Free Ride For Companies

Updated: Sep 26 2003, 05:30am hrs
Companies like LG Electronics, Kenstar Microwaves, Hitachi, Mico Spark Plugs, BPL and Okaya Auto Batteries know that advertising on scooter spare tyre covers is anything but new. But it is a hot marketing tool that is increasingly gaining currency. Reason: it costs these companies almost nothing, involves little creativity, does not require the services of an ad agency, and can be put out into the world within a few days.

Even public sector units are now playing the gamein February, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) issued a tender notice for the supply of 1,30,000 stepney covers carrying advertisements of BSNLs Cell-One, Excel and Internet among other products in Punjab.

LG, possibly one of the most prolific and visible stepney cover advertisers, has a very specific process in place to implement this form of advertising.

The companys marketing head Anil Arora told FE, This marketing exercise of getting more visibility of the brand through scooters was identified to be a very innovative and impactful way of increasing brand recall.

And just check how they do it We get the stepney covers designed and printed and use the help of idle resources in the office like drivers of company officials, and other casual employees. They are assisted and supervised by company officials in going to the high traffic places to put the advertisement covers on parked scooters, he adds.

Videocon group company Kenstar spent Rs 20 lakh last year on printing stepney covers featuring their brand ambassador chief Sanjeev Kapoor, the companys deputy general manager (marketing) Abhay Dawane reveals.

What we used to do is send stepney covers to 20 branch offices, and then these covers were sent to employees who were roped in on the contract basis for this activity at the local level. In the near future, we are planning to increase this on-going activity to our 28 branches, said Mr Dawane.

An important plus for such companies is that do not have to pay for the space that they occupy on a persons scooter stepney, like they would, for instance pay to advertise on a hoarding. But there is a flip side too: stepney covers with ads which are put onto parked scooters without the consent of the individual scooter owners amounts to an invasion of privately owned space.

A Mumbai-based copywriter with a large ad agency told FE, Scooter owners are indifferent to this form of marketing, and dont really think about it. But what they dont realise is that they are each providing these companies with very visible and lucrative ad space without being paid for it. It amounts to freeloading on a companys part.

She adds, Companies that advertise on stepney covers do not realise that the individual who owns the vehicle may not support the brand, or may not want to indulge in advertising in something he or she has not tried or tested its like pasting a Coke poster on a Pepsi buildings wall.

Of course, people have the option of discarding their unwanted new ad stepney covers, but the problem sometimes, as has happened with certain people who FE spoke to, is that the company people discard the old stepney cover when they put their cover on.

How are they so sure I dont want my old stepney cover Discarding my old one amounts to destruction of my property, says Akanksha Malik, a Samsung brand loyalist who was greeted one afternoon with a Kenstar stepney cover.

The reason this continues to be economic and viable for companies is that scooter-owners are largely indifferent to it.

Who cares They are providing me with a new stepney cover, and as long as there is a stepney cover, why should I bother, says another user.

A mixture of indifference and lack of any real regulation translates into huge marketing and advertising savings for these companies. Industry analysts say that the infrastructure required to regulate something as specific and immense as stepney cover advertising, basically a transaction, albeit one-sided, between a company and a scooter-owner, would be immense. Until that happens, these companies get a free ride.