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Seldom has a community puja in West Bengal kicked up as much controversy as the Deshapriya Park Durga Puja this year. Perhaps, there is no record of a government clamp-down on viewing a Durga idol because of fears of a stampede.
The unprecedented run of events soured the festive mood of the revellers and the pandal-hoppers. But it is the sponsor company, Century Plyboards (India) Limited and its subsidiary, Cement Manufacturing Company Limited that makes Star Cement, which are among the major losers. They had to silently witness their multi-million rupee promotional campaign going awry.
In recent years, corporates have played a major role in funding community pujas in the State. But the concept acquired a new dimension with the advertisement blitzkrieg launched for Star Cement. ,The plan was to ride on the ‘awe factor’ of the world’s largest Durga idol to promote the cement. As the police dropped the curtains on the gala show, the crowds (some of whom had come from neighbouring States after seeing the ads) returned disappointed, and the company is feeling sore, with its aim all but defeated. It was unprecedented action on the part of the administration, but its inevitability was beyond question.
Cement Manufacturing Company Ltd. mounted a multi-million-rupee advertisement campaign in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and the North-east to attract people to Deshapriya Park, a sprawling municipal park where a gigantic Durga idol made of fibreglass was erected atop a puja mandap (called pandal in these parts).
A brilliant teaser ad planned by JWT was run for months in the run-up to the pujas, which began on October 21. “It sparked such curiosity that people came from the neighbouring States and started asking for directions to Deshapriya Park the moment they alighted at Howrah station,” said a source connected to the developments. The sponsors had expected one-crore footfalls over the five puja days.
However, before the festive period commenced, people started pouring in lakhs, converging on the venue by October 18, a Sunday, choking all roads leading to the park. “I have stayed in this area for nearly 50 years and have never seen anything like this before… Vehicles and milling crowds clogged all the roads,” rued a septuagenarian.
Over two days, some eight lakh people were estimated to have landed at the venue, precipitating the action that led to a virtual closure of the pujas mid-way. “The promotional campaign could not be sustained, and the objective of a positive recall and brand association was not achieved,” said a company official.
Lessons to be learnt
Is there any lesson to be learnt from this fiasco? Advertising industry professionals The Hindu spoke to said too much hype seemed to have been generated by the campaign which could not be anticipated. “However, it is always advisable to be forward-thinking in such matters,” said one of them. An industry captain said that while the initiative (of putting up the world’s biggest idol) was laudable, it was important to make the arrangements necessary to handle the likely outcome. “That seems to have been lacking in this case. An advertisement is not only about grabbing increased market share, it is also about creating brand value,” he said.
Star Cement owners have units in Assam, Meghalaya and Durgapur. Along with their parent, they were the only sponsors of this puja, marking a ubiquitous presence at the puja grounds.
With a 22 per cent share of the cement market in the North-east, the company wanted the aggressive ad campaign to jack up its market share in the eastern region. That was not to be. Now, efforts are on to park the idol at some other prominent place. It is not known whether the company will mount a renewed bid to project its brand alongside Devi Durga, trying its luck for the second time.
From: The Hindu