Paritosh Joshi: What did Felix Baumgartner teach us?

18 Oct,2012

By Paritosh Joshi


“Felix Baumgartner, who?” did I hear you say? May I request you to crawl out from under that rock, Mr Rip Van Winkle?


Last Sunday, October 14, 2012, Felix Baumgartner reset the previous world skydiving record of 31,333 metres held in the name of Col Joe Kittinger since 1960, by a ginormous (that really is a word) 8,000 metres to 39,045 metres. Let me put some perspective on this. Commercial jet aircraft (that you haven’t travelled in, Mr Winkle, seeing as you have been asleep these past 100 years) travel at a height of 10,000 metres. Felix ascended in his balloon to a height almost four times greater, right into the Stratosphere, for kicking off on his skydiving mission, Red Bull Stratos.


What does all this have to do with a column called Media Matrix? A whole lot, actually. Before all else, this was a media event. By paying for the cost of the mission, Red Bull bought, essentially gratis, a moment of high drama that was played live on over 8 million youtube streams and was telecast live to a few hundred million more across the planet.


A few months back, this column argued that every brand of consequence was not prepared any more to be merely a buyer of media space and time but endeavoured to‘earn’ and eventually ‘own’ media outlets. There are many good reasons why this should be so:


  • Commercial media inventories are expensive. As audiences get ever more sharply segmented, large pools of audience at a single media ‘location’ are ever scarcer. The latest US Upfront Market, in June 2012, pulled in over $ 9 billion delivering the networks 6% y-o-y increases in CPM (cost per thousand impressions).Current primetime CPMs in the US average ~$24, ~Rs. 1200. Research suggests that CPMs have generally risen at double the secular inflation rate in the US.
  • Commercial media are cluttered. Indian television audiences are used to seeing commercials taking up anything up to 30 minutes per hour. Not easy for a brand to be noticed if it is crowded in with 59 other brands doing their 30 second song and dance routine over an hour of programming time.
  • Commercial media appeal to diverse audiences, not all of whom are relevant to the brand. This multiplies the CPMs to reach the ‘desired’ audience as against the ‘aggregate’ audience that an insertion might yield.
  • Commercial media are primarily about the content and not the advertising break. Shows will remind you, “Don’t go away. We will be right back after the break”. The break is an unwelcome intruder, both for the audience and the broadcaster that they tolerate only with the greatest reluctance- or so it would appear.


It is easy to see why brands would seek out alternative opportunities to expose their brands to audiences that are inexpensive, uncluttered and focussed and where the brand is not an interloper but the protagonist.


Red Bull Stratos, then, was the creation, in a fleeting instant, of a global, owned medium.


We can’t wish away more brand owners asking their communication partners- creative and media agencies, to develop such ideas that focus solus attention on them. We must however recognize that this undermines the advertising funded television model unless broadcasters are willing to push back with the right response (and the right response isn’t an ostrich’s dive into the silica). What lessons does it have for television broadcasters who depend on advertising as their primary source of revenue (aka most Indian broadcasters)?

  • Tighten your audience focus. The days of loosely defined target audiences are gone forever. Nostalgia might be wonderful thing in many ways but it is not a good guide to winning the television market.
  • Embrace co-creation of content with brands. Brands are as much a part of the cultural milieu that consumers inhabit. A lot of ‘owned’ media initiatives work precisely because consumers intimately associate brands with their lifestyles. Red Bull Stratos tapped into a carefully crafted association of the brand with instant energy, captured in its memorable “Red Bull gives you wings”, baseline.
  • Shorten commercial breaks and tighten bloated inventories. It may not show up immediately but eventually, price is a demand/supply interaction. The more you are prepared to supply, the lower your price will drop.


Heck, this is a good prescription for ALL advertising funded television, owned inventory or not.


Paritosh Joshi has been a marketer, a mediaperson and a key officebearer on industry bodies. He is developing an independent media advisory practice. He can reached via his Twitter handle @paritoshZero


Post a Comment 

2 responses to “Paritosh Joshi: What did Felix Baumgartner teach us?”

  1. Sai Nagesh says:

    Great Article Paritosh. Completely agree with you. The Dinosaurs of today are ignoring the signs that are already upon us….clients’ firm belief that their money is not being looked after well enough.