"Primetime viewing will not be affected by the World Cup" : Shashi Sinha Lodestar Media executive director
Lodestar Media executive director Shashi Sinha, an avid cricket fan, strongly believes that ?media is a means to strategy!

His viewpoint was justified when his agency bagged the coveted Media Agency of the Year award at the EMVIE Awards 2002.

He also believes that hype and a ?larger than life? image play an important role. Perhaps, this ?drive? was responsible for the successful campaigns of Tata Indica, TELCO, Kinetic (creative only), Castrol, WIPRO and ITC Sunflower oil amongst others.

Under his able guidance, Lodestar Media created a unique record when it got the mandate to export one of its media research tools, Mediagraphics (a precision targeting tool) and take its indigenously developed segmentation tool to its branches in other countries.

Sinha spoke to immediately after participating in an Advertising Club organised panel discussion on marketing opportunities presented by the World Cup cricket 2003. Excerpts-

Do you feel that the World Cup Cricket 2003 (WCC) is a great opportunity?

Being an ardent cricket fan, I must admit that cricket is a passion and religion. It unifies diverse audiences in the four zones of the country. It also delivers audiences across various psychographic and demographic parameters. It also creates some kind of a unique bonding; between friends, family members, relatives and colleagues. No serial or soap has managed to do this so far.

The fixtures of the forthcoming WCC in S.Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe have been fixed in such a way that the time of telecast coincides with primetime viewing in India.

Will there be a shift from ?soaps? to cricket during the WCC?

I am sure that primetime viewing will not be affected. Unless, of course, there is a brilliant match that gives some kind of a high to the audiences and they continue watching the post-match highlights to relive the moments.

The high-profile cricket matches have always delivered higher viewership ratings and more audiences. In fact, even during the recent Champions Trophy, one witnessed a similar trend as cricket matches dethroned the popular soaps. However, even at its peak, cricket programming just about manages TVRs of anything between 15 and 18.

However, this trend also indicates that there is a substantial chunk of viewers who are still staying away. Some viewers still feel that cricket is given undue importance. The peak viewing time for the forthcoming WCC will be the last two-three hours of the match; perhaps 7 pm onwards. One hopes that some of the matches create some kind of a record.

Traditionally, many channels including Star Plus have always launched new programmes in the beginning of the calendar year. I don?t see a situation wherein the other channels have started panicking. Of course, some of the channels might be flexible in terms of payments being postponed to the next financial year starting April 2003.

Between DD and MAX, what would you recommend to advertisers?

The advertisers who have comparatively lower outlays but still wish to reach out to pan-India audiences should go in for DD. The premium brands will opt for MAX.

But, even within the company brands there could be a difference of opinion. For instance, a low-priced paint brand could use DD whereas the premium paint brands could use MAX. DD will be important to the two-wheeler categories that have started shifting their focus to semi-urban and rural areas.

However, there might be some cases where the brands might decide to stay off both the channels and concentrate on their routine exercises (Tata Indica for instance). I still have a feeling that the terrestrial channel will do well during the forthcoming WCC.

But, the advertisers need to create an impact irrespective of the spends.

"The concept of cricket is a sure-fire hit but the unrealistic premium charged by channels is not!"

What do you feel about the sales packages conceived by the channels?

The fact is that cricket as a concept is a sure-fire hit with advertisers and media planners. However, pricing has always been an issue. Media planners and buyers seldom agree to the unrealistic ?premium? that is charged by the channels.

I am sure that the aggressive efforts made by DD-Nimbus and MAX will ensure that new categories of products and services get into cricket advertising. I have a feeling that the total WCC spend across all media might be as high as Rs 4.5 billion.

MAX is making efforts to ensure that the viewer interest is maintained even if India fails to reach the Super Sixes stage. But, I feel that viewers will be merely interested in keenly following the progress of the matches involving the Indian team. Finally, it is just those eight to ten days that will matter!

The list could also include the new entrants (insurance, textiles, telecom clients like Reliance Infocomm) that could be planning a major blitz in the next quarter. However, I personally feel that everyone will just ?wait and watch? till 15 January 2003!

Do you feel that dismal performances of the Indian cricketers in New Zealand might scare the advertisers away?

Well, Indians are renowned to ?forgive and forget? their cricket icons. The draw during the forthcoming World Cup 2003 favours the Indian team. The team should glide into the Super Sixes stage based on its inherent strengths; unless the ?glorious uncertainties of cricket? come into play!

Take, for instance, the recent test and ODI matches in New Zealand; the fans (which includes people in the upper echelons of society) switched on their TV sets and followed the ?painful? progress of the team.

The fact is that the Indian icons have created a ?persona? that would eventually reap rich benefits for them in the long run. I agree with Krishnamachari Srikkanth?s views that everyone benefits from cricket and it is a ?win-win? situation for all.

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