Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Monks Who Buy Ferraris!

Did I make a mistake in the headline?

Of course not.

Apologies, Mr. Robin Sharma.

I really loved your book and find the strategies and tactics useful. I would suggest your book to everyone who wants to improve her/his life and live it fullest.

Interestingly, contrary to the Time Management program that the main character attended in your book, the one which I attended in India conducted by a Russian-lady, named Elena Agsar, covered most of the points that you have mentioned in your book.

But even then your narration is quite fantastic. Makes an easy reading.

Well coming back to the headline, Mr. Julian Mantle sells his Ferrari and other materialistic belongings in pursuit of wisdom and spirituality. He reaches India and is educated and nursed by Yogi Raman.

It made a beautiful reading.

Only, the monks in India are not quite the same.

Name the best known monks/gurus/spiritual leaders...and all of them travel in the best of cars. Adorn heavy jewellery (not all), stay in AC rooms and have heard that they organize business deals.

Murderous attaks have been carried out on some and top magazines carry scandalous reports on sexual escapedes of these gurus.

I am sure Mr. Yogi Raman is not one of them.

Having read too many negative stories on Indian monks/gurus, I have come to disregard them.

For the Vivekanand's who are searcing for Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, today, they can find refuge in books such as yours.

Monday, April 17, 2006

What is in a name?

Wanted to write a lot about Pumpkin. But I guess, I will just upload his pictures.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Measuring RoI for Internet PR

At the end of every month when I present the docket to my client what I do, is measure her/his RoI.

For the uninitiated, when one pays money to a publication or any other medium, she/he gets an amount of space/time. The value that he pays is determined by the penetration of that particular medium. So, The Hindu will have a particular advertising rate based on the standing that it enjoys in its markets. Similarly, Sun TV will charge a fee per 10 second or 30 second or so on, based on its reach and popularity.

Due to the maturity of these mediums, the way the value created for the advertiser is calculated is standardized and there are not many options. The popular ones are - display ads and classifieds. Quite simple!

Yes, it is. Makes life simple for PR professionals too. With no metrics of its own, PR borrowed the metrics of the advertising industry. And quite rightly, the output for both mediums is targeted at the same channel.

After much deliberations (hope so!) in the West, the legends of PR zeroed in on a simple formula to calculate PR RoI. It added a factor to the advertising value. It proclaimed - PR (read the written word or the word endorsed by journalists/third party) is three times more credible than the advertising space. One up on the entire advertising industry! :0. It called the PR RoI - the Visibility Index (VI).

So, if you were an advertiser and you spent Rs. 100 on a 10 cc space in a particular publication, the same space would be worth Rs. 300 if it was news (written by journalists).

Then over a period of time, PR also matured and it added more value to its formula. So, if you got a picture of a spokesperson the multiple factor increased by some points and if you get the name of the client on the headline the factor increases further, and so on.

All was fine. Until...

In came the disruptive Internet.

Oh yes, the Internet gave PR (and advertising) a great new medium. And gave them a challenge as well.

Let me explain how it is a challenge.

Let us consider the different opportunities that the Internet provides.

The most basic form of advertising is the banner ads. It comes in different shapes and sizes. Technology has given life to these banners and they are able to carry dynamic images.

Interstitials, I think, came a little later than the banners. These are basically the pop-ups and pop unders that irritates us. In many porn sites (yes, I have visited them in the past. Are you asking me if I do it even now? :)), if you close one pop-up you will be end up having numerous other irritations cropping up. Then the advertisers got little intelligent and created pop unders. All the same, they are pain on the...(no I did not mean that, I meant fingers). Acknowledging the pain, Internet browsers have enabled options to block pop-ups. I think that’s a great service to netizens

What I am more amazed about is that technology also understands which an irritant pop-up is and which one is genuine. Ever tried net-banking?

Okie coming back to other forms,

o Advergames is building in games in the advertisements
o Rich media is highly interactive and visually influential but it requires broadband to unleash its full potential
o Sponsorship, when you sponsor an event and the organizer puts your logo on the event site
o 3-D visualization
o Keyword search, a focused form advertising made popular by Google and Yahoo

Do you see the challenge?

Yes, you got it right. The challenge posed by Internet is that there are so many models of advertising that creating one standard formula becomes extremely difficult.

What's more, being an intelligent medium, Internet also offers you selective/focused reach. Let's say you want an ad only to reach out to Mac owners, no other medium can deliver that for you but the Internet. Yes! You want to reach out to people who use only Citibank, now it’s easy.

Also, you can define (at least to a great extent) the life of a medium. A daily is for a day, a magazine is for a week or month, TV is for that particular period. What about Internet?

Coming back again to the RoI, being a PR man, how do I measure it for my client? Which format should I use?

I am quite puzzled and struck when clients raise this issue.

So in an effort to solve this issue, I worked out a way with Amrita, my colleague.

What we did was to find out the ad rates of banners and take that as the unit value of advertising space. Then, we would calculate how many such units are there in a particular story. Multiply those many units by the advertising rate of the banner and 3.

Ah! How successfully we solved such a complicated problem!

Or at least that’s what we thought.

Recently on my trip to our Bangalore office, I made this presentation to the team. The grand-old Viju in his usual style first appreciated the thought and then brought to my notice that the banner ad themselves could differ from page to page. The rate of a banner in the home page maybe different from the one which results on a page which has been reached after say 4 clicks.

Blimey, no not again.

God, is there a solution!

Well, I have realized that calculating the RoI on Internet is not so much of an issue, the bigger challenge is implementation.

At the end of the month the tracking team should be able to spend the least amount of time calculating the VI.

Or else, clients will end up waiting for dockets!

(picture courtersy: www.netcentric-tech.com/ online_advertising.shtml)

Savi baby, you make me feel so proud

A couple of weeks back Savitha called in for some help from Blue Cross. There was this mongrel which she calls Browny which was hurt with some parts of his skin torn apart (apparently, it met with a car accident).

Here is more on that in Savitha's own blog - http://mazedmind.blogspot.com/2006/03/small-deed-great-happiness.html.

Browny was taken away by the Blue Cross and for a long time after that we did not know what happened.

I was proud of what she did.

Last week as I was leaving to play tennis, early morning, I saw this cheerful Browny sitting near a chandy put by a vegetable vendor near our place. I was really thrilled. I stopped the car to take a good look at Browny and found that though he had become little thin and weak, there were no signs of any injury. IT WAS CURED, COMPLETELY.

Again, two days back, there was this lady who works as a maid in our neighbor's place came upto me and said thanks. For a moment, I did not know why. Then she said that Browny had recovered because of me. I told her that all credit goes to my wife and not to me.

I was so touched.

Savitha, you are the best.

Monday, April 03, 2006

PCs, commodity already

Two cowboys (no, no! This is not Brokeback Mountain story!) with guns in their hands and backs facing each other start walking in opposite directions, the crowd is holding its breath, not knowing who is going to be killed. In a flash the two men turn. On a creaky wooden chair, sits our smiling Saif. When you expect the two cowboys to shoot, Saif moves his hand in a magician like manner. And lo! The two cowboys who were willing to smoke out the gun powder are astonished to see roses popping out of the gun. Saif, the magician, again does a trick and the two cowboys start dancing.

On the other side, I think in a downtown Indian city, a foreigner is in a computer store and seeks information about a PC. The Khan Badshah (yes Shah Rukh Khan), grabbing an opportunity to speak to the beautiful white skinned lady, enters and explains the features of the PC and the freebies that she would get along with it. In comes the real sales man and hands over Khan Badshah's computer and his freebies. The white babe is shocked and so am I!

Having been fed on 'Crossing the Chasm'’ and other masterpieces Geoffreyry Moore and brain trained by Naru, the recent ads are kind of disturbing. What's more! Having spent more than 3 years in 20:20 MEDIA, India's largest IT PR consultancy, we always told clients that IT was different from other industries because it was still nascent. The significance of this statement is that unlike other industries, you need to sell concepts before you can sell the products/solutions.

For those who think, I am talking non-sense, let me explain. Have you seen ads of soaps explaining the ingredients and how they keep you clean? No. Do you need to be told that to take a bath, soap is essential? No. With this in mind, every brand of soap has taken a positioning. Lux is for beauty (for film stars), Hamam is a family soap (and important to get your daughter married!), Chandrika/Medimix are Ayurvedic. Similarly for automobiles. Ferrari is for speed, BMW is for class and Merc for safety (and status). This also helps consumers relate to what products they need and able to make a choice.

But PCs. Hmmmmm. It was about a new Pentium. It was about screen - LFT, TFT and what not. It was about RAM - 64, 128, 512...It was about software, internet, games...Today, computer is almost everything. It is entertainment, education, games, information, let me make it simple, it is about convergence. Everyone was explaining how things work in the mysterious IT world. But never was it sold like a mainstream brand?

But suddenly, here are two stars who are endorsing PCs - Lenovo and Compaq.

Have PCs gone mainstream?

Statistics reveal that of the 30 odd million PCs that exist in India only 30% find their way into households. Of the 200 million odd household this penetration would be meager 5%. This fades before TV which is reaching 50% penetration.

What does this indicate?

1. It could mean that PC companies are now finding the market saturated and are not able to find new buyers. Therefore, lure them with faces they love to watch.
2. People know what a PC can do, so don't teach. Move ahead and differentiate by creating brand.

Think about it. The MAIT, Dataquest and other reports on PC consumption indicate that the market share of assembled PCs is coming down. There is a growth of PC brands.

Whatever it may mean, if this trend continues, I think it might change the balance of power in the PC ecosystem. Finally, we may see that the Intel domination is likely to be reduced. The power of brand ambassadors may steal the shine out of Intel's contribution to ads. More so, for PC parts makers.

(Picture Courtesy: The Hindu Business Line)