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'How do you wake up?'

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We all sleep differently. Some sleep tight, like a baby. Some sleep light, like the mother of a newborn. No matter how we sleep, most of us wake up with a start - some so mild in fact that we don't recognize them, while some hard enough to bring our whole body and mind to sudden consciousness in a milli second.

Sometimes we are either too tired or too lazy to give up our sleep, and that's when someone has to shake us up and give us a wake up call. It happened the night before the examination, during a rather chilly night, when the quilt seemed like a long lost friend, it happens many times now in hotel rooms in some distant city.

The wake up call is rarely likeable, but it's meaningful and important nevertheless, because something really significant often waits for us on the other side.

As I look back at 2007, it appears to me to be a year of wake up calls. There were many major events than happened this year, that shook us out of our slumber, or they should have. There are other things that appeared to be minor sleep breakers, but meaningful nevertheless, perhaps because of their regularity of occurrence. Major or minor, these were not just events, for they will have an impact on our thought and action in 2008 and beyond.

I recount seven of my favorites here, in random order.

Wake Up Call 1: T20

T20 was not about India getting World Cup glory back. It was not about defeating an arch rival. In a way, it wasn't even about cricket. From a marketing viewpoint, it finally brought to life what we at Starcom have been forcefully claiming for a while - that today's consumers are time starved, choice flattered and attention challenged. For the same reason the one day cricket got popular decades ago, T20 became an overnight rage in 2007. The message is clear: in marketing anything, do not try the consumer's patience, do not assume she is sitting there waiting for your message. Respect her time, respect the complexity of her life, and talk to her not just talk at her. The spirit of T20, applied to marketing is this: don't just count your consumers, connect with them.

Wake Up Call 2: Input Cost Surcharge & the October stand off

The memory of the passionate October is too fresh for all of us, for me to revive it, but as with many things, there were two sides to the backdrop to the impasse. The October debate was not really about who is right and who is not. It was about perspectives and a willingness to achieve common goals. I believe that for a month we all forgot that the fundamental relationship between media owners and marketers has always been collaborative, even if at the negotiation table, it often looked to be adversarial. I have said this before and I will say this again. If we do not find ways to collaborate, today's hypercompetitive world will find ways of decimating us.

Wake Up Call 3: Digital Signage

Place based media, point of purchase media, in-store media - whatever name you call it by, this is a medium whose birth 2007 will be remembered by. I was fortunate to attend a conference in November in Mumbai, where a lot of stake holders spoke very passionately about digital signage networks, why and how they work and about highly advanced technology driving it. Unfortunately, there were not many creative or media agency folks attending that conference, to receive the wake up call, although I remember meeting some people from ICICI, Levers and ITC. I understand that there are close to five thousand LCD screens that have been installed in stores, at workplaces and in lift lobbies across the country and hundreds more are going live every month. Mark my words, very few media will generate as much curiosity and excitement in the next two to three years as this one.

Wake Up Call 4: The Vanishing Line

As many of us started putting the tag Experience Society on ourselves, the already thin line between above-the-line and below-the-line became even thinner in 2007. Call it IMC, 360 degree marketing, through-the-line marketing or holistic marketing, no marketing practitioner worth her Kotler and Levitt can today ignore the necessity to connect with the consumers using all the cards in our box. This was particularly heartwarming for us at Starcom MediaVest Group, as we have invested significant managerial energy and other resources building new competencies over the last four years and today quite proudly claim to be the media network with the biggest competency portfolio in India. Today, many of us are learning to activate one idea through multiple media and platforms, rather than plan one medium ate a time. It is my strong belief that anyone, marketer or communication practitioner, who does not upskill herself rapidly in how to think and activate in a holistic way, runs the risk of being left behind.

Wake Up Call 5: Digitisation of Life

After years of wondering and imagining, more marketers than ever embraced the digital way in 2007, recognising that you cannot forever hide behind meek arguments of 'too few internet connections' and other such. Unfortunately, many are still stuck in the early 2000's model of generating leads by burning a billion banners. This will change, with or without another wake up call. In 2008, I believe, we will see many genuine attempts by marketers to use digital as a platform, rather than medium, to deliver an enriching experience to their consumers.



Wake Up Call 6: Using a New Body Part

To call the mobile phone a technological device would today be an error. It's something we sleep with, take to the bathroom with and cannot truly imagine our life without. The irony is the contrast between consumers' alacrity to adopt everything mobile and the marketers' hesitation in using the platform as a communication and enablement platform. Companies like Affle, One-to-One Technologies, Sixty Nine mm are creating highly interesting mobile marketing platforms that can allow marketers to connect well with consumers, particularly young consumers. Many of our clients are more curious than ever and we have to move to the next level of converting the excitement into application.

Wake Up Call 7: TV isn't dying anytime soon

In the last few years, particularly with the growth of non-classical media and experiential marketing disciplines, it became fashionable to talk about the reducing effectiveness of TV and many of us were challenged to divert budgets to other media. At Starcom, we have a contrarian's view. We believe that if anything, TV will become even more important in future. We call that future an era of visual engagement. The way consumers watch TV will change, and the way we will use TV both in its traditional box format as well as through other screens, will change.

The fight in the traditional TV front is getting interesting, with Zee TV slowly but certainly narrowing the gap with Star Plus, but the debate on TV is more than just a Star Plus versus Zee TV debate. It's not even about dozens of new stations springing up. It's about innovativeness of programming, about audience engagement and freshness of thought. The broadcast industry needs to stop for a breather and take a long hard look at what it has been doing and how it wants to do that in future. It won't be easy. Waking up rarely is.

Have an exciting 2008. I will!

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