Mediaah! The business of Akshaya Tritiya & the plot to shift Mother’s Day to make money!

30 Apr,2012

By Pradyuman Maheshwari

 

Many years ago, the CEO and promoter of a well-known consumer product company came to meet me at my office at Mid-Day. He brought with him a large volume and said he wanted to seek my advice.

 

He said that a group of varied Indian organisations had got together to find a solution to a problem: find an appropriate ‘day’ for mothers. While Diwali and Christmas-New Year were good occasions for gifting,  Valentine’s Day had become a great success thanks to “their collective efforts”. There ws a long gap between Feb 14 and Diwali which falls in October and November. Now, the study conducted by a well-known market research firm said the person whom Indians love the most is the mother. So, what’s the problem, I asked.

 

Well, he said, the issue is that Mother’s Day falls in May in India and that’s when most schools and colleges are shut. And then he dropped the bombshell. So, we were wondering if we can shift the Mother’s Day to sometime when educational institutions are open as kids pick up the maximum of cards and soft toys etc?

 

I must confess I was struck by the ingenuity of the idea and how some of the most discerning names in Indian industry had got together to consider this.

The CEO-businessman wanted my views on the issue, and whether the media would pan the move. They had even looked at alternative dates and were considering August 28 since it coincided with Mother Teresa’s birthday.

 

This meeting happened sometime in June and I wondered how it could be done since we had already had a Mother’s Day that year? No problem, he said. We’ll have two this year, and told me that the group spearheading the move had considered this and didn’t think it would have any problem. We then spoke of how Shivaji Jayanti was observed on two different dates in Maharashtra and it didn’t bother people.

 

After this meeting, I kept waiting for a fresh date for Mother’s Day that year and in the next, but figured that wider sense had prevailed and the companies didn’t change the date.

 

A few years later, when I had relocated to Pune, I discovered that Akshaya Tritiya was being celebrated in a big way.  I was told that it was the next auspicious festival after Gudi Padwa for Maharashtrians, and thought it was essentially Pune thingie. Two years later, when I was back in Mumbai, I found that the day had taken roots here too. And now we have most of the country celebrating it. A festival had come out of nowhere.

 

I have been somewhat radical with some of my religious beliefs, and had faced some heat from colleagues. I think Karva Chauth is regressive and since this occurred to me a decade-and-a-half back, I have ensure that all the publications that I have worked with didn’t carry any pictures of the celebrations. But I was quite pleasantly surprised to read this outburst by Hindu editor Siddharth Varadarajan (courtesy Sans Serif).

 

 Read this carefully:

“We carried a ‘jacket’ on Monday in our Tamil Nadu editions that featured a message – laid out in the form of an in-house advertisement – to readers on the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya on behalf of “The Hindu”.

 

“Neither I, as Editor of The Hindu, nor anyone from the editorial side, was involved in the drafting of this message. Nor did we know of, let alone approve, its contents.”

 

Makes sense, you would say. But the clincher is Para 3:

“For the record, it is not The Hindu’s editorial position that Akshaya Tritiya, an occasion that has risen to prominence only relatively recently, is one of “the most auspicious days in the Hindu religion.” Nor can we possibly endorse this statement – “The belief that buying gold on this day would make you prosperous throughout the year is shared by one and all” – or others contained in that message.”

 

One doesn’t have to dream much to figure what Siddharth Varadarajan’s sentiments are on Akshaya Tritiya. And I don’t think he’s incorrect. I don’t read Hindu since I don’t get it in Mumbai, but am surprised that this announcement was carried. So while it would be interesting to know what CEO Arun Anant has to say on his editor’s comment on what his marketing team would’ve done, there’s no denying that the festival has become as big as it has today thanks only to the collective zeal of some marketers.

 

**

 

I am delighted to inform that not all business-to-business publications are giving in to the demands and diktats of advertisers. Especially when it comes to editorial content.

 

Hoshie Ghaswalla

My friend Hoshie Ghaswalla, recently appointed CEO of the Cybermedia group (publishers of Dataquest, PC Quest, CIOl etc) has now issued an advisory to all his editors that they oughtn’t worry about the whims of large corporations who love bullying trade media. Note: these are my words, not his.

 

Hoshie and his editor noticed some misgivings among employees of a laaaarge software corporation on salary raises even as the company had declared huge dividends to shareholders. CIOL went to town on the issue a fortnight back, and if the corp hasn’t done it already, it will soon announce wage revisions.

 

Hoshie tells me that he has advised his editor on a similar story with a large international computer hardware company. “The problem,” he confesses is “that journalists have for far too long been not wanting to upset large companies who are also big advertisers”.

 

I jumped to defend his editors and said this must be because of his editors who’ve worked in the past would’ve on their own or were told by his predecessors on not damning the big advertisers. Puff pieces only.

 

Hoshie didn’t agree. I didn’t complain at all. It’s good to see a sales-driven CEO ask his editors to screw erring companies (who may be existing or potential advertisers). This especially in the trade media where there are many who are known to compromise on editorial integrity and ethics.

 

***

 

Agnello Dias

It’s been over a week since Goafest happened. While I am happy that the Abby went through peacefully, I was surprised that Taproot didn’t win the Grand Prix for the Airtel ad. It deserved every bit of it, and although the Agnello Dias and Santosh Padhi were pretty cool about it when my colleague spoke to him soon after the awards (see link), he has shared his disappointment in an interview with Anil Thakraney (see link). Though not in so many words.

 

I sincerely hope that Taproot continues to bring us great advertising, attracts some $$$s (okay, let’s make it $$$$$$$$$$$$$s!) from the Big networks and is always rooted to the real world.

 

 

Buzz me if you have a story to tell. Confidentiality assured. There are various ways you can reach me: pradyumanm[at]mxmindia.com, BBM 23050B5D, Gtalk pradyumanm@gmail.com, Twitter @pmahesh and of course the mobile: 98338 76278.

 

Disclaimer: Although he is CEO and Editor-in-Chief of this site, Pradyuman Maheshwari’s views in Mediaah! are not necessarily those of the rest of the team and MxMIndia.com. And decidedly not those of the sales team 🙂

 

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