Sunday, 20 February 2011

When too much is too much

Lord Leverhulme, the founder of Unilever, once said long ago - "I know half my advertising isn't working. I just don't know which half". A century later, this still holds true. Throw helluva lot of advertising and hope that something sticks. That seems to be the motto of the lot who have made watching cricket on TV these days akin to root canal surgery.

For those unacquainted with the magic game of cricket, lets just say its a sport about which the billion plus people in India, Pakistan, etc are downright crazy about. Its world cup time (never mind that only 8 or so countries really play the game) and half the nation is glued to their TV sets. The game lasts some 6 hours and you get an advertising opportunity every 2 minutes or so. You can imagine the mayhem that is inflicted on the poor cricket fan.

The game seems to be secondary. They squeeze in more and more ads in between overs such that the first ball and the last ball of the over are considered superfluous . Now they have taken to showing the game on half the screen and running an ad all around it. And to compound the sacrilege, right in the middle of an over, the pitch seems to erupt and an ad comes out of the ground. This is not a cricket world cup. This is an advertisement world cup with cricket in there as a necessary evil.

Yeah; I understand the business behind it. After all , I slogged for a long time for the company that was the largest advertiser in the world. Yes, I know money is what drives the sport. Yes, I know , without this, there won't be a cricket world cup. But .....

There is something called the consumer. The idiot who watches the ad and hopefully goes out to buy your product. Is pissing him off, by bombarding him like a moron, any sensible strategy ? Sure , two billion eyeballs are watching and getting your brand in front of them is a great thing. But then does he even notice, or does he care ? I watched the game yesterday and can't recollect more than 2 or 3 brands although I watched 367 ads ( I actually did the math). Irritatingly the same ad repeats ad nauseum and I still can't remember the brand. One diabolical ad, doesn't even say what the product is - apparently its an attempt to create a mystery by saying "coming soon". Even the brands I notice, have done nothing to stimulate me to go and buy them. So what's the deal ?

The deal is a stupidity called 'opportunities to see'. An advertising metric that measures how many people saw your blasted ad. Of course a billion see it if you air it in the cricket world cup. The advertising manager is feted for hitting the largest number of eyeballs possible (this is the exact lingo used - they care two hoots if its a human or an animal as long as they can catch an eyeball !) They only care about the eyes - the brain behind is irrelevant.

How about a little class ? Don't yell too loudly. don't say the same thing again and again. Don't hit me with your product. Don't increase the volume level when the ads come on. Don't make claims that are laughably outrageous. Don't take me for a moron who has to be stuffed. Credit me with some intelligence. How about making a great product (like the iPhone) and then gently telling me once that it might be something I might like. And leave it at that and let me watch the game.

I may be in a minority, but I would rather not watch this monstrosity aired on TV. I would rather simply read the papers next day. Or else go and see a few matches live. One thing I am sure about. I am not going to buy a product because of that dumb ad they aired.


gils said...

the place cud've been a public urinal(forget the fact that it might originally been a main road)..but throw some bleaching powder and erect a food stall..even that wl sell like anything in this country. Adslaam imsai thaan..aanaalum...wen it comes to cricket..nothing matters :) veetla thirumbara pakkamelaam venky foto irunthaalum..mani kanakka queuela ninnu tirupathila paakaromla :) athey mentality thaan :)

LG said...

Very true..I was the one among them a few years ago. Thanks to my projects - I was Out of India - and now completely got rid of this sick. These days I read next day newspaper or just watch news and update myself.. That's the level of respect I give to this entertainment game...Bottomline, the less you love cricket, the less you get tension by watching more ads.. In India its inseperable combination: anything+business=people are there for it.

Vishal said...

Absolutely true Ramesh! I would not either buy the product just because they occupy every corner of my tv when I watch the match.

I am not sure how does this contribute to topline? Most likely, it is a matter of spending your budget. After all, it is so easy to make a business case out of these spends and show on the slides.

As for cricket, money is important. But it was never so important till IPL came into limelight. At the end however, everyone seems happy except consumer who has to bear those stupid ads without having a willingness to buy the associated stuffs.

Sandhya Sriram said...

The channels get paid on how many people watched it. irrespective of whether the person who watched hated the ad or decided never the buy the product after that.

Its a rat race, no one has a competitive advantage - every burns the dollar, and keeps his finger crossed that it is gonna work for him.

But look at it, every one is making money... the channel is making money. the cricketers are making money... and the consumer dosent really know what part of what he pays goes into all this.amidst the galloping inflation...

but the other perspective of course is that there is no formula, the target audience is so enormous, this is "the medium" available with the largest reach and every company wants to fire the shot and i am not sure if there is any better way. and it is this opportunity which has opened up this economy to multiple players and that is definitely a key to the overall growth momentum.

Having said this, i completely agree with you that there is a limit to this whole bit. the match itself cannot become necessary evil which is what these people have made of it. you have so beautifully written the same. really enjoyed every line of this Ramesh. As Ever :-)

zeno said...

Not to mention the ads on the players they appear more like moving bill boards.Only thing that doesn't contains any ad is the cricket ball.
The opening quotes, is it Lord Leverhulme???Since it is you,now i am doubting Wiki as well as Philip Kotler!
Kotler book, as usual in mail :)

Ramesh said...

@gils - Not so sure Gils. Everything doesn't sell in India - The Madras mami is the most difficult consumer in the world to woo.

@LG - I am sure some viewers are being turned off like you and me. In due course viewership may decline. I believe ESPN and STAR are conscious of this - their ad blitz, while irritating, is not as bad as the IPL mayhem, which I will surely not watch.

@Vishal - I have no problems with money ruling cricket - after all its a feature of everything in life. What I am not sure is this going over the top on ads - is it making money for the companies that spend ??

@Sandhya - Clearly the channel makes money, the cricketers do too. But are the companies doing the ads making money ?? Its a shame that despite all the advances in management science, measuring advertising effectiveness remains primitive.

Ramesh said...

@zeno , The walking encyclopaedia !!! - You are absolutely amazing. The depth of your reading astounds me. Yes the quote has been attributed to multiple people - In the US they usually refer to John Wanamaker, while in Europe its attributed to Lord Leverhulme. Very possibly , both said something like this around the same time.

Anonymous said...

god invented cups of tea just to cater for the add breaks !!


Striver said...

Yep, it is really sickening. The Ads spoil the whole flavour of the game and they over do it. I hope we don't lose the viewers of the only game that India cherishes so much.

RamMmm said...

The ad barrage during American sports seems like tame cats compared to this. Have stopped seeing cricket for some time. Not even following the WC. Hope it stays for I can't tolerate ad-infested games like what you describe on TV. Anyway the end watchers are the bakras as the rest in the ad-chain do get a return on their investment.

J said...

The TV networks would probably offer ad-free telecasts of the game for a price. But do you think the irritation with ads rises to the level of paying extra to just watch cricket?

Anonymous said...

Honestly,how many watch the ads completely? Remotes are meant for Ads.And personally i dont watch cricket at all.So not complaining.

Striver said...

Yep, the no. of Ads are absolutely sickening. And it takes away the flavour of the game totally.
How long are people going to take to understand this I wonder. Or soon we may be only getting a glimpse of the fall of a wicket or a sixer in between the Ad streams!

CMK said...

ESPN HD channel telecasts only the ODI match (see I do not call this cricket) - no ads whatsoever.

My son came to know about it and we subscribed for the channel (it is pricey). When I started watching initially I was involuntarily expecting the ads to pop up from everywhere - even from the stumps - so tuned one has become to seeing ads even when there are none. Talk about seeing ghosts!!! Then after the end of the over I automatically started to change the channel to avoid the ads and my son started screaming not to change as there were no ads. It took a while for the withdrawal symptoms to vanish - but this channel is worth every paise really - totally free from mind numbing ads.

Subscribe to the channel if you want to watch only the match. This channel will be available only for the duration of the WORLD CUP. Utopia doesn't last forever.

Did I say that my son had come to know about this channel through an ad!!!

Ramesh said...

@Trevor - If you had a cuppa every ad break, you would suffer from a serious bout of tea poisoning !!! Aussies have started well yesterday and are looking as dangerous as ever.

@RamMmm - I don't think there is a single game that has been bastardised by ads as much as cricket. NBA or NFL is absolutely nothing compared to our home grown variety.

@J - See CMK's comments. I didn't know of this, but would definitely subscribe.

@ambulisamma - You better start watching cricket else in a year or two ambuli is going to call you a neandrathal !!

@Striver - Over time the audience will melt away if you overdo. Its already pissed off quite a few of us.

@CMK - Touche ! Didn't know such an option existed. This is the most valuable piece of news I have seen in a long time !!

zeno said...

Hamara pass Google Hai :P
Hmm still you choose to quote the european guy showing that you often take BIAS route ;) ;)

rads said...

All the ads r nothing but brks which we shud take if we want to sit thru 6 whopping hrs of the @"coming soon ads" what's with them???

Ramesh said...

@Rads - There's a stupid ad airing of two aliens sort of thingies mouthing some gibberish and ending with "Coming soon". No product, no nothing. Its aired at every over break - some 300 times a day. Enough to make you tear your hair.

Anonymous said...


speaking of cricket..... did you know....its the anniversary of the Great Don's passing today... 25th Feb.


Ramesh said...

@Trevor - Oh; didn't know. The Great Man is less and less remembered these days.

Are you watching the World Cup ?? Both the matches of England have been a cracker, and both at Bangalore !

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