Advertisements come and go, but some leave a lasting impression, while others are forgotten as soon as we have seen them. The writer gives examples of some recent ads that could have been portrayed better
According to the Oxford dictionary, to advertise is: “To tell the public about a product or a service in order to encourage people to buy or use it”.
Advertisements come and go, but some jingles stay on forever! Some leave a lasting impression, while others are forgotten as soon as we have seen them. Apart from product or service selling, the motive of an advertisement is also to ‘educate’ the viewer. This is the basics!
In the recent weeks we have had a few advertisements that are covered in this brief. Take the Colgate campaign, for instance. In one campaign, the bridegroom takes a bite (in the middle of the ceremony!) and has ‘pain’ or “tingling feeling” from his teeth. What happens? The pandit pulls out the Colgate toothpaste and hands over! In a moment, the groom is feeling fine!
In another, while watching a movie, in a theatre, the viewer eats something and has similar pains as the groom. What happens next? On the screen, we have a damsel in distress, pulled apart and manhandled by thugs, but she miraculously sets herself free, virtually walks out the screen, and hands over the Colgate tube to the viewer who is suffering with pain. She didn't have the “pepper spray” to distract the attackers, but had the Colgate in her... don’t know where! She does not run away, but returns to meekly ‘surrender’ to the thugs!! What a shame.
The third one, probably, the only the sensible promotion, a dentist is shown explaining to the kids how Colgate helps to improve their gums and make their teeth strong.
In the next campaign, we have a careless and irresponsible man spitting out his paan on the wall, staining it. What happens next? Shah Rukh Khan has a pail of Nerolac paint, and whole bunch of school kids jumping all over the place and painting the stain with the fantastic Nerolac. And, of course, they paint the place all over!
Actually, this campaign could have been most sensibly portrayed. Shah Rukh Khan, instead of showing his ‘dadagiri’ could have confronted the man, explained to him the public nuisance he committed, and, perhaps, made him wash the place first, before joining King Khan in painting the wall with Nerolac! He could have even gone further and said a word or two, to dissuade the pan eater to avoid ‘tobacco’ as it will cause cancer!
Wonder why Nerolac didn’t think of this?
Taking the flight to go down south, we have Dhanush (Why this Kolaveri di? fame) sitting as auto driver, waiting for a customer. Looks like a policeman, on duty, demanding a Rs50 ‘mamool’ or ‘bakhshis’. For what we do not know, but, the auto driver acts as though he is deaf, and, after a couple of exchange of words, the policeman walks away in disgust! Moments later, auto driver gets a passenger and on his way.
All because, Dhanush uses “Parachute Advanced Cooling Oil”; so, he remains ‘cool” in spite of the police provocation and demand.
Dhanush, who also has a great following like Shah Rukh Khan, instead of accepting such campaigns, missed the opportunity of protesting against the act of ‘bribery’. He may have remained and acted ‘cool’ because he uses “Parachute Advanced Cooling Oil” but he could have put his foot down to say that ‘paying’ or ‘taking’ a bribe is wrong.
So, to Dhanush, we may just ask: “Why this mishtake dey?”
While smokers caused immense trouble to the hotel staff, helping guests in times of crisis gets the writer “the employee of the month” award. The 45th part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business
Our motto was to keep the customer happy in every manner possible, as long as their actions did not violate any law. Very often, however, we had our guests stretching our patience in generally violating the rule of smoking in non-smoking rooms. This act, as one can realize, leaves a bad odour all over the suite, and it takes a great amount of time, energy and expense to clean other items in the suite, down to curtains and special cleaning of carpets. Bed linen was cleaned every day, and some ‘considerate’ smokers used to enjoy their smoke in the balcony (which were in some suites), and yet, the smell would travel to the main suite and smell bad.
At the first sign of trouble like this, we would endeavour to get them shifted to smoking area, if suites are readily available; if not, request them to refrain from smoking and warning them that they would be subject to a special cleaning charge of $100; and also, they would have to move to suites in the designed floor at the first opportunity.
Overbooking the capacity was a regular feature in those days, but there were occasions when due to series of unfortunate and unexpected events created huge problems not only for us but to most other establishments. This covered the first problem arising out of bad weather locally that results in cancellation of all flights. This would also mean that flights cannot land as well and trouble starts when there is a mis-match of these figures. Also, many guests who had checked out early in the day, found themselves in difficulty, because the weather turned bad in the afternoon! On the top of these, we had the situation where our airports were functioning normally but weather conditions at the arrival points (ports) were bad and so flights could not take off from our city! Bad weather has a domino effect on this industry.
Then, of course, the issue is the overbooking by sales results in our need to ‘walk’ our guests, or, mildly put, ensure they are persuaded to stay in other equivalent hotels at our expense, because we could not accommodate them! For a self-paying guest, such a situation was profitable, because, the hotel expense for the night was saved, but, the smart and experienced traveller would always turn around and say: “I am going to suffer by this change; so what I do get or how do I get compensated for this trouble?” It would then be left to the discretion of the handling associate/supervisor, who would offer bonus points, a free stay coupon or a dinner voucher.
Our night auditors, who operated the “grave-yard shift” from 11.00pm till 7.00am the next morning, always faced this music. Most of the time; in order to over this trouble, both the day and the afternoon shift supervisors took the responsibility of making standby bookings in nearby hotels, if rooms were available, so that, instead of passing this unpleasant task to the night auditors and give trouble to guests who arrived late at night, we managed to persuade a few willing guests during the evening itself.
I distinctly recall one occasion, where we already had couple of snow falls, some 5 to 7 inches with couple of days’ interval; snow was still on the ground and one more snowstorm was predicted for the night. Our coach service to the airport ceases at 10.30 at night, and starts at seven in the morning. Only when we have a group of seven to 10 guests request a 6 O’clock airport drop, we arranged for the driver to be present. In this particular case, after we had confirmed requests for cabs by various guests, to arrive between six and 6.15, we had made bookings with our regular cab companies.
When Maria, the night auditor turned up by 10.30; she was always very punctual, she received the message that her colleague, the second auditor, called off because his area, in Maryland, was already snowing. So, I volunteered to take care of the front office, while she prepared for the evening. And I decided to stay back in the hotel that night because I was on a back-to-back shift and had to work starting at 7.00am! By about 1.00am I went to my suite to sleep and had dozed off immediately because I had reported for duty at mid day that day. Already, it was a long day and I was very tired.
I think I had hardly slept, when I received the phone call from Maria, saying, “Ram, I need you to come down and take a guest to the airport immediately, as the cab drivers have called off and the cab company do not have drivers”. It was a frantic call, I came down as fast as I could but our coaches would take at least 10 minutes before they get warmed up in the freezing weather!. Mind you, I had to be in my uniform but I simply went down to the garage, picked up my car, and brought it up; apologized to the guest and his family and drove them to the airport. In the meantime, there were frantic calls from the airline asking for this guest! Because of the heavy snow I had to drive very carefully and I dropped them off at gate No: 9.There was already a uniformed person standing there who looked like the aircraft captain; my passengers thanked me, gave me a big tip and were immediately rushed to the waiting aircraft. Later on, we came to know that he was one of the captains whose services (or presence, I suppose) were urgently required at the destination. It had stopped snowing by then, but there was a lot of snow on the ground!
For performing this duty, I was named the employee of the month!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
Nationalization may be passé, but confiscation is not. Foreign corporations are no longer considered necessary to economic growth in emerging markets and are not welcome
When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s we had third world countries. Many of these countries had just won their independence from their colonial masters. Independence movements were often led by idealistic leaders inspired by the communist revolutions in other countries. These young nations had just rid themselves of a society made up of natives and masters. The humiliation of this two-tiered system made the attraction of socialism with equal division of wealth irresistible. Sadly it didn’t work.
New countries without reliable institutions are inherently unstable. To solidify gains, leaders empowered a new class of elites, loyal only to the new regime. In countries that were supposed to be ruled with egalitarian ideals, all citizens were equal, but some citizens became more equal than others. Like all other elites before them, this new class armed with the tools of an increasingly bureaucratic state went about rent seeking, often with reckless abandon.
Rent seekers by their very nature have an enormous economic incentive to increase their take. Since they were the government, there were not the legal limits that usually are sufficient to muzzle political ambitions and pillage. But in poor countries, often taxes were not enough. The combination of socialist ideals and anti-colonial sentiment made foreign corporations a logical and natural target. The local assets of colonial corporations were nationalized by the score and the party faithful were given privileged positions running the companies.
The heady cocktail of government control, xenophobia, and incompetence was an economic disaster. After 20 years of independence many of these countries had not experienced any growth at all. Something else had to be tried.
What was tried was known as the Washington consensus. This was combination of policies that are painfully obvious, but are very hard for countries to swallow. The list includes fiscal discipline, the end to subsidies, tax reform, trade liberalization, encouragement of foreign direct investment, deregulation, privatization of state industries and protection of property rights. What is hard to swallow about these reforms is that they rescind many of the elites’ privileges and protected status. No one likes to lose economic power. For this reason reform in every country anywhere will meet massive resistance, regardless of whether the privileged are Wall Street bankers, French civil servants or Communist Chinese cadres. But these poor countries had little choice, so they reformed.
The economic revolution that took place starting in the early nineties was in many ways as dramatic as the earlier political ones. From the creation of special economic zones in Shenzhen, China, to the end of the License Raj in India, reforms spurred fantastic economic growth. Massive bureaucratic red tape was reduced; foreign investors were aggressively courted; state firms were sold off. In a few short years the third world became emerging markets. Their rapid economic growth was the envy of the sclerotic and debt-burdened developed world. They were on a trajectory of limitless growth. Or not.
Success always breeds arrogance. Emerging markets are no different. Economic reforms did not evolve into political reforms. The elites were still around and learned something very important. There was much more to steal in a successful economy than in an unsuccessful one. They began to understand it was much better to take a larger share of the income stream than the asset.
One of the most obvious areas is natural resources. Foreign capital and expertise are invariably necessary to coax riches from the ground, but recent high prices from the commodities boom have made profits from extraction irresistible. Demands for higher taxes and royalties are increasing in countries from Venezuela, and Argentina, to Indonesia and even Mongolia. Resource nationalism has replaced capital allocation as the number one concern of executives.
Nationalization may be passé, but confiscation is not. It is just done with more finesse. A former Indonesian general and potential presidential candidate was able to take over a giant coal deposit claim of a British company by alleging that lapsed licenses were still in force and had priority. When Russia wanted to muscle out Shell from its find off Sakhalin Island, they brought charges of environmental violations. The successful Russian oil company Yukos was stolen by a claim of unpaid taxes. The most recent Indian draft budget contains a retroactive tax aimed at Vodafone, the second largest telecom operator in India. The tax would reverse an Indian Supreme Court decision that should have settled the case. In China a prominent talk-show host wants to “throw out the foreign trash”. Foreign corporations are no longer considered necessary to economic growth and are not welcome.
Economists like to ascribe the miraculous growth of emerging markets to things like demographics which would make continued growth inevitable. It’s not. The rapid growth of emerging markets is only as strong as the laws that created the reforms and those laws are only written on paper.
(William Gamble is president of Emerging Market Strategies. An international lawyer and economist, he developed his theories beginning with his first hand experience and business dealings in the Russia starting in 1993. Mr Gamble holds two graduate law degrees. He was educated at Institute D'Etudes Politique, Trinity College, University of Miami School of Law, and University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business Administration. He was a member of the bar in three states, over four different federal courts and has spoken four languages. Mr Gamble can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected].)