Monday, November 27, 2006

Our National Anthem - Embarassing to know its real meaning!

Are you aware of the genesis of our national anthem and its true meaning therefore. If you know, you will cringe from singing it again... and acknowledge it as our national anthem.

Our National Anthem was composed as a poem in December 1911, precisely at the time of the Coronation Durbar of George V, and is a paean in praise of "the overlord of India's destiny". The composition was first sung during a convention of the then LOYALIST Indian National Congress in Calcutta on Dec. 27, 1911. It was sung on the second day of the convention, and the agenda of that day devoted itself to a loyal welcome of George V on his visit to India.

Look at how the event was reported in the Indian press then:
"The Bengali poet Babu Rabindranath Tagore sang a song composed by him specially to welcome the Emperor." (Statesman, Dec. 28, 1911)

"The proceedings began with the singing by Babu Rabindranath Tagore of a song specially composed by him in honour of the Emperor." (Englishman, Dec. 28, 1911)

"When the proceedings of the Indian National Congress began on Wednesday 27th December 1911, a Bengali song in welcome of the Emperor was sung. A resolution welcoming the Emperor and Empress was also adopted unanimously." (Indian, Dec. 29, 1911)

So naturally the poem was more as a praise for the English monarch and acknowledging that he holds the destiny of India. Read the literal english translation of the same...

Jana-gana-mana-adhinayaka jaya he ________Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people,
Bharata-bhagya-vidhata ________ dispenser of India's destiny.
Punjaba-Sindhu-Gujarata-Maratha _____ Thy name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Sind, Gujarat and Maratha,
Dravida-Utkala-Banga _________ Of the Dravida and Orissa and Bengal;
Vindhya-Himachala-Yamuna-Ganga _____ It echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas, mingles in the music of Jamuna and Ganges,
Uchchhala-Jaladhi-taranga _________ and is chanted by the waves of the Indian Sea
Tava Subha name jage ___________ They pray for thy blessings
Tava subha asisa mage ___________ and sing thy praise.
Gahe tava jaya-gatha.
Jana-gana-mana-adhinayaka jaya he ________The saving of all people waits in thy hand,
Bharata-bhagya-vidhata ________thou dispenser of India's destiny.
Jaya he, jaya he, jaya he,
Jaya jaya jaya, jayahe. __________Victory, victory, victory to thee.

Rabindranath Tagore is quoted saying "Here is a poem which I have written. It is addressed to God, but give it to Congress people. It will please them."

It pleased them so much that they made it our National Anthem.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Can we Indians take risk?

Honestly, I need to find the answer myself. On the look of it , the hypothesis is that we do not want to take risk. Or perhaps, we can not take risks. Though I need to do an indepth research to check the hypothesis, yet let me take television content and share a few observations.

The media is abound by the view that reality shows are the next big revolution on Indian television. How I interpret this view is that there will be another revolution in official plagiarism of foreign reality programming content. And believe me, thats what is happening! Look at the most recent much talked about serial on Sony Television - Big Boss.

Big Boss is one such copied programming content adapted to suit the Indian consumers. Technically it is not copied because Endemol India is producing it in India. (The original programme, Big Brother was produced by Endemol - a Dutch production company.) It is an adaptation, nonetheless. What is even worse is that Big Boss is very clearly a scripted programming enacted by television celebrities. Reality programming by essense is something which is not scripted and involves common people.

Why is Big Boss scripted? Why do we have television celebrities enacting Big Boss? From all the page 3 phenomenon and the successes that the media got, it was the safest bet to get in a bit of security by getting in celebrities. And celebrities can manage to act, making it simpler to plan the reality show. Isnt it very logical and safe thinking to reduce the chance of failing?

Is the Sony programming team playing safe? Are they scared of failing? Are they simply risk averse?

The next question is that "Is this typical to the Sony programming team?" To my opinion, it is not. Bollywood is such a mature industry. Even there, most of the productions are copied and inspired by successful previous productions.

We Indians are risk averse. We cannot take risks. It is definitely a thought to ponder upon.

Friday, November 10, 2006

"RX100 emotion". Please get it back, YAMAHA

I am a proud owner of my RX100 - a true model and a dream of every biker of MY generation in India - and I feel part of the Yamaha brand family. It is such an intense relationship that I didn't think twice to bash up one toddler of a bike rider, who had painted "Honda" in the fuel tank of his badly maintained YAMAHA RX100, that too removing the YAMAHA metal plate completely.

It is with such passion that I am writing this piece to forward my views about how YAMAHA should attempt to tackle the Indian consumers and re-emerge as the most coveted bike brand in India.

It is very clear and apparent to me that Yamaha the brand and RX100 the bike are synonyms. For a more evolved biker, it may be the RD 350. Remember that mean machine! On the whole it is the RX100. This is not a mere truth. RX100 is no longer manufactured in India. It was in 1998 that the last RX100 was made. And RD 350 a little before that. Even now the legacy goes on.

Yamaha has tried to encash the brand through quite a few follow-up launches. It launched the RXG series which had a 135cc version by the name RXG135. A little later the company came out with a 5 gear variant of the same. But none of these models became hit with the consumers and could not meet the expectations of the consumers. Then of course all 2 stroke engines went out of production.

That was an end of an era. Escorts Yamaha became Yamaha. 4 stroke engines became the rage. Yamaha launched a slew of 4 stroke models. But that era was never to come back. Yamaha has become just one of the struggling bike brands in India. There were many reasons. One of the primary reason is the management take-over by Yamaha from Escorts, which took away quite a few years from the brand. Then a series of bad branding made the scenario even worse. I could believe my eyes when Yamaha launched something called "Crux" and "Crux R". Why and how on earth, somebody can call a Yamaha by those names. Thank God, Suzuki has done even worse by launching "Zeus". "Jesus" could have been a better name. By then, most of the Yamaha dealers starting switching loyalties and started selling Bajaj and the TVSs of the world. Why wont they... Loyalty wont have given their two meals of the day!

Then came Yamaha Enticer, which stirred the market a bit. It was a first time for India to taste a cruiser comfort and the kick was that it was launched by Yamaha. Many thought Yamaha is back with a bang... at least I thought. Alas, Yamaha is back. But again the whole fever fizzled. The next few launches were dampeners. Enticer alone could not bear the pressure of getting the brand back to the RX100 days.

Durlovspeakth - Yamaha should give them (consumers) back the glory of RX100. RX100 was a hope and a aspiration. And it will take generations to wipe off the "RX100 emotion". My generation and perhaps 2-3 generations younger to me have to die for the "RX100 emotion" to die. Why wait till then...

Durlovspeakth - Know the "RX100 emotion". And the consumer need therefore. Fulfill it.

Even today, if you ask a bike enthusiast to name a Yamaha bike, he would most likely name RX100 and then he would say R1 or R6. So the message is clear. The consumers are comparing RX100 to an R1. What is the common thread. Both the bikes have the common perception of being powerful and fast. Perhaps pick up is the other word.

Perhaps it is very easy to derive why Pulsar became such a huge icon. The consumer found a comparison. Pulsar could get close to the "RX100 emotion". It looked powerful and was powerful. Pulsar 150 was the volume grosser but I firmly believe that the Pulsar 180cc made the brand and fulfilled the "RX100 emotion". And that helped sell the lower models even to the 125cc Discover.

Durlovspeakth - Jackie Chan was not the brand ambassador but the Pulsar 180 was. And the real brand ambassador is the "RX100 emotion".

Yamaha needs to take a learning. Now the consumer wait is for a 250cc upwards bike. Rather I would say a RD350 in 4 stroke avatar is what Yamaha needs to capture the "RX100 emotion".

Yamaha should launch a power bike with great pick up with 350 CC equivalent engine capacity and see that it gives more than 40 kms a litre. Marketing and advertising should push it as flagship product and John Abraham is the apt ambassador to promote a speed bike. This bike might not give the volumes but the lower versions of the same would. No harm in copying Bajaj.

I wait with great earnest that Yamaha understands the "RX100 emotion".

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Scrabble Magic

This has got to be one of the most clever E-mails I've received in a while. Someone out there either has too much spare time or is deadly at Scrabble.

When you rearrange the letters: DIRTY ROOM

When you rearrange the letters:BEST IN PRAYER

When you rearrange the letters: A ROPE ENDS IT

When you rearrange the letters: HE BUGS GORE

When you rearrange the letters: HERE COME DOTS

When you rearrange the letters: CASH LOST IN ME

When you rearrange the letters: IS NO AMITY

When you rearrange the letters: WOMAN HITLER

When you rearrange the letters: ALAS! NO MORE Z 'S

When you rearrange the letters: IM A DOT IN PLACE

When you rearrange the letters: THAT QUEER SHAKE

When you rearrange the letters: TWELVE PLUS ONE


When you rearrange the letters TO COPULATE HE FINDS INTERNS

Hope you enjoy them.

See you all.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Advertising - losing the lustre of the most potent marketing tool.

Advertising is one of the most potent marketing tool and my contempt is that the tool is losing its respect and its quality is diminishing or at least not improving. Memorable and Effective creativity is becoming hard to come by. And ironically I would put the blame on the advertising practitioner - the advertising agencies.

Even before I venture any further, let me clarify the meaning of advertising as I understand. Advertising as one of the most commonly used corporate words, has developed a variety of seemingly similar meanings. Some even say "media" to mean "advertising". Just the other day, our super super boss referred to us - a team mainly comprising experience in advertising industry prior to this company - as having media experience and therefore owning that "media attitude". Does this increasing fluidity of the meaning of advertising raise alarm and is this a cause of concern?

I am not going to get into this confusion of what meaning does advertising has in your mind. Let me clear it. Advertising to me is nothing but marketing communications. Advertising to me, is a tool to draw attention of a set of targeted consumers to the products and services of the advertiser through a mix of media apertures that the target consumers consume habitually. It is the effective messaging at every consumer touch point. The word "effective" would have a meaning given the objective of the advertising piece.

I am not going to give a thousand reason why advertising and advertising agencies are losing their respect in the corporate world. To me, it is just one reason.

Advertising Agencies have stopped adding value to the value chain. Let me be a prophet for a second and say "when you contribute value, you are considered valuable."

Advertising like all business activity is an outcome of cross functional departments within the advertising agency. Client Servicing department, Creative department, Studio & production, Online arm, Media, HR and most importantly the "top tier of management". I am taking it as a separate department as they play a unique, critical and of course important role in the cross functional scheme of things.

Lets look at each of these contributing arms in an advertising agency. If we do a bottoms up approach and analyse the function of the "top tier of management"; henceforth to be referred as management. They are the motivators. They are the torch bearer to bring in positive change. They are the keepers of the sanctity of the function of advertising within the agency and outside. However, the more I delve into this function, the more I am convinced that it is merely playing the role of policing. They are the escalation matrix for the client and the job actually gets done fast, the client way, if escalation is done.

Whenever I have tried to understand this function by speaking to the various front end junior level client servicing executives, I have found that they don't have any expectation of positive motivation; they don't view the management as a safe guard or a support mechanism; they don't see the management as a source of inspiration; they don't see the management as the harbinger of positive change.

How many agencies today have a weekly agency meeting? When I was in Mudra Ahmedabad, we used have a weekly meeting of the management, client servicing, media, accounts, HR, studio/production head - all function of the agency. All issues, concerns and developments were discussed and diagnosed. I wonder how many agencies have these meetings today. If at all there are meetings, they have become job status or job allocation meetings.

The management needs to ask a few questions:

How many times in a month they have set an example to the team in any aspect of the profession; how many times did they show the right way or the more correct way that a particular job could have been done; how many initiatives, however small or big, have they taken this month; do they have an agenda of meeting each and every team periodically to understand if all is going right; what are they doing to improve the knowledge domain of their teams (advertising after all is one of the most knowledge intensive businesses and we seem to have forgotten that!!!); Are they doing enough to give effective remuneration to retain talent?

The result that I today see, "we have a very few agency management heads that are respected and listened to in the corporate world. I am sure they are a few who are a big name in the advertising industry, but lets talk about the corporate world - the business world. If advertising is such key spoke of the hub called business, why don't we have a name like a Mukesh Ambani, like a K V Kamath, like a Premji in the business world who belong to the advertising industry. All the names that come to my mind are long dead.

Speaking about management, let me take a look at HR - the custodian of the employee well being in any organisation. I cannot recollect an agency who has an evolved HR department like a equivalent marketing company with the same number of employees would have. For example, Lowe in India and a Deutsch bank in India would have the similar number of employees. Can we compare their HR departments ? The answer would be a miserable no. HR is the most neglected department in the advertising industry structure. I cant fathom a reason. The only reason could be the short-sightedness of the management.

Currently, one of the most critical illness ailing the advertising industry is the lack of talent. The reason being among various others, remuneration packages. Ten years back, I would have said that the reason could be there are no education institutes which teach advertising. But today we have MICA, Narsee Monjee and so many others. However, the irony is that hardly any student from the best advertising institute in the country- MICA, wants to start a career with an advertising agency. Leave the IIMs (there was a time, not to get surprised, when students from IIMs joined advertising agencies. No I am saying the truth!!), even MICAns do not prefer advertising agencies today. HR can play a huge role in improving this scenario along with the management. But is anyone listening?

When I asked this question to one of the top management personnel of a top five agency, he said that "profitability and revenue is a constraint". I would ask a few question then... if advertising is a key function why would clients not pay more? Have we tried demanding more money from the clients? Are the agencies becoming like roadside agents lowering their fee structures in competition to their fellow agents. If yes, they why the hell agencies are cannibalising each other. We have so many advertising bodies to counter under-cutting. Even prostitutes have a strong association/body and any prostitute going for a lower rate is penalised heavily by the association/body.

The only reason of a price war is that the product is becoming a commodity. And there is no value addition. Are the agencies operating in a commodity market?

From another perspective, the short-sightedness of the management is once again a reason for this condition of low profitability in the advertising industry. Earlier, media was one of the important department within the advertising agency structure. Media used to bring in the mullah as media commission. Today, for whatever reasons unknown to my limited consciousness, media has become independent business with separate books of accounts. To me, media commission could have been financial resource to retain and sustain creative and management talent in the advertising industry. This decision has not only affected finances.

Today, since the client servicing department has negligible interaction with the media department, they do not understand simple media parameters like GRPs, TRPs, OTS etc. This short sighted change in the advertising business structure has changed or rather removed a fundamental parameter of a creative brief - Media. Creative thinking to be effective has a critical dependency on media to be used. This basic fact was not considered while taking the decision of creating media as a specialised division and a separate profit centre.

The other department that used to bring in the mullah used to be the print and production department. Today, most of the clients do this function independent without taking the agency in between. For clients, it is cost effective because the agencies are foolish to charge a commission of over 16% to execute the same. Here again the management could have played a critical role in keeping this business stream alive. They should have been successful in selling this profitable value addition that they were bringing to the client. The irony is that they profess to help sell the clients' products at a premium by building brand equity but they cant sell their own at a premium. Such a sorry state of affairs. Today, you will find maximum desperation in this department.

Even after all this, the agencies could have saved its face and added value to client's business by changing with times, getting into value added services. That didn't happen. The whole advertising industry was suffering from the blind fever of specialised services. The value added services such as "out of home solutions", "Internet marketing" etc were ignored or at the most kept at a individual level managing on their own. The old pundits (referring to management for a change) were ignorant of new media and were scared to bring in something that they don't know much about. As a result, independent interactive agencies like Mediaturf came into existence. Public relations as a domain was anyway a step sister for the advertising fraternity.

So the reality is that most of the agencies today cant provide the most common advertising concept of "integrated marketing communications". It means having all relevant media apertures talking effectively to the consumer segment. They don't have the ability and resources. Clients would have loved to have one agency for IMC. I feel pity for the clients and tremendous anger at the advertising industry for not being able to take care of a basic client need.

As a result of all this, two most visible faces of the advertising industry - creative and client servicing - are suffering. Pathetic remuneration leading to pathetic client servicing talent leading to bad briefing leading to bad creative output. It is a never ending vicious cycle.

I never thought advertising would come to such a state. I was such a staunch advocate of the business of advertising. My only hope is that every industry goes through a lull phase and then they sprung up to surprise everyone. Hope that day is not far away, as advertising industry is at its nadir of a possibly lull phase. Hope it is just a lull phase.