With the advent of 3G, the telecom wars have been rekindled, with major players on a blitz of marketing spend on advertisements telecast on TV, broadcast on Radio and showcased on the internet. The battle has been further stoked by MNP being implemented in most circles, allowing users the luxury to switch telecom operators with aplomb. Every operator is trying to woo his current customers with good and better quality services, to ensure that he/she sticks with the current operator and not switch. Another factor of course, is that 3G and the associated mVAS are likely to increase ARPU for the telecom companies, which in India are amongst the lowest in the world (especially because of very low call tariff rates)
Let us take up the 3G ads that operators have launched recently and see who seems to be winning on the screens at least:
Reliance, according to me, has launched amongst the best campaigns in this series. Watch the video below before we dissect its various aspects:
The message clarity in this ad is of the highest order. A very large proportion of the online youth today can be found watching videos online frequently. And hence, Reliance decided to pick online videos as the central axis along which to present their connection quality. They send across the message that buffering issues, which lead to a chopped video experience, are only present in ‘other’ networks and their own network offers ‘true’ high speed internet, doing away with buffering problems.
The ad is crafted with a pretty simple script, doing away with complications of multiple sets and multiple characters. The ad is as straightforward as they get and conveys the message very well.
Now it is up to the operations people in the company to ensure that the claims made by their marketing team is backed by actual results and real-time performance.
Idea has been literally playing around with different ‘ideas’ on the kind of campaigns that they are releasing on 3G. An initial burst of ads suddenly talked about 3G by using three Abhishek Bacchans on screen. Watch one of the ads of the series below:
What these ads managed to convey was that 3G was here, that it was something new and it helped one work on the internet faster. Contrary to other ads, these ads were a bit more ‘brand-neutral’ and seemed to talk in general about 3G instead of Idea 3G. Now, whether that was an oversight on the part of advertisers or that was an attempt to build market pie instead of market share is something we don’t know for sure.
Then, they recently launched this ad, thankfully, with a single Abhishek in it:
About this ad, there are two things that I have to say:
1. Letting fun overtake content:
Over a series of ads over the past couple of years, Idea has been indirectly talking about its services in the ads, be it through CSR based ads, environment-protection ads etc, in the ‘What an idea Sirjee‘ series. Now, the famous tagline has been removed, and the latest ad is too indirect to allow a viewer customer to recall the brand or its function properly. The background story is taking too much of the limelight.3G and its applications are being showcased, agreed, but the focus on Idea 3G seems to be missing, with a pretty vague connect (Fortunately, they have a good association with the brand ambassador, allowing people to connect Abhishek to Idea)
2. TG Showcase
Now, 3G, even with tariff cuts resulting from price wars, is still a pretty expensive service. And it also needs a 3G-enabled phone, which is a mid- to high-end phone. These two things squarely put the TG into upper-middle and upper class. The ad however, shows a community of people from the middle and lower-middle class (sub-consciously pointed out by power failures, small CRT TVs etc). This segment of the populace is unlikely to pick up and use 3G, and the segment which is likely to do so has not even been shown in the ad.
This phase of the launch of 3G is not an ideal period to try and dig deep in the population tiers. Efforts should be made to ensure that people who can easily afford it are convinced of the service, and only then should you try to customize your service into inexpensive plans.
Vodafone was among the first-movers in the category to launch TVCs. And they did it in their trademark style – zoozoos:
Bringing out a ‘Rajnikant Zoozoo‘ to differentiate from the usual zoozoos worked effectively in separating 3G from other services in the consumer mindspace. And since they were the early-movers, it also helped create a basic understanding of the elementary premise of 3G – It’s fast. However, they did not build on this campaign to further explain what this fast service can be used for. The other operators scored over Vodafone in this, highlighting all the uses that 3G can be put to (admittedly, some of the uses were pretty lame, but still, they served the purpose)
So, the 3G Telecom wars have been initiated, and battlelines have been drawn. It is difficult to predict who wins this war, because this is one market segment that is strongly driven by functional excellence. The ads, good or bad, can at max persuade the customer to check your service delivery once before deciding on an operator. It is the functionality which matters the most.
I also wonder at times whether 3G services can be a viable reason for people to switch operators. I think in the current infancy of 3G, the focus of telecom companies should be about spreading the concept of 3G to all users. Let’s see how this trend pans out for the different players in the industry.