Alokananda Chakraborty

World Cup 2003: No winners from Indian advertising - Part II

By not doing a cricket number, some ads have actually managed breaking cricket-induced clutter on television

(In the first part of the story yesterday, we saw few of the 25-odd brands that created cricket- and World Cup-related advertising this year managed breaking clutter with great creatives. In this part we examine why.)

By not doing a cricket number, perhaps, some ads actually managed breaking (by default) cricket-induced clutter. B Raghu, creative director, Publicis Ambience, takes up the merit of the argument. "None of the ads that had cricket as a theme worked. In fact, after a point, these ads started getting on the nerves. As it is, there was so much cricket saturation during the World Cup. These ads were only adding to the clutter. I don't understand this logic of doing more of the same thing. When everyone zigs you have to zag, but that didn't happen."

Anup Chitnis, creative director, Mudra Communications, agrees. "An overdose of cricket did us in, and it became so contrived and boring, nothing made an impact." Drawing a parallel to the Super Bowl, he adds, "If you look at the ads aired during the Super Bowl, little has to do with baseball. Advertisers only see the Super Bowl as a great opportunity to show the best possible ad the consumer will remember you by. That's what we should do with the World Cup."

That the World Cup was a lovely opportunity, most agrees on. "The phenomenal visibility it afforded brands cannot be measured; which is why it is pure agony to see the opportunity being squandered," says Ravi Deshpande, head of Lemon. "All I can say is that the advertising we saw was a colossal waste of money." However, Amarnani from Quadrant believes that advertisers and agencies were carried away by the media opportunity. "It's a classic mistake that we are doomed to make every four years. The media and the event are driving brand communication. We shouldn't allow the media opportunity dictate a brand's communication needs. Both clients and agencies are falling for it." Arvind Mohan, executive planning director, McCann-Erickson, also feels that many of brands also "overused the television medium".

The problem is, when such a media opportunity presents itself, advertisers want to use it. And usually, on inflexible terms. "It's really hard to come up with World Cup scripts if you look at the constraints that are put on agencies," says Varun Mehta, creative consultant, TBWA India. "Ganguly has to hit a six, Sachin cannot be bowled, everyone has to be happy. And then you have to fit the brand into the script. You have very little room to be original and entertaining. I think Prasoon's (Pandey) Times of India ad (‘Tendulkar') was the most entertaining one on cricket, but how many clients will approve it?"

One reason cited for the relatively poor fare dished out this time is advertising's inability to entertain. "What you had this year was mostly manufacturers' statements," says Raghu. "That is what people expect from advertising anyway, so you cannot hope to stand out." Chitnis agrees, adding, "People watching cricket on television are in entertainment mode, so entertain them. Don't give them a sales pitch about how good you are and how you can change their lives."

When it comes to good World Cup-related advertising in India, only three ads (from all World Cups) make the grade. Pepsi's famous ‘Nothing official' campaign, Coke's Tarsem Singh-directed ‘Passion has a colour' ad and Bajaj's ‘The official carrier of the Indian cricket fan' ad. And none of what we saw this year comes close. "I was quite disappointed with all the advertising I saw this World Cup. I don't think any of the work could be compared with ‘Nothing official' or Bajaj," says Saumya Sen, creative director, O&M. In particular, he likes the manner in which ‘Nothing official' solved Pepsi's brand problem "by making a virtue out of not being the official sponsor". "I hear resonance of the Pepsi idea in the Bajaj campaign," says Sen. "Bajaj was an interesting fit, but the breakthrough came with Pepsi, which explored the official-versus-unofficial theme so intelligently."

Agrees Deepa Kakkar, executive national creative director, director, RKSwamy/BBDO. "'Nothing official' was a brilliant idea. It repositioned the competition so effortlessly, and with so much wit. Most importantly, it was completely in sync with the personality of the brand - youthful and irreverent." Deshpande's personal favourite is Coke, even though he was part of the team that made the Bajaj ad. "The way Tarsem exploited the spirit of cricket and the vibrancy of this country was awesome. It was sheer poetry, and nothing came close, before or after."

Samit Sinha of Alchemist sees ‘Nothing official' as a case of "ambush marketing at its best". He adds that the Sachin-Shah Rukh ‘impersonation' ad from the last World Cup was also "universal", while the ‘Sachin masks' ad "stood out in its sheer appeal, recall and impact". Mohan also gives Pepsi "full credit for the ‘Nothing official' campaign's irreverence and subversiveness", and for making it a "part of our lives". He adds that Britannia's advertising for 50:50 using the call for the third umpire "was intelligent as they were trying to connect with people and the game. They were using cricket as a medium, and not as a media opportunity."

Contract Advertising's Creative Director, Parveez Shaikh, believes that the ‘Nothing official', ‘Passion' and Bajaj ads were good because all three had strong ideas rooted in the brands. "All three managed getting cricket and the brand properties (irreverence, the colour of passion/red and the Indian two-wheeler, respectively) together nicely. The ads tried interesting and relevant fits with cricket." Interestingly, the Pepsi and Bajaj ads were pretty anti-establishment, and it was the way they ‘ambushed' their respective rivals that helped them break clutter.

Which raises a silly point. Could the clause that the International Cricket Council (ICC) laid out on ambush marketing have spoilt some of the fun that could have been had on the side? Raghu shakes his head and smiles. "Malcolm Speed and the ICC cannot be blamed for lack of creativity in Indian advertising." © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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