Google Click-To-Call and ICICI Bank

I was just searching Google for the ICICI Bank phone banking number (it’s easier to search online than rifle through papers), and I came across a Google Click-to-Call sponsored link for ICICI Bank.

I gave my number (should I not have?), and got a call on my cell phone (CLIP: +410), that connected me with ICICI Bank Customer Care in Mumbai.


Now if only they could do something about customer care executives…

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On Fandom…

Well, we’re right back to where with were — just six points separating Chelsea and ManU. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a 4-1 win against Bolton. Eight matches to go in the season, and with Gary Neville out, I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but skeptical now. Neville’s been critical for United in defense, and made some excellent runs across the right wing. Alongwith Ronaldo, he’s been critical for United this year. Patrice Evra hasn’t had a good year, and Heinze has been sorely missed. Both Vidic and Carrick have contributed immensely, and with Van Der Saar, we know what we’ve been missing for the last few seasons.

Anyway, I just read about a fantastic goal from Paul Robinson. Video clips below, followed by a goal by Beckham, who, in my opinion is still a damn good player – just that his fame works against him.




If you read the comments to that last video – interesting how people have said that they were fans of the game once, but no longer are. I wonder if they were fans of particular players, who’ve since retired, because of which they’ve lost interest in the game? That happened to me in case of Basketball and Michael Jordan…

Do you think fandom can be separated into different kinds? Here are some categories I’ve developed, on the fly, while writing this post:
1. Proximity based fandom (Clubs/Country): because you’re born there, and its your club/country, so you’re emotionally attached to the club/country and support it no-matter-what.
2. Performance based fandom: You back a winner. They win the championship, you back them. They do well, but don’t win the championship – you still back them until they start losing badly, in which case you decide that xyz is a better team, and you back them. You’re a neutral.
3. Personality based fandom: You watch the sport for the star, who may or may not be a performer. The star retires, and your interest declines. I think that happened to basketball with Jordan – and it will happen to cricket when Tendulkar retires.
4. Rebel’s day out: Everyone in your family thinks Death Metal is from hell. You’re a rebel, and you become a fan.
5. Ideological synergy: I was a fan of Everton (football) three seasons ago, of Bolton and Wigan last year and of Reading this year because the teams fought it out for each and every game. Some aren’t as passionate anymore, and I’m not much of a fan of theirs. In contrast, I wasn’t a fan of Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City, because they had an all out attack philosophy, which I didn’t agree with.

So..why are you a fan? Any more categories?

While on fandom, do read Henry Jenkins’ Confessions of an Aca/Fan. I haven’t read much of it (work increases with each week), but I do like what I’ve read so far. Jenkins’ book on convergence culture is on my wishlist…Also, I believe in niche markets more than I do in mass markets. I think we might just see a switch in mandate for mixedbag. 🙂

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What’ll Happen To Sony Entertainment Television If India Crash Out?

It’s Sunday, and barbershops across India will have more words in the air than hair on the floor. Talking about this.

Some might take solace from the fact that Pakistan have crashed out too, but I wouldn’t bet on it. For the last two months, TV channels have sidelined important issues (like the Iran situation) for “Breaking News” of inconsequential cricket stories. Yesterdays first breaking news was that India won the toss and chose to field. It’s the last one that broke, that will probably give Sony Entertainment Television sleepless nights. How will India crashing out will impact Sony Entertainment Television (SET)– will the rates be cut? Will advertisers pull out or just re-negotiate rates?

I just asked my sister (she’s a media planner), and she says that advertisers will want to pull out – SET’s ratings will drop; advertisers wanting to renegotiate rates is a best case scenario. We’ll see — there are two games to go.
I just checked, and SET seems to have done quite the smart thing – as per the Economic Times, the SET’s cricket advertising inventory (for the ICC Champions Trophy and World Cup) has been underwritten by Dentsu, Zenith Optimedia and Starcom, in exchange for ad inventory at 10-15 percent discount, for resale. So, the burden then falls on Dentsu, Starcom and Zenith Optimedia…Apparently, the ad revenues were expected to touch Rs.560-580 crore, with the World Cup accounting for 70 percent (that’s Rs. 392-406 crore).

In fact, lots of money has been plonked into several online initiatives as well, with Maruti rumoured to have allocated around $1 million for ad inventory on the official cricket world cup site, for which rights were bought by STAR India’s We could see more mayhem…

Anyway, it somehow lends credence to my favourite crib about Cricket and Bollywood being the two most oversold properties for advertisers (particularly, with the Gov’s insipid ruling on cricket telecast), simply because they’re no-brainers. I hope that will change too…

Rs 500 cr & slog overs left
BCCI Invites Bids To Host Web Portal; Minimum Guarantee $50 Million
Some (Online) Launches Around The Cricket World Cup
Nimbus Issues Notice To BCCI To Pull Out Of $612 Million Cricket Rights Deal Bags $1 Million Sponsorship From Maruti For Cricket World Cup Site
Everybody Wants Cricket…For Free

An aside: I wonder if Pakistan’s loss to Ireland is a blessing in disguise for President Musharraf. Is the heat off him, and will public anger now be directed towards the Pakistan cricket team? Only time will tell….

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I want…Idea Cellular Ringtone

Idea Cellular signed a deal with Balaji Telefilms, so that all the cellphones on their (High TRP) serials would ring with the Idea Cellular official ringtone. Apparently, it’s quite popular — we’ve received 16 comments at CS on this bit of news. So finally, I found the ringtone, and posted the link to it in the comments to…erm…put ’em out of their misery.
Maybe Idea Cellular ought to run a little campaign on TV that tells people how to download the ringtone for free; since it is associated with Idea anyway, it’ll be free publicity. If they do, hope they also remove the DRM and allow p2p transfers, make it available online, on short code services and on their WAP site…I mean – allow users from other operators to also download it. 😉

Have written to someone in Idea about it. Heh…

P.s.: The phrase ‘I Want’ always reminds me of that fun, freaky, Videocon Mangta Hain show on MTV some ten years ago, with that iconic postman. Really wish MTV hadn’t gone totally desi, but I guess that’s paved the way for VH1. Wouldn’t mind VH1, which is as fun as MTV. As far as entertainment channels go, I like Zee Studio the most. Discovery Travel and Living, with all their automobile shows (note: I’ve never been much of an automobile person), is a close second. Of course, if my idiotic cablewallah was showing History Channel, that would win. Back

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Bisleri on the block

Can’t seem to find link to the Economic Times story for this, but apparently Bisleri is up for sale for between Rs.120 and Rs. 150 crore. Among packaged drinking water brands, Bisleri was the brand I trusted most until a couple of years ago, and it’s sad to see how it’s just fallen apart after building up excellent brand equity.

As a consumer, when do we not want to buy a product? When we can’t afford it; we don’t have a use for it; we’ve not heard of it; we don’t like it (issues like swadeshi vs videshi); someone we don’t like, uses it (yeah, there are those); we don’t like its advertising; we’ve heard/read bad reviews; when the company has been involved in some controversy; when the product is injurious to our health; when we are suspicious of the quality of the product.

Some of these things are within the company’s control. For mineral water and food, for me, the last one is critical – if I don’t have faith in the purity of the water – I’ll stay thirsty.

bisleri bisleri2

Bisleri themselves seemed to play on this need for safety, coining the popular tag-line ‘Play it safe’. The advertising helped differentiate the product from its competitors who, more or less, communicated nothing. Bisleri’s seal was also breakaway (hence irreplaceable), even though (I’ve heard), the sealing process was the slow and could clog up the assembly line.

Somewhere along the way, Bisleri fell off the radar. Distribution was poor and where there was once Bisleri, one found Aquafina and Kinley. Then, a couple of years ago, I came across new Bisleri bottles, which I thought were spurious. But then they began showing up all across Delhi.


The “safe” breakaway seal was replace by a regular seal, but the change wasn’t communicated.

And more variants (packaging) emerged…


And some of these variants were sold simultaneously. They were manufactured in different parts of Delhi, and one had the website printed on it, while the other had printed.

So, the mistake – a complete lack of communication on Bisleri’s part. According to Sahad, the asking rate for Bisleri was Rs.450-Rs.500 crore, five years ago.


Now they have a new product out – a mineral water brand (as opposed to a packaged drinking water brand), and they are advertising it. Still, there are three types of Bisleri bottles in the market in Delhi right now…

Related: A lesson in distribution from a paanwala

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Pepe’s Dhoom-2 Collection; And when you should probably lie to me

One mistake that I make when commenting on business, particularly advertising and marketing, is that I am often self-referential. If I don’t like something, I tend to believe that not many people will, because “they’re a sensible lot”. That’s myopic, and I realized this a week or so ago, at a Pepe Jeans store:

On noticing the Pepe Jeans’ Dhoom 2 collection at a store in CP, I thought I’d ask the store owner about the offtakes. A segment of the left wall (not particularly noticeable though) had been dedicated to the collection. Above the racks was a large POP banner of the movie, and a cut-out (which I hadn’t noticed on the way in – banner blindness, for sure) had been placed in the display window next to the entrance. The offtakes? Fantastic, he said. Young people are walking into the store and asking for what Hritik Roshan wore in this-scene or that-scene and buying. The same with Aishwarya Rai and Bipasha Basu for girls.

“Yeah, right!” you’d think. “That’s just plain PR speak. No one’s really buying this stuff.”

And then someone walks up to us and quietly (embarrassed?) asks for a particular jacket that Hritik wore in some specific scene. Pepe’s done a smart thing – the collection is straight out of the movie and they’ve printed a catalogue with stills where the actors are wearing these clothes. Three pieces of clothing were picked up while I was there for around 15 minutes. At the checkout counter, strangely enough – in a bowl – accessories from Dhoom 2 were kept for impulse purchases. Someone picked up a bandana with a flowery design.

Hence, I now accept that there are people who are star-struck, and user preferences can never really be based on a specific way of thinking. Even Rakhi Sawant has a fan :P. People do have idols whom they want to emulate…My nephew was very protective of his Kkrish jacket and rubber mask. I might think that almost everything on TV is stupid (apart from the History Channel, Discovery Travel & Living, CNBC-TV18, Zee Cafe, Zee Studio and a couple of others), and talk about the youth slowly switching to the Internet because prime-time soaps are stupid, and news is blatantly sensationalized – but there are who are lapping all of this up, and will still want passive entertainment instead of having to choose what to watch/do online.

Individual differences. So what do you do? Find common preferences, a niche perhaps, to target them. And ensure that while you cater to one groups preferences, you don’t piss off another with a drastic shift in TG. People switch very quickly. Speaking of clothing, when it was launched in India, Givo was a high-end brand. Floundering now, from what I hear.


Of course, it’s not that I’m not star-struck…Please note that if you have exclusive invites for lectures by Joseph Stiglitz, George Soros and Amartya Sen, in Delhi, and you decide not to go – please don’t say something like “Nix, those invites just went waste…I couldn’t go and I was thinking – Damn, who should I give these to?”
I suggest you lie and tell me you gave them to your dad or girlfriend, or sold them. Just don’t tell me they went waste. And don’t blame me to attempting to strangle you at a bookstore in CP.

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ABN-Amro, Mobile Spam and Marketing Mistakes

Yesterday, I received a call from a lady called ‘Richa’ (phone number +9111-45092650) who claimed to represent ABM-Amro Bank. She just wanted me to confirm my (non-existent) request for an ABN-Amro Global Master Card. I’m in Airtel’s ‘Do Not Call’ list, and I usually don’t get cold-calls. On inquiring about how they got my number, I was told that they have a database with my name and number on it, and that’s all they know.

I spoke to the ‘Team Leader’ who assured me that he would put me on their ‘Do Not Call’ list, and this was just a mistake. He apologised.
A short while ago, I received a call from a ‘Megha’ (number: +9111-45092639)
offering me (yes, you guessed it!) an ABN-Amro Global Master Card. Why are they bothering me again? Her response: “So what, sir? People get 10 calls in a day. This is just two in two days”


According to yesterdays Financial Express, this and branded tie-ups seem to be means of providing “an instant solution for the present marketing shortfalls.”

Ah, such farsightedness. Think of all that money spent on brand building via TVC’s gone to waste with one stupid call. ABN-Amro did a few things wrong here:

  • They coldcalled. By trying to get a few accounts, they probably pissed off a lot of people, and put off future customers.
  • They generated bad word-of-mouth. Like, here.
  • They coldcalled twice. I’m even more pissed off. More bad word-of-mouth.

This was probably a case of outsourcing sales, and that’s where a risk for any company lies – will the people you hire to contact prospective customers project your company in a manner that you’d like them to? Megha, who called second, was cocky. Is that the way someone would have behaved if I had declined the credit card while at a bank branch? Of course, one has now come to expect telecallers to be dumb and uncouth, but I don’t think it’s excusable.

The risk for the company is greater in services than in products: services are intangible and a bad impression results in uncertainty when one does decide to purchase. One cannot afford pre-purchase dissonance because then, heh, there will be no purchase.
I’m not sure of how successful coldcalling has been in India, but since they’re still at it, I assume it must be working for them.

Just for the record, I’d received another cold-call a couple of weeks ago. How did they get my number? The telecaller explained that he was dialing serial-wise – 98xxxxxxx1, then 98xxxxxxx2 and so on.

I’d also received an automated call from Hutch on my (Airtel) phone, offering me a post-paid connection…which I had spoken to Airtel about earlier in the day, so there’s a leak there somewhere.

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The Delhi Metro – some trends, and some opportunities for marketers

“The next station is Chandni Chowk. This station is brought to you by Shanti Prasad Hirachand Jewellers.”

You could be hearing this a few years from now, on your way to Connaught Place from Kashmere Gate, improbable though it may seem. By the time Phase II of the Delhi Metro project is completed, there will be 120 stations, stretching more than 140 km across Delhi and NCR. At each of these stations, and indeed near them, will lie opportunities for marketers.

The crowds are already there –


These are old photos. At nodal stations like those at Rajiv Chowk and Kashmere Gate, the crowds are similar to those at local train stations in Bombay. My sister, on her way back from work a couple of weeks ago, got stuck at Rajiv Chowk, as train after train arrived full from Central Secretariat. The Delhi Metro currently transports 4.6 lakh commuters every day. Once Phase II is completed by 2010, this could go up to 10 lakh and above. On the platforms, since commuters at some stations have to wait for three or four trains before they can push their way in, advertisers have around 15-20 minutes to communicate with them.

It’s not as if the DMRC is oblivious to alternative revenue streams: At all metro stations there are advertising panels, product display spaces and commercial establishments. At some point in time last year, I read about the Metro becoming a spot for young couples to spend time together, but the police at the stations began picking on them. Cafe Coffee Day probably spotted an opportunity there and opened a cafe inside the Rajiv Chowk station.


Rajiv Chowk also houses a book and magazine shop from the India Today group. The station at Tis Hazari has a large Maruti showroom owned by Rana Motors (where we got our WagonR from), as well as a Spenser Hyper Market. Speaking of supermarkets, the station at Netaji Subhash Place has a Big Bazaar, apart from several other commercial establishments in and around it. The Kashmere Gate station has McDonald’s and Domino’s outlets. Outside the much smaller station at Rajouri Garden, the City Square Mall is brimming with activity, particularly on weekends.

Surprisingly enough I haven’t come across many product display spaces at Metro Stations, and some remain empty, while others are still being constructed. At the Chawri Bazar and Barakhamba Road stations, the OOH display panels remain empty.


Maruti, though, turned the Rajiv Chowk station into a display space by placing a flaming red Swift there for all to see.

When Phase III is completed 160 trains will be operational, and inside every one of these trains will lie opportunities for marketers. Panels seem to be the most common form of advertising, though I don’t think they get noticed much. There is substantial government advertising in the panels inside the trains – advocating the use of condoms and preaching the banishment of untouchability, among other social vices like smoking, Bollywood music and drugs.


However, one does find commercial brands like the Creative Zen MP3 player, Bikanerwala, and Digjam Suitings, as well as several financial services, on the panels. On Saturday, on my way to the Prithvi Theatre festival, I boarded a train that had ads from Go Air on the panels throughout the train.


Outside the train, in the station, there are brightly lit panels such as those of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Bank of Baroda – target those waiting for the train at the platform.


At several nodal stations, one also comes across beverage stalls. The Coca Cola beverage stall at the Civil Lines station, however, shut down due to lack of business five-six months ago. There are still a couple of bottles behind the glass panes.

Back inside the train, the BIG FM experiment of advertising on handle straps has found takers and has been emulated – I recently noticed ads for Hariyali Chai on the straps of one train while traveling towards Vishwavidyalaya.


The DMRC estimates that these straps alone can earn them additional revenue of Rs.30 lakh a year. Advertising to passengers on the Delhi Metro, however, goes beyond the train and the stations: I’m told that Hindustan Times has been distributing free newspapers outside the Vishwavidyalaya metro station. Also, while travelling on the elevated lines I have often noticed hoardings and painted ads buildings beside the tracks, much like one sees ads painted on buildings beside regular railway tracks. Do people notice them?

In fact, how much of all the advertising mentioned above do people take note of? Given the rush that people are in, the crowds on the platform and inside the train, as well as a trend of banner blindness, the advertising has to be disruptive in nature. Some thoughts and suggestions:

  1. For the crowds waiting for a train, particularly during peak hours, the banner ads should be entertaining – perhaps an LCD display or a TV – the kind out find outside the airport is a better idea. In the future, this could be linked to an adserver, and serve up specific ads for metro passengers at stations like Kashmere Gate, Rajiv Chowk and future nodal stations. I think the static ads are useless.
    Update (11th Dec 2006): Looks like someone agrees with me on this – the Indian Express reports that Incoda, which owns the rights for screening programmes on televisions inside Metro stations will begin screening 200 English documentary films on TV screens in the station. The duration of films will be five to 10 minutes. I expect there to be ads in-between films, or on the screen itself, though that isn’t mentioned in the report.
  2. No one takes note of panel ads inside the train, unless you’re interested in the kind of advertising on the metro, like I am. LCD/LED displays would again work better inside the train.
  3. In the morning, the train to Vishwavidyalaya carries a largely student population to the Delhi University, so there is opportunity there for targeting that segment with pamphlets, which could be handed out inside the train. At the same time, the trains towards Rajiv Chowk, Rajouri Garden and Netaji Subhash Place carry working professionals, and promotions could be planned to target them (though the trains are completely packed).
  4. Both stations and trains could be ideal for Bluecasting (Bluetooth advertising) particularly for sales promotions.
  5. The escalators are a little slow on their way up and usually packed at nodal stations (unlike the one in the image below – Chawri Bazar, 7am…too early). People usually are looking upwards – why not have a banner advertisement there?
  6. Perhaps the most disruptive alternative is the sound system – one might ignore TV screens and LCD/LED displays, but announcements are hard to ignore in metro trains, however monotonous they may sound. I can imagine someone making an unscheduled stop at Kashmere Gate to grab a quick bite at McDonald’s at lunch time, just because of the announcement. In the evening, an announcement could remind those returning from work to watch a particular TV show once they reach home.
  7. The Metro smartcard could also be co-branded, and banks could tie-up for offering debit card services using the smartcards. Smartcards could also be used for special offers in collaboration with the DMRC. Or maybe use the metro for distribution:


All of these, of course, are possibilities; the viability depends entirely on the DMRC and marketers. Personally, I’d not buy into or like any of these advertisements, but they might help make the Metro profitable sooner.

Oh, and two major sources of entertainment on the metro – Mobile games and FM radio on mobile handsets.

Note: Most of the content in this post was used to compose an article on branded spaces on the Delhi Metro for First Option. The last photo is without branding 😛 – an image of a metro station I found on Flickr:

This is on the Shahadra-Rithala line, where quite a few stations have tiled art. I’ll take some more pics of those.

Incidentally, I’m planning to buy a digital camera…budget is around Rs.15k. Any suggestions?

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