Champions on the field, idiots on the road

Updated on: Apr 06, 2011
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Intrigued by the headline? The different faces of India are fodder for our columnist this week.

If the sponsors and organisers of the Cricket World Cup 2011 had drawn up a wish list before the impressive opening ceremony at Dhaka, the list might well have included:

Teams from the subcontinent in the last four (well, three of the last four were from the subcontinent)

India beating Australia in the knock-out (ideally it could have been the semi-final but I am not complaining).

India knocking out Pakistan from the tournament (Who cares even if the match did not have the normal high quality associated with Indo-Pak encounters?) Do you remember the Bandaid commercial where the kid shouts “ match to jeet gaya !”

There would be a few close matches (we even had a tie! Can you believe it ?)

Sachin should be tantalisingly and intriguingly placed on 99 international centuries when he enters Wankhede for the final after being one of the highest run scorers of the tournament

A single Indian player, Yuvraj, would win no less than four Man of the Match awards.

If you look at all that has happened in the World Cup for India and the subcontinent, it is a dream come true and the sponsors and the organisers must be laughing all the way to the bank, not to mention some black marketers who made a killing, in the India matches at least.

Not surprisingly the sponsors had the good sense to schedule most India games over the weekends. The TRPs kept soaring from match to match and viewership was at a record high as the nation held its breath and 1.21 billion people forgot everything except that fantastic piece of silver which India has not had the chance to display at the BCCI since the magical moment at Lord's , a small matter of 28 years ago.

Obituary written too soon

Thanks to their preoccupation with the shortest version of the game, a number of experts genuinely got it wrong and predicted the end of the 50-over format. The BCCI was largely to blame for this as we kept playing matches with Sri Lanka every second day.

The possible risk in this strategy (?) could be evidenced on Saturday as India holds no terrors for our island friends who know our players and their preferences like the back of their own hands. But an entertainment-starved country like this has continued to lap up the one-day version (which started as an accident in Melbourne after an Ashes match was rained off and has come to stay).

Certainly it had to improve, having been started in a rollicking fashion by the flashing blades of Geoffrey Boycott and William Morris Lawry. It could only improve in interest and it certainly did, aided and abetted by the Kerry Packers of the world.

Living up to the hype

One of the biggest challenges that brands, movies and events face is the inability to live up to the hype that precedes them. We had a similar scenario in 2007 when India failed to make it to any stage and the team managed to only make it to the airport to catch their return flight back home with their collective tail between their legs and there I was with a host of my friends at Barbados landing up in Bermudas and India T-shirt for the wrong party!

There were no such hiccups this time as India willed its team on. The team, after some initial hiccups, made it to the finals on the strength of its superior batting ability and the consistency of the Sachins, the Yuvrajs and the Zaheers. Consider too some of the highlights:

Ricky Ponting in the face of criticism, hostility and broken TV screens, playing the innings of his life in his last World Cup match

Sachin and Murali having a face-off in their final World Cup game which, incidentally, is a final

England's ability to infuse interest and drama into any game they played except their last one

Kevin O'Brien's answer to the critics authoring the “minnows should not play” theory

Pakistan's ability to drop Sachin Tendulkar more times than he has been dropped in an entire series

The Indo-Pak leaders meeting in the cricket pavilion first before they meet to discuss more important things….

Yes, we have had a dream World Cup and I went nowhere near the stadium unlike in 1987, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2007. India did not win when I watched these matches live and the only match I went to at Bangalore, we tied when we should have won easily.

Met any idiots on the road lately?

Anybody who drives in Bangalore, Chennai or most definitely in Delhi often wonders as to why the road is filled with idiots. What turns ordinary, decent human beings into raving fanatics? It is most certainly the behaviour of our co-denizens on the road and any advertising that captures this sentiment is bound to strike a chord in ordinary people like you and me. That is the reason why the new Ceat Tyres commercials get featured here.

Ceat is a brand of my time and the tyres and the line “Born tough” and the visual of the rhino have stayed in my mind over the years. Of course, like many brands of my time, Ceat too lost its way and went into hibernation if not into oblivion and then changed its identity in an attempt to look young and with it, to the newer, younger consumer.

While I did have a tinge of regret that it made a clean break from the past, it has certainly endeared itself to me with the current lot of TV commercials. Have you seen them? Well, let me jog your memory with my limited powers of description.

There are a series of commercials in the campaign. After all, there are enough idiots on the road aren't they? The first one features a young man in animated conversation about some cartons that are not delivered and for which he does not wish to pay.

He is jabbering into his cell phone even as he is pushing a pram which ostensibly carries a cute kid, judging from the reaction of the pretty young things on the road. The man meanders on oblivious of everything about him and jauntily swings from the pedestrian section of the road onto the main road only to find a completely unsuspecting two-wheeler rider braking violently to avoid a collision.

Something that he is able to do thanks to the way the Ceat two-wheeler tyres have been designed and built. Of course, our hero has the gall to ask the terrified and yet innocent rider, “Are you blind?” I love this commercial because it reminds me of the fact reiterated by the tag line that the road is full of idiots and indeed it is, in every city in this blessed country. I love too the insight of aggressive road traffic offenders to put the blame on the other person irrespective of the rightness or wrongness of the situation.

Idiots galore!

Nor is this all. The next commercial features a young couple discussing a movie and returning home riding their two-wheeler. While the husband commends the movie, the womanly intuition of the wife asks him whether it is the movie or the movie's heroine that he likes.

Their conversation is rudely interrupted as a car whizzes past and misses them by a whisker, leaving a completely shocked and benumbed rider and a pillion-rider who is almost having a stroke at the closeness of the encounter. Of course, the car driver is nowhere in the picture, for he is what the road is full of, a complete and unadulterated idiot.

The third one is where the driver of the car drops his mobile and opens the door on the highway only to have a rider who is caught unawares braking violently to save himself.

It's about me

Very rarely do commercials touch you. They seem to be things that happen to some good-looking people and usually have no relation to your life or mine. Many of us are neither fair nor lovely nor do we worry about blackheads, even if we know what they are.

But in the midst of all this, breaking the clutter come commercials like these. And why do we notice commercials like these? Because it is about what happens on the road, what you and I experience and something that we can quite easily relate to and empathise with.

As always the key to arriving at a common, unifying relatable consumer insight is observation. The greatest planners and creative people who are behind advertising like this, observe their consumers. It is not about reams and reams of research but simple, old-fashioned observation.

Have you tried it recently?

And why do we notice commercials like these? Because it is about what happens on the road, what you and I experience and something that we can quite easily relate to and empathise with.

Ramanujam Sridhar is the CEO of brandcomm. His blog, Third Umpire on Branding, is here:

Published on April 06, 2011

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