The advertising account of SBI Mutual Fund has shifted from Euro RSCG India to Bates India, following an eight-agency pitch that was held in Mumbai in the third week of last month. According to information available with agencyfaqs!, the pitch involved, among others, Bates, Lowe, Mudra Communications, Adfactors Advertising and ex-incumbent Euro. Confirming the news of Bates' appointment, Sandeep Bhasin, chief - corporate communications, SBI Mutual, told agencyfaqs! that the decision was communicated to the agency late last week.
Speaking about the pitch process, Bhasin says, "The brief that we gave the eight agencies we had invited was very simple. The objective was to come up with a new creative strategy for SBI Mutual Fund, and follow the strategy up with creative executions. We gave the agencies a free hand on what to do, and we felt that Bates came up with the best creative strategy and execution." He adds that while SBI Mutual has not done a lot of mainline media advertising over the past two-three years, "this year we have decided to try a different approach to communication." He also informs that in keeping with the company's increased focus on advertising, the ad budget for 2003-04 has "more than doubled", with spends likely to go up to Rs 6 crore.
To get the agency perspective on the pitch, agencyfaqs! spoke to (JS) Mani, senior vice-president & general manager, Bates India. And Mani confirms that the pitch process was, indeed, single-minded. "There was no written brief from the client," he reports. "We were told that our task was to present creative ideas on what SBI Mutual has to do to pitchfork itself into the consideration set of potential investors, in a fiercely competitive mutual fund market. We were all given a very tight presentation time to present our ideas, and once our presentation was over, we knew we had made an impact." When asked what had swung the pitch in Bates' favour, he replied, "The reason why we stood out was because we had an interesting device - an advertising idea - that was better than anything anyone else could do."
What that device/idea is, Mani will not say. Nor will Bhasin. "All I can say is that it is very different from what we are presently doing, and much more than what others in the mutual fund market are doing," says Bhasin. "Beyond that, I cannot say anything, as we are working in a competitive environment, and are still in the process of finalizing the communication." He does, however, add that SBI Mutual would be introducing a new product by mid-May, "so the communication should break by early May".
One thing is certain. While investor confidence in mutual funds (as an instrument) and in the category is fairly strong - bond funds and some diversified equity funds have done well in the market - the same need not apply to specific mutual fund brands. "After the UTI debacle, there is a lot of apprehension in investors' minds about companies with similar profiles, and this could have a rub-off on SBI Mutual too," says one market-watcher. "Plus, SBI Mutual is saddled with the 'SBI' image, which might not be as fashionable as those that some of its private sector competitors have. I think SBI Mutual's primary job will be to make itself as desirable a brand in the eyes of investors." © 2003 agencyfaqs!