Arati Rao
Jan 03, 2011

Live Issue: "Will IPL see the Super Bowl Sunday effect?"

Arati Rao asks creatives and marketers whether live TV events provoke better ideas and advertising

Live Issue:

Virgin Mobile's 'India Panga League' campaign was a big hit on YouTube during IPL-3

As much as the game itself, it’s often the advertisements that air during Super Bowl Sunday that are talked about months later (sometimes even years later, as in the case of the Apple TVC ‘1984’). Back on Indian shores, homegrown live TV events like the IPL have seen their own success stories, with the Indian Panga League for Virgin Mobile and the Vodafone Zoozoos. So does the promise of eyeballs and budgets make for better ideas from agencies?

Amit Akali, national creative director of Grey, said, “The incentive obviously is that everybody is going to watch your ad. The flip side is that loads of brands are going to be advertising on it so you need to have a decent number of spots and more importantly, a fabulous piece of creative.”

Akshay Kapnadak, executive creative director at McCann Erickson, believed, “It is incorrect to expect an agency and client team to suddenly create better advertising just for a live TV event. Because it presupposes that creative teams are on any given day not motivated enough to create great advertising. Or that clients are more accepting of mediocre work that’s not going to air during prime-time. If there’s anything that’s different during a live TV event, it’s the budgets (if they haven’t already spent most of it on signing up a star). Both media and production. So agency client teams that create brilliant advertising will create brilliant advertising probably on a larger scale of production, and those that create mediocre advertising will create just that. Large-scale mediocrity.”

KS Chakravarthy [Chax], national creative director of Draftfcb + Ulka, said that the uniqueness of the Super Bowl is that on one single day, the whole of the US would be glued to their TV sets, while IPL delivers 5-7 percent viewership at best – and goes on for a month and a half. “Having said that, could the iconic ZooZoos found a better launch vehicle? Or would Virgin’s Panga League have become half as popular during any other time? The bottomline is, Superbowl is a unique cultural phenomenon with advertising playing an integral role in the spectacle, while IPL is just a media opportunity,” he stated.

Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, national creative director of Bates 141, feltthere was no one answer to the question. “The answer is Yes and No. Yes, if the clients are sponsors who’ve paid big money behind the event, they push to get the best ideas out. There are campaigns like the one for Vodafone which made a huge impact during IPL. So, people do take six months to a year or so to get the communication right,” he said. “The answer is also No, because these live TV events go on in our country all the time. The World Cup is going to be there before the IPL, which is a massive event. There will also be channel programmes like Bigg Boss and KBC which are big in our country.”

Big budgets are a blessing, but only if they’re needed for the idea. Russell Barrett, executive creative director at BBH, said, “If you have an idea that requires several helicopters, an orangutan and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you need to have the budget to shoot it. So from a creative standpoint, budgets really depend on what your idea demands. For example, some of the most expensive and some of the cheapest ads will both be found on Super Bowl (there are numerous examples of high budget ads and then there are the 2009 Super Bowl Miller High Life 1 second spots).”

Viral Oza, head - activation, media & online marketing, Nokia India, said, “Given Nokia’s association with IPL and KKR, we do ensure there is adequate investment to drive this key engagement platform.” In IPL 2010, Nokia had on-screen presence through the Kolkata Knight Riders and the promotion ‘Main Bhi Coach’, which featured Shah Rukh Khan. In IPL 2009, Nokia launched a range of consumer connect initiatives around the IPL, including ‘Sabki Jeet Pakki’, a mobile application, cricket game, updates and downloads on Orkut.

Rajeev Raja, national creative director of DDB Mudra, said, “I guess the two go hand in hand. There’s no point in advertising on IPL if you don’t have the requisite media firepower. And as we all know, this comes at a premium. So, yes, I guess it would be fair to say that we do get better budgets.”
One brand that made the most of the IPL fever in the country was Vodafone. Rajiv Rao, national creative director of Ogilvy & Mather, said, “The Vodafone Zoozoos were created specifically for the IPL. The multiplicity of the Vodafone Zoozoo films (30 films, each telling a new product/service story from Vodafone) was a format designed specifically to take advantage of the IPL format. The Vodafone Zoozoos were a disarming device, which combined with great execution and simple, engaging stories, kept the Indian consumer asking for more every day.”

A trend for the future could be live event advertising heading for the digital space, and social media, in particular. MA Madhusudan, chief executive officer, Virgin Mobile India, said, “The Virgin Mobile Indian Panga League used IPL as a platform to create a distinct campaign only for the digital space. The idea of Indian Panga League was simple yet potentially and highly engaging and evocative. The basis was to show how two friends residing in different cities are taking digs or pangas at each other’s team. Perfectly insightful setting for IPL and a great fit with Virgin Mobile’s STD offering of 20p/minute.”

For Juju Basu, vice president and senior creative director at Contract Advertising, the best ad the IPL has spawned till date is the ad for the IPL itself, ‘The billion people’. He added, “There are some good commercials playing during the IPL, though the closer we really get to a billion people watching, the better the rest of the ads will get. The Superbowl final night and the IPL have as many viewers at a little more than a 100 million. For America, that’s almost a third of the country; in India, it’s 10 percent. As the IPL’s numbers rise, it’ll get more important for companies to spend more of their time and money on the IPL like they do for the Superbowl. So if the IPL lives on and gets bigger, some smarter brands will see the sense in making it their annual launchpad for great new things that they’re doing.”

Amit Akali

Amit Akali, NCD, Grey


 We haven’t really worked on any IPL-focused communication in the past, though we did launch a brand during the last cricket world cup – Bingo!. The communication wasn’t connected to the event but the attempt was to stand out amongst the overdose of ads that would appear during the World Cup. Which I think we did. Bingo! was rated as the biggest launch of that year. Frankly, I’m not sure if the World Cup helped – this was the year that India didn’t qualify beyond the group stage and the viewership drastically dropped!

Viral Oza

Viral Oza, head - activation, media & online marketing, Nokia India


 Social and digital media form an important part of our marketing strategy. IPL not only appeals to people from all age groups but is immensely popular among consumers who are active in the digital space – PCs and mobiles – making it an excellent platform to leverage. An entertaining event/ platform like the IPL offers opportunity for multiple marketing options – digital included. An example of this is our award winning ‘Main Bhi Coach’ campaign. About 15,000 conversations have been triggered across communities based on our IPL campaign.

MA Madhusudan

MA Madhusudan, CEO, Virgin Mobile India


 It is the power of the idea and the innovative mode of communication that makes a campaign stand out in the crowded marketing blitzkrieg that happens in the wake of a popular event, money is not always the reason. At Virgin Mobile we do not believe in extravagant marketing budgets for the sake of a big event. Our communication is not only focused around specific events; however, we would like to associate and engage with our target audience around events that they relate to.

Juju Basu

Juju Basu, VP & senior CD, Contract Advertising


 The game watching experience has changed ever since chatting got easy. Are your friend’s comments more entertaining than commentary?Another fundamental of a national league is fans. The IPL is not an organic league that has grown over the decades like an EPL or Superbowl. It’s just been manufactured with only a mandatory number of players from the home region. So a lot of teams don’t have as big a following from their hometowns as they could. Social media can help here, by being the easiest way to reach people.

Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar

Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, NCD, Bates 141


When you’re talking to the youth these days, none of them is sitting in front of the TV all the time; those guys are on their laptops, on Facebook, or catching the matches on Youtube. So Indian Panga League was a good strategy of spending less amount of money, because IPL is expensive. Because of 3G, the way you watch a match will change as well: uninterrupted matches, with fewer ads, and you can watch it whenever you want. I would say people will spend more time and effort on social media now because everyone cannot afford to be on TV all the time.

Rajiv Rao

Rajiv Rao, NCD, Ogilvy & Mather


 I’m not sure it’s a medium or an event that is behind great work. That is principally the result of a great product/service and a compelling brief. Having said that, events like the IPL are increasingly important to our brands because of the audiences they attract. Naturally, they also take up a disproportionate part of client budgets. Given that perspective, it becomes important for us to make sure the creative products deliver to the given objectives. That may seem like a big challenge, but I see it as a bigger opportunity.

Rajeev Raja

Rajeev Raja, NCD, DDB Mudra


 Well, events like the ICC World Cup or even IPL are certainly special and are treated as such by both the creative agency and the client. Very often it is a challenge to express the essence of a brand in the context of a specific game. Or even if the game is not evoked, just the knowledge that the entire nation’s eyes are going to be glued to the TV makes agencies sit up and try harder.

Rassell Barrett

Russell Barrett, ECD, BBH


 Better advertising is the result of better briefs, better thinking and braver clients. Having said that, events like the IPL can easily be the grist for creative thought. After all, these events are the modern marketers version of the ever successful ‘Sunday market’. The audience is separated by varying income, buying behaviours, etc. and united by one basic need. To be entertained by what’s on the tube. In the midst of all the clamour and din, only the loudest or the most intriguing pitch gets the attention.

Akshay Kapnadak

Akshay Kapnadak, ECD, McCann Erickson


 To begin with, Live TV event advertising is not for the faint of pocket. It’s the usual suspects that are on TV around this time - the ones with budgets comparable to the GDP of some small countries. In the case of such clients, we do see bigger spends. The others, normally wait patiently by the sidelines and spend their budgets either just before or immediately after the event.

KS Chakravarthy

KS Chakravarthy (Chax), NCD, Draftfcb + Ulka


Unfortunately, very few clients seem inclined to buy the bigger-buck-gets-a-bigger-bang argument. So you will find that the majority of brands continue running their existing ads. In our own portfolio, brands like Tata Docomo and Tata Indicom should have something interesting this time around (we were still in the launch phase of Tata Docomo the last year.) Probably Hunk and Pleasure as well.

Campaign India