MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd) has empanelled six agencies for its Rs 50-60 crore advertising business. The agencies on board are Hindustan Thompson Associates, Mudra Communications, Saatchi & Saatchi, Everest Integrated Communications, Pressman Advertising and Adfactors.
However, the protocol for aligning the business has been slightly altered. Rather than dividing the business - which comprises landlines, cellphone services (Dolphin), Internet and ISP and satellite services - among the six agencies to start with, the business will be awarded on a project-to-project basis. That is, each time a new need arises, the business will be put up for pitch among the six agencies on the panel. The project will be awarded to an agency based on the presentation thereafter. It appears BSNL is observing the same protocol as well.
The MTNL advertising account had many agencies vying for it, after MTNL placed a tender ad on June 11, 2001, in the Hindustan Times, inviting a pitch. Some 20 agencies apparently responded. They were asked to make a credential, creative and strategy presentation. All of this happened in one round, at the end of which MTNL short-listed six agencies.
Incidentally, none of MTNL's earlier agencies made it this time. The incumbent agencies were Lowe Lintas, MAA Bozell, Contract and iB&W. For the new agencies, Dolphin seems to be the most coveted business. Though the launch of the Dolphin service was deferred for various reasons, it looks attractive because of its potential. One of the empanelled agencies claims that the Dolphin service has a subscription base of nearly 20,000 already.
There are detractors as well. A senior executive in one of the agencies that didn't make it asks, "How can Dolphin be a success? Neither the basic infrastructure nor the billing software is in place." On the other hand, Vaishakh Kelkar, client services director, Everest Integrated Communications, seems more optimistic, "MTNL has the technology and the money to ensure that Dolphin is a success. Because of some pressures they had to prepone the launch; which is why all the services could not be activated at one go. But, as I see it, by end-September or the beginning of October, all the necessary infrastructure for the Dolphin service will be in place."
Part of Vaishakh's confidence stems from the fact that being a GoI service, Dolphin will be heavily subsidised. "Quite obviously, the call rates are going to be less than what the existing cellular operators are charging. In fact, MTNL is coming up with some really interesting offers. For example, one of its recent offers was a free roaming facility between Delhi and Mumbai. Such offers, combined with the price advantage, will help MTNL break into the current 5-6 lakh cellphone user population and convert them into Dolphin users."
Another reason he cites is transparency. "I would say the trust factor with MTNL will be stronger compared to the private-run cellular service providers. That is because most of the cellphone subscribers today feel they pay more than they should be. There are hidden costs that escape one's notice. MTNL, hopefully, will maintain transparency with its customers."
It appears the media skew for MTNL will be more in favour of print. However, there would be some television campaigns too. A fresh burst of media activity for Dolphin will happen in the first week of October.
© agencyfaqs! 2001