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|September 24, 1999||
Gods and Ads: Corporate India discovers an effective ad medium in Ganapati pageant
Kanchana Suggu in Bombay; photographs: Jewella C Miranda
The 11-day Ganesh festival 1999 celebrations may have officially ended today, but they have marked a new beginning for white goods and utility products advertising.
The colours, the drums, the music, the buzz, the pageantry, the devotees, the Ganapati idols at busy public spots, the processions, the immersion… they were all there as usual. However, the unusually active role played by corporates big and small, especially in metros like Bombay, has given a new dimension to the celebrations.
Notice the names: Sony, BPL, Colgate, Hindustan Lever, Servo, Onida, Videocon, Kelvinator, Onida, Dena Bank, Bank of India, Shaw Wallace, Manikchand… the crème da la crème and the high-profiled of Corporate India. They -- the names, their adverts -- were all there on the arches at countless pandals at vantage points, vying for mindshares. Bollywood feature films, too, were advertised.
"The pandals attract thousands of devotees, besides the attention of thousands of passers-by. They offer a great short-term opportunity to mass communicate at a very reasonable cost. Ads at Ganesh pandals are nothing new, but what was different this year was the fact that religious celebrations have been legitimised as an advertising medium," says an ad agency executive.
Agrees Jagannathan Arvind, deputy general manager (brand building), Videocon. He believes that when devotees and others notice the ads, they begin to accept the companies as an integral part of the society. "In the process, an affinity towards our brand is developed. There are no direct returns as such but for us it is an important brand-building exercise."
Eveready batteries were advertised at various pandals, just like in the last three years. M S Bhogale, sales manager, Eveready Industries Limited, says his company would continue to do so in future. "People are in a relaxed mood when they visit pandals. Ads at pandals do make lasting impressions on minds. Some time back, we launched our new product, Tez Tea, and were looking for an opportunity to communicate with the common man. We decided that this is the best medium."
Advertisements at pandals are in the form of billboards on arches or cloth banners.
It is not just the private sector at work. The public sector's Bank of India put up banners all over Bombay and other cities of Maharashtra. "We get good mileage from Ganapati ads, though sometimes we cover only Bombay. Our practice changes every year," says L Godkar, BoI's marketing executive. "We also have counters at many places which offer medical help in case of emergency. We build goodwill this way," he adds.
The arches and banners have a life span of about 20 days, but their visibility is unmistakable and prominent, says Tim Havaldar, marketing manager, Shaw Wallace. The company, he says, has got "a lot of exposure" for its Haywards 5000 beer. "Since a large number of people attend these events, we get a lot of exposure. Ads here have a greater recall value. For products like ours which basically aim at impulse purchases, it is one of the best ways to advertise."
It is the consumer durables manufacturers who seek to make the most of the occasion. The advertisments are sometimes customised. So, a pandal in the northwest Bombay suburb of Andheri had ads displaying the names of its local dealers.
Sony, which had allocated a budget of Rs 50,000 every year, sponsors three mandaps (platforms at public places where Ganapati idols are installed) in the suburbs in collaboration with its local dealers. Although reluctant to quantify the effectiveness of ads, Sony officials say sales at local dealers have definitely increased. "We began this practice three years ago, and the good response has encouraged us to continue with it."
Cement-maker Snowcem, in collaboration with In-Mumbai cable television network, sponsored prizes for the best Ganapati idol and best decoration at the pandals. Vasudev Ahil, ad executive, Snowcem, says, "It is good publicity. We sponsor anyone who wishes to participate in the contest. This has evoked a positive response. We have banners at about 250 mandaps in Bombay."
Advertisers exercise caution while choosing the organisers in order to steer clear of controversies.
Videocon's Arvind says, "Many clubs approach us for sponsorships. We then sit down and decide which dealer has to be supported. If we are sure about the reputation of the organiser and the local dealer, we don't mind spending a couple of lakhs (one lakh = Rs 100,000)".
Agrees Sony officials. "We check whether or not our local dealer has been accepted by people as one of them. If not, we don't sponsor any mandaps in the area."
Ganapati celebrations in 2000, the first pageantry of the next millennium, would see more corporates, according to marketing officials and Ganapati pandal organisers.
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