Advertising by PSUs (CWG 2010)
Many of us continue to hear about the CWG that India hosted last year; unluckily it has become the scamming “Bad Boy” rather than a feather in India’s hat of achievements. Looking back at the games, I recall one positive from these games. I call it a positive because I’m trying not to be critical. Those of you wondering what I’m talking about – try and recall the advertisements you viewed on Doordarshan during the games. Remember anything unusual or different? PSUs branding themselves with some pretty innovative advertising – I don’t know about you but that was a new one for me.
For those of you still blinking like an old lamp, I hope this refreshes your memory:
The above “Human Train” ad was aired by Indian Railways (IR) during the CWG. YouTube stats show that the ad received over 45,000 views in the 1st week. Produced by none other than O&M, the commercial is set in the streets of Kolkata and touches upon the human aspect of the organization. The use of the popular Hindi song “Rail Gaadi” and the slogan “Desh ka Mail – Bhartiya Rail” have been nicely blended into the ad. Ideated & executed in under 2 weeks, with a cost of under Rs 2 crore, this ‘first’ in the history of IR is worth appreciating (though Railways might want to consider including a few women in their human train next time, to show some gender equality). Whether Indian Railways actually required such an ad, could become a great topic for debate among marketeers across India. While some may say that it tries to clean the deteriorating image of railways others would argue that it’s just a waste of money considering the near monopoly that the organization commands. To me – the ad was just a consequence of forced sponsorship and free air time given to the PSU. Having said that, such ads actually coupled with substantial improvements in services could do wonders to their branding.
It wasn’t only Indian Railways however that jumped onto the CWG Bandwagon. In the wake of private sponsors abandoning the games because of the negative publicity around it, the Indian government gently nudged (read forcefully pushed) many public sector organizations to sponsor the event. In return – free airtime; the result – a volley of dreary advertisements (barring a few). While some may have advertised to attract future investors (foreseeing the govt. divesting its stake), others are just trying to cleanse their public image. With huge pockets to spend and some of the best names in the advertising arena ready to produce for them, why then do these ads turn out to be sour grapes. Industry experts quote many reasons – the “play it safe” attitude of the relatively old crowd at such organizations, pushes away creativity and sticks to the documentary-style videos. In some cases, hiring a panels of ad agencies leads to lack of ownership and some very poor results.
While some PSUs may operate in a monopolistic market, there are others like Air India which compete within an industry with some very strong private organizations. Nothing extravagant, they stuck to a very subtle message – beautifully positioning all athletes in the skies above and a luggage-tag falling from the sky into the hands of an air-hostess clad in the signature dress of Air India.
An example of what I mean by documentary-style ads is shown below, in the form of this ad by ONGC (another one from the CWG games). Like many others, ONGC has linked this ad to their business and the way it influences people; a necessity considering that many consumers wouldn’t really know how ONGC is a part of their daily lives. What i liked however, was the touch of “environment-friendliness” in this commercial <“hum ped ugaate hain”>.
The concept reminded me of an ad from Nerolac paints featuring Amitabh Bachchan (this ad also spoke of the various ways in which paint is a part of everyone’s lives). The ONGC ads which impressed me much more were the short 2D animated videos which touched upon various aspects such as Green Energy, Gas Exploration, CSR (‘Asha’ campaign) and the slightly different 3D animations – check out the one below which expresses ONGC’s concern for the environment:
I was particularly impressed by the attempt they’ve made with these ads to create a “clean-green” image (despite being an oil company) and a company that respects employees and aspires to grow. Well done ONGC!!
While the ads I’ve shown here may be the pick of the lot, the truth is that I too empathize with the viewers of the CWG telecast for having to put up with some very pathetic ads. So…. should PSUs continue to advertise? What do you think?