N. Shatrujeet

Ramesh Iyengar, Vivek Basrur in Lions Direct 2004 jury

The fact that Ramesh Iyengar and Vivek Basrur have been picked for jury duty by Cannes is a strong indicator of India’s growing influence in direct marketing

If there is one awards category at the Cannes International Advertising Festival where India has made a distinct impression, it is in Lions Direct, the recently introduced direct marketing awards at Cannes. In its inaugural year (2002, that is), India won up a Gold Lion in DM, courtesy iContract's direct marketing exercise for ICICI Children's Growth Bonds. Then last year, of the three Lions Direct nominations India had, two ended up winning awards - a mailer for Businessworld picked up a Gold Lion, while a DM exercise for Hutch Telecom landed a bronze - both courtesy Ogilvy India.

With the Lions Direct into its third year, there is already some good news for India. Not in the form of awards, mind you (the judging is far from over), but by way of jury constitution. While Howard Draft, chairman, CEO, Draft Inc, is the president of this year's Lions Direct jury, Ramesh Iyengar, managing director, Select Direct Marketing Communications, and Vivek Basrur, managing director, DIREM Marketing Services, are a part of the Lions Direct 2004 jury. And the fact that the two Indian direct marketing professionals have been picked for jury duty by Cannes is a strong indicator of India's growing influence and contribution in the direct marketing discipline.

A fact that Iyengar has in mind when he says that direct marketing in India is steadily coming into its own. "Unlike our mainline advertising which took a long while to make a mark internationally, DM in India, despite being a relatively nascent and poorly understood concept, has been doing particularly well," he says. "I would go so far as to say that in spite of working with so many constraints, our DM work delivers results, and is on par with, if not better than, the best the world produces."

Iyengar is of the opinion that direct marketing in India is constantly grappling with issues pertaining to budgets, respect, talent and awareness. "DM is driven by cost-per-contact, and in India, the kind of budgets that we operate with are really miniscule," he says. "Internationally, marketers have a greater commitment to DM, but in India, DM is still seen as a fringe option." However, Iyengar agrees that the financial constraints that DM in India works with could be contributing to better and more effective DM ideas. "It's possible that because we have to stretch every rupee, our ideas tend to work that much harder," he concedes.

While Iyengar admits that awareness levels of DM and its impact are low in India, the category is evolving, with some sectors having embraced DM significantly. "Sectors such as financial services, hospitality, airlines and travel and tourism, and B2B sectors such as courier services have used DM and have got good returns, which is why they are beginning to put more and more money into DM," he says. "Pharma is also an emerging sector. In these sectors, growth has been up to 50 per cent, year on year." Iyengar believes it is only a question of time before awareness grows. "Really, it is the lack of awareness and clear understanding among clients which is DM's biggest challenge locally."

And he believes his nomination to the Cannes jury will do the Indian DM industry a fair bit of good. "Coming into the Cannes jury has helped us quite a bit," he says. "For no matter how good we know we are, DM is ‘invisible', so the Cannes honour gives the infant industry credibility. People suddenly start taking notice of you and looking at you with interest."

Given the fact that he is a jury member at Cannes, Iyengar is not in a position to talk about the quality of specific DM exercises that India has produced recently. However, he rates India's chances of picking up DM Lions this year as fairly high. "We will make a mark. I think it's our turn to stand up and shine," he says confidently. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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