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December 16, 1999

BUDGET 1999-2000

Advertising industry foresees exciting times in New Millennium

Arindam Basu in Calcutta

There will be a formal opening of certain baths. Those attending the ceremony are promised slaughter of wild beasts, athletic games, perfume sprinklings and awnings to keep off the sun.

That is the text (copy) of an advertisement engraved on a stone dating back to ancient Rome.

Advertisements over the years

Two millennia later, at the onset of the third millennium, the core function of advertising -- mass communication -- remains the same, only the logistics have changed.

Advertising agencies, one of the prime movers in the marketing business, are in the midst of a twister unleashed by globalisation.

Email this report to a friend With the advent of multinationals, brands have also gone global.

To start with, there are the known faces of Pepsi and Coke. The list is endless.

Amitabha Sinha, vice-president, McCann Ericsson, says, ''Globalisation and localisation seem to be going hand-in-hand. With the focus changing to building relationship with the consumer, local flavour in communication will gain greater weightage.''

Former CEO of Clarion Advertising and ad critic Subroto Sengupta opines, ''Even local brands are portraying a global picture. In this regard, he cites the ad of 'governor beedi' (beedi = dried tobacco leaf hand-rolled into a mini-cigarette) which depicts the free spirit of the cowboy, the essence of the 'Marlboro Man'.

Sengupta has a piece of advice for the ad agencies: ''Response is most critical and adverts that fail to evoke a response are at best zero and at worst a negative. So look out for a more conscious semi-urban and rural Indian and prepare to cater to their needs.''

Globalisation, say industry analysts, has aggravated the eternal problem: lack of time at hand. Therefore, clients are increasingly looking for all the services under the same roof. Agencies have to equip themselves accordingly, he says.

Ram Ray, former head of JWT San Francisco and CEO, Response, says, ''Marketing communication is a process ideally spread around thematic continuity, stylistic consistency and unflaggered passion which goes to make a corporate/product brand. In order to attain it in the new millennium, so to say, an agency has to be equally committed in every sector it lays its hands on... And there is no reason why an agency will not be able to perform.''

Amitabha Sinha hopes the new millennium will witness the coming of "e-advertising" in a big way. And in this regard, Sengupta says, ''It is not feasible to diversify into all the fields and hence the trend of alliances among different agencies will set in soon so as to cater to the diverse needs of the client. What is needed is a proper understanding and absolute transparency while dealing with a particular campaign.''

Time is our tyrant, agencies often cry out

Ram Ray says, ''No time given for any creation is enough. Do you think that Leonardo da Vinci was satisfied after painting Monalisa? I don't think so. However, an efficient agency would always adjust and won't allow the time factor to creep into the copy.''

An outcome of this is shorter copy with attractive captions. And this kind of aptness is evident in the 'Fill it, shut it and forget it' slogan in the Hero Honda motorcycle advert, and ads for Maggie 'two-minutes noodles' and Mera wala pink (my kind of pink) of Asian Paints.

Hybrid copy is an innovation in advertisements

Another notable change is the use of 'hybrid copy' marked by colloquialisms like Thodi si pet puja (a little offering for the belly) for Perk chocolate, Ay Kya Bolti Tu ('Hey, what are you saying?' -- based on a popular Hindi movie song) for Coke or Kya swad hai zindagi mein (Oh what a taste there is in life) for Cadbury's chocolates.

Advertisements portray a variety of moods and emotions Talking about the change of approach to copy, Sengupta says, ''Glamour, pyrotechnique, gloss and humour are the foursome to watch for in future. Humour that suffered ostracism in the ad world is back with a vengeance. No wonder the adhesive Fevi-Kwik ads were instant hits." (The ad features two men, one in a suit, the other, a south Indian, in the traditional lungi, angling on a river bank. The guy in the suit is not successful; the other, a smart man, adds a drop of Fevi-Kwik to his fishing rod and, presto, fish gets stuck to the rod!)

''With the advent of the audio-visual in a big way, ads have become a visual feast, and so has the copy. We have to accept it whether we like it or not. Sometimes, the objectivity of the ads is at the receiving end but as the Britannia guy says, 'very addictive but kindly adjust'. The agencies are, however, adjusting and doing it fast,'' says Sengupta.

Brand loyalty seems to be a word from the distant land. Products have reached the very end of brand extension. What has emerged is relationship marketing. The personalised campaigns for Parachute, Jaba Kusum and Barbie are good instances.

Analysts say that in such a highly competitive environment, it is extremely difficult to retain clients for a long period. Speaking on how to cope in the coming years, Amitabha Sinha says, ''It is always good to have a balanced portfolio so as not to be dependent on one business and the vicissitudes thereof. Another thing would be to look for fee-based projects in areas of strategic consultancy or designing to hedge business risk.''

However, Ram Ray says, ''Agencies should utilise this as an opportunity to grow, look at territories unexplored before. Besides, it is always good not to keep all the eggs in one basket. An agency should have a spectrum of clients to look forward to and not be very focussed on any one. Finally, it is always advisable to invest in developing clientele.''

The general mood in the ad-market is buoyant as it is recovering from a slump and the ad-pundits foresee better days for the Indian advertising industry in the coming years. It does not, however, mean throwing caution to the wind.

Besides, clients rarely consider the agency a partner in progress. "This notion has to be done away with," says an analyst.

Sinha says, ''The next millennium would witness a sweeping intrusion of the Internet into our lives and its endless possibilities would revolutionise business and redefine our roles as consumers.''

Ram Ray sums up: ''Our society is in for a reprogramming of gene. It will observe a change every 15 minutes. There won't be any major breakthroughs. Only an evolution of milieu. The definition of 'change' is changing. We have been able to integrate marketing communication with the power to choose. The next millennium is the time for 'virtual advertising'.

''Agencies would be on the Net catering to the business worldwide. There won't be a paradigm shift but a change in attitude towards advertising and the marketing business altogether.

''Advertising business is ready for the millennium, all we need is the Nike attitude -- 'Just Do It'.''



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