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Pepsi loses its cool as Coke turns on the heat

Anil Wanvari

You have got to hand it to Coke. The once-too-slow-to-move multinational is showing remarkable agility these days. Take its response to the Pepsi mosquito commercial regarding the launch of its new cans, which shows a funky computer-generated mosquito freaking out over a can of Pepsi. The Coke riposte leaves you chuckling. It shows a mosquito whizzing around and a small sign prominently saying in the background "the lost generation." (not NeXt generation, get it). A youth swats the mosquito and picks up a can of Thums Up and says "Don't be a machchar, taste the Thunder." Clearly, squashing and squeezing out whatever benefits the market leader in India hoped to derive out of its promotion for its new can.

Pepsi and ad agency HTA have got a rap on their knuckles from Coke on another front. And the two have gone bawling to the Advertising Standards Council of India and 3A of I about the Atlanta-headquartered multinational's ripping off of its Govinda a la re commercial.

The Pepsi and HTA ad starring You have got to hand it to Coke. The once-too-slow-to-move multinational is showing remarkable agility these days. Take its response to the Pepsi mosquito commercial regarding the launch of its new cans, which shows a funky computer-generated mosquito freaking out over a can of Pepsi. The Coke riposte leaves you chuckling. It shows a mosquito whizzing around and a small sign prominently saying in the background "the lost generation." (not NeXt generation, get it). A youth swats the mosquito and picks up a can of Thums Up and says "Don't be a machchar, taste the Thunder." Clearly, squashing and squeezing out whatever benefits the market leader in India hoped to derive out of its promotion for its new can.

Pepsi and ad agency HTA have got a rap on their knuckles from Coke on another front. And the two have gone bawling to the Advertising Standards Council of India and 3A of I about the Atlanta-headquartered multinational's ripping off of its Govinda a la re commercial.

The Pepsi and HTA ad starringSachin Tendulkar was ready sometime in June and was to be aired first during the Sharjah Cup. Apparently, Coke and agency Chaitra Leo Burnett got wind of the fact that Tendulkar was to prance around in a commercial with the theme being fun and festivities associated with Gokulasthami. And they decided to pre-empt it with their own version called "Coke Ala re Ala." The Coke commercial has a montage of shots showing youth in all kinds of euphoria while swaying to Coke a la re ala. For once, viewers are left with the feeling that Coke is an Indian drink and not an American one.

Asci has apparently issued a show cause notice to Chaitra Leo Burnett asking it for an explanation on the allegations hurled at it by HTA. It's good that agencies and advertisers have recourse to Asci and 3A of I in cases, which concern ripping off. But the fact is that the market has become blazingly competitive. It will be wise if big-spenders like Coke and Pepsi actually translate three-four creative ideas into a commercialand not let the competition know which idea will be aired finally. It definitely will mean bigger spends. But it will keep the competition guessing and could lead to fewer rip-offs. And Pepsi should not worry about rip-off ads because its cola has got great brand equity with the young. Also, it shouldn't forget that it itself cocked a snook at Coke with its "Nothing official about it" campaign. Right-o folks?

Industy men fail to buy Zee denial on Star TV

So, it's finally out! Star TV is not selling its channels to Zee TV, nor is it acceding management control to it, nor is it merging with Zee TV, despite reports to the contrary in leading financial newspapers. Both Subhash Chandra and Star TV officials have called the reports sheer speculation! However, not everyone in the industry is buying their denials, calling them a smokescreen. "Something is surely happening," says an industry insider. "Zee Network CEO Vijay Jindal has been quoted as telling senior staffers that a deal is on the anvil withStar TV. It won't happen so fast though." Then why was such a big deal made about it now? Industry sources say it may have something to do with the Zee Telefilms share price. "Somebody wanted to send it zooming," says a source. "The Zee Network management is likely to do a flotation either locally or international and a strong share will get it a better deal."

The Zee Telefilms share is hovering around in the Rs 600 price range. Zee Telefilms chairman Subhash Chandra expected this allegation. Hence in his press statement he has clarified that vested interests were alleging that the share price had risen because of the merger news leaks. "Actually Zee Telefilms' performance has been very good in the first quarter and over the past few years ever since inception," he says. "There is no truth in these charges."

Only those in the financial markets and the stock market regulator will know the truth, but the fact is that some sort of rearrangement in the way the two networks function in India is on the anvil.Chandra said in his release that some contentious issues relating to shareholders' agreements as regarding Asia Today Ltd (ATL) are there and these are being sorted out. A senior Star TV executive also added that there could be some talks about the pattern of equity holding between News Corp and Subhash Chandra as they are already partners in ATL. But it was too early to say which direction they would take, he said.

Industry sources say that apart from the 80:20 (Zee TV:Star TV ownership) uplinking company and 80:20 (Star TV:Zee TV) marketing and distributing company option in the light of the restricted foreign equity regulations, another option being looked at is that of another holding company being set up in Mauritius. This will be equally owned by both Zee TV and Star TV and will have representatives from both organisations. The shareholders agreements will be better drafted and the new company will work on better coordination between Star TV and Zee TV in the Indian market, while they compete witheach other. The company will also be involved in some ad revenue sharing. Chandra's statement that he was open to ally with anyone wanting to invest in open architecture digital television technology is his admission that he is not willing to put in big money on his own behind the revolution that Star TV has started in Asia, as well as in India.

The writer can be reached at wanwari@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in or television@hotmail.com

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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