Sunday, October 31, 2010

Media Wastage or Halo Effect!

Taking a brief is an integral part of a client servicing executive's life. I still remember, two questions that I always threw at a prospect or client were:

  1. Who is your customer?
  2. Who is your competitor?
Thinking about it, I don't think I will ask such fundamental questions, today. But that is not the point. If I was kiddish, I have got juvenile answers, too. The standard response in those days were:

  1. Everyone.
  2. No one.
Oh my, I would be so impressed with those inputs and scribble them down, mindlessly, on my note pad.

Couple of weeks back, Volkswagen (VW) created quite a buzz, in the real and virtual world, by publishing a talking ad for its to-be-launched Vento, in The Hindu and Times of India. One may find many faults. The sound was not clear, it didn't have a micro-site address...but the point is that certainly it met its objective. It managed to create Awareness, Interest and, if not much of, Desire

A few months back, I visited one of the PR agencies that handled VW account. During the discussions, I asked a young bright executive who was on the account whether Polo launch ad was a good. VW had done a newspaper with a hole ad, then. I went on to give the usual spiel that though Times of India was the largest publication, it certainly was not omnipresent and that the media in India is highly fragmented. I further suggested that VW could have considered conducting/sponsoring a major event which would have been inexpensive and managed coverage across all publications.

The young man told me that the Polo ad has created a lot of buzz. I, mentally, dismissed him, but now acknowledge it. And, this time, the Vento ad takes the print ads to another level.

In 2001, after a press meet, Srinivas, a journalist with Digital Age (a technology focused magazine from a splinter group of Express Publication) introduced me to a term which has since then become etched in my memory. He said that the future is for specialist publications. He went on to say that there was an enormous amount of media wastage. Just out of college and still in a soaking up mode, I loved the term. 

Little after that, Digital Age closed down. But I remain fascinated with the idea. Srinivas said that the general dailies were overrated. For a marketer they are such a waste. Logically, if someone wanted to buy a product or service, one would look into a specialist publication. After all, mainlines are, mass media. 

It does make sense at some level. There is no disputing that the prospective buyers of Vento and, certainly, Polo would be covered by Times of India and The Hindu. But are all the readers in the consideration set? 

Polo and Vento are different cars, targeted towards different audience. Their price points are different. Was there an option for VW? Would it make more sense to have advertised for Vento in a business magazine rather than a daily? I have wondered why car brands didn't (now, few do) advertise on Financial dailies? Wouldn't that have been a far more focused approach? 

But I guess these two ads are just launch strategy. The idea was to create a buzz with the topmost media to put in their creative. Exclusivity was the underlining factor. Create the Halo effect!

I am wondering to myself if the concept of media wastage is a waste. If segmentation can be used to be more impactful in communication considering that media options are quite diverse. Or is halo effect more important than wastage?

Marketer's Dilemma!

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