AdStand: The Traffic Jam

There is something about failed urban infrastructure and brands. They spot opportunities in that failure and create memorable award winning work. Like the Ola boats that were pressed into service by Ola during Chennai floods. Or the lifeboat that Aircel hangs on outdoors in Mumbai and Guwahati.

Last week saw similar urban infrastructure failure in three major cities of India. In Bangalore it rained so much that people caught fish in roads. In normal days, Bangalore is not the fastest moving city, in rains it did struggle to move. In Mumbai it rained so much that streets became river. In Gurgaon it didn’t rain so much, yet the traffic jams lasted 20 hours. This is possibly India’s longest traffic jam.

Does the urban failure open new opportunities for brands? Can new startups look at this craft new services?

Here’s what is possible for new enterprising people to look at.


Hyperlocal can be powered by Hyperjam

Technology allows mobile phone to read the location and connect with phones in the same location. Imagine if the phones of fellow drivers are connected to one another in traffic Jam for them to have conversations. Imagine group Selfie in traffic jams, or discussion over state of roads or even connecting with cars and bikes that are way ahead in jam to telegraph to people who are behind. Traffic cops can even moderate the conversation by being on platform. Next day as and when the Jam clears brands can offer special deals to those who braved the failure of authorities and reward them for their suffering.

One thing that these apps can do is map the potholes and give it a geotag. If integrated with Google maps, the driver will even get a fair warning of impending bumps and breaks.


Food, Fuel and Breaks

There are many opportunities for startups here.

First, there can be an army of drivers that can sit-in and brave the jams instead of the poor souls who are going to or coming back from work. The owners and passengers still may have to brave elements to do something else, but they can at least forget looking after their car or bike.

There is a huge market for delivery of fuel to cars and bike that may run out of fuel standing and waiting in the jam. Imagine never having to look at the dipping needle of fuel gauge. The cars are connected with the fuel delivery service through an app. The app reads the geo location and automatically sends a delivery drone.

Third idea is a food delivery idea. Standing in jams for hours sure is taxing. Last year in one such long extended jam, I asked a pizza delivery brand if they will deliver in a traffic logjam. The person who attended the call was game to do so, but didn’t have the means to reach the car. What if this can be solved by people on foot or cycles, they dodge and dash to reach you. The delivery brands can geo tag the locations of order and find a way of reaching you. This is a big market waiting to be exploited as stranded in traffic is normal everyday affair in urban India. There is a company in Indonesia doing this, its time we did it too.

Fourth is to help the stranded drivers to take bio breaks. Does this need an app? May be it does, after all there has to be an app for everything in this world

The concierge service

Getting stuck in a jam and missing out on urgent things is now a real issue. Jams appear from nowhere, cannot be predicted and mess up best laid plans. Motorcycle riders who you can hail stuck in jams who deliver your documents, and packets in times of need are waiting to burst at the scene. A host of concierge service can be launched targeting just the guys stuck on road.


Carmageddon is here to stay

There is no escaping crushing jam that brings speed of high flying urban dwellers to a grinding halt. It dies open a slew of services that can be delivered to the sufferers of Carmageddon. Special spa treatments, food menu inspired from jam, special fashion line that helps alleviate the side effects.


Failure of urban infrastructure does lead to new categories being created. The current failure of urban infra is of epic proportions. May be there are series of apps that can be launched to save us from Carmageddon







AdStand: When Sale is a strategy

There is a lot happening in the consumer space. More brands are on sale then ever. Homes are on sale, cars are on sale, phones are on sale, even brands are on sale. If you are a consumer, then this is the time to go shopping.

Conventional marketing theories have been about building strong pull for the brand by building on core values. Brands should demand a price premium and consumers should seek them out. Price offs are tactical ways to expand the franchise and bring more people in. Marketing managers in past have spared no effort to study the impact of price drop on overall profitability of the brand.

All this is now history. Now sale is the dominant consumer strategy. And if the brand is not on sale, it might have a deal being offered by some deal app.

With opening of ecommerce brands and the race to acquire customers, the money they spend on sale far exceeds the money they spend on brand building. Today Amazon is on sale, Myntra is on sale, Jabong is on sale (and is up for sale).

Meanwhile a brand in US has just introduced drinkable Marijuana Tonics.


Myntra is on sale

Its not just a sale, its India’s largest fashion sale. Heck, they even have Hritik Roshan getting ready to shop on Myntra ( Asking people to create a wish list is simple, that’s what people do before a sale. Myntra even created a behind the scene video of how they are getting ready for the increased demand. There is nothing unusual about the video, just a brand telling its own story.

The big take out from the campaign is simple, you need a big superstar to build traction for sale, that will last two days.


Amazon is on Sale

Amazon’s latest fashion campaign has a bus, has a few youngsters who are on a road trip, while on the trip they showcase fashion styles from global ramps. Interestingly, there is another brand that a year ago was doing the same. A bus, a road trip, a bunch of youngsters celebrating life, but not from Amazon, from Jabong.

They called this the Citizen of Fashion campaign, and did a sale extension of the same campaign. Even before Citizen of Fashion could be established, the brand moved on to sale. Clearly offering fashion cheaper is more important that offering fashion.

Clearly, price is a strategy and not a tactic


Jabong is on sale

Jabong created a completely different persona for the brand. They went younger and rebellious. This was Jabong’s way of building credential as high fashion brand. They too are on sale. The big brand sale has number of people jumping all over the screen to create high energy impact.

Jabong too has used the sale strategically. Its not a build on the brand tonality they had. They even dropped the brand signature. For the ecom brand, sale is the strategy


Sale is the dominant tactic

For most ecom brands, and not just the three fashion brands, sale has become the dominant strategy. Sale has been topped by cashbacks, deals and more tactics that tell consumers ‘we are cheap’. Brands today spend a huge marketing money to ‘announce’ price deals. This is not the conventional branding logic. There are two issues at play here.

One, the ecom brands are actually retailers who leverage the brands they sell. Are they harming the brands by being on sale?

Two, will the consumer go back to these ‘brands’ if they stopped the discounts?


Meanwhile there is a store in US has launched a brand called Legal. Here’s the video

Now this may be really differentiated brand thinking

Ad Stand: Nike, Channel 4 and Human Stories

In persuasion economy every human story becomes a selling tool in hands of brands.  

Humans are a lot into social felicitation and conformism. A story well told can lead to people altering behavior even if it is transient. Advertising and communication tries to make this alteration in behavior longer lasting.

Pokemon Go becomes a global rage in no time for people want to be a part of what seems like the latest fad, they cant be left behind.

Nike uses human story to do the same but may be doesn’t do it so well.  

In today’s new age persuasion economy, brands are turning everyone into a salesperson. Everyone’s story is also used to sell us something.


Nike and Deepika, could it have been better told?

To her 31 Million followers on FB, this is what Deepika Padukone posted her story of depression and how she came out of it.

 When I was growing up my father said to me, “To be the best, always remember the three D’s – Discipline, Dedication and Determination. Follow your heart. Do what you are passionate about.”

Sport has taught me how to handle failure. It has also taught me how to handle success. It has kept me grounded. It has taught me humility.

Two years ago I struggled with depression. I was sinking. I almost gave up. But it was the athlete in me that gave me the strength to fight and never ever give up!

And so I want to say to every girl and every boy and every woman and every man…play a sport…because it changed my life…and it will change yours too!

Sport has taught me how to survive! It has taught me how to fight! It has made me unstoppable!”

Deepika comes out in open about depression, says she fought it using sports, and this is where it starts to get murky. The Video is actually for Nike. Deepika trades her story to convince thousands and thousands of girls out there to take to sports to cure depression. This is what is wrong with the whole video, it’s a sob story that has been used commercially to sell a brand. It doesn’t matter to the brand if the disease called depression needs medical intervention, needs a medical assistance, needs cure. They have done what everyone does in case of depression: advise with no scientific basis.

What makes the whole thing even bad is that the video has India’s most accomplished athletes, but they have are playing a supporting role to Deepika, who is a Badminton Player in the ad. Joshna Chinappa, Ishita Malviya, Jyoti Anne Burrette, Rani Rampak, Shweta Hakke, Shweta Subbiah and Tanvi Hans. Squash, Surfer, Footballer, Hockey, Trainer and Footballer. These women are on top of their game. They should have been the inspiration for Deepika and millions of other women to take up sport and fight life issues.

By making it other way round, Nike just exploited a human story for commercial gain.


Not Just do it, but #YesICan

Channel 4, the broadcaster for Rio Olympics has created what Nike couldn’t for Paralympic Athletes. The Music Video ( has 15Million views on FB and almost a million on YouTube celebrates the Superhuman feat of the athletes. The music video features 20 athletes who will compete in Rio Olympics

the Paralympians demonstrate a wide variety of athletic feats—high jumps, weight lifting, and archery as well doing everyday tasks. Ultimately, it the focus is more on ability then disability.

The video has met with tremendous response on social media. That is a demonstration of the power of how the human stories have been told.


Human stories are powerful, they need not be soppy

The Channel 4 Rio Olympics music video and the Nike Deepika video are cut from same cloth.

They both celebrate achievements of human ability and tenacity.

Channel 4 has turned them into an inspiration for humanity. Nike has just made a mess of it

Channel 4 has done what Nike should have. 

Adstand: #Brexit, #Hughxit, #Aajtaknew

Cannes is over, best of advertising that most consumers didn’t see or react to has been celebrated and awarded. Meanwhile the persuasion economy is in full flow. Brands are being sold, even nations fate are decided by clever marketing campaigns.

Britain exited Euro, and the world will remember the silly hashtag, Micromax moved from Hugh Jackman to Kapil Sharma, and AajTak reimagined the black and white 60s tale for new modern app launch.


Did Britain fall for a dodgy campaign?

The leave campaign won, the stronger in lost. Both campaigns ran pitched battles with websites, campaign volunteers, multi media ads and huge political backings that cut across party lines. #Brexit became the easy way to refer to the whole campaign, though neither side used the hashtag. Brexit came from a year older Greek referendum to stay in Euro zone called #Grexit. Was it wise for the Greek hashtag to be used again?

The central fulcrum of the “Leave” campaign was a huge red bus that travelled the country with one single message “We send EU %0Mn Pound a week,  lets fund our National Health Care instead” The campaign urged Britain to #TakeControl. Its now clear that Britain listened to this campaign and decided to #TakeControl. Trouble is that now the campaign managers agree that their rhetoric was built on false promises and exaggerations. Leave campaign’s claims on immigrants and impact on economy too are coming under question. The most visible face of Leave campaign have resigned.

Did Britain fall for a dodgy advertising campaign?  And is America too falling for dodgy advertising campaign? With Italy and Hungary also likely to go for referendum we might see flawed narratives coming into play

We are powerful story tellers, sometimes he story consumes the narrator and the result is #Brexit


#HughXit: Hugh Jackman exits, enter Kapil Sharma

IronMan hasn’t lost many battles, but in India he seems to have lost out badly. Absolutely no magnetism to make Micromax the coolest handset brand. Micromax built itself as a formidable brand with Akshay Kumar and for a short while his wife. Micromax’s first big success was Bling, a phone that found controversy and success. The brand roped in Hugh Jackman to get the image up, become more urbane, appeal to the English Medium types. The relaunch campaign had white skin ‘foreigners’ mocking the brand whose logo is a fruit and generally behaving like football hooligans. Now the brand has taken a turn towards being Desi again. It has roped in Kapil Sharma, the earthy stand up comic turned actor to create a “Namaste London” type of web film.  The long lesson of being true to your mother tongue to be successful is something that always gets the audience fired up. Remember Rin or even Fair and Lovely?

With the dialogues inspired by a film from Akshay, is the brand bringing him back again? The connection with the earlier heritage of brand is unmistakeable.

With Micromax going desi again, what happens to the new positioning it created? Will the irreverent madness and chaos, as defined as the ethos of brand, find an Indian expression?

The ad is here

Akshay worked for the brand, will Kapil do what Akshay did. Will the brand find glory again?


Aaj Tak goes back in time, recreates its own heritage

Almost a decade back Aaj Tak disrupted the TV news market with clever 60’s style black and white ads. The series of ads built Aaj Tak as the fastest to update TV news channel and quickly displaced Zee News off the perch. It’s a position Aaj Tak has not vacated since. In ten years though the news consumption has changed. The new completion is not another TV channel, but a social network, and now an app.

To fight the Battle of Apps, Aaj Tak has recreated the 60’s style of black and white narration. The Soha – Kunal starrer as despotic king and queen who rely on old world way of getting news and get displaced because they didn’t have an app tries to be funny. The brand plank moves from speed to enlightenment.

Aaj Tak has done well to dip back in brand heritage to connect back with audience. It has kept the narrative in brand’s tonality. Its focused on what it does.

The ad is here


Brand narratives have the power, we all know that, the challenge we face is crafting the narrative responsibly.

AdStand: Does Honesty Work

Two campaigns this week have been the most talked about campaigns of the week. Both have been blazing away on social media. Both have had reactions of bewilderment. One is for a leading telecom brand, the other for a brand of cables that makes fans. Honesty is a difficult virtue in both categories, lets look at what they are doing


Airtel’s honest campaign

Airtel has run a sustained campaign building itself as India’s ubiquitous mobile telephone network. The 4G girl has more followers on social media than many brands. For that brand to release a campaign that says “all networks are same” is a fairly brave move. It on one swoop has done away with all the muscle it built and goes lean.

Aitel has released full-page ads across the country promoting its open network initiative. The TV campaign builds on the usual lament of consumers, poor network, poor reception, call drops etc. These are complaints that all network operators face. The commercial then becomes an extended product demonstration of what the tech backend is, how the network operates, how the towers can be seen or not seen. This is how brands used to do product demos in past, Airtel has rediscovered it. The campaign offers no solution to the problems, it seeks participation from every subscriber, it hopes to solve a problem.

The campaign has stirred the hornet’s nest. There are comments on both sides for the campaign. Early comments (possibly seeded by brand) seem to indicate that the campaign is loved, but the later comments are all about how the network is dysfunctional. Either ways Airtel has succeeded in generating interest in how it runs the brand and acknowledges the problems the network faces. The campaign is possibly more of PR campaign, but does have an honest undertone. That is a radical departure from the 4G girl campaign

The Fan and rocket science

There is a very famous brand of cables that has just launched a range of fans. Chances are you have caught this really over the top long film about space station, about mom’s love and about pickle. What has it got to do with a fan? Almost nothing or everything. If you get taken in by the over the top narrative then everything, if you look for logic then nothing. If you haven’t caught the ad either on your social feed or as a whatsapp forward then here it is:

Building a narrative for a category like fan is not easy. If the aperture of evaluation is honesty then fan ads will be mundane, boring and utterly forgettable. This is a category that needs a slightly involved storytelling. Creative license is not a bad thing to use to craft a tale. In that narrative there has to a modicum of product truth. In crowded categories completely suspending belief gets chuckles, even memorability but not intention to buy

Finolex has a bizarre tale of mom’s love, pickle, space station, anti gravity, scientists, politicians, socialites, news anchors and even a loving servant who sings lullaby. How does all this work for a fan brand? It whips a tornado that makes a man fly to space. Escape velocity finds a new meaning in this TVC


Honesty and brands is not an easy thing to marry. But in today’s persuasion economy, consumers do look for a certain sense of brand truth. Airtel has made an interesting use of honesty, may be it works better then hyperbole of fan that induces tornado and servant who sings lullaby.

Original published here:


AdStand: When Sarkar Advertises

India has 29 states, seven Union Territories and one Central Government. These 37 accounts together are possibly the largest advertisers in India. The advertising effort is so large that 37 government-run ad and media agencies have been set up for the effort.

For the moment, do not look at the PSUs, just look at what the Governments spend for promotion. If we the people vote the Government to power, then we the people also have to read about the fantastic work our governments do for us.

Last year, the Central Government spent Rs 840 crore on advertising, at DAVP rates. This is upwards of Rs 1,200 crore in real life. Add 36 more accounts and imagine the volume.

The game has been upped by every party. AAP, just a Delhi-based party, advertises across the country. Akali Dal, a predominantly Punjab state party, is all over newspapers in Delhi. The newly appointed Telangana state is a big time advertiser in Delhi. Even the newly formed Kerala government, which has no achievements to showcase, was all over India announcing that the state has a new CM.

The Central Government is the largest spender on ads. I suspect it might be India’s largest advertiser.

On May 26, to celebrate two years of being in power, the Central Government released an expansive campaign across the country. Every newspaper had the “Ab ki bar…” campaign celebrating the change in India and the progress India is making. There were ads targeting the economy and farmers – ‘Abki bar economy bemisal’ and ‘ab ki bar kisan vikas main hissedar’. The campaign also has 10 long format commercials with #TransformingIndia. From outdoor to digital, I don’t think anyone has not consumed the campaign.

Add to it, leading states also released ads adding to the celebratory cheer. This is possibly the most ambitious campaign that the government has launched. If there is one thing the campaign needs to be complimented for, then it is its expansiveness.

One government that can match the Central Government’s campaign muscle is the half state of Delhi. The state has been splurging (I don’t have a better word for the indulgence that the Delhi Government has been doing) on advertising across the country. From new Kashmir to Kerala, from Meghalaya to Rajasthan, everyone knows there is a government in Delhi! I am not sure if the campaign conveys anything more than that.

The UP Government has been on a consistent brand-building spree releasing large format ads and multiple ads on radio. We all know the splurge from Kerala and how it had to face the ire of netizens for the terrible use of English. I suspect most long format ads from state governments may suffer the same fate if we read the body copy completely.

The issue that all sarkari ads face is the lack of craft and finesse in their execution. They often look like hurriedly put together, badly produced and look amateurish. There is no lack of resources for they do spend a lot of money on media. Nor can there be lack of time, as most dates for campaigns are well known. The government that plans for the growth of nation can plan for the release of campaign.

If I pull back, then each of the ruling party has created much better crafted election campaigns. Each of them has created campaigns that moved the needle and demolished the competition.

There is no escaping the ads from governments now. Not the ads for tourism or education or polio or investment promotions. But ads that build on goodness, ability, thinking and winnability of the ruling class.

Now if we have to consume them, can the State government get better professionals to create these ads?

Original Published Here: