Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why is real-estateadvertising so corny?

As the realty boom zooms north, the advertising quotient nosedives south! Why? 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri does a check out with some star players of the realty frat... 

We’re on a roll, guys! The mind blowing affluence of our middle class has heralded the arrival of amazing living options dotting the Indian landscape, powered by zooming pay-cheques, easy housing loans & never before aspiration levels to live the good life, High-End Properties (HEP) blitzing the scene in both metros and small towns, celebrating a mix of great locations & world class amenities. Sadly, this energy, buoyancy & enterprise is conspicuous by its absence in the overall adscape, across all media. The general standard sucks… and is truly unbelievably pathetic! Amateurish, weird & hopelessly down-market, any inference to the word “Advertising” can be safely deduced to be both an accident & a coincidence – whichever came first! Why this shocking state of affairs in a segment that’s booming with a spectacular range of classy & breathtaking products? Over to some movers ‘n’ shakers of the realty domain.

Rakesh Purohit (General Manager, Jaipuria) approaches the subject cautiously: “While I have to agree that, as a segment, we haven’t displayed any extraordinary flash, flair or imaginative brilliance, let me quickly add, the reason.” The smart realty marketer is at pains to explain the rules of the game, “Unlike FMCGs and multinationals, the Realty Mart is mostly a localised phenomenon, where hi-powered 360 degrees marketing is not required...” Mere information-driven communication capsules seem to be just fine. The crucially important areas remain broker network and contractor-connect. They are the main drivers, “As of now, whatever, wherever is built, is sold in a flash! It’s boom time and we are a in a dream seller’s market.” However, he reckons, the day the Venture Capitalists – with their big bucks and sophisticated strategic thinking – enter, along with the global biggies, advertising will be forced to become an active player in the scheme of things, will be asked to perform and become accountable. Until then, hey, if it ain’t broke, why fix it, brother?!

Amitabh Bhattacharya of Omaxe believes that it’s unfair to compare Realty advertising with other categories – especially FMCG – as “this segment is still in its nascent stage. Also, the reference points and contexts are different.” While disposable incomes and aspirational levels have unquestionably driven demands to another stratosphere, the basic profile (in terms of psychographics and demographics) remains largely unchanged. A large section of this consuming universe continue to be deeply embedded in an orthodox, conservative, family-oriented and non-westernised ethos, and the challenge is to communicate to them in a fashion that does not frighten them or give them a complex. Hence simple, direct, non-fancy and jargon-free advertising that is easy and comprehensible is called for; “Communication designed totally to attract and connect with the sensibilities of this select target group... not the jury at Cannes!”

Pankaj Pal of Vatika offers his very own concrete reasons. “Till around five years ago, except the big, reputed and established players, no new entrant really dared to enter this territory. It was only when banks slashed interest rates that this area was suddenly perceived as a new, exciting and lucrative investment opportunity.” The result was a manic rush from every kind of investor with a one point agenda; invest, make a killing and move on! “In this kind of a setting,” Pal explains, “where qualification and background did not matter, the advertising that emerged was bound to reflect the basic culture of this fraternity. Besides, no product or service can ever be meaningfully advertised – with cutting edge creativity – if the focus is solely on the bottom-line, on instant short-term gains.” If they are still getting away with it, it’s because the boom is still on and what is advertised is sold.

owever, the writing is on the wall and the honeymoon is likely to end very soon with competition and professionalism on its way. Once that happens, the fly-by-night operators – “The major culprits behind the bizarre ads” – will be forced to either straighten their act or head for the exit route. Mohit Singh (Shipra’s young, dynamic and communication-savvy MD) believes that this weird advertising scenario is largely due to the unstoppable enthusiasm of the large contingent of new/first time players who’ve jumped into the fray with the intention of making a quick buck before moving on. ”You will notice that these are the guys who advertise the most, in terms of size, space and frequency, with a flamboyant disregard to the basic tenets of quality!” Speaking about himself and other top-end players, he points out to the huge amounts of time invested in brain-storming and strategising for the creation of the appropriate communication mix. “After all, we’re talking image here and an ad is the public face of the organisation. Every detail must be in place, across all media deployed. We make sure that along with our agency, O&M, we put out material that fulfils the most critical tasks demanded of professionally-driven communication: Exhibit range. Showcase quality. Sell desire.”

Kunal Bannerjee sums it up with the insight & knowledge of a hard-core communication professional powered with extensive local & global experience across a wide spectrum of products & services. The VP Marketing of Ansal APAI is of the tacit opinion that this mess basically stems from the ad-hocism that prevails in the sector, authored mostly by “the Johny-come-lately types; a group with the hunger & pretension of becoming builders, but backed by zero knowledge & lesser desire to learn. In this scheme of things, where is the space for strategised, focussed advertising?” Being a true-blue practitioner, Banerjee firmly believes that corporatisation has changed the face of realty business in recent times, – for the top-end players like DLF, Unitech, Ansal at least – investing it with cutting edge professionalism, transparency & a very high degree of customer care. “These (factors) have allowed us to demand & get higher premium on our properties than competition, because our clientele knows that be it sophisticated advertising, comprehensive customer focussed programmes or after-sale service, quality & the uncompromising pursuit of excellence remains our enduring goal. That is the bottom line… and the new age savvy brand conscious customer feels comfortable with it.” 


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