Monday, March 21, 2011

Curious Case of 'Stage Fright'

As I also talked about in a post sometime back, a lot of the stuff I never thought would happen is happening. One learning from this is clearly that never try to plan your life. You will never realise when you took a diversion from the path you chose till you reach yet another landmark, which was not to come your way!

Just to put it on record, although I have made a number of stage appearances for singing as well as public speaking all throughout my life so far (and have a number of certificates and awards to boast of!) but I always had 'stage fright'. At this point of time I cant really explain how I managed nerves at those times but I just did. Be it the assembly news reading or the assembly articles/speeches in school times, the classroom presentations in DAIICT or IIM Calcutta or even the project presentations and knowledge sharing presentations in my first job, I was always nervous performing in front of larger audience thinking about whether I would be able to deliver it upto levels of expectation or not. I may even have messed it up at times. The bottomline is- I was never confident at it but just managed to sail through riding on right amount of practice.

It would probably be too soon to make a declaration that I have overcome that fear but I feel much more confident now and the transformation I have seen in myself over the last year feels amazing. Last few presentations I have made and the kind of articulation/improvisation I have been able to do in those gives me a great satisfaction at personal level. The most important part is the start of the performance- Once the start is on track, there should not be any issues going ahead. I have experienced a different kind of satisfaction after delivering last few presentations and speeches. Recent two meetings where I talked smoothly (with absolutely zero preparation) to external audiences of over 250 and 150 people each, without skipping any beats should support my claims. Not to forget managing the unrest caused by somebody else in one of these meetings - which was also called 'Most uncivilised crowd ever seen' by an uninvolved spectator.

I am sure that if you haven't met me and have known me only through this blog, you would have been carrying a different impression altogether. Same holds true for all those who have sought some advice from me for interviews. It looks so strange that the person who gives gyan to people on public speakings and on how to crack interviews, was not a confident speaker himself! Anyways it was just the same gyan which came to my rescue. Sometimes reading one's own blog helps!! :)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Spoiling the Concepts

Just like most of the sequel movies have a problem with carrying the legacy of a brilliant concept and a superhit movie, today even the advertisements seem to have fallen into the same trap- Dragging the concept too far.

Two advertisements I am referring to here, in particular, are Vodafone and Idea ads. I have written about the two in my earlier posts as well and I was all praise for the two. Even now I think those were the two brilliant concepts advertisers had come up with but now the new extensions of these seem to drag it too far and end up even spoiling the concept built around the brand.

Vodafone, to start with, brought the brilliant concept of Zoozoos and executed it well to make those imaginary creatures a part of brand identity. It connected so well with the end consumers that I wouldn't be surprised if it fares best amongst all brands in "recall tests". People just loved it. Young girls replaced Barbies and Hannah Montanas with zoozoos. But why did it work so well?
1. Zoozoos were attractive (and not ugly) [Hygiene factor]
2. Zoozoos were cute! [Cute creatures are liked by majority audience- Hygiene factor]
3. Their acts were built around common man theme
4. The communication was simple!! [Most important factor for success of zoozoo campaign]
The whole concept was built around 15-20 second short videos with zoozoos communicating some very simple message - be it consumer responses to e-cards or mobile recharges or be it the festivity of winning something (or being recognised) as in "Man of the Match theme".

Now, if you have seen the current series of zoozoo ads, you would feel the difference. I even doubt if you have noticed the message in the advertisements or even if you have noticed the advertisements at all. There are many problems, as I see, with the current series of ads.
1. The message is too complicated - Hard to understand what is going on
2. Subtitles- Nobody is so interested in your brand / ad that they would go on reading the subtitles!! (I don't understand how come creative agencies with so much of experience came up with the idea of putting subtitles in an ad)
I cant speak of general public on this but I would make an effort of reading subtitles in a short video only in select few cases -
I) If the ad seems too funny and I have a feeling that those subtitles would add to the fun. May be something of Laurel Hardy or Charlie Chaplin sorts!
II) If I am too interested in the brand that I dont wanna miss out on any damn thing about it, in which case, I would expect some meaningful message coming out of those subtitles.
III) If the content is written in a font which is hard to resist- Not so much applicable to subtitles though but something like L-shaped popup banners in middle of cricket matches (Sorry I dont know what it is called and Google is of no rescue this time)
Unfortunately Vodafone ads don't come close to either of these.
3. Common man doesn't relate to it at all and the cuteness is all lost in these overly complex acts.

Similarly for the "Get Idea" campaign-
It started off brilliantly with Abhishek Bachchan series of ads. It was noticed well. There was subtle humour in it and the phrase caught on brilliantly amongst people. The phrase "No idea", per se, is one of the most commonly used phrase and now people have added the "Get Idea" part to associate humour with that, which has definitely brought up a healthy TOM (Top of Mind) recall for the brand. Previous ads of social awareness ("What an Idea" campaign) were also noted well in the people. Amongst the latest campaigns, the "Champions of the World" is a nice campaign to have from a long term point of view, where a few years down the line, Idea can bring all these campaigns together and make a good impactful theme based on its association with legends of the game. As for now, the message "To keep cricket clean" although likely to connect well with Indian public, somehow looks more like a teaser campaign to some better advertisements on the theme (I hope that is the case!). Amidst so many glories is the current fusion of "Get Idea" and "Champions of World" campaigns, which doesn't make a good ad.
Again, it stretches the "Get Idea" theme way too much. I see two major problems with the ads-
1. Unlike other ads in "Get Idea" theme, these ads don't connect with common man. It all looks so superficial while the previous ones cashed in on the "close to realty" factor.
2. "Champions of world" are good cricketers but they might not be good actors. Forget everything else and just listen to the way they say phrases of the central theme -"No Idea" or "Get Idea" and compare it closely to the way Abhishek Bachchan said those words. You will see the difference it makes to the whole advertisement.

When we make a sequel, there are 2 important factors-
1. The novelty factor, enjoyed by first version, is already gone
2. When advertisement campaign was first , creatives had brand communication as topmost priority while in sequels they are burdened with additional responsibility to build creativity into it and the focus is lost to a) the advertisement theme and b) creativity around the theme. Somehow the message, which should be first priority, takes a back seat.
Anyways, I claim no expertise in advertising and above mentioned views are my personal thoughts, you may or may not agree with. Personally, I have been a big fan of advertisements of above two companies and just hoping to see some good advertisements from them.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Ugly face of reality - Corruption

Be it sports or the corporate, be it politics or even the education, one thing which is common to all these days is "Corruption".

There was some news going around after I wasted one complete day watching the India-England WC match, which said that Shane 'Octopus' Warne had predicted the result long before the match even started. It could only mean 2 things - 1. Either Octopus gifted its power to Warne before dying or 2. Match was fixed and Shane Warne knew it [which BTW would happen if he himself is involved as well]. Everybody knows and it is irrelevant to comment on the probability of a match ending in a draw but against all odds Mr. Warne had a hunch that it was that one in a billion case and the match is going to end in a tie. Even if you look at the way players played- the field settings, the bowling spots, the batsmen shots and even the high swings in the match - all point to just one thing.

Match fixing is not something new to the cricket and frankly I am not even bothered about that but this match fixing and spot fixing is just another form of the widespread corruption, which is deteorating the value system in the country. People hardly care about its impact on the society and are just focussed on minting money for their own good. Not to offend anybody but the hard truth remains that all of us are responsible for this state of our country (and largely the world).

Hawalas, Cash changing hands, favours for cash are forms which are not new to any of our systems. Still so many deals and hawala cases are pending in various courts. Politicians take money/favours to make changes in policies and obviously cases pertaining to commissions in tenders etc. are often heard of. Corporates are not to ignored either. People try to mint company's money by channeling it to them (through hawala/Cash), without bothering about the ideal corporate approach towards a problem.

All those lectures and classes we hear about "Corporate Governance", "Ethics in Business", "Social Responsibilities" are nothing but sham.

---To be continued--
Feeling sleepy. Will try to complete it tomorrow.

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