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Noorings: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Will 2011 be another Ball!?

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Noorings: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Will 2011 be another Ball!?

I still remember when I was writing my first Noorings on January 3, 2010 (was a Sunday last year), and I had made an attempt to list all the areas that I was looking forward to in 2010. The year 2010 not only delivered on some of those expectations, but did more. And as we begin another New Year, I cannot help but compare what we were speaking of then and what we are speaking of now.

Before I get there, some of my colleagues expected me to give a roundup of the decade gone – borrowing verbatim from a Hindi GEC CEO, who will not like if I quoted him on this, ‘Decade is a very long period, and what is the point of looking back. Let’s talk about the future’ – couldn’t agree more.

Though I am still doing some bit of looking back. Where 2010 began with all of us talking on the high number of media pitches and procurement driving the business, 2010 saw an intense high-stake merry-go-round of businesses, on the media service side. The biggest names in media service industry were in violent fight of either defending, or going out of its way to secure a big business if they had lost a big client. I am obviously speaking of ITC Ltd, Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Reliance Communications and Parle. And add to that, the little mysteries of the WPP way of living and the Colgate move. And Reckitt Benckiser still has all of us wondering what happens there!

Can we breathe a bit now --- would 2011 be simpler after all the madness in this sector of 2010? You wish! 2011 is crazy and becoming crazier on newer levels. The pitch action, even if it is not this high-stake, is not going to subside. It is going to ensure that media agency heads are still running in all directions to secure new businesses, meet targets and take advantage of the client mindset that this is all about the moolah. But more importantly, 2011 would be about changes in leaders of media service brands as well. Not because there is a need, but interestingly, our industry has thrived on making a change, sometimes just to challenge the status quo. And for a very long time, the media service brands leadership has stayed ‘stable’ – ‘stable’, my friends, is not a word our industry likes much... The ball on this was set rolling when Ravi Kiran decided to exit Starcom MediaVest Group, and even as I write this, journalists are calling dear Amith Prabhu (Corp Comm, ViVaki) every next second to know who the replacement is. Who ever it may eventually be, SMG’s 2011 is truly set for ‘New Beginning’, as is Ravi Kiran’s. And I do expect us rushing to the press with other such ‘breaking news’.

I remember writing last year about watching out what STAR India would do – well, STAR kept all the media running in 2010, as it worked out its miraculous journey right to the top again, and with no competition even close. Sony Entertainment and SAB turned to be the other two channels that lived a strong 2010 and are entering 2011 with a lot of promise. But I am amongst those who are keenly looking at what Colors and Zee TV would do. These are not players who are in it for a year or six months, and with Imagine investing in its programming – 2011 would another fiery year.

But the GRP game is only one aspect of the madness. The digital debate of television already kicked off in 2010, and will gather more steam in 2011. Digital households are touching almost the 30 million mark, and how much closer would 2011 take us to the 50 million milestone would be an interesting watch. I will admit I got that number in a conversation with Sameer Nair, CEO, Turner General Entertainment Network. Many network heads didn’t shy from saying that digital households – driven by DTH and some bit of digital cable - are not so exciting, since they comprise a significant population that is not the typical ‘English movie’, ‘specialised content’ or ‘premium’ audience. We will learn more on this as the year progresses but I am eager to see more on digital, and I will continue asking every agency and media head I know on whether digital side of traditional is digital or traditional. I have got the most interesting of answers for this question so far, and what keeps me engaged on this is that no two answers are the same – this is still an industry that doesn’t come with a preset conditioning.

On the creative side of the industry, while the big boys have been busy and will continue to be busier, it is the smaller, hotter shops that is in my ‘follow’ list of 2011 – BMB Madison, BBH and how it will live 2011 or even W+K.

And quoting Mainardo de Nardis, CEO, OMD Worldwide, “Digital will be the electricity that would be in everything, and soon we would stop discussing it as a separate entity” --- 2011 will take us to another shift in the digital landscape, and I am keen on saying how much did expert opinions come true on that front.

Thank you for all the valuable feedback in the last year. Here’s wishing all readers/viewers a Happy 2011, where we have some surprises in store too. More on that, when “the time is right” ;-)

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