What Ticks for Indian Consumers/ Teens – Rohit Ohri and Ferzad Palia

08 Oct,2014

Continuing with our extracts from the second edition of the MxMIndia Annual, we present contributions by Rohit Ohri and Ferzad Palia.



The message is the medium: Connecting effectively with teens


By Rohit Ohri


Back in 1964, the renowned Canadian communication theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the terms “The medium is the message.”


In the media-fragmented, choice-exploded consumer economy of India today, perhaps the opposite is true. Especially when it comes to reaching that mercurial group of constituents, teens. In a multi-screen media environment with the average teen holding the reins to each of the multiple screens, there is no predicting the most opportune time or location to connecting with them.


So what’s a brand to do?

As Bob Dylan sang immortally,

“The old order is

Rapidly fadin’

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’.”




Focus on fresh content & social engagement will be vital


By Ferzad Palia


The major growth in terms of viewership for both English comedy (Comedy Central) as well as international music (VH1) will come from the youth.


Let’s talk about Comedy Central first. When we launched the channel last year, it was already well known as an international channel that does quality programming. So it wasn’t very difficult for us to create awareness around the brand. We knew that what would matter at the end of the day would be content that would be liked and watched by Indians between the age bracket of 14-44 years. So our TG is a mix of youth as well as some mature audience.


For the past two years, I’ve seen the channel grow in popularity in India. That is because a lot more Indians now speak and understand English. Thanks to the Internet, we’ve become a far smaller world, and people are more exposed to western culture and trends, which is why we can even accept standup comedy today.




A quick reality check of how brands today are trying to connect with teens reveals an approach that basically is based upon bombarding everybody everywhere in the slim hope of hitting a ‘target’ audience somewhere. Technology and social media, have only served to compound that. In effect, as an anonymous internet cartoon aptly put it, marketers are telling teens daily that “we just tweeted you that we facebooked you that we googleplussed you that we blogged that we’ve sent you an email newsletter with an update.”


It seems like the medium is the mess, rather than the message. So instead of trying to figure out when teens might be most receptive (which, even, many brands are not doing), what brands ought to be doing is creating messages that they would want to be receptive to. The 3-word mantra for that is I.R.E. Create a message that scores on Interest, Relevance, Engagement.


So that neither the time nor the location of the medium matter. Pause and think for a moment for what teens consume. They may use words such as “hatke” or “different” to describe what they’re drawn to. But from the cat videos they consume by the millions to the vocabulary they are constantly inventing, morphing while texting, to the games they addictively, endlessly play on their mobiles, what reels them in and keeps them hooked are things and people that are interesting, relevant and engaging.


It’s how Brand Aamir Khan doesn’t ever get old, reinventing himself from the chocolate hero of QSQT and JJWS (that’s Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander for the oldies) to the coming-of-age, generation-defining protagonist of DCH, to the rebel with causes of RDB, TZP, to the psyche explorer of Peepli Live, Talaash, and Satyameva Jayate. It’s how Airtel reinvented itself by finding a fresh, new slice of sharing and friendship with HFZ and Jo tera hai woh mera hai.


It’s how Old Spice made itself cool with a generation that thought it was as uncool as dad with The Man Your Man Could Smell Like. The examples are endless. The principles are the same. And have probably been the same always. To reach teens when they are most receptive, be interesting, be relevant, be engaging. Right here. Right now.



In the next five to six years, we will be the largest English speaking population. And this growth is not just coming from the seven metros, but also from smaller towns and cities. For VH1, however, there is a big growth happening in the metros. This growth can be attributed to live events/concerts and of course due to a higher demand of international music on TV.


For both the channels, our strategy is to offer fresh content and keep our audiences engaged via social platforms – that’s absolutely critical as our viewers spend maximum time online, from multiple devices. That’s where consumers openly talk about celebrities, music, gossip, so on and so forth.


As a channel brand catering to that audience, the endeavour is to participate in those conversations. Quality of social conversations is also a measure of how your channel is doing, if you’re a channel catering to an audience that has an affinity for international content.





Tomorrow: Thursday, October 9: Family – Shashi Sinha and CVL Srinivas



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