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"Channel surfing will continue despite the cricketing World Cup!" : Ashish Bhasin Initiative Media president

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Initiative Media (IM) president Ashish Bhasin has ended the year on a high! Under his able guidance, the Interpublic Group company IM has attained billings of Rs 1 billion and has the maximum number of AORs in the country - a new milestone in a recession year!

IM handles clients such as Bajaj Auto, Brittania, Maruti, ITC, Pantaloon, Wills Sports, HSBC, LG, Eveready, Sara Lee TTK, IDEA Cellular, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance and Reynolds.

During the early part of his career, Bhasin has worked on the Hindustan Lever business for eight years, in seven countries. He set up Lintas operations in Burma and Vietnam and assisted in drawing up advertising and brand strategies for his associates in other countries like Cambodia, Mongolia and Laos.

In addition to this, he set up called Design Bridge at Lintas with Europe‘s largest packaging design house and headed LintasMadras for two years, almost doubling the business emerging from there through new business gains.



Bhasin moved back to Mumbai to take over as IM president. He wears many hats. Besides handling all the mainline media for the Lintas Group, Bhasin is also driving various ventures of Lintas in areas like rural and the Internet. He set up Linterland, a rural marketing company with a network of over 8,500 people and Digital Initiative, Lintas‘ net buying and planning division. He is also the managing director of Aaren Initiative, Lintas‘ Outdoor venture with .

Bhasin spoke to indiantelevision.com despite the fact that he ws in the midst of a South India whirlwind tour.

Excerpts-

How will TV viewing habits be affected during the World Cup Cricket 2003 (WCC)?



Cricket will definitely make its mark due to the fact that most of the households in India are single TV households. The Indian audiences will watch a good match but prefer India matches, the semi-finals and the finals. Most of the other matches are not top priority.

However, I believe that the non-live cricket programming has lower viewership simply because nothing is equivalent to watching ‘live‘ matches.

The impact of the WCC will be felt during the India matches in the first half of the tournaments; and during the crucial second round matches starting from the first week of March 2003 right up to the finals.

IM Research has shown that when India plays another side on a weekend, cricket dominates; whereas during weekdays, the viewers tend to make time for their other favourite programmes or soaps.

The IM-BBC Adwatch research findings conducted recently give some great insights. The housewife is forced to watch matches during the weekends when she loses control of the remote. The housewife also has a certain level of involvement while she is forced to watch the matches. But her involvement is the highest whenever she chooses to watch the programmes; be it cricket or soaps.

It is worthwhile mentioning that soaps could however be watched throughout the matches by virtue of constant channel surfing. The point is that the TVRs of the commercials on both the cricket channels and general entertainment channels will be affected by fickle-minded audiences.

Life will not change for the average TV viewer post the World Cup!

Have the other general entertainment channels started discounting?



I feel that all the channels had already factored the WCC into their annual programming strategies. In a sense, they are more prepared to take on the challenge by either creating programming around cricket or by focusing on their strengths in order to offer a viable option to cricket.

It is worth noting that the viewers are bound to experience a certain fatigue factor due to almost eight hours of non-stop cricket. The general tendency will be to either switch off the TV sets after the match or to watch non-cricket programmes. However, the niche channels will definitely face some problems due to a shifting of loyalties.

Coming back to your question, there hasn‘t been any radical slashing of rates because the top buying agencies have already worked out cost-effective deals depending on the client and brand requirements. At the most, the channels have offered value additions or bonuses.

Which categories will jump on to the WCC bandwagon?



Nobody wants to stay away from cricket as long as it fits into their gameplan or into their budgets. Most of the categories and major advertising spenders have already expressed a keen interest.

Brands can benefit from the WCC but need an efficient and innovative media strategy to break through the clutter, which should include better scheduling and positioning of the ads.

Ownership of specific properties on channels will also help brands to ensure visibility.

"Nothing equals watching ‘live‘ cricket and non-live cricket programming will always get lower viewership!"

What are the other opportunities that brands and companies can utilise during the World Cup 2003?



In October 2002, IM signed a licensing and merchandising deal with the ICC for the cricket World Cup 2003. IM‘s division, Advent, has the rights for the Indian sub-continent and is one amongst the global network of international commercial partners, bringing a truly global marketing reach and presence to the event.

We have already sold 95 per cent of the properties to clients such as Pantaloon (retail), Britannia (biscuits), Archies (novelties) and Nirvana (music).

Such a proposition offers a good option for brands and companies to develop marketing initiatives in sync with their core competencies. For instance; Pantaloon Retail, the readymades major, has brought the exclusive merchandising rights in India for apparels and accessories using the logo and mascot of the world cup cricket tournament.

There is a perfect synergy as the apparels and accessories company can conduct major allied activities to coincide with the World Cup.

Would you recommend DD and MAX to your clients?



Well, both the channels have their individual strengths. It totally depends on the long term and short term objectives of the different brands and the companies.

Needless to say, brands that are keen on mass markets will have to select DD; the premium brands that wish to focus on core target audiences without wastage will take MAX. But, the point is that all advertisers have to break through the clutter and noise levels.

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