How many you have?

ramanujamsridhar's picture


Do you remember the 'How many you have' Fastrack ad?   Did you get it?   I didn't.  So what?  I am 53 years old (as though you asked).  But why is my age important?  Simple really. I am not the target audience for Fastrack watches. The target audience for the new Fastrack is clearly a college student. Okay let me explain the commercial even if you do not remember it. It is set in a college classroom. And the lecturer is taking attendance. (This must be quite a relief for parents like me who secretly and silently wonder whether they actually do stuff like "taking attendance"). But let's cut to the chase. A student's name is called out. The handsome kid is wearing a Fastrack watch and is the cynosure of all (or is it only female eyes?).  Some 3 or 4 (drooling) female classmates of his say "Yes Sir" in differing tones of appreciation. Are they noticing our hero or his watch?  Our hero is embarrassed, but doesn't seem to be resenting the attention. The class is bemused and taking a well-deserved break. The product shot is followed by the tag line "How many you have?" an oblique reference to the number of watches a person could own, or the number of admirers that he could have, thanks to the sexy watches he sports. The super does mention the lineage "a Titan product".   Now do I like the commercial?  Interesting question. I certainly recall it. But let me raise a few questions first, even if they are not as succinct as "How many you have?".


Who are you talking to?


"It is important to remember that people are an audience first and consumers later".    Now, I am part of the audience for Fastrack watches. But I am not going to wear a Fastrack watch even if it suggests the possibility of 18 year olds noticing me. I can almost see the fastrack brand manager heaving a sigh of relief.  If anything, I can fork out the money for my 18-year old son who might like his classmates to admire him even if they tease him in the bargain. This leads me to an important if not terribly original concept.  Many of us (and I am no exception) suffer from generational myopia. I assume that just because I too had passed through the age of 18, albeit, a small matter of 35 years ago, I know all about today's 18 year olds. And therein lies the rule. Today's kid is different.  And in a sense the Fastrack commercial depicts the changing values, lifestyles and aspirations of today's college kids. A Tamil Brahmin born, in Mylapore (hey that's me!) might be shocked. But the target audience is a second year Economics student in St. Xavier's, Mumbai. I don't matter. So how many of us view advertising with our own perceptual biases?


Yes, advertising works.   And don't believe anything that you may hear, to the contrary.



From watches to shoes


Let me jog your memory.  When did you last buy a pair of shoes?  Let's assume you walk into a Bata store. What does the salesman do?   He looks at your feet; hardly surprising but true. He gauges your size, determines what your budget is, forms an assessment whether your feet are broad or narrow, whether you're square or fuddy-duddy, whether you are more likely to buy Hush Puppies or a Hawaai Chappal and so on. In fact if he is a good salesman he has to be obsessed with your feet. You might even say he has a foot fetish. So here is someone who is observant but more significantly someone who has empathy. Figuratively and literally he has put himself in your shoes. The trouble is, that very often we are unable to put ourselves in the consumer's shoes. After all its not easy to put yourself in an 18-year-old's shoes or try to wear what he is wearing on your wrist.  And that is the strength of the Fastrack commercial. Rather than using antiquated expressions like "Cool" (which incidentally was "with it" in 1970 too) they exclaim "How many you have". Today's kids might know Damien Martyn but Wren & Martin?  That's a bit much. Remember this is the SMS generation, which means that "I lv u 4 ever" means "We will see each other this week." Let's not intimidate this generation.   After all if you can't beat them, you might as well join them.


Love me or hate me but ...


When the Fastrack commercial was running, I did check out reactions to it with a few kids (read 18-years-olds). The response has been "Awesome" to "Dabba" (this basically means junk). This is a feature of today's kids. They don't hold back. And why indeed should they? The commercial fulfills an important communication principle. Remember this, "You can either love me or hate me but for God's sake don't ignore me". It was difficult to ignore this commercial. And a quick check at the market place seems to suggest that there has been an immediate, positive reaction on the brand's sales, helped doubtless by the new range, many of which are in the Rs.500/- price bracket Yes, advertising works. And don't believe anything that you may hear, to the contrary.


Now let's take a quick look at the brand's advertising over the years. The first communication was product-led. The music track was Titan's much recalled one, but this time it was whistled. The images were young and the sign-off was "Cool watches from Titan." (Now isn't that adjective familiar?) The next communication was funkier with models whose hairstyles were the heralds of Andy Symonds' current style. Then Fastrack launched eye gear using John Abraham. Then came the commercial in question which is more of attitude and less of product. In a subtle manner, it urged kids to own more than one watch, implying too that it is okay to have more than one female admirer. And just one more thing


Very often we are unable to put ourselves in the consumer's shoes. 



Why don't you practi(s)e what you preach.


And while it is okay for kids to speak with scant regard for grammar, I am not sure corporations can have the same luxury.    I was taken aback to receive the Wipro Annual Report with the headline "Practi(c)ing values to create value".  Clearly, I think there is something wrong.  I remember how I used to remember the right usage of "practise" versus "practice": "I need to practise my English" was what I would keep reminding myself.  I daresay Wipro might well say that they are talking to American audiences.  But then I live in India and I am a shareholder of the company and wonder why such a glossy, well-brought out annual report should have such a shocker on the headline.   It again comes back to my original question.   "Who are you talking to?"  "How many you have" is bang-on to a casual 18 year old.   "Practicing Values" is simply not cricket to a 53 year-old who learnt the rigours of the Queen's English under the stern eyes and even sterner cane of an English teacher, who, sadly, is no more.   I wonder what he would say to "How many you have".   I am reasonably certain as to what he would say about "Practicing values".   That would need another column! 


Ramanujam Sridhar is CEO brand-comm, which offers public relations advertising and brand consulting.   Feedback can be mailed to 


Issue BG74 May07