I must talk about the World Cup (habits don’t die) which is getting into the business end and India has managed to make every match interesting. How did they do that? They did that by playing way below their potential, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, turning certain victory into a pulsating tie and lo and behold Indians have to watch West Indies vs. England and South Africa vs. Bangladesh as our progress depends on theirs. What a coup for TRPs!!! And yet amidst all the Indian madness there is a bigger madness and that is the advertising. Even if I owe most of everything I have in my life to advertising, I am getting increasingly miffed with advertising for the World Cup which cuts into my viewing pleasure and makes me feel like throwing something heavy at the TV screen and blasting it into smithereens, but yet can’t as it is my hard earned money which paid for the TV in the first place. How many magic moments have been deprived thanks to the greed of the channels? Why can I not see the first ball and the sixth ball over of the over? Why should I see a half commercial when Shaun Tait ties his shoe laces? How many times do I have to suffer the same boring commercial? Why or why?
Mummy, no commercials!!
Suddenly God seems to have heard the plaintive wails of cricket mad people and decided to give us our HDTV. I can watch the entire duration of a 100 over match without a single commercial. With my new found toy, I can see the pores of sweat in the fast bowler’s brow, the extent of the frown on Ricky Ponting’s face and Shahid Afridi actually having his arms around Shoaib at the end of an over instead of Yuvaraj Singh talking about the benefits of some completely useless product that I am sure I will never use. In fact two interesting incidents must be shared with you. The first was when JP Duminy on 99 instead of tapping the ball for a single, goes for a six with the idea of boosting the team’s score as it was the last over and gets caught. In our normal broadcast, the delighted channel will happily put in commercial after commercial in the gap. But what did I get to see? The image of the entire South African team standing up to a man to applaud their unselfish team mate!. Cricket is richer thanks to images like this which we have been robbed of .The next is the image of Ricky Ponting losing his cool after taking the catch, despite Steve Smith coming in his way. The angry captain hurled the ball he had just caught in rage. I saw raw emotion of a guy who wished to win at any cost, not some insipid commercial.
Is there a problem?
The current base of HDTV users is probably low. Estimates vary and it is probably closer to 60,000 users. What is that number when you look at the millions, who are watching the regular broadcast, clogged with commercial after commercial. And yet are these high net worth individuals who are the advertiser’s dream? Will this currently small number grow? I can bet my bottom dollar (not that I have one) that it will grow. And why do I say that? Simply because I bought it out because I was strongly recommended this and I have already called a few others. Word of mouth, as the marketing consultant will tell you, always works. Of course the advertisers though secretly worried are telling themselves that this has not taken off in other parts of the world. They are probably right. It may be a fad for all we know. Some of them are crying foul that this is not cricket, but I am not complaining.
Yet I think it is time for channels to think this one through. Are they killing the golden goose? Are they irritating their customers? They most certainly are. They just must observe the reactions of viewers when the same ad keeps repeating itself, when live action is missed. For the time to take corrective action is now. Otherwise what is a mere trickle will soon become a flood and there will be more and more people like me who are only watching the cricket. Who knows, we may soon forget advertising as the channels are full of them.
Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, brand – comm.
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