Are glamorous big launches getting bang for the buck?

Are glamorous big launches getting bang for the buck?
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First Published: Wed, Sep 17 2008. 05 11 AM IST

In vain: Idea Cellular tried to attract potential customers in Mumbai by painting its ads on local trains. Ashesh Shah / Mint
In vain: Idea Cellular tried to attract potential customers in Mumbai by painting its ads on local trains. Ashesh Shah / Mint
Updated: Thu, Sep 18 2008. 10 24 AM IST
Mumbai: What do Apple iPhone, Idea Cellular, Reliance Big TV DTH, Colors TV have in common? They have all been big product launches in India by virtue of the brand power they pack, a big media spending burst at launch, and the buzz their entry creates.
But it doesn’t mean big launches always work. Other than Colors, which has been showing rising viewership for the general entertainment channel, both Apple iPhone and Idea in Mumbai appear to have had soft results so far.
In vain: Idea Cellular tried to attract potential customers in Mumbai by painting its ads on local trains. Ashesh Shah / Mint
“Of all the big launches in recent times, Colors seems to be the only one that has lived up to its expectations,” says Anil Nair, president, Law and Kenneth. “The channel used less of media, yet it created enough buzz in an extremely competitive category.”
Meanwhile, big launches also have been consistently upping the ante in budgets and “word of mouth” triggers to make themselves heard better.
One increasingly popular tactic is to book the entire ad space or time slots on key media vehicles for a period, or what is dubbed as a hit-and-run strategy.
Divya Radhakrishnan, president, TME, Rediffusion DY&R Pvt. Ltd, says a successful launch is a function of the “consumer’s general interest and intriguing, creative, high levels of media investments which may give noticeability, but not always guarantee success”.
Media specialists cite iPhone and Idea Mumbai launches to make the point that big spends and media innovations may generate brand buzz and recall, but not necessarily translate to sales.
Typically, consumer resistance in launches can stem from high price points or the perception that the product has no clear functional differentation from its rivals.
Rajesh Jain, head, information, communication and entertainment, KPMG India, says that the heavy price-points of Apple iPhone have inhibited the brand from getting the kind of customer response that they may have hoped for in India. As for Idea Cellular, most networks are congested in Mumbai, and the brand could get incremental growth from those who may want to shift from existing networks though it’s far too early to say anything as yet, Jain adds.
Another media specialist however says while some ad bursts don’t translate to immediate sales, they can help in building brand image and eventually brand sales over the longer trajectory.
Here are some common media-strategy learnings from some recent big launches:
First, the launch budgets are getting bigger and bigger. A media specialist says that five years ago, ad budgets ranged from Rs15-20 crore for high-voltage launches. Now, with media inflation and keen competitive activity, it’s not uncommon for launch spends to shoot way over Rs100 crore. Media experts estimate Reliance DTH’s launch budget was around Rs100 crore.
Second, to reach mass audiences loudly and quickly, block off big chunks of various media vehicles. Reliance Big TV DTH wanted to reach nine out of 10 people and multiple target groups, so carpet bombing was a natural strategy, says S. Muthukumar, business director, Radar, Mudra Group. Big DTH promotions have been running across 60 TV channels nationwide, across genres of news, movies and general entertainment.
Again, when two telecom companies, Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Essar Co., simultaneously launched Apple’s iPhone in India, Madison Group, the media agency that executed the Airtel iPhone launch, blocked front pages of major newspapers on launch date and also home pages of large Web portals in India, such as AOL, Yahoo, IndiaTimes and Rediff.
Says Praveen Sharma, chief operating officer, Madison Media Plus: “If you are entering a category with high-octane investments from existing players, you will need greater disruption. The mandate for the media team was to establish awareness of iPhone coming from Airtel and do that as quickly as possible from the date of the launch given that the product was available with two telecom companies.”
Vodafone iPhone took the opposite route. A GroupM (media agency for Vodafone) official says that a month prior to the actual launch, Vodafone had advertised the iPhone and had registered such a massive response in pre-bookings that the brand decided to mute launch advertising.
It didn’t matter in any case as neither Airtel nor Vodafone got the kind of response iPhone launches have seen in other countries, largely on account of misreading the price sensitivity of even the most ardent Apple fans.
For its Mumbai launch, Idea Cellular banked on creative intrigue. Lintas Media Group blocked off the front page of The Times of India and other papers, painting it yellow , the colour of Idea Cellular Ltd.
Says N.P. Sathyamurthy, joint president, LMG: “Idea Cellular being one of the last entrants into Mumbai city needed a solution that reinforced its ‘innovator’ imagery.” There were also exclusive ad roadblocks for a full day on Red FM and Radio Mirchi.
Third, prior to launch, use teasers to pique viewer interest and try get a competitive edge. Muthukumar says what really grabbed viewer’s attention for Big DTH was a media innovation on Zee and Star Network where TV stars from various soap operas said “Something BIG is happening on TV” during the first ad break of every show.
Meanwhile, roadblocks were executed across 80 radio stations three days prior to launch and a nationwide outdoor burst ran with many of the Reliance Mobile hoardings converted into Reliance DTH billboards. There were also pre-launch roadblocks on key networks, including NDTV and TV Today.
In contrast, Idea’s pre-launch campaign ran on outdoor which attracted audiences to witness the Idea Cellular laser show event held at Marine Drive. The laser show was also publicized on radio.
Four, be creative if launch campaign itself is roadblocked.
One of the biggest media challenges that Colors faced during its launch was the non-availability of TV avenues to advertise on. Radha-krishnan of TME, media agency on Colors, says all key TV networks—being rivals—refused to carry Colors spots on their general entertainment and other channels in their networks. “Some others who agreed to carry the commercials were not willing to carry the tune-ins. The key vehicle that we identified therefore was the news genre, which has a 60-65% overlap with the general entertainment viewer,” said Radhakrishnan.
Aware of deep-rooted viewer loyalties to existing channels, Colors advertised the programmes and not the channel. “The channel was the destination, more important was the programme day and time. This was the core differentiator as earlier launches in this genre saw investments made to establish the channel name and proposition,” he said.
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First Published: Wed, Sep 17 2008. 05 11 AM IST