Excellence is not a destination, nor is it an outcome. It is more an attitude and should be a corporation’s way of life.

Pursuit of excellence should become an intrinsic part of our sales approach. Ad excellence is all about providing advertisers with a value proposition by complementing their solution-seeking mindset.

Audience engagement initiatives developed by media corporations that are holistic and format- neutral best demonstrates their commitment to customers’ success.

At The Hindu, advertising excellence is encoded in our DNA. Making the customer successful is the key mantra that drives our sales force. I wish to share a very unique case of an innovative, tactical, format-neutral advertising programme, wherein we co-created value for the customer.

The case study is from Kerala, a southern Indian state also referred to as “God’s own country.” Kerala has many unique characters that contrast with the rest of India. For starters, it’s the most literate state (93.91% as per the 2011 census), and boasts of a discerning audience with a very high propensity to consume.

The state of Kerala has a growing industrial landscape. It is perceived to be a land of opportunities with a myriad of hues. It is a market dominated by two Malayala-language dailies, Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhoomi, which account for 90% of the total reach of print. 

The penetration of English in the overall print delivery is considered insignificant at little more than 10%.

The Hindu, our flagship brand at approximately 0.23 million copies, delivers approximately 5% of the total print audience in Kerala. These are numbers that make any media planner skeptical about including a brand in any campaign’s “consideration set.”

The state government of Kerala plans one of the biggest shopping events in Asia called Grand Kerala Shopping Festival (GKSF). The event is an annual affair with the participation of 5,000 small- and medium-sized retail enterprises, spanning 45 days (December 15 –through January 31). Customer appreciation gifts include 101 kilograms of gold. 

The event is conducted like a festival across Kerala. The state government’s objective is to create a second shopping season after Onam, the traditonal harvest festival. The revenue garnered by the state government through tax collection alone is close to 900 crores.

Our mandate was to give this event the maximum visibility and ensure the objectives of revenue generation and publicity were met effectively. The gravity of the task was significant. We needed an innovative approach to creating buzz around the event and ensure its success.

An integrated campaign comprised of print + magazines (jackets and full-page advertisement for maximum impact) will lend a multiplier effect to the campaign. In addition to these traditional offerings, we also beefed up the media plan with fairly robust online offerings including a micro-site and flash banners.

This resulted in maximum share of voice for the campaign. The Grand Kerala Shopping Festival was grand success, so much so that the “best performance media award” was given to The Hindu group of publications.

The lesson to take away is that it does not matter how small a brand is. What’s more important is how strikingly it can deliver value. The limited reach of our English print did not handicap us. The so-called handicap in this market is, in fact, what spurred us to think of newer ways to engage audiences.

We carefully orchestrated an integrated media plan that provided a surround effect. The mix of print + magazines + online also caused a viral effect that benefitted the campaign.

The success of any campaign is not only about numbers delivered by media platforms, but how innovatively these platforms are woven together to make a convincing and compelling story. In other words, innovation and imagination are the keys to success.

Globally, marketing heads are constrained with limited or depleting ad spends, cluttered markets, and a fragmented consumer mind space. It’s imperative that executives re-engineer their communication mix by putting traditional practices of brand- building campaigns on the back burner, giving more preference to innovative, tactical, and sales-led advertising.

These are times in which advertisers are seeking ways to not only measure return on every marketing rupee, but also aim to engage their consumers more deeply and meaningfully.

Simply put, our clients’ business mantra is to sell more to more peoplemore often at more locations and, in the current circumstances, in the most cost-effective manner. We, as a media sales organisation, need to change our sales approach to vastly increase the number of relevant consumer engagement propositions that will enable our business associates to achieve their business goals.