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Amit Ray@Cannes: Wake up to the reality in India

23-June-2010
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Amit Ray@Cannes: Wake up to the reality in India

This is my second visit to the ‘Festival City’, but first one for advertising. Last time, I was here in 2007 for MIPCOM. In comparison, Cannes Lions is rather tiny and also lacks the jazz that one would expect from an international festival, especially when it is propagated as the Oscars of Advertising. However, it’s only been one and a half days, may be the tempo will pick up in the days ahead.

There are many speakers sharing their take on the future of marketing communication and the slant was on ‘social media’. There were elaborate and gripping presentations on YouTube, Twitter and other forms of social media, fascinating insights. Someone went on to demonstrate that the reach of YouTube is now greater than the combined reach of the big four networks in the US.

The consequent challenge that every speaker was unanimous about was the need to create “pull” for content and embed the brand in it to impact sales, rather than just push it to them the way it’s been done traditionally. The other theory that was propagated was “altruism”. Most speakers cautioned the marketers to be honest and sub serve the society to be accepted by the consumers.

The only thing that didn’t go down well with me is their attitude, most speakers came from the developed nation and considered developed nation equals the world. While social media is a reality, the impact of that in a country like India is nowhere near the first world countries, at least what the speakers wanted us to believe. The speakers also gave examples of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where people used social media to force justice. One may argue that closer home, Shashi Tharoor and Lalit Modi were exposed because of ‘social media’ and hence, social media is in here too. I honestly don’t think that’s the case even in the case of these two. If social media was as powerful and was truely democratic, how come Union Carbide is scot free even after damaging Bhopal so badly? Any way, it could be a mindless debate and let’s accept what the developed world says and start working towards learning about social media, more importantly, how to exploit social media for our client’s brands.

The next big disclosure was the findings of a huge global study on mobile users. And let me put in a bit of patriotism here to add that it was done by Initiative, a media brand of IPG, our parent company. It did talk of a rapidly growing phenomenon and the need to come up with a way to use it for marketing communication.

Let me conclude by doing some scenario building for both social media and mobile telephony. India continues to remain an enigma to the first world. Take the VHS phenomenon. In India, it really didn’t make any impact as the country moved from antenna to satellite too fast. Take the pager, the same story here. We moved too soon to mobile, so we almost bypassed the pager. Now, look at the possibility of the mobile device, coupled with the advent of 3G, even 4G, and the likely entry of Big A (Mukesh Ambani). It is highly possible that we may bypass ‘Internet on computer’ and move to ‘net enabled mobile phone or smart phone as it is called’. All the western world thinking then will have to go through a radical shift.

Apart from that, culturally Indians are very well socially connected, except for a few of us in high pressure jobs in the big cities. In real India, we will have to first handle issues like availability of 24x7 electricity, computer literacy, etc., before penetration of social media is anywhere near what the first world is experiencing and hence, predicting. To add to that, please remember we are socially very well connected as opposed to the western world, where even to remember their parents they have to create a ‘Father’s Day’ and a ‘Mother’s Day’.

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