Broadband advertising: The need to broaden it

By Khushboo Tanna and Abhishek Chanda , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising
Last updated : September 10, 2009
Broadband advertising in India seems to revolve around the functional benefits of the category, such as speed and portability. afaqs! attempts to find out when communication in this category will evolve

Checking mails en-route to office, surfing the web for that perfect dress or uploading latest photos on a social networking site - all this, on the move. With the changing times, Internet users have changed their needs.

They want instant access to the worldwide web in the shortest possible time. Since the advent of broadband in India, the need to quickly connect to the Internet has gone up.

According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), there are 6.40 million broadband users in the country (as of June 2009). Although nascent, the category is adding consumers month-on-month. The growth is evident from the TRAI report, which states that in May 2007, there were just 2.46 million broadband users in the country.

That explains the fact that more and more telecom companies are joining the broadband bandwagon. However, the common link in these companies is that all have ended up claiming that they offer the fastest browsing speed on the go, stripping the communication objective to the most functional of benefits. Do these brands tend to be functional in their communication because they are off-shoots of the technology category, or is there more meaning and reason to it?

Advertising broadband

Currently, the companies advertising broadband services on television include Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices, Airtel and BSNL. Other companies such as Vodafone and Idea offer broadband services but have not progressed to television advertising as yet.

BSNL was one of the earliest players in the category (2003) and released the first of its broadband communications way back in 2006. BSNL used its tagline, Connecting India, for all its services. The ad opens on a group of people sitting in a pub, unsuccessfully trying to connect to the net from their laptop. Close by, another group of people are seen surfing the net and watching videos, thanks to their BSNL broadband service which lets them surf the net at a speed of 2 MBPS.

The ads for the other players also follow the same route of communication - highlighting speed and portability.

Tata Teleservices recently released an ad for the Tata Photon+, a service introduced last year. The TV commercial for Tata Photon+ sports the tagline, Now carry speed with you. The ad shows different sets of people carrying various things with them. A girl is shown carrying make up items in her bag. Similarly, another one is metaphorically carrying 'success' and someone else is carrying 'bad luck'. A voiceover says that the Tata Photon + lets one carry speed. The ad borders more on the portable aspect of the service, apart from its speed.

Similarly, Reliance Netconnect sports a tagline: Right Here Right Now. The ad shows different people wanting to do different things, such as video chatting and emailing, on the move. Reliance Netconnect comes to their rescue by offering high speed portable broadband. However, with all the players saying the same thing, isn't there a chance that the consumers may not be able to differentiate one service from the other?

Llyod Mathias, chief marketing officer, Tata Teleservices, says that other players offering broadband services talk about speed more than portability, whereas in Tata's case, the focus is on combining the two, namely, the benefit of portable speed.

The problem seems to be lying in the fact that none of the brands have engaged in any kind of brand building exercise, but instead jumped headlong into showcasing the benefits of the brand.

Airtel Broadband's 'Impatience' ad, though, is slightly different since Airtel offers only wired broadband. Naturally, portability isn't on the menu here: the focus is to highlight speed. According to Chandrashekhar Radhakrishnan (Chandru), head, brand and media, Bharti Airtel, its communication married a consumer truth - that of youth being impatient with the slow things in life - with the product benefits.

Broadening the advertising

So how long will it take for the category to move from functional benefits to deeper, emotional bonds? What is keeping these brands away from brand building exercises?

Every brand starts from a commodity stage and then gradually progresses to become a quasi-brand, before finally becoming a brand. Harish Bijoor, founder, Harish Bijoor Consults, feels that the broadband category is still in a commodity stage. "Right now, they are busy feeding the market."

Another fact to be kept in mind is that broadband as a category entered the Indian market after the basic Internet needs of the country were met through dial-up services. Throughout these dial-up days, the typical net-savvy individual got accustomed to the Internet and its nuances and received his basic education. What broadband is doing right now is broadening horizons and feeding the niche consumer, who now yearns for more benefits.

Anand Karir, creative director, DDB Mudra, who has worked on the Reliance Netconnect ad, admits that like the early days of mobile phones in India, it is the time when each player in this category is looking to educate the customer about the benefits and convenience of wireless broadband.

Again, there may be revenue issues of these brands, which are happy playing the wait-and-watch game and waiting for the market to open up. As far as the consumers are concerned, only a part use laptops and amongst them, most have wireless broadband connections being provided for official use. The number of people availing the service for personal use is still not substantial enough to catch the marketers' fancy.

Interestingly, all the brands that are currently advertising their broadband prowess are strong telecom players in the country. Airtel, BSNL and Reliance already have equities and recall value in the market, apart from having a strong base of consumers. This, feels Agnello Dias aka Aggi, chief creative officer, TapRoot India, may have been a reason why these brands did not go for any brand building exercises and rather relied on the rub-off effect.

Going by the technologically advanced category itself, what is also not surprising is that all these players have been focussing on the youth and treating them as their core target group (TG).

However, what Bijoor finds surprising is that none of the players have shown any sign of exploiting the small town or the rural markets with the service. He strongly feels that the TG needs to expand both "up and down". Small towns and rural areas, where wired infrastructure may be a bit difficult to work out, can more easily be fed with the wireless advantage. That way, the marketer should not be happy with just reaching the urban youth and the office goer, and look beyond instead.

Predicting the state of matters in the days to come, Satbir Singh, chief creative officer, Euro RSCG (who has worked on BSNL broadband), says, "Once everyone has spent enough resources on 'Mine is faster' and is tired of carpet bombing the same message, the bravest of them will zag."

In a nutshell, advertising for broadband will continue to follow the educative route for some time to come, as Indian consumers aren't yet done with exploring the world of the Internet on the go. Karir from DDB Mudra sums it up perfectly. He says, "The communication will evolve only when the consumer will evolve."

First Published : September 10, 2009

© 2009 afaqs!