NEW DELHI, November 10
At the capital's Priya cinema hall, in South Delhi, where the city's hep and hip hang out, a DJ is belting out the latest pop chart busters. A pushy young lady is trying to get the crowd to dance. Just a few street kids, hardly the chaps to surf the Net, are dancing. The rest of the crowd is watching the proceedings coldly. And lurking in the sidelines are two or three colourful stalls where freebies are being given away. And information collected. Information that makes a data bank.
Welcome to the NOW marketing campaign.
NOW, hopefully named Network of the World, is trying to convince people to go broadband. And has launched an aggressive promotional campaign to sell the idea. NOW was able to pull off a coup of sorts by being the first to take up the convergence platform. Ironically, it is for the first time that Pacific Internet, a subsidiary of the Singapore-based Pacific Internet Group, the company behind NOW, is launching the whole gamut of convergence services in a country. Elsewhere in the world, the company is only into one or two convergence services.
The entire range. This was the idea that Ogilvy & Mather, the advertising agency of Pacific Internet, tried to promote. NOW was the first to popularise the convergence idea. "Our aim was to sell the entire gamut of services, and that was what our client wanted us to convey," says Samir Dikshit, account director at O&M. Rivals do agree that NOW was able to hijack the convergence platform.
But that is the trouble. "NOW took up the convergence platform, but was not able to sell the idea. They have got stuck with the label of an ISP," says an official of a rival company. O&M is quick to dissent. "That's just like saying that HLL is a soap company because it manufactures Lifebuoy," retorts Dikshit.
And to underline the point that NOW is not about ISP alone, the initial advertisements sold the concept of convergence as "the new reality" with an aggressive promotional campaign. Rock bands performed at colleges, there was a flurry of billboard advertising, and the idea of convergence was sold at up-market shops like Ebony and Ansals, where visitors could sample NOW's services. At all the direct promotional venues, researchers collected data, which was used for targeted advertising by the company.
Suddenly, convergence is the in-thing, and companies are greedily eyeing the estimated 15 million homes in the country that are expected to access the Internet on broadband cable networks. Big players, BPLnet, Wipro, Spectranet, have all jumped into the fray, and are trying to sell their wares with all the enthusiasm and market savvy of seasoned street peddlers. And the tactics are innovative. For example, Caltiger.com plans to launch one lakh free CDs (with Internet installer) through magazines.
Even in the United States, the business is extremely competitive. Internet service providers dominate online advertising. For example, approximately 40 per cent -which in numbers meant over one billion - of the total ad impressions for May and June, as measured by the US-based NetRatings BannerTrack syndicated ad research service, fell into the category of ISP providers. MediaOne and Time Warner recently merged their high-speed online services, which will be sold under the Road Runner brand. MediaOne has also launched a national level $4-million advertising campaign to sell its Internet service, which company officials claim is 50 times faster than those delivered by conventional lines.
At the heart of this battle is the lure for broadband. In the coming Internet age, those without access to broadband must connect to the Internet with slower networks that cannot support the high-speed applications that are making their way into e-commerce such as telemedicine, and distance learning.
For NOW, the music could be starting. Or it may be stopping. That will depend on how well those road shows do.
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