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Harit Nagpal and Siddharth Banerjee on communication in changing times

Along with discussing the importance of digital, the veterans discuss the benefits of doing episodic commercials and the changing role of marketers at Zee Melt 2017

(L-R) Anant Rangaswami, Siddharth Banerjee and Harit Nagpal

The last session on Zee Melt 2017’s brought together the two marketing minds, Harit Nagpal, MD and CEO, Tata Sky and Siddharth Banerjee, EVP, Marketing, Vodafone, to discuss advertising and communication in changing times. Nagpal is also the former Group Marketing Director of Vodafone India. The session was moderated by Ananth Rangaswami, Editor, Storyboard, CNBC TV18.

Rangaswami started the session by asking the duo that in the times when a human being's attention span is reducing to the extent of less than a golden fish, how have both the marketers successfully attempted at making episodic commercials. Vodafone created the ‘Asha and Bala’ series for this year’s IPL, while Tata Sky made ‘Acting Adda’. Both these campaigns were episodic commercials.

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Nagpal said that because attention span is reducing and people have started focussing more on digital, other mediums are out of the fashion. There is an objective, message and manner in which you need to communicate. All are just the means of communication.

“One doesn’t ask a postman to leave if he has started receiving emails. Everybody is not sitting on the phones all the time. We drive, see the hoardings, read magazines. Even if you don’t watch the TV, somebody is watching the TV at home,” added Nagpal.

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Agreeing to Nagpal, Banerjee said, “Good storytelling, keen insights, conveying a certain message, is pretty much there even in the world which has gone digital. Media has become fragmented and consumers have more choices. But the power of good storytelling and insight has not changed.”

Giving the example of Asha and Bala second Honeymoon series, Banerjee said, “We saw a couple of things as a marketing team. This is IPL, people shout. There are cell phones companies, telecom companies and e-commerce companies and suddenly you have a brand that is whispering, which is what Vodafone is and it is not a brand that shouts, but a brand that whispers. I am a left brain person and did a quick data to check whether a good story could hold in an IPL environment. Just in two days we could find out that at the start of the IPL series that this campaign would have traction. While a few brands had celebrities flaunting selfies, Asha and Bala campaign had the maximum traction with the youth.”

Nagpal shared an example at the session to validate the importance of good storytelling. He said, “When ten years ago IPL came into existence, nobody was buying it. We picked up some 300 seconds per match on IPL. We launched the dog campaign back then. The dog was shown so much that the people started noticing the gender of the dog. There was an overexposure of the dog. Then we decided that we can’t have one ad playing for 300 seconds per game. So we decided to build a story although the cost of production was more than the cost of media and that’s how episodic ads began.”

Moving on further in the session, Rangaswami asked the two marketers that what kind and the set of skills do marketers require in today’s day and age.

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Nagpal answered, “Some of the companies have realised that a marketer cannot be a half left brain and half right brain. There are very few people who can read data and brief an agency and approve a good creative. That is why ten years ago, the companies broke the role of a CMO into Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Communication Officer.”

Rangaswami further asked Nagpal that how has his life changed as a marketer in last ten years?

Nagpal said, “Earlier I felt like a man with two hands. Now I feel like a man who has multiple hands. I feel more enabled. I can reach out to my customers more. The Internet has just empowered me a little more, but it has not completely changed things for us. 80 per cent of our business is still offline.”

Banerjee talked about how digital has helped him to filter out the noise from the reality of consumers. He said, “When I moved from consumer goods to telecom, in FMCG you only need to think about the brand experiences, functional benefits and emotional pay-offs. However, in telecommunication businesses, it is much more. There is a customer service angle, infrastructure angle, call centre angle and the brand angle. In that sense, it becomes even more complicated. Telecom is a great example of an intense brand. People may and may not remember you when you are performing, but remember you when you are non-performing, even for a short period of time. Digital helps to filter out some of the noise from the reality of consumers.”

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