Before coming to India, I expected to see cows strolling down city
streets. What I didn’t expect to see was political ads painted on their
torsos. It seems advertising has worked its way into every aspect of
This is partly due to a number of multinational brands racing to break
into the market. They obviously recognise the potential of a country
with a population of 940 million.
For the most part, Indian consumers are acquainted with western brands
and they usually flock to the latest market entries. But not all are
welcomed with open arms.
Recently, in the southern city of Bangalore, angry protesters ransacked
a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. The restaurant has since re-opened and
today police are stationed outside to prevent further rioting and
demonstrate the Indian government’s commitment and desire to lure
multinationals in spite of a few rogue groups.
All the Indian media are up to international standards. Take television.
In the past four years the number of channels has risen from two to 52.
And by next year that number is expected to reach 100.
Outdoor is a favourite medium for Indian advertisers, especially in the
southern city of Madras, where there are little or no government
restrictions. As a result, billboards line both sides of many city
streets, sometimes stacked three high, making a drive across town much
like riding through a bobsleigh course.
Creating advertising is no easy task here as there are 15 nationally
recognised languages and nearly 5,000 different dialects in India.
Similarly, adaptations of international ads don’t always work, so the
majority are produced locally.
Because of the language barriers and the many diverse religions and
cultures of India, clients have a tendency to be conservative. Even so,
some of the advertising created by Indian agencies is world class.
Although there are minor differences, advertising in India is much the
same as in the West. We use all the same equipment and face the same
And, of course, the age-old debate over logo size is alive and well
30 seconds prime-time TV dollars 8,500
Full page ad in national daily dollars 25,000
Total adspend 1995 dollars 940 million (30 per cent growth)
TV penetration 91 per cent, geographic; 81 per cent, population