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Even tourism needs the e-quotient

By , agencyfaqs! | In Advertising | November 07, 2005
Advertising professionals agree that tourism ads need to be more creative, but plead they are helpless due to limited resources and shoe-string budgets


For products that & #BANNER1 & # may appear rather dull -- such as construction materials, adhesives or banking-related offerings -- marketers have unfailingly come up with zany ideas to influence their consumers. However, for an exciting segment like tourism, the campaigns have been uninspiring, to say the least. Most tourism ads in India still follow the age-old 'catalogue' format, and tend to be rather mundane. While advertising professionals do agree that tourism ads can be made much more exciting and creative than they currently are, they have their own theories on why these campaigns tend to be dull.

Prasoon Joshi, regional creative director, South and South East Asia, McCann-Erickson, says, "The entire tourism industry is still at a very nascent stage. And the majority of the Indian populace is still uninformed about the different tourist options available in our country, except for places with historical or religious importance. So for an advertiser, the first objective is to educate the consumer and then build an emotional connect."

Others like Prathap Suthan, national creative director, Grey, blame the state-run tourism boards. As he points out, "Most tourism boards have shoe-string budgets for advertising. This provides very limited resources for an agency, so much so, that there aren't enough funds to hire a professional photographer. Clients are generally keen on using the same stock shots every time. How can one expect creative work with such limited resources?"

While it may be true that state tourism boards do work at a different pace, what about the private tour operators. Why do their ads look no different? Josy Paul, national chairman david, explains, "For India, vacation is all about cheaper budget and best deals. This is where these private players come in. They always break their campaigns about packaged tours just before the beginning of a vacation season. The private tour operators always have an objective of fulfilling a target in terms of the number of packages they sell. And these adverts, which usually talk about various tariff plans, help them in achieving their targets."

However, there are a few advertising professionals who are trying to break the mould. Abhijit Avasthi, group creative director, Ogilvy and Mather, says, "We broke the clutter three years ago by launching the 'Incredible India' campaign. It was a series of television commercials and print campaigns, based on exotic pictures and themes of India pertaining to the country's history and cultural legacy. 'Incredible India' was a drastic shift from the usual postcard advertising which was prevalent."

For instance, one of the print ads showed a village woman standing in the desert with earthen pitchers balanced on her head. In the ad, this tower of pots was used to represent the letter 'I' in India. It was all about creating a delightful visual impression for the visitors to the region. The year after that, the 'Incredible India' campaign took a different route with all the ads revolving around the theme of yoga. Since then, every year 'Incredible India' adverts have been based on an exclusive Indian theme, which promotes the country's history and cultural values.

Even Mudra, which has recently won the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) account, is quite excited about the recent campaigns it is currently working on. Ryan Menezes, creative director, Mudra says, "Clients have started buying better works. They are also now taking conscious effort to make the adverts more interesting and of better quality, creatively. The MTDC campaign, which we are currently working on, will be path-breaking."

While agencies are trying to innovate, not too many people consider India as a brand still. Ravi Raghavendra, creative director, Contract, says, "One 'Incredible India' campaign cannot change the system. It is not a question of budget or innovation but it is a matter of creating a serious brand out of India as tourist destination. There are countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, etc., which are extremely aggressive in promoting the tourism options of the region. This drive is lacking in India, and should be spearheaded by the government. Only then will advertising agencies have the motivation to deliver better creatives and people start having different visions about tourism in India."

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