Interpublic Group-agency Interface Communications has won the creative and media duties for Mahindra Tractors, the tractor brand of automotive giant Mahindra. The account, with capitalized billing of Rs 6-7 crore, moves from PSL Erickson (the erstwhile advertising JV between the Mahindra Group and McCann-Erickson), following that agency's closure.
Speaking to agencyfaqs!, Niteen Bhagwat, executive director, Interface Communications, revealed that the account came the agency's way "on the strength of the work that Interface has done on existing Mahindra accounts", adding that the agency did not pitch for the business. "We have been associated with the Mahindras for close to three years now, and they simply decided to shift this business to us when the need for a new agency arose," he says. For the record, Interface currently handles three of Mahindra's jeep brands - Armada, Bolero and the recently launched Scorpio - apart from Club Mahindra, the leisure property brand.
On the face of it, the size of the Mahindra Tractors account might seem surprising… and even inflated. However, this can be easily explained by the fact that the brand is not 'visible' in mainstream, metro-centric media. "Obviously, in the urban context, we'll never get to see the advertising for tractors," Bhagwat points out. "But this does not mean spends are low. In fact, Mahindra has been a fairly large spender."
If one were to look at the Indian tractor market and the target audience, it becomes evident that communication is a key driver for most brands. Of course, that communication need not necessarily be through traditional media, given the top-heavy nature of traditional media. "Rural India has a paucity of media access, so we'll have to work our way around the problem," says Bhagwat, detailing the challenges ahead. Limitations in media reach is not the only issue - tractor consumption and usage patterns in India are, in themselves, tasks that demand attention.
"There are essentially two issues that impact volumes," explains Bhagwat. "One is the fact that tractors have a very long life, which reduces the rate of repeat purchase. But more importantly, the incidence of farmers hiring tractors in India is very high. Bulk of the farmers who own tractors use them only at points in time, and when not in use, they tend to rent out their tractors to other farmers." A convenient dynamic that suits both the haves and the have-nots, but one that can drive marketers up the wall. "As you can see, the usage of tractors is high, but ownership is low." Add to this the intense competition in the market. HMT, L&T, Eicher, Ford New Holland, Escorts, Swaraj, Tafe, Punjab Tractors and, of course, Mahindra… More players than in any one car segment in the country.
Bhagwat, however, is confident that the agency will be able to deliver. "Interface is going to partner the Mahindra team in a marketing and communication plan, and we will be developing the blueprint of a branding strategy that meets the client's objective of consolidating the brand's No. 1 status in the Indian market." Incidentally, as per TMA (Tractor Manufacturers Association) figures for 2001, Mahindra is the market leader with a 34-per cent share.
"The challenge is to take the brand forward not only in India, but also make it a significant player in the global market," says Bhagwat. (Mahindra is already exporting tractors to the US.) He adds that the agency is in the process of starting work on the account "any day". Â© 2002 agencyfaqs!