Despite an uncharacteristic summer marked by monsoon-like cataracts, it's sweaty-palm days in Delhi as far as quite a few incumbent agencies are concerned - Lowe Lintas (Xerox) and RK Swamy/BBDO (Adidas), for instance. And the latest to join the list is Mudra Communications, whose Rs 1.5-crore Ambassador account is up for review. From what agencyfaqs! has gathered, the pitch is over, and a decision from the client is pending.
When contacted, senior executives at Hindustan Motors (HM) were either "not available" or were "traveling". Umpteen calls later, one helpful junior functionary at HM, under assurances of anonymity, revealed that "the pitch is over, and TBWAAnthem, Euro RSCG, Triton Communications and Mudra are in the final shortlist." Apparently, a final call will be made towards the end of this month.
agencyfaqs! first got wind of the Ambassador review when we heard that CDH (ChadhaDharHoon) had been invited to pitch for the account. A call to CDH showed that something was, indeed, happening. "We were called for a briefing along with five-six other agencies," reveals Ajit Hoon, executive director, CDH. "However, we subsequently decided against pitching." Hoon is not willing to cite reasons for this decision.
Through a process of elimination (of agencies that already handle an automobile account), agencyfaqs! narrowed its prospects to about 10 agencies. Contract Advertising, which used to handle the account in the early 90s (before it moved to Mudra), was a logical choice. But Mohit Hira, senior vice-president, Contract Advertising, said that although it too was approached, the agency declined from pitching. Hira too gave no reasons.
While it is not clear what prompted Contract's decision, an educated guess is that the agency - and, perhaps, a couple of similarly big agencies - might not have pitched as it was only Ambassador that was up for review. And there was no assurance from HM that the Lancer account (or the to-be-launched Pajero account) would follow. As the head of one agency that handles another car account said, "Which agency would want to pitch for the Ambassador alone? No agency would want to be associated with deadwood."
However, there is another side to the pitch. HM certainly sees some value in the Ambassador brand. Why else would it call for a review? From what little could be gathered from HM, it appears that the company is banking on the CNG version of the Ambassador to appeal to tourist taxi operators - a consumer segment which constitutes one of the oldest clientele for the Ambassador brand. Of course, of late, the Tata Sumo, the Indica and the Maruti Omni have been pressuring the Ambassador in this segment.
Which is perhaps why HM feels that some fresh thinking needs to be infused. Also, there could be a feeling within the company that its three brands (the Lancer, the Ambassador and the RTV) need to be handled by different agencies. Which explains why Ushak Kaal, which recently won the RTV account, was excluded from the Ambassador pitch.
The only way of knowing the answers to all this is to wait and watch…
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