Saturday, January 26, 2008

Auto-rickshaws - The ideal advertising medium for Internet start-ups

By now, most of us would have seen a lot of dot com ads on the back of auto-rickshaws and cabs/taxis. IMHO, this form of advertising is ideal for Internet start-ups/ventures - it's economical and effective.

The ability to burn a fortune on fancy TV/Print/Radio/Billboards advertisements is not a viable option for most Internet companies given the scale of their operations and the low monetization opportunities in the industry. Instead, if one is able to put up their brand on 500-1000 autos in each of the major cities (@Rs. 100 per auto per month), their brand is sure to be seen by a majority audience at a fraction of the cost that it would otherwise require to reach the same audience.

All the people I have spoken to in Mumbai have seen ads by MouthShut, Khichdee & MapMyIndia on Autos.
All of the people I have spoken to in Chennai have seen ads by TestingJobz on Autos here.
All of the people I have spoken to in Delhi have seen ads by PropertySensex and BuySellOldBooks on Autos and SeventyMM on Cabs.
Also, since people follow the traffic, you tend to see the ad for a prolonged period. From whatever I have read, these dot coms have employed close to 200-500 autos in the respective cities. And it sure is being noticed.

Brand Association
I have had several discussions with those in the marketing industry about this form of advertising. More often than not, marketers would tell you that the associations resulting from such advertising would affect the brand adversely. They'll add adjectives like 'cheap,' 'shabby,' and 'shady' to get their point across. I couldn't agree less. MouthShut, which pioneered the concept, has been exploiting this economical and effective method since 2001 and I don't know anyone who thinks of MouthShut as a 'cheap,' shabby' or 'shady' site - even after 6 years of advertising on auto-rickshaws. MapMyIndia, Kijiji, and SeventyMM are some of the other dot coms that have also warmed up to this form of advertising - all of them being dot coms that provide great value to online consumers.

Anyways, those who accept and adopt this innovative form of advertising stand to gain customers without spending much. The cynics can continue to burn their precious funds on traditional media and feel good about the sophistication of their brand.


G Praveen Kumar said...

his was good low cost branding option which from the last 5-6 years lot of startups have been has good visibility than a hoarding in moderate location...we can take this option for also if the budget permits ;-)

Nimish V Adani said...

:-) It'll surely be a part of my recomendations.

Joe said...

Bingo :)

helluva lotta monies are burnt in Internet industry, primarily because of the assumptive rigidness of marketeers towards exploring innovative & cost effective avenues to spread the brand. Majority of them fail to understand that the brand here is a URL and requires constant bombarding, which is only possible through such mediums.
When they are taking the biggest risk of launching a dotcom , why not a simple marketing risk?? Probably you need to write a book on this Nimish ;)

Nimish V Adani said...

Joe, one of the books that is worth reading on the subject of innovative marketing is Purple Cow by Seth Godin. It talks about the need for marketers to innovate rather than live in the traditional advertising time warp. This is even more important for Internet companies which have negligible budgets.

Also, I would recommend those in the marketing business to read Seth Godin's blog. Quite insightful.

Joe said...

The book this was a "Sarcastic Dig" at "Text book" Marketeers ;) who trust the printed words more than simple logic :p

Thanks for the link Nimish :)

sarathy said...

Auto ads are very cool and inexpensive

Nimish V Adani said...

Hey Sarathy, nice to see you here. And am glad you agree.

Abhishek Shah said...

very much ! infact am from kolkata and this concept hasnt caught up much there yet...but in delhi i see it all around.

Its very effective & economical communication medium....though i feel just sticking the url doesnt utilise the opportunity to fullest.

wht's say - it could be used to launch teasers and viral campaigns ...

yes there are some concerns of brand image to be tackled while adopting such communication mediums. I dont think its 'cheap' outright , if used in the right way.

Nimish V Adani said...


You make a valid point by saying that sticking the URL isn't necessarily the best way to advertise on autos... But then autos are always on the move and onlookers would just get time to glance through the sticker for a couple of seconds... Thus, it may be difficult to communicate in greater depth... Thus, if your URL communicates your business, it's best just to splash the autos with the URL.

As for teasers... yes, autos could be effectively used to kick-off a teaser campaign... But virals... no. A viral campaign essentially involves a chain of communication and I don't see much which could be done through autos.

As for the brand image debate... the jury is divided on it... Those with a traditional outlook on marketing and branding will never approve the concept and I find it impossible to convince them... They are too used to wasting millions of rupees to build the brand rather than building value for the consumer/customer.

chacha said...

I agree, those always catch my attention.

Branding.. ehh... I would say lets first get the brand come up. And I doubt it effects branding.