Branding comes full circle with the Zee Astitva Awards for exemplary women. A wonderful way to complement a hit television show. And when Pradeep Guha turns up the heat, he can put on quite a show. A dazzling array of women of substance turned up at the NCPA complex where the awards were to be presented. The Birlas, Ambanis, Piramals and all the fairer side of Mumbai were present. Are we being sexist by calling them the "fairer" side? Well, we couldn't help it. The show was sponsored by Fair & Lovely. Rather incongruous, we thought. Awards for exemplary women, sponsored by a brand that concentrates only on their `fairer' side? But then, who said money had a colour?

Kotler on India

A Mumbai-based newspaper reported that Kotler, the marketing guru, found the Indian economy highly entrepreneurial. In particular, he was intrigued by the `dabbawallahs' of Mumbai and the `Chuttah cigarettewallahs.' Thank the Lord we are not part of the high-profile marketing high society of Mumbai. We wouldn't know where to hide our faces.

Pesticola

It's been three years and the nemesis of the soft drinks' manufacturers has surfaced again. Any communications expert worth his sugar-dipped-in pesticide should know that burying your head ostrich-like in the sand, delaying the introduction of standards and wishing the subject away will never help. In short, no one wants to know what exactly the problem is, but everyone has an opinion.

The advertising agencies have been the face of the `pesticola' industry this time around. We recall that three years ago the Indian head honchos of Pepsi and Coke came out swinging in every TV show. They have learned the lessons of the PR battering they took after that. This time, the Suhel Seths of the world are front facing for them. Well, we thought you live and you learn ...

Panchvati?

One man's poison is another man's food. As the pesticola controversy raged and soft drinks manufacturers shuddered at this avoidable publicity and TV channels went to town on the issue, several people in Mumbai received an SMS which read, "If you don't tolerate pesticides in occasional soft drinks, why tolerate them in your regular food? Eat organic food. Eat Panchvati." It was signed off by one Atul Jain. We've got to hand it to this quick-thinking enterprising gentleman. There's no way he can match the marketing muscle of the big established players but this is a form of ambush marketing that presents itself as an opportunity rarely. And he has grabbed it. We are now looking for Panchvati products in stores.

Sponsoring sports

Unitech is the sponsor of the Sri Lanka Tri Series. The fact that an infrastructure developer could sponsor a big cricketing event is a sign of our times. This was once the exclusive preserve of the big tobacco moneybags and the FMCG sector. Better start looking at services and emerging biggies like pharma and infrastructure as the new big names you would see painted on turf. When are we seeing Infosys in a similar role? Pull those arched eyebrows down. If Infy is serious about big international brand building, it had better consider every option boldly.

And don't be surprised if you see a fruit juice manufacturer operating the drinks trolley when the Champions Trophy is played in Mumbai this year. After all, with all this adverse publicity for soft drinks, the visiting teams might not be in the mood to swig colas in India. As health drinks and fruit juices form a part of the portfolio of the big cola majors, they wouldn't be too bothered if they had to juggle their mix a little.

Keki Dadiseth in Omnicom

We thought Birkin of Omnicom would be aggressively picking up agencies. After all, the worldwide No. 1 is a distant No. 3 in India. And the acquisitive route seems the only one available for quick growth. Well, he's done probably one better. He has got the venerable Keki Dadiseth to head Omnicom in India. Considering that Harish Manwani, the present Chairman of Unilever, was Keki's blue-eyed boy, would that give Omnicom agencies a teensy toe into the door of India's largest advertiser? Worth speculating.

Victoria

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 17, 2006)
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