For the first time in 44 years (that is, since the time of inception), Doordarshan (DD) has hired the services of an advertising agency. In an even more decisive stance, the national broadcaster is working overtime to give final shape to an aggressive research and marketing plan. "Despite our reach and pre-eminent position in several areas, we are faced with an image problem. We are keen to correct the public perception of our image," explains SY Quraishi, director general, DD.
This aggressiveness was long overdue. Despite having the widest reach, the performance of DD programmes are no patch on the potpourri running on the myriad cable and satellite channels, something that TAM Media Research data has validated week after week. It doesn't take much to realise something is amiss. DD is bend on correcting the situation. And as a first step, it is looking to address the "perception problem".
So, in an unprecedented step, DD recently invited nine Delhi-based agencies to suggest ways of getting the brand back on track. The agency list included Ogilvy & Mather, Lowe, FCB-Ulka, TBWA, RK Swamy/BBDO, Equus Redcell, Crayons, Ushak Kaal, and JWT. Each one of the agencies was asked to make a 'marketing perspective presentation with representative creatives'. As it turned out, JWT impressed the DD brass and walked away with the advertising business at a monthly retainership fee of Rs 5.4 million a year. The agency brass is obviously excited about the development. "We are extremely thrilled about the win and it is an honour to work for a truly national broadcaster," says Jagdip Bakshi, senior vice-president and general manger, JWT.
Winning the account was not an easy affair, but agency officials feel that an in-house research into the viewership pattern of DD gave it some special insights in understanding the problems facing the broadcaster. There were two clear signs of concern. First, DD viewing was decreasing in C&S households, and second, the average age of a DD viewer was going up (an obvious corollary of the fact that the new entrants were switching on the more 'snazzy' C&S channels). That was worrisome, especially since DD has been an innovator of sorts. "The concepts of prime time and Sunday morning viewing were brought in by Doordarshan. Again, the terrestrial channel introduced new genres in programming - such as mythologies, detective serials etc, which are now the areas dominated by others. We have to snatch the initiative back," says Ranjendra Singh, associate vice-president, client services, JWT.
For JWT the communications task entails aggressively promoting the DD brand to viewers using mass media along with the outdoors and the Internet. DD has struck barter deals with some newspapers such as the Indian Express and magazines such Outlook and Malayala Manorama. And in lieu for the ad space, DD would offer free airtime to these publications.
On the programming front, entertainment will take centre stage at DD. Not that one would see a dramatic shift in programming; but yes; without transgressing the channel's predisposition towards public and social responsibility, entertainment will be the new mantra for the terrestrial channel. Whether the national channel of DD will be repositioned as a purely entertainment channel to fight the C&S onslaught is not clear yet.
Building relationships with advertisers and media professionals in ad agencies is also high on DD's agenda. The channel intends to be 'the media vehicle that delivers'. That realisation set in in view of the steady slide in its advertising revenues. As against an advertising revenue of Rs 615 crore in financial year 2001-2002, Doordarshan earned advertising and sponsorship revenue of Rs 553 crore in 2002-03 (that against a total annual expenditure of Rs 850-900 crore for the year). The balance was met through a Government grant. For the current financial year (2003-04), the broadcaster is targeting revenue of around Rs 550 crore.
Sources at DD are upbeat about the advertiser response to its latest initiatives. The only stumbling block till now was the image perception of DD, feel channel officials. Says one, "Last year about 40 per cent of the motorcycles were purchased by DD homes but only 9 per cent of the total motorcycle advertising share came to DD. This clearly shows there is a market to be tapped, and the point is we have the reach." © 2003 agencyfaqs!