The Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) celebrated its 60 years in style. One of the key events – the ‘Beyond The Horizon’ seminar – culminated with Prem Mehta, Chairman and MD, Lintas India, delivering the valedictory note, following a session on media and entertainment by The Hindu’s Editor-in-Chief, N Ram, and STAR India, CEO, Peter Mukerjea and a Panel Response session.
The Media and Entertainment session kicked off the second half of the day. The Chairperson for the session was Leo Burnett’s Chairman, Arvind Sharma. Sharma spoke more about the growing media and the various platforms to advertisers today to build brands. Establishing the base, he invited his first panelist, N Ram, who spoke about the value of good content in journalism.
In an upfront presentation, Ram pointed the problems that the print industry was facing. “The newspaper industry faces a full fledged crisis today,” he said. He enumerated various encouraging signs also pertaining to the industry, speaking about Asia being in the top three countries, which had the highest number of readers, India being No 2 in the list. Ram also referred to literature, highlighted the buoyancy in Indian language papers, concluding that literacy, good transport and communication, and finally the existence of political events, lead to the growth in the medium.
Bringing out the pressures that advertising brings in editorial and the readers evolving drastically at the same time, Ram cautioned, “Newspapers will decline rapidly unless there are radical changes to make connect with the reader. Good journalism can laugh at concepts of the ‘give the reader what they want’ and ‘Infotainment’, but the bottom line is that we have to see these issues seriously now.”
Apart from these concerns, he also pointed out that presence of a paper on the web, even though it hadn’t eaten into the readership much presently, going forward it would. Leaving the audience with all these issues, he concluded on the note, “We have to value good journalism, quality content if the medium has to survive.”
Even as the audience was worrying on this set of issues, Peter Mukerjea brought out another set of concerns. He began his presentation with the quoting Don Schultz from the foreword of the book Life After 30-second Spot. He said, “Consumer is different today, but advertising is not. It is still 30-second ads format for a consumer, who cannot be formatted.”
He pointed out the gradual movement to consumer-generated content and the emergence of concepts like Direct Marketing and PR for the marketing success of a product.
To the shatter myths that we faced today, Mukerjea brought out points that were issues earlier, but over time had ceased – whether it was the prediction of television never taking off or consumers turning into ‘serial clickers’ ending the advertising era, as soon as the remote control was invented. He pointed that people still kept coming back.
Nonetheless, the medium was transforming now. From a situation, where media was controlled, technological revolution has led to the consumer controlling the media. Mukerjea explained that with the growth of digital communication, the nature of production, distribution and finally consumption of TV had changed, and so would TV advertising.
He cited the examples of IPTV and BT delivering content over phone lines, Interactive TV like SKY News Active, PVRs, X TV and so on, emphasising that competition only got accentuated going forward, pressure on programmers intensifying to actually leading to a scene where only the best would survive.
Throwing light on some future trends, Mukerjea said, “There would be complete technological convergence, product integration, sponsorships would be more meaningful. Even if the digital immigrants will not become native, there is a need to be accustomed to the digital culture and then, only sky is the limit.”
The conclusion of the session led to the final session of the day, Panel Response, which saw the participation of advertising industry’s heavyweights like O&M’s Piyush Pandey, Mudra’s Madhukar Kamath and V Shantakumar from Saatchi & Saatchi. Sunil Alagh was the Chairperson of the session. Even before the session began, he informed the audience that the panellists would just voice a thought they regarded as relevant to the industry, and then opened the floor to the audience, a privilege not seen in the earlier sessions.
Alagh began with the need to going to fundamentals for a problem, but not intellectualising the issue and not being restricted by benchmarks. Pandey was the first panellist to address the crowd, who began with the question, “Are we bugging consumers too much? In our excitement of new things, we are forgetting the basics and the result is that 85 per cent of what we see today is utter crap!”
He said that there was a need to correct the act immediately if the future had to be secure and that the key of great communication was in partnerships.
Following, this Kamath took charge of the crowd. He said, “Today we are forcing ourselves to come with a new idea. We mustn’t forget that there are too many choices that consumers have in every field and that it is time for integration, across disciplines.”
One of the key points he brought out was that the unbundling of agencies onto media and creative was one of the generators of problems today, and that the solution now lay in returning to full fledged agencies and strengthening partnerships with clients.
Shantakumar took Kamath’s point forward saying that all changes happened in context and content could not be the driver of change. “Just because there is new technology doesn’t mean we have to search for a way to use it,” he pointed out. “Can you bug someone to buy anything?” he asked.
He further said that in the long run, people believed in action than words and that advertisers were moving in the direction where they focussed more on what they wanted to say than what they wanted to do.
“The relations between the agency and the client has been steadily deteriorating, and at the end of it, we are to be blamed. We haven’t been able to provide the clients with enough transformable ideas,” Shantakumar concluded.
The Panel Response took the seminar closer to its completion, where 20 industry professionals spoke on points of the media that were not seen or spoken of often. The culmination came in the valedictory address, delivered by Prem Mehta, the recipient of the AAAI Premnarayan Award last year.
Mehta brought out the points that he was taking from the seminar, the foremost of which was the need to forge partnerships to take the business forward. On a positive note, he pointed that even as the concept of fragmentation was fast emerging, the fact was that it was accompanied with the phenomenon of an evolving consumer – both socially and economically.
He added, “Marketing has come of age, but the Indian industry is such that it has not seen the luxury of evolution. Aspects like pricing are becoming deciding factors. On the overall scene, this has led to the reduced ability to invest long term, which is a cause of concern.”
Mehta concluded with a call for the need to re-look at the media-creative divide, moving towards integrated communications outfits and in all the need for the ad industry to re-establish. “The keyword of the evening, I believe is partnerships – that is the way forward,” was his parting shot.