Debating on a Goa beach may seem to be a bit of an oddity, but the Goafest has always begun that way — on a serious note. The organisers have a simple explanation for this: Why not have some take-homes before the real fest kicks in? A starter before the main course, that is.
So, as tradition would have it, day one of Goafest began with the industry conclave. The best of minds across the disciplines of creative, media, digital and research congregated at the Cavelossim Beach to debate on the ‘Time to grow’. Explaining the topic, Shiv Moulee, chief client officer at research agency Millward Brown, said: “We say good stories, but not necessarily effective brand stories.”
Moulee, through the course of his presentation, highlighted that the ability of Indian brands to actually engage with consumers had come down in the last few years. “Consumer engagement scores are low,” he pointed out.
For Arun Tadanki, managing director, Yahoo India, consumer engagement being low hardly came as a surprise. “Consumers have moved online, advertisers have not,” he said, while speaking on ‘Digital: The missing link’. “When was the last time you saw a memorable digital campaign?” he asked the august body of advertisers, agency and media heads present on the occasion. No answers came back.
“The irony is,” he prodded, “The digital medium is not used for brand-building purposes. It remains largely a top-up in a media plan.”
Problems even in China
If going beyond the 30-second commercial and the column-centimetre ad remains a key challenge for Indian advertisers, neighbouring China has its own creative issues to grapple with. The key one being the need to be loud and in-your-face when it comes to advertising, said Tom Doctoroff, chief executive officer, JWT, Greater China. “Subtlety is not something the Chinese really understand. It is about being larger-than-life,” he said.
At a time when 20 per cent of Chinese brands were looking to go global, he said it was a challenge to be dealt with everyday. The main issue was: “How do you make the Chinese understand what is brand equity?”
Doctoroff was one of the key international speakers at the conclave, regarded as an authority on Chinese culture, habits and the ability to build brands in China. His book ‘Billions: Selling to the new Chinese consumer’, is a best-seller. The foreword for the book has been penned by none other than Martin Sorrell, chief executive, WPP.
But Doctoroff said his agency – one of the largest in China – was making headway. This, in a market that was actually brand-friendly, he said. Why brand-friendly? “Because of the explosion of products in China,” he pointed out, “they have become commodities.” Sample this: China has 500 models of mobile phones, over 100 different shampoos, over 400 models of cars, etc. “So the wheat can be separated from the chaff when a premium price is attached to it. When the product is not merely a product, it is a brand,” he said.
“And brand-building in a Chinese idiom – of projecting blood, sweat, tears of hard work and dedication, of breaking barriers to achieve victory, which is larger-than-life – can sway even the most cynical advertiser,” Doctoroff pointed out.
For local Chinese shoe brand Anta, which competes with the likes of Adidas and Nike, Doctoroff and his brand-building team went about conveying this very message – of forging ahead – the tagline of the brand.
Ads showed what a Chinese athlete could do if he dreamt big. The result: From a turnover of $100 million in 2005, Anta closed last calendar year with sales of over $1 billion. This year, it is eyeing sales of over $1.5 billion, he said.
Way to go.
What do you expect if you have an event on a beach? Fun and frolic for the participants, but a technical nightmare for the organisers. This year has been no exception. Speakers during the first day struggled to get their laptops connected. If they did, the sound disappeared. And if the sound came, the picture disappeared. Some disaster there, but the organisers finally pulled it off.
‘It’s Goa. Forget it!’
“Hurry up,” quipped the PR executive. “The conclave is just about to begin.” The time: 3 pm. We walk into the make-shift auditorium set up on the Cavelossim beach. What greets us... are empty chairs. The crowd slowly comes in after a lazy afternoon meal. The mikes are still being set up. So, what was the rush all about? An agency head put it well: “This is Goa, forget it.” We did. The conclave finally began at 4 pm.