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September 4, 1999


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The Star Fleet is ready to attack! Famous business people to lead government's media campaign on Y2k. Priya Ganapati

Puzzled at what Ritu Beri and Ratan Tata have in common with Y2K? Or Ajay Jadeja and Montek Singh Ahluwalia? Or Bimal Jalan and K Dadiseth? Then read on...

Email this story to a friend. All these celebrities are part of a glitzy ad campaign for Y2K compliance that will be splashed across television channels and newspapers in the country.

Celebs' Y2K campaign
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The campaign 'Good Morning 2000' has been designed by Lintas, one of the leading ad agencies in the country.

The first phase of the campaign was launched about a week ago across national magazines and newspapers0.

But the best is yet to come. The second phase of the campaign that features these celebrities talking about their Y2K experiences is expected to go on air in about two weeks.

The ads are aimed at raising public awareness about the problem and explain what the year 2000 bug is about and how it can be fixed.

The Department of Electronics and the Directorate of Audio Visual Publicity are handling the campaign.

S Ramakrishnan, senior director, DoE, and national Y2K co-ordinator, reveals why Lintas was chosen: "We had a choice of number of ad agencies before us.

There was a media campaign committee set up which included members from different organisations like the Confederation of Indian Industries. We had presentations made by different ad agencies. Since Y2K was considered slightly complicated we decided to go for a bigger ad agency. Also we liked Lintas's presentation the best."

The audience for the ad campaign has been broadly categorised into:

  • Central government agencies like railways and other mission-critical sectors.
  • Public-sector units.
  • Corporate houses.
  • Small and medium enterprises.
  • Employed professionals.
The list of celebrities chosen for the campaign is heavily dictated by the target profile.
  • Industrialists Ratan Tata and K Dadiseth are expected to talk the corporate lingo;
  • Finance Secretary Montek Singh Ahluwalia will mouth lines that are expected to appeal to the finance sector;
  • Ritu Beri is likely to highlight the importance of Y2K for exporters while
  • Ajay Jadega is expected to strike a chord with the masses.
Ramakrishnan confesses: "The choice of magazines, newspapers and celebrities has been skewed in the favour of English language speaking people. What was not considered was the Small Office Home Office segment because computers that might have the Y2K problem will not affect that segment much."

He recalls that "The DoE was responding to a decision taken by two high-level forums: The Committee of Secretaries headed by the cabinet secretary and the Y2K Action Force headed by Montek Singh Ahluwalia. The forums decided in January 1999 that a media campaign is very important."

The DoE was asked to collaborate with DAVP, the government's media agency.

Pratik Kumar, campaign officer, DAVP, told Rediff "The entire budget of Rs 10.5 crore (Rs 105 million) was handed over to the DAVP by the government.

But given that we are a government department we have our own limitations. We cannot put out ads in magazines that have not accepted a rate card called the DAVP rates. The satellite channels are also out of the question."

Kumar admits that advertisements on Doordarshan, the government owned television channel, are insufficient because the profile of the target audience of Doordarshan does not completely match the objectives of the Y2K awareness campaign.

"Unlike other situations where we could advertise only on Doordarshan, for example, about literacy and rural development, we needed to cater for a high-profile target audience. So we had to rope in another agency like Lintas," Kumar explains.

"The ads would be a mixture of visual and print media. Though we are clear about what the celebrities would be saying we couldn't actually give them lines and ask them to repeat it. We will incorporate their inputs also. I have not seen the ads yet myself," he explains.

Kumar reveals that they have tried to rope in other celebrities like Shahrukh Khan, Shekhar Kapur and A R Rehman. However, due to problems like availability of dates for shooting the trio are unavailable.

Meanwhile, the first phase of the print media campaign kicked off with a few glitches. The ads feature a coupon that readers can mail back to receive an 'Y2K OK' infopack. The pack has a 30-page booklet that explains everything you want to know about Y2K.

This mail-back facility is being handled by an independent agency, Solutions Integrated Marketing Services.

Ramakrishnan elaborates: "They are a direct marketing agency. We didn't want any typical government department to get involved with this. There would be a lot of queries and we didn't want a scenario where no one would be replying to them. So we asked the Lintas people to appoint a separate agency for this."

The print ads also give out the helpdesk numbers that DoE runs through another company, CMC Limited. DoE has set up a Web site to tackle Y2K related queries.

Publicity doesn't come cheap and the government is learning that quickly.

Kumar revealed to Rediff that the DAVP is finding the Rs 105 million budget insufficient.

Kumar confesses: "We have run out of money. The budget is seemingly too less. Earlier, when I had asked for the money we had not realised that hiring an external ad agency would expand our budgets to this extent. The result is that we have had to leave out a lot of primetime slots."

Related Link:
DoE's site

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