Indian Airlines (IA) had started the process of empanelment of its advertising agencies in September 1999. A year-and-a-half on, it is ready with a shortlist of 10, out of which the final selection will be made. In case you are wondering what's taking the public sector giant so long, the answer lies in the mode of empanelment itself.
Shovon Choudhury, vice-president, Bates, Delhi - one of the incumbent agencies - explained the mode of selection. "The process of selection in public sector companies and in government organisations is very different from the way it is done otherwise," he said. "It is really elaborate and involves several steps. Step one: These institutions put up ads in national newspapers inviting proposals from agencies. This, I would describe, as the written test. Step two: These proposals are evaluated on certain parameters and a shortlist is made. Step three - what I call the viva voce - the shortlisted agencies are asked to make a pitch, which is again evaluated by an expert panel. It is then that the final selection is made and agencies are empanelled."
IA usually goes for a fresh panel of agencies every two years. This time, however, it would be taking three years to recruit a fresh panel. A top executive of IA told agencyfaqs! that after the "recruitment ad" was published in September 1999, the national airline received proposals from 52 agencies, out of which 27 were shortlisted by "an internal committee". These agencies were asked to submit a concept paper on how to reposition IA as a brand, together with a proposal on how to position IA as a bankable proposition as a run-up to disinvestment. "In the first stage it was a strategy presentation. Now that the expert panel has arrived at a shortlist, these agencies will make their creative pitches," he said. It appears that the final pitch has been fixed for March.
An elaborate process indeed, but the IA brass believes that it is "very democratic and the most scientific method". The IA official said, "Though protracted, the process has its obvious merits. One, the shortlist is made both on the basis of a strategy and a creative pitch. Two, we ask agencies to present the pre-testing and post-testing methods to check on advertising effectiveness as part of their concept paper. We are not only looking at top-line advertising, but looking for a total communication package."
An industry insider told agencyfaqs! that apart from Lintas - which currently handles the Jet Airways account - most of the top rung agencies presented their "strategy paper" to IA. This included the two incumbents - Bates, which handles the international routes and Enterprise Nexus, which handles the domestic routes - as well. Interestingly, IA plans to almost double its ad spend this year. An IA spokesperson said that while in 1995 the ad budget was as high as Rs 18 crore, it was gradually scaled down to below Rs 10 crore last year. This year, in view of the impending disinvestment as well as the stepped up efforts of Jet Airways and Sahara, IA is looking to spend not less than Rs 15 crore. "It could even go up to Rs 20 crore," he indicated.
© 2001 agencyfaqs!