MAM

Wait-n-watch till India-Zimbabwe match - ad agencies

MUMBAI: Will the uproar created by the pathetic performance of the Indian cricketers in the World Cup thus far scare away advertisers? Are advertisers planning to distance themselves from the losing team members by opting for non-controversial creatives?

Not just yet anyway. But there is no denying that the ad men are worried. After all, the stakes are high: With the TV ad (all channels) pie at around Rs 4.5 billion; the print ad pie at an estimated Rs 2 billion and other below-the-line marketing promotions at an estimated Rs 3.5-4 billion, it's not loose change we are talking.

At yesterday's Ad Club Bombay, the mood seemed to be one of disappointment at the public uproar, although none would publicly come out and say as much.

While conducting the 2002 annual reviews, Pespiso chairman Rajeev Bakshi reminded ad agencies about the need to look for excitement beyond cricket. During the course of his presentation, he played a video showing the latest Nike TAG ad which showed people playing a game similar to India's very own game Khokho. However, he refused to comment on any immediate change in Pepsi's plans for the World Cup cricket.

Media observers say that Pepsi's new TVC featuring Shane Warne, Tendulkar and Carl Hooper has been well received by the viewers. The response was better than the "lion" ad featuring Indian cricketers. It is possible, they say, that the frequency of this ad will be reduced.

A senior media director, on condition of anonymity, says: "It is difficult to cancel ads/TVCs at such short notice. It involves other issues such as tripartite rate negotiation agreements involving clients, ad agencies and advertisers. Also, if the ads are cancelled, then card rates will be applicable. What will happen is that some creatives will be shown later on when the Indian team starts winning!"

Nimbus and Max officials confirmed as much and say that they haven't got any cancellations nor have ads been rescheduled.

Madison chairman Sam Balsara reasons: "Our performance in cricket has never been consistent. Agreed it has never been so dismal, but if we perform badly in the next four matches, new sign ups will not happen, or will happen at realistic prices. New heroes will emerge for advertisers to use."

Starcom MD (west and south) Ravi Kiran says: "Those who bought cricket because of association, may need to. That may

include using cricketers for brand endorsements. The public anger right now is against the poor performance of Indian cricketers, not the game itself."

Optimum Media Solutions executive VP Amit Ray states: "Ad agencies don't really have to relook or reconsider cricket related associations. The current situation is more emotional than logical and it will subside with time. Anyway, the next series that India plays is probably in November." Ray says that he is unaware of any change in plans or shifts in game plans. Ray also clarifies that these views are from a professional point of view and not based on his agency/client's stand in the World Cup.

"In India, viewership of cricket has nothing to do with the finer aspects of the game. Fickle-minded audiences love to watch cricket stars; not necessarily the game," Ray had said during an earlier interview with indiantelevision.com.

Initiative Media's vice president S Yesudas says: "Investments in cricket, particularly for big events, will always be some kind of a gamble. Therefore it is essential to have a back up plan. As far as Initiative Media is concerned, we had a very clear point of view of the World Cup investments and have advised our clients accordingly. While I am unable to disclose the details of our deals with channels, we have managed not to spread our money thin across many matches."

Madison Media (West) COO Punitha Arumugam says: "Advertisers who are buying the World Cup telecast on DD/Max are in fact buying viewership. The "hungama" being created currently is only going to hype up interest levels in the future matches and therefore increase viewership - advertisers are therefore likely to get better returns for their money."



When asked to comment about the future of ad agencies going ahead with cricket related associations, IM's Yesudas says: "If India's future performance turns out to be the same as it has been till now, advertisers must not only look at changing the commercials with player endorsements but renegotiate the terms of the contract with higher amount of monies (say to be tune of 70 per cent) being paid to cricketers purely based on their performance. This needs to be done to regain the faith in consumers."

Everest Integrated Communications account director Vinay Kanchan, an avid cricket and soccer fan, has this to say: "Well, it completely depends on the situation, one bad performance at the World Cup need not necessarily spell the doom for cricketer endorsements. Besides there are other ways in which brands can associate with cricket without actually using celebrity endorsers such as ICICI safe hands. Cricket is a probably the most powerful program on television still and can always be leveraged to brand advantage."



Had ad agencies prepared a back-up plan to tackle the crisis situation? "As far as doing conventional (non cricketer endorsed kind of ) advertising, it still makes sense to run the same because even though India is doing badly so far (and lets hope that it is only a temporary phase) you can still bet your last penny that most of the nation will tune in again when India is playing, especially during the Indo-Pak match," adds Everest's Kanchan.

Madison's Balsara says: "There can't be a back up plan. Cricket is a huge investment and when you make such investments you can't further invest in back-up plans."

Starcom's Ravi Kiran says: "I think a lot of advertisers were holding on to some budgets which they would have invested if India had done well and the excitement had increased. If

our team continues to do poorly, those budgets may be freed."

"The backlash is only as far as Indian cricketers are concerned. Chamunda Vaas taking a memorable hatrick or Lara/Fleming scoring centuries was watched by many. Back up plan to extent that if the matches get over early and the number of ads scheduled by agencies are not aired, then those will be screened in the next match. Lets wait till the TRPs come in and for India-Zimbabwe tie," says Situations Advertising's Vijay Kastoori.

Are Indian cricketers' ads being replaced with other alternative ones? Madison's Balsara opines: "If our performance continues to be dismal over the next 4 matches, then perhaps, yes - given the public sentiment. But even if we lose , but lose honorably, then perhaps not.

"My guess is that people are not panicking just yet after all it only takes one Indian victory to set the ball rolling all over again," says a confident Kanchan.

Madison Media's Arumugam adds: "No, I do not think anyone is re-looking at any associations as of now as:

*One win especially against a team like Pakistan is likely to make the 'devils today' the 'demi-gods tomorrow'

* any advertiser/agency who have a cricket related association would surely have weighed such cons as much as the pros before venturing into such an association

* there are still four more matches to go - one India Vs Australia defeat does not make lower gods of a Sachin or a Dravid!!

* an association is a long term partnership - no one will make a hasty decision based on one short term loss"

Initiative Media's VP Yesudas states: "Considering the way the team has been performing, the hype will certainly come down. However, tomorrow (Wednesday, 19 February 2003) is a very critical match. If India does well there, the situation will look slightly better."

Situations Advertising's Vijay Kasturi says: "No not at all. At least in India, cricket will continue to be watched; if for nothing else then at least to curse the cricketers. I don't think ads featuring cricketers will be replaced - other than those ads where ICC has taken objections to. Indian mentality is so fickle that one good match and the cricketers will be back in business.

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