N. Shatrujeet

Bates wins Rs 8-crore Tata Salt account; Publicis retains Samundar

Tata Chemicals has awarded Bates India the advertising business of flagship brand Tata Salt, while retaining the Samundar brand with Publicis India

Following what can be counted as one of the longest advertising pitches in recent times, Tata Group-company Tata Chemicals, has awarded Bates India with the creative duties for flagship brand, Tata Salt. The account, which was previously with Publicis India, is valued at Rs 8 crore, in billing terms. In a related development, the company has retained the Rs 2-crore advertising account of Samundar - its south India-specific salt brand - with Publicis. The media duties of both brands are, of course, with The Media Edge, the media planning and buying division of Rediffusion-DY&R.

The Tata Chemicals pitch goes back to early March, when eight agencies were invited to make presentations on Tata Salt. While the identities of all the contenders are not known, by end March, the company had drawn up a shortlist of three agencies - Rediffusion, Contract Advertising and Bates. Since then, however, a decision had been pending. As it turns out, Tata Chemicals had frozen on Bates by the end of last month, but chose not to make the decision public to allow for "a proper handing over of responsibilities", says (JS) Mani, senior vice-president & general manager, Bates India.

Talking about the reasons for taking time deciding on an agency, a Tata Chemicals spokesperson told agencyfaqs!, "We tried to follow a very systematic process of evaluation. So we had two rounds of presentations and a shortlist. We wanted to be thorough and sure about what we were going to place our money on."

Tata Chemicals, it appears, is quite pleased with its decision to pick Bates. Speaking about the company's expectations from the new agency, the spokesperson says, "Even at the presentations stage, one key element in the brief we gave all the agencies was that we wanted advertising solutions that were customer-driven and not product-driven. Look at the salt ads on television today, and every one of them is product-driven. We, as the market leader, have decided to break away from that mould and create advertising that has a more emotional approach, where the advertising is more involving. And this is because salt is a low-involvement category, where purchases are made either out of habit or inertia. We want to create advertising that is on a higher plane - that which makes the consumer go out and consciously pick us. And there is clear consensus that Bates' idea met these standards."

In fact, it is the desire for such advertising that prompted Tata Chemicals to call a pitch four months ago. Not that the company was unhappy with Publicis, the Tata spokesperson assures. "We have been associated with Publicis for a very long time now - for some eight-to-10 years," he says. "And Publicis has done a good job on the brand, which is why we have retained Samundar with them. The reason we wanted a new agency was because we thought the brand (Tata Salt) needed a more vigorous and dynamic communication. A fresh perspective."

And a fresh perspective is what Bates promises to offer. "Our strategic and creative platform is very, very different," says Mani. "It is based on a very strong consumer insight that is rooted in the Indian ethos and idiom. And it is Bates' culture-centric approach that has helped springboard all our mass-market brands. While handing us the contract, the client actually told us that they were very impressed with this platform… and the enthusiasm we displayed. Unfortunately, I can't share more of this with you right now as the market is very competitive."

There is little doubt that competition is furnace-hot. A recent ORG-MARG retail audit shows that although Tata Salt is the market leader (with a share of 18 per cent) in the 15 lakh-ton domestic branded salt market, closest competitor Annapurna (from HLL) is closing in rapidly, with a market share of 15 per cent. And brands such as Dandi, Surya and now Nature Fresh (from Cargill Foods) are making things really crowded.

And in all this competition, phrases such as ‘sudh', ‘free-flow', ‘iodized namak', ‘sahi matra mein iodine' and ‘danedaar namak' have thoroughly confused the consumer. It remains to be seen if Bates and Tata Salt live up to their promise of delivering advertising that is "more involving". For that, one will have to wait till end-July, as "we are going through the final set of creatives", Mani informs. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

Have news to share? Write to us atnewsteam@afaqs.com