"Now this guy has not given me ads, but I am going to ask him to advertise on his terms," says Eric D'Souza, general manager, Dainik Bhaskar. He is referring to a media buyer who is buying space for a big FMCG marketer for the forthcoming International Women's Day. D'Souza calls up his boys, collects some dummies, and turns to me: "Let's talk in the car".
Seated inside, he shows me the dummies of the Women's Day issue of one of his publications. "This is what we will do for advertisers," he says, showing me various advertising options on the beautifully designed covers, with the advertiser's actual ads placed there. "Won't you be willing to buy a house if I showed you an actual model than a makeshift?" he asks me. It is such earnestness that is putting the Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh)-based publishing house on the radar of most advertisers today. "It has been very aggressive in the marketplace," says Nandini Dias, national media director, Interface Communications, "doing a lot of innovative marketing in the last few years."
Late last year, the group, which runs the Hindi Daily, Dainik Bhaskar, across 15 editions, and a single-edition English newspaper, National Mail, launched an innovative sales-guarantee scheme. It convinced a consumer electronics marketer to shell out an undisclosed amount of advertising money against a commitment to double sales in the markets of Haryana and Chandigarh. If the company's sales did not reach set targets, Dainik Bhaskar would take no money, except a minimum base amount. Unfortunately for the newspaper, the market took a turn for the worse and the money was lost.
"It was a risk," admits Girish Agarwal, director, advertising. "December 2000 was a bad month for consumer durables," he explains. "A few markets responded well; others didn't. We had based our estimates on the base of the previous year. But even the 100 of that year went down to 70. Though the client was happy with the effort, I was not." Now, Agarwal divulges, he is negotiating with an automobiles major to undertake a similar initiative. "But we have to be slightly careful now," he admits. "The market still continues to go up and down."
The sales-guarantee scheme is among the more extreme of Dainik Bhaskar's various marketing packages offered to advertisers since the middle of last year. All the packages are simply a new way of approaching space-selling. As D'Souza explains: "Today, if you want to advertise in the print medium in, say, Madhya Pradesh, that is when you start looking at the available media options like ours. But that is not the way the media has to think if it has to grow. What we are saying is, when you look at Dainik Bhaskar, look at it as a media vehicle with the idea of increasing sales. So Dainik Bhaskar has to come at the time of allocating media budgets, not at the end."
So there are time-bound deals that concentrate on weak market development, tap existing market potential or simply boost existing market share. For instance, if Chandigarh is a weak market for a brand like Akai, the newspaper claims to assemble a deal comprising, say, 60 full-page ads at half the price. The benefit? "Akai would not have spent a penny on advertising in print in that market anyway," explains D'Souza. But what if everyone asks for such a deal? "Our team runs checks to find out how the said brand performs in that market."
In a way, D'Souza's team of space-sellers is constantly working with the marketer these days, more so in the sales-guarantee schemes. "It is in our interest to make sure that the brand's sales double in the agreed-upon time," says D'Souza. This means the following steps:
1. Assessing top-of-mind recall of the brand in the market and a general survey on brand awareness and preference;
2. Accessibility of dealers, so that customers don't have trouble reaching them once the ads are out;
3. A check on the salespeople in showrooms on receptive and persuasive levels;
4. Checking displays in the area; and
5. Boosting its advertising with occasional promotional write-ups in the newspaper.
"One dealer, for instance, told us last December that he had been asking for a particular model of television but had not received it," recalls D'Souza. "Such things have to be brought to the client's notice on a daily basis."
Such marketing aggression does have its soft underbelly though. Doesn't it lead to an editorial-marketing ruckus? "No, the roles are very clear," explains Agarwal. "We don't disturb the editorial on news value. But when it comes to press releases, I am not asking my editorial to write. It is information provided by the company." But the trouble is, when it is a high-risk, high-stakes move in sync with a marketer, it may become too tempting to forgo of editorial sanctity to ensure the marketer's success, and one's own.
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