Television

'We promise the advertiser that the money he puts in is money well spent' : Partha Sinha Director-Marketing Zee Network

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Last Monday Zee Telefilms unveiled its new face to the world. Not exactly the best of times to fix an interview with one of the key cogs in the relaunch initiative but Partha Sinha, director-marketing Zee Network, pencilled in some time to discuss the finer points of what went into the whole effort.

It did not help matters that Sinha was in the middle of trying to sort out a crisis at the Delhi office. Zee‘s point man in the capital, whose vehicle was carrying promotional material about the relaunch for a direct contact campaign, was cooling his heels at the cop station after a smash-up with another vehicle. That was the only glitch in an otherwise successful awareness drive in Mumbai and across key cities in the north, Sinha said.

Sinha has over ten years of experience in the advertising and marketing industry and the brief he has been given by chairman Subhash Chandra, aside from heading marketing functions, is to develop broadcast strategy for the network

Excerpts from the interview indiantelevision.com‘s managing editor Thomas Abraham had with Sinha:

How did it all begin?

It started with introspection and the need of looking in which way we could reinvent ourselves. All successful brands after a certain amount of time need to be reinvented. Otherwise they don‘t remain contemporary, they don‘t always remain connected with the audience.

So the first stage is always to go back to the most important constituent and that was to go to the audience, because at the end of the day we are looking at the viewer. So we asked what kind of programmes are they looking for so as to understand not only what are the expectations of the viewers from us as a channel and but of all the television programming per se. When we went to them, we asked them to not only talk about Zee, we also asked then to evaluate programmes across the board on all the channels which they watch. That gave us a fair amount of indication in terms of fixing our strategy.

Then we firmed up on our strategy and took it back to viewers to endorse it. What we found was that there was no major disconnect with Zee in its core competence in terms of storytelling, that is a good story well told. However, it needed a layering, a layering of youth, a layering of spontaneity, vibrancy? these are the things which the consumer expected of Zee. Therefore, if you see our entire premise - it is of a good story well told. Even our interactive serial (Aap Jo Bole Haan to Haan, Aap Jo Bole Na to Na) is based on this.

‘It started with introspection and the need of looking in which way we could reinvent ourselves.‘

So you went back to viewer. In what way did you go about it and what was the sample size?

Quantitative surveys can never give much insight into a strategy. Qualitative surveys always throw up insights. We organised qualitative panels. In fact we still have them and we intend to go back to them in three weeks time and then again?then after three months

How did you set up the panels?

We identified our core primary core audience, which is SEC A and B housewives. We didn‘t touch upon the fringe audience so much. Subsequently, we did some with younger women and men but the primary focus of the study we did was for housewives aged between 25-35 years.

The new face of Zee TV actually embodies the new layering which is getting associated with it.

The girl you see splashed across all the ads. She doesn‘t look like a model; she looks like a person next door. She could be a member of your family. She could have jolly well been your sister. You can really relate to her.

Where did you find her?

She was one of the participants on Antakshari (Zee‘s long-running song-based show). In fact, she appears in the finals of Antakshari this Sunday. She is around 20 years old and we have given her a screen name "Khushi".

In terms of packaging, we made changes so the promotion looks very, very contemporary. We are not promoting any one programme; we are weaving in the programmes with the brand.

Any promotional activities other than the print, fm, TV spots, hoardings??

We are doing a lot of ground activity at railway stations, bus stops, malls, super malls, in cities in the north, west and east markets that we have marked out. Contact programmes are also planned, which will be right down to the housing society level. This will go on for the next 30 to 40 days.

How have you worked out the logistics?

We contract it out in different cities. One person from the office will be our point man in each city. The idea is to get live contact with the people to get them to participate in the shows. We are building incentives for people to come to our programme. As of now we are starting with the interactive show Aap Jo Bole Haan to Haan, Aap Jo Bole Na to Na and then we will increasingly build on other shows also.

For such activity to be sustained, you can‘t rely on mass media for long. That is why the live contact activities are crucial.

What about the advertiser? How are you packaging the channel?

Not only are we doing packaging and bundling, we are also doing a host of qualitative services. Creating specific opportunities for the brand to present itself in the right context. Because context is very important which this market has not thought of or exploited so far.

So we are creating enough opportunity, some of which are sealed and others are in the pipeline (deals with advertisers). Therefore getting a brand message across also means working on environment synergy.

What do you mean by the environment synergy?

I can‘t have a very youthful advertisement in a serious programme. There (in a youth programme) if I present my message there then it reaches the right audience. A good example is Levers sponsoring Ek Tukda Chand Ka.

The baseline of our serial is fairly clear. So eventually it becomes that the story is also familiar to the brand hold of Fair and Lovely (the product being advertised) so the synergy is far more than what they would have got in just any one or two commercials.

Look at Britannia 50-50 being the lead sponsor for Aap Jo Bole Haan to Haan, Aap Jo Bole Na to Na. The premise is that you can‘t decide. You don‘t know whether to call yes or call no. In the same house you can expect the fight to start, mother and daughter, sister and brother. No, no, you should do this, while the other person says you should do that.

(Apparently Rs 40 million is the value of the deal that has been struck with Britannia).

‘We are building incentives for people to come to our programmes.‘

But how far have you succeeded as far as bundling the whole channel goes?

That is also happening. We are giving a very good value propositions. The advertisers have gone on record saying in some of the newspapers and channels that the value propositions are very attractive.

Where?

In CNBC there was an interview where spokespersons of Carat, Mindshare were quoted. There were also some interviews in agencyfaqs.

Speaking of advertisers. How many deals have you struck?

That kind of figure can‘t be given as we are public listed company.

I am not asking rupee numbers here? Who are the major advertisers you have signed up?

All the major advertisers. All the FMCGs that are there on the channel anyway. Almost all the major advertisers have signed on to the new line.

And to all of them you are providing this synergy?

We are trying to provide as much synergy as possible. It is not possible to provide 100 per cent synergy always but this is just another aspect of value add to advertisers that we are providing.

Why I am asking this is that advertisers today are asking for concrete returns on their spend. Have you provided that?

I suppose you are talking about accountability. Most of the deals on our new line of programming are based on accountability.

In what form? Is it TRP-based?

It is a combination of the whole host of things. I don‘t want to go into details because this would be revealing strategies which I don‘t want the competitors to know.

By accountability we mean that we promise the advertiser that the money he puts in is money well spent.

So the guarantee you are giving to the advertiser is based on the programming line-up that you have conceived?

Programming line-up, synergy, the kind of deliveries that we are expecting.

What do you mean by deliveries?

TRPs, the reach we are expecting, the kind of reach build up that we are expecting.

What is the lead time that the advertisers have given you before the accountability issue plugs in?

Most of our deals are long terms ones between 13 to 26 weeks.

Actually most of the deals are yearly deals but we are making sure that we are accountable for the total quantum of ad spend. Why we talk of 26 weeks is because that is roughly the time it will take to complete this financial year.

So the current ad deals will run till March. Is that what you are saying?

Ya, ya a lot of them are running till March.

Have you set a strategy for the other channels?

A whole host of things for the other channels are in the pipeline but I don‘t want to talk about it at this stage because it is still in the research stage and may change.

The strategy has not fully formed up as yet. However, the major revamps in the pipeline are Zee Music, Zee News, and the Alpha channels.

Hasn‘t Zee News already gone through a major revamp?

In terms of packaging there are still things that have to be done.

Lookwise or promotion wise?

Both. As for the look though there has been a major change there are still some lose ends to tie up. We are planning a heavy-duty promotions for Zee News.

We expect to be able to announce something concrete around Zee News in a couple of weeks time and then there will also be some heavy promotional activities around the channel.

What about Zee music?

We are looking at completely repositioning and repackaging the product. I don‘t want to go into any specifics right now as it is still in the ideation stage.

Zee MGM is another problem I see? It started out well but it seems to have lost out in the race since then? Is it the problem with the library of films that you have?

We have the best library access.

Agreed you have the MGM library to source from but the point is you are not getting any new titles.

This is a myth. A movie channel is not about putting new movies onto the channel. If that was the case ?.

Excuse me while I butt in there. Right now, at least for English movies, most of the TRPs are title driven are they not?

I disagree. My TRP delivery on MGM, in quite a few weeks I get over HBO and Star Movies.

That is difficult to believe.

I can show you the INTAM rating reports (put out by market research agency ORG Marg). Especially in Mumbai. I am sure you will agree Mumbai is a very good barometer for what the cosmopolitan viewer is like. In Mumbai I‘ve overshot HBO and Star Movies very many times.

A movie channel is not just about putting blockbuster titles. Movie channels are about managing a very interesting FPC.

The same applies for Zee Movies. We have a 3000-strong library. Nobody else has that kind of library, so managing FPCs becomes a nightmare. It‘s not like in other channels where you end up seeing the same movie the fourth day, fifth day, seventh day

Managing FPCs is very important. It has to be a judicious mix of movies on the tap and spurts like blockbusters in between. But even movies on tap are equally important. TRP data clearly shows this.

‘We are looking at completely repositioning and repackaging Zee Music‘

If what you say is true then why is it that all the cable operators are forced to show the latest movies, even if they are pirated. Is it not because of consumer demand?

A cable channel is different. On a cable channel you expect to see only new movies. But in a movie channel you do not necessarily always expect movies which were released yesterday.

Also another thing about MGM is that you get to see movies that you don‘t see otherwise. That is also another aspect of movie channel management.

So Zee MGM you are fairly confidant about. Is that it?

It needs some different kind of promotion, different kind of branding, which we will do. On all of them (the Zee bouquet) a whole host of brand building activity will start.

On Zee English also it‘ll start very soon. Because as regards Zee English again research has shown us that whoever has sampled Zee English has stuck with it. Programming-wise it is far superior to any of the competition that‘s available.

Friends for instance. We have the new series. Even Sopranos, they are the latest. We are getting Seinfield. Jesse is there. We have possibly the best line of programmes. Six out of the top ten Emmy Award winners are on Zee English.

The basic content on our channels we are extremely confident of.

What of the Alpha regional channels?

We are planning a whole lot of things around the Alphas, but that will require a separate interview.

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