Attention, Please

Updated: Dec 31 2013, 06:31am hrs
The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first recorded use of the phrase, elephant in the room as a simile, as The New York Times used it on June 20, 1959: Financing schools has become a problem about equal to having an elephant in the living room. Its so big you just cant ignore it.

In September 2004, the number of mobile phone connections crossed the number of fixed line connections in India. In August 2012, mobile internet usage overtook fixed-line Internet usage. In 2013, the percentage of smartphones crossed 10% of all mobile phones by volume, that is, according to experts, the tipping point for smartphone growth.

Combine this with the fact that in research after research, consumers of every nationality confirm that the source of information they trust the most is other consumers, ahead of respected newspapers and TV channels and and their famous editors.

This combination of an exploding hand-held personalised computer aka smartphone in the hands of 58 million Indians in 2013 (and 264 million in 2016) and the tendency to trust each other rather than listen to brands peddling their messages means the elephant in the room is now the Attention Market.

If a brand cant hold the consumers attention with a surprise or with news that is relevant to her life or with an emotionally moving story or with a reward for pressing a button through channels that she uses, there is scant hope for the brands message. It will end up as very expensive and a very loud shout in an empty media desert.

The old sequence of communication effects -- awareness creates liking which creates action which creates value for brand is invalid. The new sequence reads: Brand creates something valuable which creates awareness which creates liking which creates action.

Thankfully, there are many smart Indian brand owners and their equally smart brand engagement partners (earlier referred to as ad agencies) who have paid homage to the elephant in the room and created a buzz by hijacking the consumers attention long enough to suspend disbelief about brands.

Our picks used exactly such an hierarchy of effects to create a buzz in the attention market.

Channel V

Though I am several decades away from being referred to as a youth, I have, as a brand strategist, watched Channel V evolve from a wannabe MTV to a cool, witty challenger to MTV to now a channel devoted to the trials and tribulations of the teenager. What is interesting is the way they are letting the brand be where the Attention Market is! The new philosophy, Correct hai, is communicated via a video featuring well-known faces in the media, telling their 16-year-old selves to follow their hearts and everything will be correct. It urges youngsters not to fear consequences and trust their gut feeling. Supported by a Twitter handle at #Dear16YearOldMe, users can leave notes for themselves. An outdoor campaign will be rolled out simultaneously advertising the channels new youth-centric shows and change in identity.


The year 2013 must be called the Year of Coke in Concord! Since 1993, Coke in India has changed tack multiple times; but now seems to be getting it right. It stabilised with the global theme Open Happiness (though I still dont know if Open is a verb or an adjective; I prefer the Hindi version) and with Coke Studio in 2011. In 2013, multiple channels starting working in concord in the Attention Market: Haan main crazy hoon on TV, Coke Studio and online and on-ground with Small World Machines.

The Small World Machines went viral and has more than 23 lakh views today. (To those who came in late, heres what the machines did: To bring the people of India and Pakistan closer, Coca-Cola used Small World Machines placed in malls in New Delhi and Lahore. Through 3D touch-screens, shoppers in both countries were encouraged to interact with their counterparts: Join hands, wave, draw peace signs, even dance together. At the end of it, the machine dispensed a can of Coca-Cola to each one). A classic case of creating value to create awareness.

Maybelline India

Maybelline Indias Super Stay 14-hour lipstick was launched with a social-media driven activity in Mumbai. Through a 14-hour countdown, people across the country were asked to tweet about things that finished too quickly using the Twitter handle #doesntlastlongenhough. The more the number of tweets, the quicker the product would be revealed! The responses were used to form the shape of the lipstick, which appeared on a large screen on a 25-foot tall recreation of New Yorks Times Square. Before the revelation, girls were asked to talk about things that dont last long enough on the brands Facebook page as well. It was supported by outdoor and print advertising.


The Indian jewellery market is still skewed in favour of wedding jewellery, but the balance between bankable jewellery and wearable jewellery is changing fast. This year, Tanishq pushed the envelope to stake its claim clearly in wearable territory with the Mia range, featuring young, independent professionals. But it did the same for its wedding range with the much talked about film on remarriage (My Facebook friends created a Head-over-Heels like button!). The brand took this forward in the online space with a campaign called Confessions of a bride to celebrate the unique ideas that the Indian bride has for her special day. Putting aside traditional expectations and practices, brides-to-be are asked to post their dream wedding idea and Tanishq could make it happen.

What does the future hold From advertising to adjacking to newsjackinga lot will change. What wont change is the need for extreme creativity and innovation. Hope you are paying attention.

Kiran Khalap

With inputs from Gayatri Shrikhande. Khalap is co-founder, Chlorophyll while Shrikhande is brand thinker and writer at Chlorophyll