Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Corporates take rivals head-on through ads

Confrontational advertising has become the order of the day in India with corporate houses taking on rivals head-on.

While industrialist Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines is fighting a pitched battle with Jet Airways through its outdoor advertising in Mumbai on the retail front, Kishore Biyani’s Pantaloon has decided to take its rivalry with Shoppers’ Stop and Lifestyle to the streets. Not to be left far behind are the job portals, where Times Jobs, owned by the media company Bennett, Coleman & Company is targeting its competitor Naukri.com.

Marketing experts call it the champion-challenger theory. In each of these categories the challenger brands — Kingfisher, Pantaloons and Times Jobs — are taking on champions, who have ruled their respective categories for a while namely, Jet, Shoppers’ Stop and Naukri.com. According to advertising executives, these ads help the challenger brands tackle complacency that might have set in to the marketplace, leverage the power of the underdogs and talk to a younger mindset.

In the airline industry, where a dozen domestic airlines have sprung up in the last few years, the new players felt the need to stand out in a fiercely competitive space. When Jet Airways announced a change in livery, their advertising campaign read, “We’ve changed”. Kingfisher retorted with a billboard, placed directly above the Jet Airways’ that read “We made them change!!”.

In the retail segment, dominated by Shoppers’ Stop, Westside and Lifestyle, Pantaloon defied the order through these taglines – “Keep West-aSide. Make a smart choice”, “Shoppers! Stop” and “Change your Lifestyle”.

Rajan Malhotra, CEO of Big Bazaar said, “We have always adopted an advertising model that is aggressive and in-your-face.” He added, “We are addressing our customers rather than giving free publicity to our competitors; we are using them as a reference point.”

As recruitment advertising becomes increasingly online, Timesjobs.com immediately grabbed attention with their hard-hitting ads saying, “Everyone’s quitting Naukri. And making a beeline for Timesjobs” and “Don’t waste time in a dead-end Naukri”.

Rajan Krishnan, vice-president, strategic planning, Ogilvy & Mather, said, “It requires a maverick mindset that’s not afraid of failure to break into the consumer’s mindset. These ads put champions off course and also act as a morale booster for the challenger brand’s loyalists.”

Ajay Uthaman, associate VP, Equus Red Cell, the advertising agency that created the Kingfisher ads, gave a thumbs-up to the new-age marketing style.

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