McDonald’s, perhaps what we would call the ultimate [popular] mass brand, used to spend two-thirds of its U.S. advertising budget on television. Last year, it cut television spends down to one-third of its budget.

In 2003, Coke President Steven J Heyer announced that it was moving away from television as the ‘main anchor medium’ to more ‘experience based, access driven marketing’.

Even P & G is globally becoming very picky when it comes to mass channel advertising, and is targeting its consumers more finely.

India is different… Or is it?

What do the changing global consumer habits mean for us in India? Well with due apologies to Rudyard Kipling – east is no longer east, and west is no longer west, because technology is fast making the twain meet. And even in India ‘buying big’ has to make way for ‘buying smart’.

Media buyers who spend big bucks on mass channels are more often than not wasting money. And that’s also because most result-pressured marketers demand reach and efficiencies which look good on paper.

The fact is you don’t need a sledgehammer to swat a fly. And the sooner we operate keeping that in mind, the better off will we all be.

The fact is consumers are no longer predictable, reading the morning newspaper at work, and sitting in front of their television sets at prime time, waiting to consume your ‘bloodily negotiated deals’, and bonus spots. Today, they consume information and entertainment in more ways than the average media planner can imagine.

Catching them young

If we are becoming a predominantly youth filled country, our forty plus media bosses definitely need to think young.

The internet itself – an obsession with this youthful India – has various diversions and media opportunities – from your browser, to instant messenger windows, download accelerators, to search engines… the list is exhaustive.

Then there is the latent potential of hidden persuaders like web-logs and chat rooms. And of course events and ideas like the traditional web-casts and fresh-off-the-left-brain podcasts which make web content portable and consumer focused like never before.

Advertising savvy, or sloppy?

Not surprisingly, traditional advertising agencies are feeling the heat from clients. Few have the ability to spot new age trends, until they have passed them by! Because quite simply many advertising agencies are still using tools and techniques devised by their grandfathers, and research methodology that tracks what is, not what will be or what can be.

I remember, when trying to get the budget of a TVC approved by a client, he got hassled and said “don’t try to sell me an ad. I have a series of problems here – pricing, distribution, negative word of mouth, you name it. And all you can think of is a TVC!?? – I wish you people came up with 360 degree solutions, instead of using up all my money to shoot abroad!”

We cribbed and went back, only to return with some POS items, a DM and an event theme as “solutions to his over-whelming problems!” The project needless to say, never got off the ground!

Commissioning Change

The fact is, most advertising agencies in India are not easily adapting to the new India. And this has nothing to do with technology – but everything to do with ‘mindsets’, and something to do with budgets!

Advertising agencies have accept that the new consumer is not easy as a ‘two or three media components budget’. They have to be willing to take the risk of trying something new and untested in our country. They have to be willing to take a lesser commission or no commission to help Clients adopt these new ideas.

Because if you don’t take the lead, someone else surely will. And in the long run, they’ll be reaping a mass of profits.



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