Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Advertising Jujitsu in India (Vodafone versus Airtel)

The #1 (Airtel, 85 million subscribers) and #3 (Vodafone 60 million subscribers) are dominating the airwaves with their ads for value added services. (VAS).

The Indian Premier League (Cricket) is on and this gives advertisers plenty of eye balls to target. With the wireless service provider business still growing (adding 8 million new subscribers each month), its this industry that has dominated the ad spots.

None more than Airtel and Vodafone. And here is where we see some serious JIJITSU

Airtel has two actors as its brand ambassadors...Mahadevan and Vidya Balan. Their ads can be found at

Vodafone, recently started using "egg headed" a puppet-animation format. They are called the Zoozoo ads
and can be seen at

We think Vodafone has outmaneuvered Airtel.

1. Its "zoo zoo" ads come at no "celebrity" costs. They seem to be created at very low cost.
2. Animation allows the storyline to be exaggerating- creating better humor and shock content. (as opposed to Airtel which has been relying more on emotional appeal)
2. Low cost of production is implying that for 3 of Airtels' VAS story lines, Vodafone has launched more than 20.
4. In the Indian advertisement market (usually seen to be fixated on celebrity endorsements) Vodafone has moved the conversation to content.

It has stood out. It has created a new reference for advertisement development.

We insist however, that neither company's approach is really encouraging consumers to try value added services.

Both companies are describing their value added services to the consumer. But their story lines are not compelling enough for people to overcome the price and uncertainty barrier. Consequently VAS penetration is less than 1%. (estimated from the Indian Telecom department's qtrly review).

Given that there are more than 300 million subscribers and 100 million phones capable of accessing the internet, this low penetration of VAs is a problem.

Our solution is based on the fact that the Indian consumer is clearly interested in "bang for the buck", and in India, the buck is very hard to come by.

Building up a new category requires marketers to define the role and relevance of the category in the consumers life, at a particular price point.

Trials are very key to building new categories. Value added services must entice consumers to try them.

1. Mobile companies must allow a few hours of "free trial time" while consumers get used to a service.
2. A call center that takes consumers through every step and only activates charges when the consumer confirms his interest.
3.Killer content.

It comes back to great brands being built on the promise of "engage, educate, entertain".

Else these ad wars and karate-jujitsu will only make for entertaining viewing...and transfer of wealth from shareholders to advertising agencies.

Ritu and venkat

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