Saturday, March 15, 2008

Moved to a single blog

I have closed down my largely inactive blog on print ads and moved all posts en masse to this more active blog. Also changed the title to something stupid.

I hope by making this a more general interest blog I will be able to sustain interest in blogging on more things that catch my attention than just politics & business.

Ad Wars - Outstanding!

Ads are not just ways to sell your products - they are often used by companies to put down their competition (Pepsi vs. Coke, anyone?) especially in those countries where the permits it (you cannot name the competition in ads shown in India).

This is a set of three ads where BMW & Audi take on each other. And it gets better as Subaru joins in!
First Punch: BMW takes on Audi..
Second Punch: Audi gives it back...

Knockout!: Subaru kicks both BMS & Audi bigtime with this..

The Economist never fails to surprise you..!

The Economist is one of the companies that have encouraged and lent themselves to some outstanding creative work globally.. this is one other ad that is quite outstanding.. just look closely at the image..

This is completely fabulous!

I love ads where the hero of the ad is not the product itself, or the company, but the function of the product..
This Vicks ad is not really talking about how great or old Vicks is as a product, or how great P&G is as a company.. but talks about what Vicks does for you.. helps you breathe..
And it has just one word copy... says Respire.. quite effective, in my view.

ha ha.. subtle way of making a err..strong... err.. hard.. err big.. ahem ahem.. point!

These viagra ads are quite old, just as the protagonists in these ads.. and I am sure they (i.e. the ads) work really well for the old..

Trust Beetle to say things in a beautiful way!

This volkswagen beetle ad makes a point so subtly, I just love it!

Karate school ad...

Though not amazingly interesting, the visual has a small story, makes you think what could have caused it, leaves an image in your mind.. (sometimes quite different from the actual pic you are looking at)..
That is what ads really are trying to achieve, to help you make an association.. especially for products that you don't buy everyday but aren't high-interest products either.. the association would ensure their product is in the consideration set when you want to buy the product next..

ha ha... this ad is for the carnivores!

Though my vegetarian friends might not like it too much, the ad brings a smile on your face for sure!

Nice visual :-)

A Harley ad that brings a smile on your face ;)

Beautiful way to illustrate a point..

I don't normally care differently for ads that use kids and such, but this is quite a cool way of making a point!

Excellent copy!

This is what I talk about when I say I love copy more than the visuals. The visuals (believe me) can get a bit stereotyped, the creativity involved in copy is just limitless!
A wonderful ad that I really like...

Fiat: Drive by Passion!

This is something that I put up on my college noticeboard several years ago.. the magic of the ad hasn't died down on me yet...

Who says Indian ads are boring?

A great example of good, well-executed Indian work. Might not win international awards because it is not sufficiently 'international' but is damn clever for sure and does work for me!

Size matters!

A great visual (and somewhat suggestive, if I may say so!) for Burger King!

Another pic that makes you think..

Images work in print ads (I like great copy better, though) without doubt. Especially with images that have a story to tell and make you think about what the story is, like in this ad where you need to think what could have caused it, and especially when they apear in print (rather than on billboards) where readers do have time to mull over it.

Imagery works!

With an image like this, you don't need copy. Images of heart, lungs will definitely attract readers. And when you have a picture telling a small story, it always works!

Another fantastic visual...

I have always believed that great copy in a print ad is the clincher and great visuals only add to the effect. I have seen many fantastic ads with just the copy and no visuals, and they work just as well (or sometimes better, because the focus is all on the text).
This is one example of an ad that works more for the copy than the visual.. the visual supports the copy well, but that is all to it. Copy is the hero in this ad for sure..

An ad for Durex

One of the best images I have seen this year.. suggestive, yet sensitive and simply, quite fantastic. And it has a very important message too...


Friday, March 14, 2008

Not just IPL, even ICL is good for the game

IPL, ever since it has been announced, has hogged the headlines so much so that the second edition of ICL is being conducted almost unnoticed.
IPL is doing a world of good - getting big corporates to invest in the sport as well as putting more money in the hands of players. Moreover, the business model of IPL allows organizers to have a great de-risking strategy -
  1. Establishment of team franchises - Rather than owning all teams as ICL does, IPL leased out each of the 8 city teams for the next 10 years. By doing this, it has incentivized each franchisee to invest in building a quality team, setting up local sports infrastructure and create local buzz for getting the crowds into match venues. ICL teams have so far failed to excite local cricket fans in each of the cities they represent.
  2. Spending limits on team building - By limiting the amount of money each franchisee can spend on building their teams, IPL has ensured teams are of similar strength, atleast on paper. This provides for close contests, raises viewer interest and breeds sporting rivalries between cities. In contrast, ICL divided players into teams themselves and ended up with lopsided teams - e.g. the new Lahore team in the 2nd edition of ICL is much stronger than any of the Indian city teams.
  3. Broadcasting rights sold in advance - for the next 10 years for a hefty billion dollar-plus amount. This large, long-term commitment from the broacasters binds them to invest in promoting IPL among their viewers and consequently raise ad revenues for themselves, while paying a fixed amount to IPL. On the other hand, ICL is telecast on Zee network's Zee Sports and its partner Neo sports, so there is no assurance of returns till the ad revenues come in.
  4. A big title sponsorship as well - IPL has everything in place well before its first version, whereas ICL didn't quite get it right. IPL now needs to ride on its initial momentum whereas ICL needs to think about sustenance.

Given all these advantages, IPL seems set to sweep to success when it launches its first edition in April 2008.

Beset with problems in organizing their cricket matches at quality venues, keeping its flock of cricketers together and building viewer interest for its still nascent league, ICL has to contend with the lack of a level-playing field. While non-cooperation from BCCI and its affiliates is par for the course, it really hurts and starts getting unethical (probably illegal as well) to ban ICL players from appearing in ICC-recognized matches.

ICL needs to learn from its me-too follower IPL on some of the strategies it has brought to the game. And while ICL's position as the first-to-market need not guarantee profits or long-term sustenance, it definitely deserves official recognition. There is easily enough space for IPL and ICL to co-exist - there are enough soccer leagues and they all do well. There is also an opportunity that they merge and become the same league - some of the teams could be in the premier league and the rest in a first division league.

Whichever way this interesting sports-business-politics-legal drama plays out in 2008 and the coming years, Subhash Chandra's enterprise needs to be commended. He forced BCCI out of its slumber to create an enduring business model that promises to change the sport forever.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Lalunomics much better than Chidambaram's nothingness

I follow and wait for India's budget with great enthusiasm, expecting great strides forward from a person who once delivered the so-called "dream budget" way back in 1997. Mr. Chidambaram in his second coming has been really disappointing, to an extent probably undone by the expectations people may have unrealistically had from him, given his self-acknowledged "limited mandate" that the UPA government to govern the nation. His budgets, apart from incrementally expanding the net of service tax wider, have brought little cheer to the markets - fringe benefit taxes, cash transaction tax and short-term capital gains taxes have all been bad news.

While there is nothing wrong for politicians to pander to the electorate, there is a big difference between what is just bad economics to what is really poor foresight and government policy. Waiving off farmer loans worth Rs. 60,000 crores (about USD 15 billion) is not just not enough, is a step in the wrong direction that will do little to stop farmer suicides or change anything that is systemically wrong with Indian agriculture. Most Indian farmers turn to the local village moneylender when in need of money and many suicides happen because of the illegal money lender's crushing interest rates and farmers' illiteracy and ignorance of better options. Waiving off loans en masse sets a very wrong precedent - something future governments will find hard to overturn when faced with similar difficulties (which they will because the current loan waiver will hardly make an impact on farmer suicides). Minimum support prices, waiving off farmer loans, subsidies on electricity, diesel, fertilizer and seeds are all attempts to do something visible, but hardly effective in the long run to solve farmers' problems.

What the farmers, urban poor and indeed, even the ultra rich need is not the crumbs our government is happy to throw at them. What is needed is a social security net that gives them the confidence to take business risks and invest in the crops that are likely to give them the best returns. There are financial tools markets provide to ensure returns are safeguarded - be it crop insurance, commodity futures etc., there are ways in which farmers can avoid ending up penniless. That such institutional mechanisms exist in India today but continue to be legislated against is an example of misplaced priorities and lack of understanding of how free market, if given a chance, could have protected small and marginal farmers instead of ruining them.

This budget was regressive, though it was only aiming to be populist and pander to UPA's electorate in next year's elections. It did give the salaried class a big tax break, and while we should thank Mr. Chidambaram for it, in view of the sixth pay commission that should be submitting its recommendations soon (which the government will be forced to accept, given it is an election year) this break was probably unnecessary. Three new IITs is probably a good thing, but it is a good time to question if higher education (esp. institutes of excellence such as the IITs and IIMs) should be in the public sector at all. A whole lot of money has also been allocated for primary education, which is good.

On the other hand, while the finance budget was almost all negative (a 2 out of 10 from me), the railway budget was impressive, forward-looking and quite revolutionary in some ways. Green lavatories, internet, new trains, rationalization of freight rates and passenger fares, higher allocations for safety, investments for metro rail systems are all great news and will go a long way. When Lalu took over the Railway Ministry, a lot of the "educated elite" had very low expectations, some of us thought he will convert the Railways into another Bihar. He has not just proved us wrong, he has gone ahead and done something revolutionary and quite unexpected - taking advantage of simple operations management techniques to boost profitability. No wonder that Lalu got a pat on the back from RSS who thought he was UPA's best performing minister. I thought so too, and so did a lot of people.

For this budget, and for good economics throughout his tenure, I would give Lalu an 8 on 10. The big reason why he doesn't get more is because the logical next step is to privatize Indian Railways, which is one step he would never take, given his stated political positions.

Lalu's success may have been because of the relatively freer reign he may have got thanks to his political clout. Chidambaram, on the other hand, was not in Congress in 2004 and almost lost out on the job also because DMK did not want him to get it. His appointment may have been the only time our Prime Minister displayed some assertiveness, but it was probably a bad bargain in the end. It may have been much better for the nation if he had bargained for some good economics and some good sense in return for a lesser qualified Finance Minister.