Castrol Active ad: Analysis

Before & After: You must have seen this format.

[before / after]
Gyms, diet plans and hair loss repair clinics practice a crude form of such advertising. Dishwashing liquid/bars also advertise in this format. Fair & Lovely made an assembly line of such ads, though their ads are one level higher on the story bit.

It is quite a general way of selling you something.

“Without our product, your life wasn’t that great, you had such & such problems, and when our product entered your life, it changed, for the better.”

But there has to be a connect in this line.

Which is what the makers of the last two Castrol Activ TVCs seem to have forgotten.

The script of both the ads is similar: An elder is teaching a young one (son/brother) to ride a bike. The drill is simple: clutch, accelerator, brake! Why brake? Because in city traffic, you need to brake more often than accelerate. Enter the helpful mechanic, who tells him that he’s right, but braking too often leads to extra pressure on the engine, which is harmful. Which is why you need Castrol’s new Activ engine oil. Problem solved. And the after scene shows a happy father asking the son if he’d only keep braking or ride the bike after all, or the younger brother just riding off without waiting for his elder brother to get on the bike, to which an elated big brother says “Munna rider ban gaya!”.

Castrol ad: father & son
Castrol ad: father & son
Castrol ad: brothers
Castrol ad: brothers

What is the issue with this, you ask?

Well, let’s analyse.

The ad has 3 parts – problem, intervention, solution (before, product, after – familiar?). The problem was two-fold – the young rider is not happy with the pillion who is not letting him ride and is asking him to brake too often (to simulate city traffic), and the elder pillion is not happy because city traffic is a b*tch.

The intervention is an engine oil, which reduces the strain on the engine which it faces in city traffic.

The after (solution?) is a happy father, who is not asking his son to brake anymore, or a happy elder brother who is happy that his younger brother is riding well now.

Did you notice the disconnect?

The problem that the mechanic mentioned was not on the minds of our protagonists until he came in the picture. He solved a problem they were least concerned with. In fact, he does not address their problems at all – city traffic still remains a b*tch, and thus elder person should still be concerned with it. What does his intervention do? It assures you that your engine will be OK even if you braked like mad in city traffic.

And somehow, this intervention manages to make both the protagonists happy. The elder one is not at all worried about the b*tch like city traffic anymore, even though common sense says that now that he knows the bike’s engine can take the strain of repeated braking and traffic has not at all improved, he shouldn’t be worrying about the engine’s health and should be pushing the rider to keep braking more and more. But he doesn’t.

Seamless?

When an Idea customer dials 12345 from their phone, an exceptionally chirpy female voice tells them that they can “now stay connected while in roaming with Idea seamless coverage”. Of course you can. Ok, no sarcasm.

Problem began when I noticed that whenever I come to Bombay, I am unable to send text messages. In technical parlance, outgoing SMS is not working. Different days that I have come here. Different handsets. Different places in Bombay. No sir, can’t go. And lately, my GPRS connection also refuses to work when in Bombay.

How to solve it then? Call someone for help. Who else but Idea helpline? So I do. I dial 12345. I am greeted with the exceptionally chirpy female voice mentioned above, telling me about the alleged “seamless connectivity”, and then some human being talks to me. The moment I tell them my number and that I am coming from Pune, they respond as if I am a stepchild. How can Mumbai executives be expected to listen to Pune customers? Everytime I call, I am told that I need to call the Pune helpline at 9822012345. Other than that they cannot help me in any way, because procedures do not allow them to help me. These people hung up on me mid-sentence twice. Some customer “service”.

9822012345 is another story. The moment I dial it, select the language, tell the system that I am an Idea Maharashtra customer AND dial my phone number (in this day and age of CLI machines at homes!), I am presented a menu that is definitely a prepaid customer’s menu. Why would a postpaid customer be bothered with recharge options? The menu comprises of 4 options only, like PUK, value-added services, recharge options etc. but never did I hear a “to talk to a customer care executive…”. Once by fluke I got to talk to a human being on this number, and all he could help me with was “Sir please try again after some time, it will definitely go. If not, then try a different handset, it will definitely go.”, 5 times when I told him I did not think it would work. The second time I got to talk to someone, again by the rare coming together of five of the eight planets in one line, he politely tells me that he is a prepaid customer care executive and that I need to dial 9822012345 to reach a postpaid customer care executive! If you were not paying attention so far, that was the number where I reached this gentleman in the first place. He could not help me because he was a prepaid Pune executive, while I was a postpaid Pune customer. Wow!

Idea keeps telling us about “seamless connectivity”, while there are silos in their customer service setup. One area’s executive cannot help a customer from another area. One department’s executive cannot help a customer subscribing to another department. Let alone help me, they cannot transfer my line to the concerned persons!

Wonder when companies would really honour their marketing claims, and when customer care people would really care about customer’s problems and concerns.

Widest? Really?

If you have seen or been to a Dosa Plaza restaurant anywhere, you must have seen their tagline “The world’s widest menu in dosas™”.

And if you have been in Dhanbad for more than a day, you surely must have seen the restaurant Waikiki at Bank More.

How are they related, you might ask?

Well, if you have eaten at Waikiki, which by the way is an excellent up-market restaurant, you would know what the link is. Waikiki’s menu runs in pages — I would guess more than twenty pages — and it’s filled with dosas for most of it. Last I counted they had 140 different types of dosas.

And Dosa Plaza themselves claim to have 104 different types of dosas in their menu. Can they claim to have the world’s widest menu in dosas when there clearly is at least another place where you get a wider range?

Dosa Plaza’s claim also carries a ™ sign — which means that they have registered it as a trade mark. All this raised a few questions for me:

  1. Can one trade mark a phrase, which is a claim?
  2. While registering a claim as a trade mark, do the authorities check the validity of the claim?
  3. Is it ethical for Dosa Plaza to make such a claim, AND trade mark it, when it is clearly false?
  4. If Waikiki now decides to contest that claim and wants to trade mark this claim themselves, will they be able to?

Any trade mark lawyers/experts here?

Have you dugg this before?

Poor Top Artists Strike Back at Greedy Music Labels! The story would have had over 300 diggs as I write this, had it not been for another genius digger ‘offon’ who thought it would be a nice idea to re-digg an already dugg story – that is while the torrentfreak page shows a digg counter. This person took extra pains to make a new digg, fill up the form, go through captcha, and the “are you sure this story is original” routine (which they seem to have conveniently ignored – ofcourse who else would have come across a torrentfreak page before they did?)

But it’s really amazing! Two duplicate diggs of the same page appear on the digg frontpage at once. And even though I “strategically” digg every blog I write, I seem to have never made the homepage 🙁 Life is so unfair!

And ofcourse there are people who would love digging the same story after they have dugg it once.

See for yourself:
digg

digg2

 

Stop spamming me!

What is the problem with Just Dial?

I have never visited their site before today. Nor have I ever called on their number and left my email address.

Yet, everyday I get three to four emails from them which would be titled “Response to your call for X-Y-Z”. And for around 80% of the time, I would never have even heard of X-Y-Z. The mail starts with a section on what the media is writing about Just Dial, and then “the information I requested”, which would be the name of the company – X-Y-Z, and then their address.

This company is being covered by newspapers and such is the problem with them.

I checked their site, and there is no “don’t send me these emails” link.

From one of their articles: “Just Dial connects the seeker to the sought”. Why is it trying to connect me, when I am neither the seeker nor the sought?

I think I should send them an email with the “information” they didn’t request but require direly.

Spread the cheer

Long time Flickr users, especially the “Explore” enthusiasts obviously know BigHugeLabs and their Scout service, which lists out any user’s “Explore” pictures, either those currently in the charts or those which have ever been in the charts, depending on the settings.

Those photographers who get a kick out of seeing their photographs on Flickr’s Explore frontpage keep visiting Scout to see how many of their snaps have been touched by the Magic Donkey, and whether the number has gone up since the last time they checked. It’s an addiction for some.

So I was sort of taken aback, pleasantly, when Scout tells me today that 405 of my 407 Flickr photographs are “totally awesome”. Turns out this is part of their Christmas cheer programme. A cute red Santa cap accompanies the message which tells me that. You can go back to your routine “normal” Scout. But there’s no way to get this back as far as I can see.

They brought a smile to my face no doubt, albeit with a cute li’l lie.

How are you spreading the joy in the holidays?

Merry Christmas!

Special treatments

Last Friday I was flying from Delhi to Bombay on an IndiGo flight. Knowing that it is a low-cost carrier, I was not expecting anything apart from getting me from point A to B.

So it did come across as a surprise when one of the stewardesses selling the eatables addressed me by name (though I was not sitting on the seat my boarding pass mentioned), and offered me one food and one drink item free of cost, because I was a corporate customer. At a maximum cost of one fifty rupees they left a good impression on me.

But then I flew IndiGo again twice earlier this week. Again for official reasons. But this time I did not get such a ‘surprise’ (which it would hardly have been, come to think of it).

Later I find out from a colleague that there is a line mentioning this perk on these low cost airline tickets for corporate customers. And that you can ask the stewardesses for your free items.

The pleasant experience lost its pleasantness during the later journeys.

Sure I could ask them for it. But I don’t see how corporate fliers would say “I should get a freebie” when stewardesses are asking them if they would like to buy something, especially when the value of the freebie is not more than two hundred rupees.

It’s not the money I save in not having to buy something to eat. It’s nothing compared to the money we spend on the travel. It’s the gesture that says that the airline cares for me and remembers me.

Does not take too much effort, is not too costly. The keyword here is, consistency. If they cared enough to check their roster of passengers in every flight and make sure they did such things every time they flew, the experience will be pleasurable every time.

Smart Web – How Smart?

While reading this Rediff.com story about Maruti Madhavrao Phad, a Maharashtra government employee who got injured during the recent terrorist attack on Bombay, I noticed something.

It is not related to the story as such. If you scroll down to the end of the story you’ll see the credits for is particular story. It reads “Image: Maruti [Get Quote] Madhavrao Phad at his home. Text: A Ganesh [Images] Nadar. Photograph: Uttam Ghosh


See the screenshot of the line. Notice the yellow areas? These are smart tags which apparently the engine parsing the code of the pages inserts to “enrich” the user’s browsing experience, by providing additional information related to the content the user is browsing through at the moment.

Note the word “related”? Now see what the yellow highlights in the image show. “Get Quote” for Maruti. Here Maruti is the first name of the hero of the story, not the name of a car-making company. Yet, the Rediff engine treats it as the company’s name, and is offering you stock quotes for it. And for Ganesh, the link is a Rediff search link with the string “Ganesh” – marked “Images”. Which means that it would return images of the Lord Ganesha, and other celebrities called “Ganesh”. Not images of the author of the article in this case, A Ganesh Nadar.

And both these tags are intrusive, they not only break the text they are placed in, they break proper names of people. Intrusive and irreverent. Considering the tone of the article, even more so.

Were they really necessary?

You won’t sell to me?

The other day I went to a medicine shop and asked for a medicine from a prescription. The pack of 10 costs four-fifty. I open the wallet and find that the smallest paper currency I have is a fifty. The second smallest? Five hundred! And the loose change all totalled up to two rupees fifty.

I gave an apologetic sigh and offered the shopkeeper the fifty hoping that he’d give me change. With a stern look the shopkeeper took back the medicines from my hand, gave me a hand signal denoting refusal and put the medicine back in the shelf, without saying a word. I asked him why. And he says “We won’t entertain this”. That’s all.

I walk over to the next shop, which was like two blocks away, enter it. The guy looks friendly. I thought let’s take a chance. So I asked him for the medicine, and while he’s taking it out of the shelf, I casually ask “You have change for fifty, don’t you?”. He looks back at me, and politely says “No”, keeping the medicine back in the shelf.

So I ask him, “You are a shop. How come you don’t have change?” to which his response is “If you can’t produce change for 4.50, how do you expect us to keep change for 45.50?”

So is having a bigger note worthless if you’re buying a small item? I know that if you offer a pan-wallah a thousand rupee note for a five rupee cigarette it’s absurd, but this is not a difference of 995 we’re talking about or a small pan-wallah. Both shops were decent-sized medicine shops, which I’ve grown up seeing and buying from. What is the reason for their refusal? Is short change really short in the market? Is day-to-day liquidity so low that people are clinging on to any short change they have and are refusing business? Or is it just a stand they have taken that they will not entertain business which makes them do this ‘heavy work’ of counting and returning change?

What use is a bigger currency note if I cannot buy small things with it? I had over a thousand rupees with me right then, but I could not buy medicines worth less than ten rupees.

If there is a liquidity problem, then it is worrying. But if the problem is in the mindsets of the store owners, then it is ridiculous. If they are facing a real short change problem, I think they should offer other channels of payment. Accept credit/debit/charge cards, accept cheques.

Why lose business over this issue, and why dishonour a customer even when he has more money than needed for the transaction?

Why can’t I pay my bill?

I use Tata Indicom’s broadband as my home connection (plugged into a wifi router, to allow me complete freedom of movement in the apartment, but that’s a different story), and I love it. Last I checked at www.calcuttatelephones.com (their speed checking tool has been mentioned on BBC’s Click), the connection (marketed as a 512 mbps connection) competes well with T1 lines. Impressive! There have been a few outages – 2 to 3 maximum since I have subscribed, but the helpline is helpful and they get the connection up in less than half a day everytime.

What really bothers me is their online presence.

Simple task: I have been getting calls from their collection people asking me to pay the due bill. So I want to make an online payment.

The usual routine with most vendors for this is: sign in to the website, click on Pay Bill, log in, follow instructions, enter card/account information, get confirmation from account provider, and you are done.

But with Tata Indicom, it does not work that way. What I need to do is, click on Pay Your Bill Online Here, log in, they should show me my outstanding, I select payment mode, confirm, read terms, confirm, log in again, on which I am directed to the usual post-login screen (the welcome user screen), then I click Pay Bill again, on which I am asked to log in again, and then I go through either of the two routes again (see my outstanding or the welcome screen). So far I have “logged in” some twenty five times since morning, but I have not once reached the screen where I am supposed to enter my account/card information for the payment processing people.

And I’m sure I’ll keep getting those payment collection calls. When I’d tell them that the site is not working, they’d say “Yes sir, we know it can cause problems sometimes, should I send someone over to collect a cheque?”

India’s biggest business house. Internet service provider. They are in the business of technology – the internet. Their core service is fantastic. How much effort or money does it take to smoothen this part of the user experience – the one where the customer is willing to pay their bill, but is unable to do so with ease? It’s not that they can’t do it. So why the negligence, why the apathy?