Sanjeev Kotnala: Oh, these morons!

14 Oct,2015

By Sanjeev Kotnala


Media brands in the B2B space take their business communication and related messaging very seriously. While I do not expect them to evolve to H2H conversation anytime in the near future, the fact remains that they do consider their B2B initiatives a very important part of their selling process.


Media trade magazines are already thick with peak season advertising from a variety of media houses (in addition to e-mailers that have been pouring in).  I couldn’t help but bemoan yet again about something that has always bothered me.  Media brands believe in simple messaging. Which is good in principle, but it’s the manner in which they go about it that gets my goat. Media advertising during seasons always reminds me of announcements blaring through loudspeakers at a village mela. Ads that have been created without ever taxing a single grey cell, spewing out advertising that is totally devoid of engagement or involvement.


It begins just before the busy and decisive festival period. In your face. Almost every media house worth your rupee begins screaming its guts out about being No 1, superhero, superman, God’s gift to mankind and the world’s most powerful remedy for all the ills your brand may be suffering from. And, amazingly, all this just days before ROs will be printed. Just days before the year’s most important season for advertising. Like touts at a pilgrimage centre, crowding around to stake a last minute claim for business.


Ironicallym these are usually the very same media houses that cry in despair at clients not being present in media through out the year. When it comes to their own brands they seem to be good with this last minute, repetitive, irritatingly loud messages delivered in bulk. Do these media houses really believe that these last-minute loud claims work? Or are these ads placed by media houses supposed to act as confidence boosters for their own sales force? If so, do these sales teams really believe a six-page gatefold in a leading trade magazine would miraculously force a revision in the year’s most important media plan of a client? At T-minus 3 days to release?


Let’s take Hindustan, it asks a very pertinent question- Can you afford to miss me? And as an after-thought, it presents some data about exclusive readers and decision-makers (25-40?), female and male readership in comparison to Amar Ujala in Uttar Pradesh. It tells you in no uncertain terms, one-subject-at-a-time, the “exclusive readership”, of Hindustan in each category.


Was there something that I was missing? Is Hindustan really being missed from the plans?  Is this ad a result of market intelligence that probably said Hindustan was out off many media plans because all planners decided (“very wrongly”) that Amar Ujala had more “exclusive readers”? Whatever the reasons may have been, the ad itself is rendered in such an unimaginative way that it is certain to fail in inducing any reaction in trade.


Malayala Manorama has usually impressed me with their communication. But this time I simply had to do a face-palm! ‘The Champion just became the Overall Champion”. ‘’The Leader just became a Record-breaking Leader”. ‘The Winner just became a Winner by Knock-out”. ‘The Number 1 just became The Absolute Number No.1”. Duh? And then we expect brand planners and clients to take them seriously?


Even if such advertising is simply intended as ammunition for their sales teams, should it not matter what the message or creative conveys? May be they think they are talking to morons and as long as these ads get some basic exposure the message will filter in. If at all there is exposure, it is the exposure of an extremely lazy media brand. Wonder what they smoke. Sadly the list of such lazy brands is a long and depressingly lengthy one.


So are there absolutely no media brands that have caught my eye this year? A couple did indeed. My FM, for one. This Tier-II radio brand usually comes up with good brand and category-centric work. Not that they do superlative standout stuff, but there is always certain freshness to their work. This season they have used two creative leaders to make a media statement that is laced with possibilities. They could have done with better art direction, though. The brand stands out with a consistency in brand colours, tonality and voice that is becoming rare these days. The interview format is reader-friendly and relevant. It speaks to and simultaneously challenges the creative, media and marketing fraternities.


(Taking the thought further, believe industry gains when Industry seniors share their take on media capabilities and potential. Media association like IBF, INS etc are better placed to act on it then a media brand.  These observations then could be amplified across stakeholders, including one’s not residing in metros. )


Media brands need to stop shouting themselves hoarse with their claims. It is not going to win the battle of wallet-share.  Media brands put disproportionate focus on this shouting. They forget that the media brands are made in the area they service. Marketing in addition to the numeric advantages, need to amplify the brands interface, trust, and faith and fit with the audience. Thus giving planner, buyers and advertisers a reason to  evaluate their strategy. The  brands today must be rationally emotional and memorable for them to resonate with the  morons.


Sanjeev Kotnala is Founder at Intradia World. A Brand, Marketing &  Management UnConsult Advisor. He conducts specialised workshops in the area of IDEATION (Harvest and Liberate) and Innovation (InNoWait). He focuses energy in enhancing client’s internal team’s potential and capabilities. In process decreasing their dependence  on external resources. To connect email  or tweet at s_kotnala visit The views expressed here are his own.


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