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When marketing with social media, one has to be a little wary: R. Balakrishnan

Anup Varier | Jan. 16, 2014
'You're my pumpkin, pumpkin, you're my honey bunny!' Three days after it was rolled out, this ad campaign snowballed into a contagious viral, gathering a million hits on Idea's website.

'You're my pumpkin, pumpkin, you're my honey bunny!' Three days after it was rolled out, this ad campaign snowballed into a contagious viral, gathering a million hits on Idea's website.

At the helm, the company's Chairman and Chief Creative Director, R. Balakrishnan — or Balki — has spearheaded many of these path-breaking ad campaigns. While his Bollywood stints as writer and director have accorded him a celebrity status, he remains true to his love for ads.

CIO: What's your take on this whole new world of social media marketing?

R. Balakrishnan: I think there is too much of a crowd in social media. One needs to be a little more sensitive to social media because once it becomes a marketing medium, you will see people getting off it a lot faster than they came into it. Every brand is trying to create a group around its proposition. When marketing with social media, one has to be a little wary.

It is a good medium for people to come together but if marketers start to tap into this then you will find suspicion creeping in. Until a few months ago, there was far more innocence in the medium and that made it attractive. But as marketers start exploring it, it starts turning into a cynical medium.

The same is the case with television where you don't know which news or program is sponsored. Beyond a point, a marketer's interference in the media to show off their marketing skills — their use of creativity to interfere in content — will have an adverse effect.

In the US, there are very strict rules around this. There is a lot of content that you pay for — like HBO — which is not an advertising medium and you can't easily find brand related content there. Brands have less influence here because viewers pay to watch those programs. In India, however, almost everything is led by advertising. The differentiation between content-led and advertising-led programs will happen as the market matures. Right now, broadcasters, mobile operators, and digital media are all doing everything they can to get a slice of the advertising pie.

CIO: Do you see a role for a creative technologist?

R. Balakrishnan: A creative technologist is a very important role as you need someone who is fully capable of understanding what's happening in the world and assess new things that are coming up. It could be something as simple as a new app that everybody can use on their phones. This has the potential to change their lives. It should be someone who can understand what is happening in the business that they are in and in IT, and is capable of figuring out how to marry the two. That, I think, is the most crucial role of an IT person beyond just supplying tablets, PCs, and mobile phones to people.

 

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