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AdAsia Kicks Off To A Filmy Start

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If you always thought that advertising is all about song and dance, then the ad men did not prove you wrong at the opening ceremony of AdAsia 2011 at hotel Taj Palace in Delhi on Monday evening. The entire gathering took part in a medley of percussions, courtesy ace percussionist, Taufique Quereshi. As he reached the pinnacle of his performance, Quereshi urged the audience to look under their seats -- suddenly every member of the 1,200- strong audience had a percussion instrument to jam with. Even Bollywood funny man Boman Irani broke into a song with a rendition of "We are the world" and Frank Sinatra's 'My Way'. The ad men probably empathised with the lyrics "Yes there were times, I'm sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew" --  a confession to their clients.
Ad men turned up in all finery for a traditional evening -- the Nepali contingent standing out in their Nepali Topis, the Japanese showing off their Kimonos and the Koreans their Hanboks. Some like BCCL's top executive Bhaskar Das came in his trademark designer Jacket on stage. When asked about not wearing an Indian attire, Bhaskar quipped, "Oh, I am wearing a made in India jacket". Others like the India Today group Publisher Ashish Bagga came in Kurtas. But Bagga's Kurta was Made in Pakistan. The music continued till the wee hours of the morning (at least, with Bollywood biggie Shah Rukh Khan making it to the morning session was like staying up all night)! SRK gave the audience his own take on advertising, coining slogans like "Early to bed and early to rise, work like hell and then advertise".

In a rather filmy avtaar, India's very own brand-wagon SRK, entertained the crowd with a witty speech accompanied by some "chamak-challo" gyrations. Someone once told me that, "If you advertise too much, you stop being a wonder and become a commodity", quipped King Khan, as he went on to glorify the world of celebrity endorsements that he continues to dominate. "Brands in totality are an extension of myself...I wake up to the alarm on my Tag Heuer, check messages on my Nokia N7...sit on a D'Decor couch, slip into a Belmonte Suit, watch TV on a Videocon, use my Linc pen to make notes for the speech, and I got energy this morning from a generous helping of Emami Sona Chandi Chyawanprash...." he went on, leaving the crowd in splits.
Before SRK's light hearted act, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni remarked that the theme of AdAsia, "Uncertainty. The New Certainty" resembled India's political scene. "The only certainty is that things will always be uncertain," she said.

In her crisp address, Soni meant serious business when she said that while her government believes in the freedom of expression and supports Indian advertising's attempt at self regulation, GRP measurement systems need to be robust and representative of the socio cultural dynamics of the country as billions of dollars of marketing money rides on them. "They need to be reassessed from time to time," she said. She further added, that the government is "in the process of revamping the Directorate of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP) and enhance its professional capabilities. Prof. Ram Charan, took off from where Soni left off by saying that cultural diversity needs to be top of mind for marketers. He said one company in India, has identified 38 distinctive consumer segments.
Marketers agreed. Harish Manwani, COO, consumer goods giant Unilever, remarked that in the Indian market, the battle is not for market share but against non-consumption. There are huge opportunities to grow the market he said. "You need to adopt a schizophrenic approach to this market as there are opportunities at both the top end and the bottom end," he said and added that marketers had to find different ways to straddle the pyramid and capture both the 80 mn Internet users, but also the other 300 million consumers who live in media dark areas. "In India distribution reach is more deeper than the media reach, hence it made more sense to sell hard at the points of sale, especially in the other India.