NOV 23, 2003
 Cover Story
 Personal Finance
 Back of the Book

Motherhood In

Motherhood appeals in Indian advertising were once assumed not to change very much. Well, guess what?

Universal Advertising
So, which shall it be for the Indian market—universally watchable or culture-specific ads? The debate.

More Net Specials
Business Today,  November 9, 2003
The ROI, Stupid

An advertising book that adfolk might want their money back for, a purple book that makes a single-minded proposition, a disruption manual that obscures the risks, and two titles on media that dare to groan aloud.

Advertising is business: It's rhyme and reason, and if you're still not very convinced, try the third R—read


What would you do if you started your career selling Ariel, fought on both sides of the cola war, woke up with the image of the 'Ayacola' and then got slammed by peers and analysts for the world's biggest marketing goof-up?

Why, claim guruhood. How? Ask Sergio Zyman, the discredited one-time marketing chief of the world's biggest brand, Coca-Cola. To his credit, he doesn't go zombie-raking or victimhood-spinning. A marketing man, he knows the value of universal objectivity all too well.

So what does his book say? That advertising ain't just some 30-seconder; the fact is that "everything communicates". It ain't an expense; but "an investment". And, above all, advertising ain't no art; it's a job, and the job is to-brace yourself- "sell stuff".

The End Of Advertising As We Know It
By Sergio Zyman With Armin Brott
John Wiley & Sons
PP: 239
Price: 1389.12
Purple Cow
By Seth Godin
Penguin India
PP: 145
Price: Rs 672.75

Phew... who'd have guessed? And what's all this apocalyptic stuff doing in the title-or is 'know' to be taken in some pre-modern sense?

"Either change your ways," intones Zyman darkly, "or find another line of work." Off-the-wall ads are history (even if the wall isn't). Clients have wisened up (even if adfolk haven't). Yep. And if you the reader want your money back, that's terrific, he says, since you're thinking ROI here, and that's the point. While at it, the book's purpose, he adds, is to provide "yoga for the brain".

Otherwise, much of the book runs like some Jerry Seinfeld sitcom, with his trademark irreverence working overtime to out-fuss Apple's 'Think Different', out-stamp Absolut's image in "everything you know" and outrage The Coca-Cola Company with "yeah right", "okay it's the real thing, now pass the Pepsi" and the like.

Rather rich, you'd think, coming from someone who got adfolk gnashing their teeth (and calling him the 'Ayacola') by telling them to "stop entertaining people". All the more so from someone who saw a survey-detected preference for sweeter cola as a sign of reality, and merrily launched New Coke, which lasted all of 77 days before consumer convulsions forced Classic Coca-Cola back (no, in Zyman's narration, it was not a ploy to stir emotion).

Doesn't any of it haunt him? Are you kidding? Zyman has only a shrug to offer in response to his fun-pooping fumble-man image. And an incorrigible fun-pooper he still is, in appealing straight to the ring of the cashbox. Stark cut-to-the-deal talk works, and Zyman knows it. "Sell stuff." Clever.

Oh, one other thing. Somewhere, Zyman also knows the big flaw in his quasi-literalist position. In the ultimate analysis, to define is to confine. And the brand-customer relationship is a strict functionally-defined deal no more than a human marriage is a man-made 'sex contract'. It is, rather, a sophisticated ever-evolving affair. The kind that's sustained by mutual stimulation, artistic refreshment, imaginative empathy and mind-grabbing differentiation. A fizzy bathtub is funny, a fuzzy 'filaver pot' funnier.

They entertain-and sell stuff too. Besides, don't forget the late Roberto Goizueta, a man who knew a thing or two about making money. "Be different," he said, "or be damned." Which is also the Bernbach-esque message of this other book by Seth Godin (of 'ideavirus' fame). "You're either remarkable or invisible," he says, "Make your choice." From a French baker's special bread to an engineering firm's smart lifts, Godin picks out a series of unforgettables, flaws n all. And then poses his big question: "What would happen if you told the truth?" Would the end still be nigh?

Beyond Disruption
By Jean-Marie Dru
John Wiley & Sons
PP: 304
Price: 1,488.52

Why does absolut Vodka command a 20 per cent premium over other vodka brands? The answer is rooted in 'disruptive advertising' that positioned the drink as a fashion brand rather than a conventional spirits brand. Jean-Marie Dru, President and CEO of TBWA, who introduced the world to 'Disruption' by authoring a book of this title in 1996, now takes us through disruption in action through this sequel.

The essence of disruption is questioning conventional wisdom. Are consumers always right? Do they know what they want? How far should companies let them dictate decisions? "If I had asked the public how they wanted their coffee, I doubt they would have requested a double-short caramel skim cappuccino" and been willing to pay a premium for it. Companies have to do things the consumer would never think of. The disruptive idea here is that it is not the consumer who is the hero, but the idea.

Disruption is part of the creative process that an organisation's culture can imbibe through the use of tools painstakingly detailed in the book, like "The What If Process" or identifying the possibly false assumptions that constrain the brand's performance through the "conventions planets" tool.

The message: identify conventions, bust them and cause a disruption to create a new market or capture a larger share of an existing market. That is the success secret of brands like Apple, Tag Heuer and Sony Playstation.

While "Disruption or Bust" is the message that Dru and his co-authoring business partners seek to convey, they fail to warn prospective practitioners about the possibility of Disruption "and" bust. There are no examples of failed disruption cases that would have given a more balanced picture of brave companies and agencies that embrace disruption. Nevertheless, it is a good how-to on convention busting.

War And The Media Reporting Conflict 24/7
Ed. By Daya Kishan Thussu And Des Freeman

Vistaar Publications
Rs 340
PP: 266
Academic essays on the so-called "first casualty of war" and all the associated spin that allegedly gets deployed by the media in the pursuit of top-defined objectives.

Transnational Television,Cultural Identity And Change
By Melissa Butcher
Sage Publications
Price: Rs 370
PP: 322
A field researcher from the University of Sydney on what the satellite TV invasion, as exemplified by Rupert Murdoch's Star TV, has done to India.