post drips with thinly veiled sarcasm and a childish attempt at transliterating the Tamilian’s English accent, and ibnlive visitors came down on him like another tonne of bricks.
Finally, it’s Jhoomur Bose, Features Editor, who writes a blog in praise of the superstar. To prove her sincerity, she takes a cheap dig at the Big B, and underlines that she believes Rajni is a national, and not just a south Indian, superstar.

And none of the three bloggers knows Tamil. One claims openly that she knows but a few words. Despite reading Jhoomur’s post twice, I can’t be sure that she has even seen the movie.
This is madness.

Is there a method to the madness, Rajdeep?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

QOTD: Can polls get stupider than this?

CNN-IBN is conducting a poll (here we go again, back to my pet peeve), that will identify India’s sports icon.
And I wanted to vote for Vijay Amritraj, but he wasn’t on the list of nominees. Neither was his brother Anand.
And I wanted to vote for Sania Mirza, but she wasn’t on the list of nominees.
No sign of Wilson Jones or Michael Fereira, though Geet Sethi is there.
Three cricketers are nominated, but not Bedi, Prasanna, Venkat or Chandra.
No Ramesh Krishnan, nor his father.

And get this one: Not a single hockey player. Zilch.

And the poll is completely ridiculous at the moment of writing (click here to see current status), with Sachin Tendulkar a runaway leader, with 84% of the votes cast. Currently Gavaskar brings up the rear, with a mind-boggling 0.29% (yes, that’s zero point two nine per cent) of ibnlive’s visitors opting for him.

Here’s my Question of the Day: Can polls get stupider than this?

Monday, July 09, 2007

A foretaste of times to come

A month or so from now, NDTV's Lifestyle channel will be available to all of us. And another few special interest channels from the same stable.
So will a number of niche channels from TV18, and from Peter Mukerjea's INX Media (oops, that should read Indrani Mukerjea).
So will a zillion lifestyle programmes on various channels.

So will a zillion niche and special interest magazines.
And in this wonderful age of consumerism, Indians will consume almost anything, which is good for the economy and good for special interest media products.

And one of my favourite media products, The Onion, gives you an idea of times to come.


The Onion

New Pompous Asshole Magazine To Compete With Cigar Aficionado

NEW YORK-Upscale consumers who enjoy cigars, wine, and "all the finer things in life" will have a new magazine to enjoy beginning next month when Pompous Asshole hits the stands.



Go on, get out of here and click on the Onion link!

Of sobriety and text messages and the real wonder of the world

You cannot make a man sober by act of Parliament, goes the old adage.
Governments, over the decades, have failed to accept this simple truth.

And you cannot make a wonder of the world by totting up text messages.
You cannot make Shilpa Shetty a great actor by totting up text messages.
You cannot make Sanjaya a great singer by totting up text messages.

Consumers, over the next few decades, will fail to learn these simple truths.

And media houses and telecom companies, over the next few decades, will make fortunes because, as Barnum might have said a few decades ago, a sucker is born every minute.

And that, my friends, is a wonder of the world.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

How hooked are you to blogging?

This is my 200th post, and by a bizarre coincidence, I stumbled upon a site which checks out how addicted one was to blogging.

and..
71%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?



Of course the survey is rubbish, but so is most of media and advertising.

But... how addicted are you?!!

Friday, July 06, 2007

The reader as judge, jury and executioner

CNBC TV18’s Anuradha Sengupta blogs about Rajanikanth’s Sivaji and calls it crap. The blog is inundated with comments (the last time I visited it, the count stood at 1250+), most of them from irate Rajni fans. Anuradha posts a reply, and the reply is bombarded by comments. More of them supportive and understanding her stand that the original post was a personal comment on the film, not a professional review, but a number still vitriolic.

I read and re-read her original post to try and understand what it is that Rajni fans were so upset about. It’s like people being upset if I said that I didn’t like the food at Bade Miya’s (I don’t; I think it’s overhyped crap).

If I did say, and I do, that the food at Bade Miya is crap, it does not
a) stop those who think Bade Miya rocks from going there
b) make Bade Miya go out of business

Just as those who think Sivaji is a great movie have a right to their opinions, so does Anuradha who thinks differently.

The worry, and the reason for the post, is the mob mentality that took over – some going so far as to threaten Anuradha with bodily harm. Increasingly, aided and abetted by live news television, the mob is becoming judge, jury and executioner.

And it’s bad enough that the media is becoming judge, jury and executioner too.

Yesterday I borrowed liberally from a post by Jamie Lee Curtis for mine; today, I link to a terrific piece in the Onion on trials by media. Does the spoof entertain me? No.

Does it frighten me? Yes. As do the reactions to Anuradha’s post.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Because there are audiences -- and they are entertained


It’s always fascinating when I read something written about another country and another culture and discover parallels to what is happening in India. Here’s a great instance.
Till last night, Jamie Lee Curtis, to me, was a successful actor – no more than that. After stumbling upon a blog post by her, she’s much more than an actor – she’s a deep thinker and a brilliant writer and commentator.
And there’s so much in her post that could be transported out of the America that she writes about to the India that I live in that you know that globalisation rules; trends in media, especially television, are the same everywhere.
Curtis is baffled by the success of, and audience fixation with, reality-elimination shows – as I am. The truth, however, is that there are millions of viewers everywhere who feed this monster and the format is here to stay.


Snippets from her post:
“There I was trying to celebrate with my friend when my eye kept being pulled to the set on the wall. There were some chefs on the screen, all standing with their hands clasped behind their backs, at attention, as a panel of people (who are they?) told them mostly bad things about, I assume, their food. I knew they weren't nice supportive comments as the camera was close on the chefs' faces and they looked scared and sad. They were then marched in and out as a group until one woman was asked to leave. She was crying, packing up her knives. It made me so sad and sick to watch. Why was I drawn to this? I didn't want her to lose...did I? Do I? I don't even know her. Why would I wish her harm?
I understand there are many of these shows now. All "elimination"-based and faux reality. Real like a firing squad. I understand there is a good side, a jubilant winner getting their shot at fame and fortunes, but the bulk of the watching, I gather, is some communal elimination where the audience gets a hand in the stone-throwing. It begs the question of why we feel the need to watch this. Are we all so unhappy in our own lives we need the fix of watching another human go into the gladiator ring and come out a bloody, eviscerated mess? What does Russell Crowe scream in Gladiator -- "Are you not entertained"?
I am not entertained….”



The full post, here. Go there, get entertained.


Image: www.freerepublic.com

Monday, July 02, 2007

What we must do to save the game: cricket

With thanks and apologies to Adrian Proszenko, who wrote this piece, and LeagueHq.com, where I copy-pasted this from.

Read the piece below. Replace all ARL with BCCI. Replace News Ltd with BCCI. All emphases in the article mine.

BULLDOGS legend Steve Mortimer has called for News Ltd and the ARL to hand over control of rugby league to an independent commission to ensure the future of the code.

Mortimer described the NRL as a "dysfunctional" ruling body hamstrung by the self-interest and political agendas of its co-partners that wasn't serving the best interests of the game.
The former NSW and Australian halfback has outlined his rescue plan for rugby league to The Sun-Herald, which revolves around the establishment of a nine-person board to head up the independent commission. He said the game was in disarray and the new body's top priority would be to solve the current problems, including:
- Putting an end to the spate of mid-season player movements
- Slowing the exodus of players to Super League
- Preventing the AFL from making further inroads at grassroots level
- Saving the game from dying in country areas
- Making rugby league a truly national game.

Mortimer has been disillusioned with the NRL's lack of leadership and the general direction of the game for many years. But the final straw was the disruption and fan outrage over mid-season player movements and signing announcements, which reached its lowest point during Craig Wing's very public decision to join South Sydney from next year.

"I fear for our code," Mortimer said. "The game will never die, but it will never thrive until we put the game's agenda before our own.
"We're coming up to 100 years of celebration of rugby league [in 2008] and I believe the greatest gift the game can give itself in its centenary is the establishment of an independent commission.
"The ARL must relieve itself of duty, while News Ltd is either bought out of the game or asked to step away.
"The only agenda for the commission would be to grow the game, while right now everyone has their own agenda. I don't believe a publishing company should run the game, while the ARL hasn't moved with the times and have a lot of people in it for themselves.
"I love the game and that's why I'm speaking out now."

Mortimer said News Ltd had brought much-needed commercial expertise and business acumen to the game following the Super League war. However, he said it was inappropriate for a media company to run the game and said that long-term broadcast rights could be offered as an incentive to relinquish control.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Steve Jobs eases pressure on advertising sales teams

As anyone who has more than two release orders in his (or her) career selling time and/or space will tell you, success depends only so much on TRPs and NRS figures -- relationships between the buyer and the seller play a significant role.
And these relationships are nurtured at every opportunity, through that wonderful Indian tradition of gifting.

And this is the end of June, and Diwali looms large, and marketing geniuses at media houses are struggling with solutions to the question: what do we give decision makers this Diwali?


And Steve Jobs answers: an iPhone, you twits.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wet-nesdays at Seijo and the Soul Dish

I wasn’t there for the first Advertising and Media night on Wednesday, but I know some who were. Everything on the house for the inaugural night, but from next week on you get zip, except the guarantee that the place will be teeming with People Like Us.
And that’s not a bad crowd, advertising and media types.
For those who don’t know where it is: Waterfield Road, Bandra. See you there one of these Wednesdays.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Indian ad agencies: fear of the web

We’ve given rise to the phrase “Bangalored”, thanks to the skills and abilities of India’s IT professionals. The IT sector probably does business with over 80% of the companies on the Fortune 500 list. A number of IT companies are listed on Nasdaq. Silicon Valley has any number of dollar millionaires with their roots (and parents and grandparents) in India.

And at Cannes, only one Indian entry makes it to the Cyber Lions shortlist.

With an explosion in the number of Internet users, why is it that Indian advertising agencies are so incredibly unenthusiastic when it comes to designing communication targeting the webizens?
Fear? Fear caused by the losses of those advertising agencies that dabbled in Web 1.0? If the fear is not overcome, India will continue to be a laggard when it comes to Cyber Lions.

And there’s a parallel somewhere in history. When every agency worth talking about launched an events division. And lost money. And the failure froze their brains. Instead of figuring out what went wrong and correcting mistakes, they threw the baby out with the bathwater – and got out of the events area. Today, Omnicom and WPP are talking to all major event management companies in attempts to buy them out – at valuations that will make many an event management entrepreneur take up golf.

Watch this space two years from now. When every small Internet design shop gets an offer from the biggest advertising agencies in the world. And many a web designer will consider golf, too.

Monday, June 18, 2007

When the scissors and glue go wrong

It’s happened, at some time or the other, to all of us: a disaster caused by cut-and-paste.

This one, on ibnlive.com, is a howler beyond the normal.
One of the 1993 blasts accused dies in hospital, and ibnlive duly reports on the incident. I reproduce two paragraphs from the story:

"Gangster Ejaz Pathan, prime accused in 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case Ejaz Pathan died at J J hospital in Mumbai on Friday.
One-time associate of fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim, Pathan died of a clot in his brain."

That’s obviously new copy, and forget the erroneous and redundant insertion of Ejaz Pathan before the word “died”. That’s a howler, too, but not too bad.

At the bottom of the SAME story, a cut-and-paste job:

"Pathan, extradited from Dubai four years ago, suffered from a blood clot in his brain and will undergo surgery on June 26. The government has sanctioned Rs 2.5 lakh for the operation, the court was informed on Thursday."

So, according to the cut-and-paste devil, the unfortunate dead man will undergo surgery ten days from now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I felt the earth move on a jet plane

Last night, I was on 9W 354 from New Delhi to Mumbai.

The mandatory announcements are made, and we taxi towards the runway, ready for take off.


The cabin lights are switched off, and piped music pipes up.


It's Carole King, and I love the song.


"I feel the earth move under my feet; I feel the sky tumblin' down; I feel my heart start to tremblin'", she sings.


Now you know why certain operations, including the selection of music for in-flight listening, should never be outsourced.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Knowledge Management at Percept

Harindra Singh, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Percept Holdings, has been detained by the authorities in Dubai on charges of possession of Ecstasy. The following extract from a Gulf News report on developments:

There is however no confirmation of a drug or the amount found in the case of Singh by the police or a spokesperson from Percept.
In a statement issued to Gulf News by a Percept spokesperson in Dubai, no further details can be revealed on Singh's arrest as the matter is sub judice. The spokesperson however said a lawyer has been appointed to deal with the case.

He said: "It is an unfortunate incident, but we at Percept have full confidence in the investigations that are being carried out by the authorities in Dubai. We have known Singh for a long time both professionally as well as personally."

So the Percept spokesperson knows Singh for a long time both professionally and personally? So he (or she) should. Singh is his (or her) boss, isn’t he?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Why I’m not saving the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal’s pride of place as one of the wonders of the world is under threat because of people like me. I haven’t voted for it to be included in the new, improved, list of wonders. Millions of Indians need to vote to keep the Taj hanging in there, and now people are getting upset with my irresponsibility.

On CNN IBN, India’s Joint Secretary , Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Leena Nandan exhorts me to vote: "There is time, so vote for the Taj and your vote is going to be the deciding factor. So each of us needs to think that way and that will really bring a momentum to the efforts of so many people."
Continues the CNN IBN report: “Among the few celebrities who have pitched in is AR Rahman, who has composed a song for the India Unites campaign to vote for the Taj Mahal, but that's not enough.”
Says lawyer and conservationist MC Mehta, "The apathy on the part of the Government of India and the state government is visible when you see that the Agra city itself is stinking today."

All I have to do is to SMS “TAJ” to a short code number. But I won’t.

Because the fine print in the ads in something like 4pt size tells me that premium rates apply.
And we have India’s Joint Secretary urging you to send a premium priced message, you have AR Rahman doing so, and you have a conservationist doing so. All making you feel guilty as sin that you haven’t done your little bit.
When you mugs out there have voted to save the Taj, do ponder on this for a moment: who’s raking in the moolah?
The larger worry is the Government supporting what, surely, is private enterprise.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Black is beautiful – and saves energy

Simple idea. Brilliant timing. The next time you need to undertake some “research”, avoid going to Google. Go, instead, to Google’s environment conscious sibling, Blackle.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Now, football kicks cricket for a six in India

I’m not the only one keeping tabs on the waning popularity of cricket and the rising demand for football.
NDTV has sought visitors' opinions on the issue through their website.
As of this moment, more than 60% of 3700 visitors felt football was gaining ground. To see updated numbers, click here.

Google stymied by India

How do I search for the Gurjar demonstrations in Rajasthan when various media products spell the tribe Gurjar, Gurjjar and Gujjar?
I need three searches to get all the references.
Similarly, we have Kolkata and Calcutta, Bangalore , Bengaluru and Bengalooru. And so on.
What I would love is for Google to prompt me when I search for, say, Gurjar: “Would you like a simultaneous search for Gurjjar and Gujjar as well?”
The problem is that this can be done only by a human intervention, and not by some algorithm.
Any ideas, anyone?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Empty seats in sport = cricket

I've written about this before.
The problem with cricket, as evidenced by the collapse of the World Cup after India got knocked out early, is that there are not enough viewers outside of India.
Viewers who receive brand messages and buy products and services.
And there are not enough fans. Fanatics with undying loyalty to the team -- which will cause them to buy products that the team's sponsors manufacture.
And if cricket continues in its current form, brand money will look at other sports.
The following, an extract from an article in The Sun on last night's friendly between England and Brazil, is most telling:
"Terry had called on the fans to help make the new Wembley a fortress.
But the prawn sandwich brigade will have to get their act together for the important qualifiers later in the year.
When the second half began, there were swathes of empty seats behind the dugouts, as the corporate crew tucked into their champers and finger food. This will not do. What do they think this is? Test match cricket?"

How the mighty have fallen. This is how one talks about cricket in England.

And on another note, what a superb headline in The Sun, drawing attention to David Beckham's return to International football and his role in the 1-1 draw:

"It's Beck to the future", screams the banner.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bangladesh too breaks record: 1,2,3 and 4 score centuries

Not to be outdone by India's batsmen becoming the first 1-2-3-4 to score centuries in Test cricket, Bangladesh's 1-2-3-4 bowlers have now conceded over 100 runs each. Dravid was kind enough to wait till Mohd. Sharif conceded 100 runs before he declared.

This test match is a great advertisement for cricket.

Not.

But I have nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon.

India breaks record: 1,2,3 and 4 score centuries

Maybe it’s only against Bangladesh, but for the first time in test cricket history have batsmen 1,2,3 and 4 (Karthik, Jaffer, Dravid and Tendulkar) scored centuries.

This is no lie or damned lie, it is a statistic.
And please remember, after their performance in the World Cup, Bangladesh are no longer minnows.
Numbers 1, 2 and 3 have done it 7 times in test cricket… including the Indian trio of Gavaskar, Srikkanth and Amarnath.

Another statistic? The record has been reported here before it has been reported anywhere else in the whole www.

As you can see, I'm not exactly busy this Saturday morning.

TV Polls stink, that's my opinion

The Onion

Study: 38 Percent Of People Not Actually Entitled To Their Opinion

CHICAGO—In a surprising refutation of the conventional wisdom on opinion entitlement, a study conducted by the University of Chicago's...

And when one thinks of all the polls done by all the news channels, newspapers, magazines and websites to arrive at amazing "opinions", I start believing that decision makers in media would greatly benefit from reading this article from the Onion.

That's my opinion. And after reading the Onion piece, I have no clue whether I am actually entitled to one.

Go on, click the link.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cricket loses commentator to coke

Sad. With Maninder Singh busted for possession of cocaine, TV has lost a good commentator and a student of the game.
Because media has to be cruel, and will definitely put Maninder the media expert into cold storage.

Asia goes Liverpool crazy tonight

If you thought it unfair that we in India have to wait till past midnight for the Champions League final kickoff, spare a thought for Liverpool fans in Singapore, Djakarta, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Soccer is exploding as a spectator sport in India, and I wait in anticipation of the ratings on Ten Sports for tonight's game. It will do better in SEC AB males than a number of the Cricket World Cup Super Eight matches, is my guess.

And for those who are interested, here are some interesting odds, courtesy Ladbrokes.

To win the game:
Milan 4/6
Liverpool 5/4


First goal scorer:
Kaka 5/1
Dirk Kuyt 8/1
Filippo Inzaghi 8/1
Alberto Gilardino 8/1
Steven Gerrard 8/1
Craig Bellamy 9/1
Peter Crouch 9/1
Ricardo Oliveira 9/1
Clarence Seedorf 14/1
Robbie Fowler 12/1
Harry Kewell 16/1
Yoan Gourcuff 25/1
Andrea Pirlo 16/1
Massimo Ambrosini 25/1
Mark Gonzalez 25/1
John Arne Riise 20/1
Xabi Alonso 25/1

How will the 1st goal be scored?

Right foot 4/7
Left foot 4/1
Header 11/2
No goal 11/2

And here are my predictions, and bugger the odds. Liverpool will win. Kuyt will score the first goal with his right foot.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What's up at Haymarket?


This morning, I attempted to visit the web site for Haymarket Publishing -- and the site stubbornly refused to go beyond the frame that is reproduced above -- and the gif is called Haymarket_launch.


Intriguing headline. And, if you look at the copyright carefully, Haymarket is 50 years old this year. Or is it today?


A visit to the site, http://www.haymarketgroup.co.uk/, a little later in the day might be worth one's while.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Web 18's gang of girls...


... www.indiwo.com, is now larger than Lever's www.sunsilkgangofgirls.com.

Web 18's strategy of focusing on communities (investors, cricket fans, commodity brokers, jobseekers and women, so far) through targeted verticals is obviously working well, if alexa ratings are anything to go by.

In the graph above, the blue worm is indiwo, and the brown one gangofgirls.
One day I'll figure out how to copy the alexa graphs with the legends.

Now, Rexona from Lever


What's common to new commercials of HLL's brands in India?

A one-second slate at the end displaying the HLL logo.

Commercials produced earlier continue to run without this slate, but one would presume that, over period of time, all commercials will follow suit.

Interesting, the highlighting of the mother brand in the TVCs. Will we see a larger logo presence in the packaging, and the leveraging of Lever?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Flying Go Air not so smart; their PR not so smart

Last night, my colleague and I were on a flight from Delhi to Mumbai on Go Air. At a point went most passengers were on the bus ferrying them to the aircraft, the heavens opened to thunder, lightning, fire and rain.
The buses stayed where they were, and ten minutes later, Go made a terse announcement that the flight on which I was booked was cancelled. No mention of why, no mention of what passengers should do next.
The harried Go Air ground staff had no clue as to how to handle this mess, and irate passengers besieged the counters, in an attempt to bully the staff into somehow getting them to their destination through alternate airlines.
A half hour later, Go announced that the flight was un-cancelled, and that we would all go to Mumbai, and we did.
At the cost of another Go flight, which was cancelled. I have no clue what hell broke loose at the Go counter—but I have no doubt that hell would have broken loose.
But this is not a blog about my crib vis-à-vis Go.
This is about the absolute absence of the readiness of the airline to deal with the situation from CRM and PR perspectives.
It took me half an hour to figure out why the flight had been originally cancelled after boarding was announced, by probing and prodding.
It was because the freak storm had caused the step ladder to keel over, damaging the door to the aircraft.
Did anyone in the airline tell us that? No. Would most passengers have thought this was a perfectly justifiable reason for a flight to get cancelled or delayed? Yes.
What is it that prevented the airline from telling passengers the truth as soon as the reason for the delay was known? Especially since the truth would have saved the staff no end of passenger ire?
With the low cost airlines, delays and cancellations are fairly routine.
So why in heaven don’t they have a PR strategy in place to deal with predictable problems?
Not so smart.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Astute comment in ToI on Mallya's astuteness

This priceless gem from The Times of India report on Vijay Mallya's acquisition of Whyte & Mackay:

"Mallya, an astute observer of consumer behaviour, had figured out that the only missing link in his portfolio is Scotch."

Wow. That is a really astute observation, Times of India.

Man U to win FA; Liverpool to be Champions

There -- I've got it out of the way.
Here are my predictions for the two big football matches on the horizon.
I tip Manchester United to beat Chelsea in the final of the FA Cup this Saturday -- for only one reason. I don't like Chelsea.
And I tip Liverpool to beat AC Milan in the Champions League on the 23rd of May -- for only one reason. I am an unabashed Liverpool fan.
And If I'm wrong, remember that I am short on resources. All the newspapers and news TV channels polled tens of thousands of voters in the recently conducted Uttar Pradesh poll and predicted a hung assembly. And they were all wrong.
So there.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What is it that pollsters do, please?

Yogendra Yadav, quoted in ibnlive.com, explaining why the pollsters went horribly wrong in the UP elections.

"There are three reasons why the polls were so off the mark. First, there was a sampling error, especially in the exit polls. In an exit poll, you don’t choose the person you wish to interview. The voter chooses to walk to or walk away from the investigator stationed outside the polling station. Unless systematic precautions are taken, chances are that any exit poll will over-represent the well-off and upper caste and under-represent the poor and lower caste. This has resulted in systematic under-estimation of the BSP and over-estimation of the BJP over the last decade.

Secondly, there was a response bias. Those who voted for the BSP were less likely to say so to an outsider. Non-dalits who voted for the BSP may have been unwilling to admit it to themselves. This very unusual situation led to an over-reporting for the SP and BJP.


Finally, the vote-seats equation in UP turned out to be very skewed this time. For every one per cent of its votes, the BSP won 6.8 seats, compared to 3.8 for the SP and 3.0 for the BJP. This meant that the BSP won a large number of seats with very small margins. Even if you could foresee the exact vote share of the BSP, it was difficult to forecast the number of its seats."

First, sampling error. Second, response bias. Third, vote-seat equation skew.

And silly me. I thought these were the parameters pollsters took care of.

At least CNN IBN has admitted that they goofed. No one else has, till now.

Understanding toy market is no child's play

Bryan Stockton, Exec VP International, Mattel, quoted in this morning's Brand Equity:

"Interestingly enough, as parents are waiting to have children until they are a little older, there is more disposable income to spend on their children and we are seeing the benefit across the industry. In addition, grandparents are playing an increased role in toys as they are actually younger than the generations before them, and have more disposable income to spend on toys."

Therefore, older parents + younger grandparents is the magic formula.

That's great news for today.

However, this also means that the future is not too bright for toys, as the propensity to delay having children that the current generation seems to have will create older next gen grandparents.

One day, I will understand consumers and marketing. And research.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

WWWhere are you, Times Now?

The three home-grown English news channels, NDTV, CNN IBN and Times Now, according to various interpretations of the very same third party TAM data, are virtually neck and neck in the TRP stakes.
Why is it, then, that timesnow.tv is such a laggard when it comes to the Internet offering?

In the graph above, (measured by Alexa) the brown worm is ndtv.com, the green one ibnlive.com and the blue one timesnow.tv.

Considering the fact that The Times of India group owns indiatimes.com, and that Reuters has considerable web experience to call upon, it shouldn't be too difficult to improve the Internet product significantly, should it?

Monday, May 14, 2007

India Today: keeping up with the Joneses


In today's media environment the competition is not limited to other titles in your defined and narrow space; you have to consider titles in other media as well.

Therefore, India Today, the weekly, competes not just with Outlook, but has to consider newspapers, the Internet, and news television as well.

So it is interesting that while India Today normally hits the stands on Friday, the weekly delayed this week's edition to Saturday -- which enabled them to cover the Mayawati victory on the same day as the newspapers and Internet portals did.

Outlook, India Today's "nearest" competitor, will cover Mayawati on the issue hitting the stands on the coming Friday -- a full SIX days behind.

Cool, India Today.

New, improved agencyfaqs

If you haven’t been to www.agencyfaqs.com today, click on the link now!
It’s new and improved, with far greater readability. It’s refreshingly quick despite all the ads and has loads of interactivity including user ratings and comments.

Mumbai Mirror: An object lesson for city-centric news channels


Take a dekko at the front page of Saturday's Mumbai Mirror reproduced above.
I'd take a bet that this is the only English newspaper in India that has no mention of Mayawati and the UP elections on the front page.

That's why Mumbai Mirror has succeeded. It has been positioned as a city paper, and, whatever the situation, stays true to the positioning.

That's the challenge for the slew of city-centric news television channels that are due to launch. For them to have the conviction and steadfastness to prioritise for a city audience as opposed to a national audience.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

News Channels play Clue-Duh

It wasn’t Colonel Mustard with the lead piping in the conservatory that did in the news channels, it was Mayawati with the Dalit-Brahmin vote bank in Uttar Pradesh.
All the Hindi and English news channels (yes, all) got the results of the just completed UP elections horribly wrong, despite most of them claiming error margins of just a few percentage points during their final exit poll programming before the official numbers started coming in.
They all predicted a dead heat, when Mayawati romped home by a few lengths, making the BJP and the SP look like also rans when the channels tipped them to be joint favourites.
What went wrong with the fortune gazing? To go back to Cluedo, perhaps they were asking the wrong questions of the wrong people in the wrong rooms.
If the news channels were tipsters, the viewers were the punters – and now the viewers look like mugs.
And that’s something the channels need to worry about. Because it’ll be a snowy day in Mumbai before I take the shirt off my back to back a winner predicted by ANY of the Hindi and English news channel.

AB’s got to worry

Now the debate on the use of film stars as brand ambassadors can start afresh.
Amitabh Bachchan, arguably the most preferred brand ambassador that this country has produced, talks up Mulayam Singh’s cause during the election campaign to the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
And Mulayam Singh comes a cropper.
Consumers do see through communication and storyboards – and they have rejected AB’s plugs for the Samajwadi Party.
Arguably, the most significant failure of AB the brand ambassador. Worth chewing on.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Of KBC, cricket, STAR TV and Newscorp

For those who haven’t had the time to read the NewsCorp Earnings for Q3, here are two comments (italicised) pertinent to India:

“STAR’s third quarter operating income decreased from the same period a year ago as 11% revenue growth, primarily from higher advertising revenues, was more than offset by higher programming costs. The increased advertising revenue reflects the broadcast on STAR PLUS of Kaun Banega Crorepati 3, India’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

With KBC 3, the YoY the revenue growth is only 11%? No wonder the income decreases, as, surely, the cost of KBC 3 would have been significantly higher than the average programming costs on STAR Plus. The numbers beg the question – are the big ticket efforts like KBC worth the risk given the explosion of channels and the choices available to viewers?

“Operating results from the Other segment during the third quarter declined by $55 million primarily due to losses associated with the 2007 Cricket World Cup. These losses, which related to the final event under the Company’s programming contract with the International Cricket Council, were due to substantial advertising weakness as viewership declined with the early elimination of popular teams India and Pakistan.”


The poor performance of India (one wonders how much impact the elimination of Pakistan had on TV revenues – I doubt it could be as significant as the Newscorp comment) has affected not only Indian broadcasters but Newscorp as well – and perhaps it’s time to ponder more on the safety of putting money on cricket. Sports such as football, tennis, golf, F1, basketball and so on, are not impacted as significantly if a favourite is knocked out early in a tournament. The audiences (and, subsequently, the advertisers) are not overloaded in a single demographic as is the case with cricket. It will not be enough for the sport if the Indian team starts doing well again – cricket needs audiences in the rest of the cricket playing nations – especially audiences that will excite major advertisers and sponsors from Australia and England.





Wednesday, May 09, 2007

OOH goes ouch in Mumbai


Here we go again. Mumbai’s corporators are proposing a censor board to ensure that “obscene” billboards are not put up in the city.
Also on the anvil is a ban on cigarette and tobacco brands using the medium.


The implications of the censor board concept? Every single creative will have to be cleared by the board before it makes its way to the hoarding sites. That will mean delays and/or corruption, and will prevent nimble tactical reactions like the one above.
There is no indication as to the composition of the proposed censor board – will it include professionals from the advertising and marketing fraternities?

Guess who’s making a killing from Spidey?

Lachlan Murdoch.

Lachlan Murdoch invests in a 30% stake in Shailendra Singh’s Percept Picture Company, which goes on to co-distribute Spiderman 3 in India. And Spiderman 3 goes on to break box office records, outdoing blockbusters such as Krish and Dhoom.
While NewsCorp has been more than a trifle slow off the blocks in the film production area (in India), PPC is surely not. Will the son outdo the father in the Bollywood stakes?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Will ex-Response get response?

Interesting party that one heard of.
Come the 11th of May, a gathering of former professionals from The Times of India's ad sales arm, Response, will meet at Mumbai's Seijo and the Soul Dish.

What's on the agenda, other than a decent piss up? I have no clue.
Will Pradeep Guha attend? Will G Krishnan? Will Kanta Advani? I have no clue.

But if you make a list of ex-Response staffers across the country, it would make a who's who of the ad sales professionals in the country.

And that makes the possibilities of the party, and of the agenda (if any) interesting.

Airbus PR takes off, then crashlands


Airbus manufactures the largest ever commercial aircraft.

They take journos on a junket, and New Delhi is one of the first stops of this juggernaut in Asia.

Every single news TV channel worth a cable feed covers the gig extensively, taking viewers on a guided tour of the tech marvel. Viewers are shown the plush interiors, the bar with the mood controls, the extra passenger comfort, the "greenness" of the aircraft.

Great PR, as only an Airbus or a Boeing could pull off.

Last night, an aircraft manufactured by Airbus' largest competitor, Boeing, is feared to have crashed somewhere in the Cameroons.

This morning, The Hindustan Times (Mumbai edition) sees both the launch of the new Airbus and the crash of the Boeing as being of more or less equal interest to their readers, and the evenhandedness shows in the layout of the front page reproduced here.


Will Airbus be happy? Will Boeing?
Could someone at HT have asked himself these questions?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Of the National Institute of Design and Rs 50000 crore and a worry

Last evening I learnt that my daughter had gained admission to the National Institute of Design, and I all but did a jig. Out of an estimated 8000 applicants, 75 (yes, 75, less than 1%) make the grade, and my daughter was one of them.
Awesome.
But that’s only the happily-ever-after part of the fairy tale.
My daughter attempted the exam last year, and didn’t make the cut. She joined a college in Mumbai, and tried the NID entrance again this year. A month ago, we learnt that she had passed the first hurdle – 247 of the original applicants were invited to a studio test and interview to Ahmedabad – and this number would get whittled down to 75.
75 seats in a country as large as India.
75 seats in design, of which just 10-15 are designated for communication design, when the Goafest talks of the advertising business growing from Rs 15,000 crore to Rs 50,000 crore.
75 seats in design when we have new products being launched every day, when retail is booming, the consumer class is exploding and purchasing power is at its highest.
If my daughter hadn’t got in this year, she would probably have gone on with life, and completed her Bachelors in Mass Media.
And of those who didn’t make it this year, the majority will find academic options outside of design. Some will become lawyers, some journalists, some researchers and so on.
Not because they no longer wish to pursue design, but because there are hardly any institutions in the country that teach design.
And this state of affairs is the same outside of design – engineering, hospitality, management, law, medicine, you name it.
And one worries, because educational institutes cannot be built in a day. If the shortage is so acute today, what will the children of tomorrow do?
And without an educated youth, where will India’s growth story go from here?
Cat Stevens worried about growth and children when he sang, “I know we’ve come a long way, we’re changing day to day, but, tell me, where do the children play?”

I’d worry more about where they would study.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

STAR TV, Levers kiss and make up

Just yesterday I posted on the STAR-Levers impasse -- and a few hours later, I learnt that all pending issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of both protagonists. Levers spots will appear on channels on the STAR network as early as they can be scheduled by media planners and accomodated by the inventory position.
Good week for STAR. They get a COO, Uday Shankar, and they resolve what could have been a vexatious problem.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

TATA brands back on BCCL

When I read The Economic Times this morning, I kept staring at the TCS full page ad, as if something was wrong with it. It’s an ad I’ve seen any number of times in the past few weeks, and, considering it’s a full page insertion, that’s no surprise.
I moved on.. and then, froze.

A TCS ad in a BCCL newspaper? A TATA ad in the ET?

The release signals an end to the stand-off between the TATAs and The Times of India group – a stand-off that’s a few years old, a period during which not a single TATA owned company advertised in any publication from the BCCL stable.

A stand-off that saw the Indigo launched without the Times of India, a stand-off that saw the Trent-owned Landmark bookstore launch in Mumbai and Pune without the Times of India. A stand-off that forced media planners working on TATA accounts to look at means to get to consumers in permutations and combinations without the Times of India.

And DNA and Hindustan Times were the biggest beneficiaries, the TATA “ban” on ToI proving to be manna from heaven when the newspapers launched in Mumbai.
Now that the ice seems to have melted, DNA and HT will also be the biggest losers, as one can now expect other TATA brands to use the Times again.

And on another medium, Levers and STAR TV face off, with no Levers product on air on the entire network. Let’s see how long this one plays out, and how much Zee and Sony gain from the negotiation impasse.

Monday, April 23, 2007

INX to launch India’s first 24X7 English news channel

At every seminar or forum on media or television, one question is sure to pop up during the proceedings: Is there room for the zillions of channels that will launch in the next year?
On many of the genres, I have my doubts – and I am certain top lines and bottom lines will be affected for current as well as future players.
When it comes to new English news channels, I have no such fears.
Because the genre does not exist.

When STAR launched their 24X7 news channel with NDTV, I saw it as a breath of fresh air. I loved the BBC (I still do) but it could never deliver all that I wanted in the Indian context (it still doesn’t).
And when the channel became NDTV 24X7 when Dr Roy terminated the relationship with STAR, I was still an avid, frequent and loyal consumer.
When Rajdeep Sardesai left NDTV to launch CNN IBN, and almost simultaneously Times Now hit the airwaves, I suffered an embarrassment of riches – three English news channels to choose from.
Now, a little over a year since we have had local “English” news channels, I discover I have none at all. I am now a pauper, rather than one suffering from the embarrassment of riches that I described earlier.
Because none of the existing players – none—cares a whit for the quality of English when it comes to the majority of their reporters and stringers.
So police becomes puliss, privilege becomes previlage, and so on.
Reporters routinely struggle to string together a coherent sentence in English, and one can almost see the studio anchors wondering what on earth is happening.
A significant proportion of the conversations and interviews is in Hindi or in other Indian languages – and that’s fine, in a country like India. But, during such interviews, could the quality of subtitling be of a quality that passes muster?
No, feel the channels.
So we have reporters who struggle to speak in English, and subtiltles in a language that can only be described as undecipherable.
That’s why INX will have no struggle when they seek a niche in the English news space. Why a niche? When there’s no one else on the firmament, they can have the whole pie to themselves.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Brand Equity now Bekaar


This comment, calling the Nike commercial Bekaar in this morning's Brand Equity


"Brand: Nike

Maybe it’s the length of the commercial that got to our panel. Sitting through a two-minute gully cricket match to find out that it only sells a shoe is too much for them to bear."

Maybe it’s the quality of the comment that got to me. Sifting through a four page newspaper on advertising, marketing and media that so many of us respect calling the commercial a “two minute gully cricket match” and Nike “ a shoe” is too much for me to bear.

Perhaps Brand Equity has become only a supplement.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why Peter Mukerjea will make shitloads of money

Now that Indrani Mukerjea has announced that INX is getting into the television channel business, and NDTV has announced that Sameer Nair will, indeed, join them to head NDTV Imagine, salaries of achievers in the TV business will skyrocket.
Because it’s not just these two entities that will launch channels by the dozen in the coming couple of years – so will TV18 and TV Today.

And where are the people to run all these channels, create all the programming, sell all the airtime?

That’s where Peter Mukerjea comes in. Peter the headhunter, Peter the recruitment expert. Not Peter alone, all those search firms focusing on the media business will make a pretty penny in the next two years, placing candidates in these eleventy-two forthcoming channels.

That’s why Peter chose not to compete and decided to resist the temptation of launching TV channels.

Now you know. And you read it here first.

Santosh Desai brilliant, but who cares?

Last evening, Santosh Desai presented the Advertising Review for the year 2006 under the auspices of the Bombay Advertising Club.
When Desai accepts an invitation to speak, be on a panel, write or review, he does so with a commitment that is uncommon. He has viewed — literally — 1500 commercials that were aired in 2006, during the course of which he looked for trends that he thought noteworthy enough to share with the advertising community. I won’t “report” those brilliant, and sometimes provocative and debatable observations – I’m sure the media and advertising supplements, magazines and websites will, as will CNBC’s Storyboard.

What surprised me was the quality of the audience. No one from O&M, no one from JWT, no one from Grey, and so on. Hardly any clients. And hardly anyone from newspapers or television channels.
Have we become incapable of learning from a peer? Or was the event not glamorous enough?

To the Bombay Advertising Club, reeling as they are in the tug-of-war between them and the AAAI, there’s an opportunity staring them in the face. The review was brilliant, even if the attendance was not. The entire proceedings have been videotaped – digitize it and sell it. With brand building, not profit, as the objective.
An objective, as Desai pointed out, that seems to have been somewhat lost in last year’s advertising.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Gavaskar: no more my idol


Sunil Gavaskar’s gone nuts. To quote an example of an Australian cricketer (who’s memory I won't tarnish by naming) who died in a pub brawl and use that to show how badly behaved Australian cricketers are is the closest to a brain dead statement I have come across from any human being that one thought was intelligent.
And an individual that I greatly respected.


He can do the right thing, and apologise. Or do the wrong thing, and not apologise.

And cease to be an idol to people like me.

Of the ICC World Cup, and of "minnows"

Now that the ICC World Cup Cricket has got off to a start, and a few matches have been played, a few questions:

Isn’t the ICC worried that the word “minnows” has been used so often on TV, print and the web?
Isn’t the ICC worried that the stadium was half empty even for the West Indies match?
Isn’t the ICC worried that the viewership even in India (according to aMap) thus far has been so negligible as to not even remotely affect ratings on other channels?

Has the ICC’s evangelism caused the popularity of the World Cup to regress rather than gain?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The ICC World Cup, Commercials, the Internet and call to action

Interesting, the number of commercials which highlighted a web address or had a call to action. The ones listed are those which aired in the first half of the game, when the West Indies batted. I guess it’s enough to call it a trend.
Commercials include: Nokia (http://www.nokia.co.in/), Candyman (http://www.mycandymanclub.com/), The Mobile Store (http://www.themobilestore.in/), Maruti Zen (http://www.marutizen.com/), Hyundai (http://www.hyundai.co.in/), Motorola (http://www.hellomoto.com/), Mountain Dew (http://www.dewdares.com/) and TVS Apache (http://www.nowornever.in/) .

http://www.monster.com/, http://www.licindia.com/, http://www.bharatmatrimony.com/, http://www.99acres.com/ and http://www.clickjobs.com/ ran no spots but bought supers and interstitials.
The blue billion contest, where there was a call to action to http://www.bluebillion.com/ or an SMS to 2525 just disappeared off the screen.

Other decent Call-to-action efforts included Kotak’s 8558 insurance super and Luminous 6161 highlight. Hutch exhorted viewers to dial 123 to receive their horoscopes. Cool. Not.
Thomas Cook asked me to SMS "Europe" to a number I couldn’t catch. BSNL had a toll free number that viewers could contact.
Those who didn’t attempt to send traffic to their websites include Gilette, Thomas Cook, BSNL,Airtel, Mayur, Luminous, NECC, VIP (innerwear), Sony, Sprite, Pepsi, Kingfisher (water, dummy), McDowell (soda, dummy), Hero Honda and Videocon. And the one that surprised me the most? Aditya Birla Group.

2007 cricket world cup Trivial Pursuit

While all the MSM will be full of all the predictable stats, I thought, since I’m a cricket freak anyway, I’d track records and landmarks which all of us in media and advertising could find more useful than the strike rate of Brian Lara.

Like, the first commercial AFTER the batsman entered the ground, but before the first ball was bowled, was that of Videocon.
The first commercial AFTER the first ball was bowled was Pepsi’s.
The first ground runner to be hit by a ball was a Hutch board.
The first tech goof was from the very first ball till the 13th ball (not counting extra deliveries), during which period commentary was completely absent.
The first inadvertent editing of content was in over 6.1, when a commercial ate into the delivery.
The first surrogate liquor ad was McDowell No 1. Soda, of course.
The first commercial to be truncated due to the editing was the TVS Apache commercial.
Six of the first eight bundaries hit Hutch signage, with Pepsi host to the other two.

Yeah, I like Trivial Pursuit

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Ultimate Guide to who will win the ICC World Cup

Since I read all the papers, watch all the TV channels and visit all the web sites, I thought I’d make life simple for the readers and present a distillation of all the expert opinions so that you can go straight to your bookie and clean up.
For example, I can now state with authority that the winner will be Australia. Or India. Or New Zealand. Or Sri Lanka. Or South Africa. Or England. Or the West Indies.
I can also state with confidence that the Man of the Series will be Sachin Tendulkar. Or Adam Gilchrist. Or Muthiah Muralitharan. Or Brian Lara. Or Ricky Ponting. Or Shivnaraine Chanderpaul. Or Kevin Pietersen. Or Graeme Smith. Or Jacob Oram. Or Stephen Fleming.

Now, armed with this knowledge, make a beeline for Ladbrokes or whatever. And when you win big, remember: I told you so.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Have event, have editorial, have advertising


The past month – and the next – are easy times for editorial teams, considering the number of “calendered” events. Marketers, too, could benefit, if they anticipated the events. My take, as published in Hindustan Times, here.
And the visual, a brilliant April Fool’s Day release, which was destroyed in the layout in HT, reproduced here for relevance.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Clarity on Front Page Solus


This, so that everyone understands what Front Page Solus means.
If you can’t figure out why I’m taking the trouble to illustrate FPS, read this. Tried a wikipedia search – came up with zip on "Front Page Solus", or, indeed, on "solus". Dictionary.com, however, says it is “By oneself; alone.”

Times of India’s Front Page Dupleix


There’s new jargon that will creep into the media buyer’s handbook: the Front Page Dupleix.
I open the paper this morning, and the front page looks a little weird – almost like I’m looking at a person with a funny growth on his forehead.


I refocus and figure out why. There are TWO ads on the bottom half of the paper.
And I’d bet many a beer to say that the Canon ad has a release order that says Front Page Solus where the position is mentioned.


And I thought solus meant all alone, only one.

The survivor who survived

CNN IBN has a round up the stories that the channel will track during the day – and one of them is a follow up of the Indonesian plane crash.
What makes the story so exclusive is the fact that it will come from “one of the survivors who survived...”
No other channel could get such an incredible source.
Where does it go from here? Another story from a survivor who was a victim? Or a victim who survived?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I want to divorce my mobile service provider


When I was a kid, I loved Aesop’s fables. And I learnt a lot from them (I do not necessarily apply what I learnt, though).
I’m a lazy learner. I can’t handle brilliantly written management books without illustrations. Give me a case study, and I’ll chomp up the principles that the author intended the reader to absorb in a jiffy.
And I visited Kathy Sierra’s blog after ages, and I felt like a kid again. She’s the Aesop that people like me need so that we better understand what’s right and wrong with issues such as the one I link to -- the customer: company relationship.
Too many companies, she says, are like bad marriages. We all know what bad marriages are like (even if you’re not in one). Therefore, understanding why companies are like bad marriages is a breeze the way Sierra writes it.
What I loved about this post is that there are so many companies in India that could learn from this. The service industry is exploding, and most of the “service” providers love you only during the brief period that they’re out to win you; after that, they couldn’t care a **** for you.
If you’re a sufferer of such a bad marriage, send the Customer Relationship Manager a link. Not to this post, to Sierra’s.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Print and the budget: no reason to exist

The Economic Times advertises that their print run on March 1 is double their normal weekday print run, due, obviously, to the budget coverage.
Every other paper (pink or otherwise) consumes precious newsprint in trying to outdo the others with their budget coverage.
Yesterday, I blogged about the lack of other news in the newspapers and on TV, and the infuriation seemed to be obvious.
In calmness, last night, I understood why I was so piqued.
Because all the news in the newspapers on March 1 was stale. I’d watched the budget on TV, the comments on TV, the debates on TV, I’d read the budget speech on the net, seen comments on the net, and so on.

What could the paper give me that I didn’t already possess?

Is this the beginning of the end of the Budget special newspapers?

I think it is. We’ll know next year.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Yesterday, what did murderers, rapists and politicians do?

Every year, the Union Budget is presented on February 28. The news television channels are full of nothing but the budget on that day and the next. On March 1, all the newspapers have little else except budget related news.
And it makes me wonder: what happens to news on other happenings?
Is the news not made at all?
Do murderers not murder, and politicians not misbehave, children not fall into wells, worms not find their way into chocolate, pesticides not adulterate the colas, onion prices not go up, farmers not commit suicide, courts not pass judgement....
....or is it that they all do happen, and these stories are consigned to the dustbins of history?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hang them all, not just the Times of India

Amit Varma continues to provide fodder for thought. In the latter half of his blog on newspapers and regulation, which I sort of added to, he writes on the ethics of selling “editorial space”.

“Anyway, the high point of the evening was the presence of Bhaskar Das, the executive president of the Times Group, who rightly got assailed about how the Times of India sells editorial space. “We don’t do it on all the pages,” he argued. “Only some of them.”
The best moment came when someone asked Das why the ToI didn’t have the basic decency to indicate which articles were paid for. His reply:
“The clients wouldn’t like that.
””

As flummoxed as I was on the fact that the debate on newspaper monopoly still exists, the hanging of Times of India as the only sinner in “selling” editorial space astonishes me more. Every single newspaper, newsmagazine and news channel worthy of being called a newspaper, newsmagazine or news channel is guilty of the same crime – yet it is only The Times of India Group which gets the rap.
This morning, in addition to various menus of pizza joints in an around Bandra, out popped a small booklet when I picked up my morning papers. It was an auto guide complimentary from today’s Hindustan Times.
Some gems from the “editorial”.

“Bajaj Auto’s new Kristal….. surely the most intelligent offering to make the NextGen happy.”
“Just two years old, Excell Autovista Pvt. Ltd or popularly known as AUTOVISTA … has grown at a staggering pace. The company has grown at fast pace….”
“The (Wasan) group’s focus has always been on “maximum customer satisfaction”….which has given the group an edge over its competitors.”
“Phoenix Hyundai not only believes in providing unmatched service to its customers...”

One could go on an on.
Nowhere in the booklet does HT tell the reader whether the editorial is paid for or genuinely deserving of the space (and the superlatives).
India Today does it with their Impact features. So do a number of other publications without branding the “advertiser’s” features.
All draw the line on where in the paper it’s done. The page three kind of supplements are considered by most managements and editorial honchos as harmless, and these deals (official or otherwise) will rule. Sometimes, it’s linked to the sponsorship of a ground event, an annual budget commitment, and so on.
Often, it’s a lot more covert. Where there is an unwritten (but surely committed) quid pro quo between a media salesman and the buyer. “I’ll commit this release, but you ensure my MD is interviewed” kind of arrangement.

And I’ll put my foot in my mouth: there is NO NEWS product in the country where it doesn’t happen. NONE.

And none of them has the decency to tell us what is paid for and what is not. None.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Grandpa’s brand, product and media journey

Every now and then, I cut and paste or write about some absolute junk. Often, it’s just something that caught the eye and that I found entertaining. Today’s cut-paste job is more than entertainment – it’s an amazing perspective on the world we live in, the world of brands, the world of media and the world of marketing.

What you have to guess is, how old is the grandfather in the story that is related below?
One evening a grandson was talking to his grandfather about current events. The grandson asked his grandfather what he thought about the shootings at schools, the computer age, and just things in general. The Grandfather replied, 'Well, let me think a minute, I was born before:
television
penicillin
polio shots
frozen foods
Xerox
contact lenses
Frisbees and
the pill
There were no:
credit cards
laser beams
or ball-point pens
Man had not invented:
pantyhose
air conditioners
dishwashers
clothes dryers
and the clothes were hung out to dry in the fresh air
and man hadn't yet walked on the moon
Your Grandmother and I got married first, . . and then lived together. Every family had a father and a mother. Until I was 25, I called every man older than me, 'Sir'. And after I turned 25, I still called policemen and every man with a title, 'Sir.' We were before gay-rights, computer- dating, dual careers, daycare centers, and group therapy. Our lives were governed by the Ten Commandments, good judgment, and common sense. We were taught to know the difference between right and wrong and to stand up and take responsibility for our actions. Serving your country was a privilege; living in this country was a bigger privilege We thought fast food was what people ate during Lent. Having a meaningful relationship meant getting along with your cousins. Draft dodgers were people who closed their front doors when the evening breeze started. Time-sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and weekends-not purchasing condominiums. We never heard of FM radios, tape decks, CDs, electric typewriters, yogurt, or guys wearing earrings. We listened to the Big Bands, Jack Benny, and the President's speeches on our radios. And I don't ever remember any kid blowing his brains out listening to Tommy Dorsey. If you saw anything with 'Made in Japan ' on it, it was junk. The term 'making out' referred to how you did on your school exam. Pizza Hut, McDonald's, and instant coffee were unheard of. We had 5 &10-cent stores where you could actually buy things for 5 and 10 cents. Ice-cream cones, phone calls, rides on a streetcar, and a Pepsi were all a nickel. And if you didn't want to splurge, you could spend your nickel on enough stamps to mail 1 letter and 2 postcards. You could buy a new Chevy Coupe for $600, . . . but who could afford one? Too bad, because gas was 11 cents a gallon. In my day: ' 'grass' was mowed, ' 'coke' was a cold drink, ' 'pot' was something your mother cooked in and ' 'rock music' was your grandmother's lullaby. ' 'Aids' were helpers in the Principal's office, ' ' chip' meant a piece of wood, ' 'hardware' was found in a hardware store and ' 'software' wasn't even a word. And we were the last generation to actually believe that a lady needed a husband to have a baby. No wonder people call us 'old and confused' and say there is a generation gap... and how old do you think I am?
I bet you have this old man in mind...you are in for a shock! Read on to see -- pretty scary if you think about it and pretty sad at the same time. This man would be only 59 years old ! ! !

Monday, February 26, 2007

Debating regulation in print

Amit Varma was at the Kitab Festival, catching up with friends, as he writes on his blog – and “also part of a session on journalism in India, and found some eminent people expressing the view that journalism needs to be regulated in India. The logic: The Times of India is indulging in monopolistic practices, and, in Delhi, forming a cartel with the Hindustan Times. To ensure competition, there should be government regulation.
I couldn’t think of a worse solution to the problem. (Leave aside the issue of whether there really is a monopoly emerging; Mumbai alone has HT, DNA and IE on the stands, among daily broadsheets.) The industry actually needs fewer controls, not more.”

I couldn’t agree more – and have more reasons to agree with Amit that more regulation and controls is asinine.
Firstly, the dominance of major English newspapers (including the Times of India) is now less marked, as is proven by the preponderance of the vernacular press in the top newspapers of the country when measured by IRS and NRS. And in print media, one has to bear in mind the influence of major news magazines in English, India Today, Outlook and Week, which each have their own constituencies. Alliances such as the Hindustan Times – Times of India agreement for the Delhi market are not new – one forgets the alliance between STAR TV and the Ananda Bazar Patrika Group for STAR News, for example, or the various loose and case-by-case agreements inked between, say, The Hindu and CNN-IBN or NDTV and Business Standard.
Secondly, the increasing role and influence wielded by other media – television and the Internet. Where, too, the dominant products are vernacular products, not those in English.
Interestingly, while we have controls in place for print and TV, there is none and can be none for the Internet insofar as anyone could start an India-focused news product while being based anywhere in the world, including Tuvari.
There is no greater measure of dominance than the advertising rate card of various media products – and all media sales heads of the most “monopolistic” products -- including the Times of India -- will attest to the fact that effective rates are today under pressure more than ever before.
There is no argument about whether or not the consumer needs to be protected against monopolistic media – but that is far from the case today. If a half decent media planner were to do a run on the total circulation of any large publication house vis-a-vis the entire circulation today and compared it with the same figures 15 years ago, I would be shocked if the numbers showed more rather than less dominance.
Again, if one measured the influence of newspapers vis-à-vis all news products today as opposed to 15 years ago, I am certain the numbers will be significantly against newspapers, and not for them.

What confuses me is that this debate still rages. When, in every newsstand in every city and town in India, it is the choice that confuses the reader, not the lack of it.