Sunday, March 14, 2010

My tweets from the India Today Conclave 2010

In Delhi for the India Today Conclave. Lots of good speakers to entertain and educate me. First up Chidambaram & the ruler of Dubai.

Next would be John Chambers of Cisco. Was in the lift with him yesterday.

Aroon Purie starts the conclave with the opening passage from "tale of 2 cities" - "it was the best of times..worst of times..." #ITconclave

Charles Dickens still relevant to describe the first decade of the 21st century. #ITconclave

Chidambaram says Maoists are a bigger threat than Jihadists. #ITconclave

Chidambaram: maoists aren't pro poor. Just interested in seizing power. That's why they blow up schools, roads & rail lines. #ITconclave

In Q&A, Chidambaram very severe on Pakistan but quite soft on China. #ITconclave

Pak High Commissioner to India responded by saying there were no state players who sponsor terrorism and that they want talks. #ITconclave

The ruler of Dubai had come to Delhi but had to leave last night. Sent his cousin to speak instead. #ITconclave

Arabic to English translator so bad that the sheikh has decided to translate his Arabic speech himself. #ITconclave

Don't confuse Dubai World with Dubai state. The former is untroubled because of it's real estate business.Getting restructured. #ITconclave

Kamal Nath made a general political speech. #ITconclave

Brilliant speech by Dayanidhi Maran on how to balance politics and growth. Says he's managed both in his teleom days. #ITconclave

In 2004 it was illegal to have wi fi at home. Maran says he realized he was breaking the law. So he changed the law. #ITconclave

BJP president Nitin Gadkari didn't speak about politics but only of economic needs & ideas for progress. Great. #ITconclave

John Chambers of Cisco talking inspiringly about the big transformations of India and the role of tech in it. #ITconclave

Cisco'a goals for india. $1 doctor visits. $1 month/student. 1 million new jobs. #ITconclave

Interesting ad by Mail Today in it's own paper.

Nassim Taleb, author of Black Swan, is on next. I feel like a groupie around a star. #ITconclave

Taleb is a old trader but a young philosopher. #ITconclave

You can't predict which technology will do well. So you can't predict history. Taleb. #ITconclave

We live in extremistan but think we live in mediocristan. Taleb. #ITconclave

The banking system collapsed due to the rise in complexity and the rise of fragility. Taleb. #ITconclave

Debt has a 1:1 correspondence with hubris! Taleb. #ITconclave

Must read Taleb's article from FT that is about 10 steps to create robustness. #ITconclave

Taleb: the only thing more fragile than finance is the internet. #ITconclave

End of Taleb's session. Clearly the best session in #ITconclave so far. Great insights with great sense of humour

Nilesh Arora, the 4th President of Google is on next. The other 3 are the two founders and the CEO. #ITconclave

Google asks how can you disrupt the world with technology. Not how they can make money. #ITconclave

Nilesh says he scribbled notes for his speech during the Chambers session. I think that's rude to all of us who are here. #ITconclave

A great session followed by a really lousy one. I guess that's life. The Google guy was really bad. #ITconclave

@Kaj186 chap called Nikesh Arora. president sales & biz Dev.

Kapil Sibal talking about the challenges we face in the education sector. But no vision or strategy offered. #ITconclave

Kapil Sibal is one of our best ministers. Made a boring speech but getting into stride during the Q&A. #ITconclave

Spent time chatting with Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook & CEO of And I thought I was immune to celebs. #ITconclave

Aroon Purie now introducing Sir Salman Rushdie. The others need to learn from Mr Purie how to make introductions interesting. #ITconclave

Rushdie on the MF Hussain issue: are the forces trying to close the universe winning over those trying to open it? #ITconclave

Salman Rushdie's speech proves that not everything can or should be reduced to 140 characters. #ITconclave

Rushdie: what are the limits of freedom? Should we tolerate those who are intolerant & might destroy society? #ITconclave

Rushdie: Pakistan is a country "insufficently imagined". #ITconclave

Prabhu Chawla complaining that he gets to chair the
tough sessions. Yesterday on politics. Today on sex and spirituality. #ITconclave

Swami Vedant of Osho Univ talking philosophically about sex & sexuality. I think the crowd is wishing they'd slept in. #ITconclave

3 layers of sex. Biological. Psychological. Spiritual. Sex is the center of life. Not God: Osho via Swami Vedant. #ITconclave

Sant Ramdev is a good orator who doesn't seem to have much to say. #ITconclave

Did you know Swami Ramdev is worth Rs 500 crores? He says he's not apologetic about his wealth. #ITconclave

Having agreed that sex & spirituality can co-exist, the 2 speakers arguing about whether OK for consenting adults to have sex. #ITconclave

Vedant: men think of sex every 5-7 mins while women think of sex every 13 mins. "they're more conservative". #ITconclave

Rahul Gandhi is here. Not as a speaker. Just as a delegate. Listening to Prof Bloom of Harvard talk about demographic dividend. #ITconclave

Demograhpic dividend is not automatic & may be transitory. But it helped SE Asia grow 2% PA per capita for 30 years. Bloom. #ITconclave

2 breakthrough ideas of demographics: demographic dividend & healthier = wealthier. Bloom. #ITconclave

Bloom: demographic dividends will increase inequality between states and could lead to instability. #ITconclave

Ireland legalized contraception in 1979 & this lead to fetility rates falling & economic growth doubled: Bloom. #ITconclave

Alan Mullaly, Global CEO Ford, reading out a prepared speech. He isn't connecting with the audience. #ITconclave

Alan Mullaly doing a lot better in the Q&A. Says Product information is ubiquitous. The difference is the brand. #ITconclave

Art is under attack by those who don't understand it. So is science. Interesting session on the controversy starting up. #ITconclave

If the first pdt of electricity had been the electric chair, we'd be as against electricity as people are against GM food now. #ITconclave

The only reason that the Malthusian predictions haven't come true is science & tech. Michael Spector, writer. #ITconclave

Michael Spector making a strong case of benefits of green revolution 1.0. Says we now need green revolution 3.0. #ITconclave

Suman Sahai making the opposite case. Says genetic engg is a very random science. She's a genetic engineer herself. #ITconclave

Suman Sahai: you can make the case for BT cotton. But you can't make a case for 35 Crops with the BT gene. #ITconclave

Suman Sahai. This is the century of Biology. But rein in hubris. Since biology gone wrong can cause more damage than phy/chem. #ITconclave

Brilliant session. Both speakers convinced us they were right. And they are totally opposed to each other! #ITconclave

Chris Hughes, co founder of Facebook is talking about the impact on the real world of social media. #ITconclave

Barack Obama did not use social media to be cool or create buzz. But to get votes. : chris hughes. #ITconclave

The Barack Obama site wasn't about the candidate but about the supporters. It showed them & their reasons for supporting Obama. #ITconclave

That made supporters " responsible" for electing Obama. #ITconclave

Stage is crowded. Youth session with Ranbir Kapoor, asin, Tanya Dubash, Roopa Purshottam, Deepender Hooda, #ITconclave

Bunked the session on youth to watch Yousuf Khan hit a 100 in 37 balls. Back now to listen to James Cameron & Amir Khan. #ITconclave

Cameron: any technology that is sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic. #ITconclave

I don't know if Amir khan is just acting, but he seems to be spellbound by James Cameron. #ITconclave

Cameron talking about an awesome technique called performance capture invented to shoot Avatar. Amir looking fascinated. Us too #ITconclave

Cameron: He had a problem finding theatres who would show 3D. Now with 3D TV screens, there will be a content gap. #ITconclave

Amir Khan simply not on the same level as Cameron. Maybe this discussion would have gone places if Raju Hirani had been here. #ITconclave

Cammeron & Amir having a great chat with each other. Great eye contact with each other. The audience is totally ignored. #ITconclave

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Defining moments: Suman Srivastava: "It was good to learn the science of advertising at Lever"

A feature on me appeared in the Brand Reporter and now in Afaqs. Click here to see the original article. Text below:

You may take him out of the confines of the planning department, but there's no taking the planner out of Suman Srivastava.

Few may know that Euro RSCG India's CEO, Suman Srivastava, wanted to originally be a journalist. It took an acquaintance who spoke of his disillusionment with journalism and Srivastava's days in the Indian Institute of Management - Ahmedabad, that gave Indian advertising industry an established planner, and one who witnessed the emergence of planning as a separate discipline in India, at that.

Srivastava's first turning point arrived while at Lintas - his first job - when he was deputed at Hindustan Unilever for a year (after working on HUL brands for three years) and was further "Leverised."

"The rigour that Lever's had was great. In those days of the early '90s, there were very few clients who got into the science of advertising. I think it was good to learn that science at Lever's," he says.

Among his key defining moments are shaping two start-ups: Lowe Lintas' second agency SSC&B Lintas in 1994, and Euro RSCG India. "SSC&B was a part of Lintas and at least the infrastructure was right there but Euro RSCG did not even have an office. It was an out-and-out start up. It was great fun of course. Definitely a defining moment," Srivastava grins.

While he admits to have done a lot of "ghost planning" while working in the servicing team at Lowe (Lintas), he recalls his formal entry into the world of planners in 1999 at Euro, as one of the most important moments in his career. With planning then being a relatively new discipline in Indian agencies, there was uncertainty and his move was not considered to be a good one. Yet, Srivastava refers to the four years of undiluted planning as the best phase of his career.

"Planning then was underrated and everybody was suspicious of it," Srivastava explains. "The client servicing guys thought that the planner would do all the 'sexy' parts of their job and there wouldn't be any fun left, while the creative people saw it as yet another layer and another person who could say 'no' and kill an idea."

And despite being the CEO of Euro RSCG, Srivastava says he has not ceased to be a planner, and takes pride in the evolution of planning from a stage when the creative team was sceptic about it to today's theory of 'one planner for one creative'.

Two key men who influenced Srivastava greatly include former bosses Ishan Raina, chief executive officer, OOH Media and Ajay Chandwani, non-executive director, Percept.

"He (Raina) was my first boss when I entered advertising," he recalls. "I was interviewing with Contract Advertising but there was no befitting role for me. So when he started Euro RSCG and wanted to take Contract people with him, I was one of the first ones he took on board. Ishan is an amazing man-manager. He can bring out the best either by needling or encouraging a person."

For Chandwani, Srivastava says, "It is tough working for Ajay but he is brilliant. Our styles were very different, but I learnt a lot from him as a strategy guy," he says.

At Euro RSCG, another key hallmark moment for him was cracking the Set Max Deewana Bana De campaign which was all about the role of television in a person's life. "Our insight was that Max should be a friend you would like to watch movies with. We gave the channel the role of this friend who knows all the stats and is a reference point when you watch movies and cricket," he explains, and thus were born properties like Extraa Innings and Extraa Shots. The second insight was that when one watches great entertainment it stays with you for a while, which led to the words Deewana Bana De.

(Defining Moments is a regular column which talks about the incidents that shaped great advertising, media and marketing careers.)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Comparative Advertising and euphemism

This generation of youth is not into euphemism. Perhaps every generation of youth tends to use less euphemisms than the generation that has gone before.

So is it surprising that this generation would name the competitive brand in their advertising rather than being content with referring to it as "Brand X" or the "leading brand" or whatever? My only surprise is that there aren't more commercials already that actually name their competitor.

As for being comparative, my view is that all advertising is competitive. The whole idea of Positioning is that you try to create a distinct place in a consumer's mind with respect to all other brands. So that is comparative advertising.

My final point is that when claims are made in advertising, then they need to be backed up by scientific evidence. If not, then there needs to be strong penalties that should be levied. That would ensure greater truth in advertising.

Once that is in place, we should refer to competing brands by name - it will save everybody a lot of time.

The above piece was written for afaqs reporter in the context of the Rin commercial shown below.