Step 11. AV VAN( Video on Wheels)- an effective medium
Rural communication is synonymous with AV van operations in rural markets. Many corporates who have used the medium in the past, believe that it offers poor value for money. Probing further, one finds that many of them have not used the medium properly, hence their opinion about the medium is skewed. Van operations, if planned well, and deployed as part of a bigger multimedia campaign, has greater value as compared to it being used singly.
Van Operation – A Key Element of the Marketing Mix
Today, it is not only used as an awareness creating medium, but is also used for merchandising activities, sampling, actual selling, identifying distribution outlets, and also collecting valuable data from the villages. This data can be put to good use in the future. If imaginatively used and planned well, it is one of the most powerful of all rural marketing tools.
Points to Remember . . .
Do not own your own van. The difficulties accompanying ownership are high. Many fertilizer companies in the past tried to own vans and gave up because of the operational hassles involved. An exception would be the case of Eveready batteries. The company owns and operates a large fleet of vans, which are used both for distribution and as well as a promotional tool.
Choose the services of a local service provider in each region. There are many in each region, who have survived the initial problems and who are now offering excellent services. Besides, the regional service provider knows the local terrain and language, which helps a lot in the smooth operation of the van programme.
Choose the type of van depending on the purpose and the impact expected to be created. Decorate the van suitably to make it attractive, communicating the basic message of the product, when it is moving from town to town.
Even chassis of trucks are hired and the body specially fabricated as per approved design and for specific brand promotion. Specially fabricated trucks offer scope for display and demonstration of products requiring closed or dust free environment like electronic goods, laptops etc.
The software used in the audio must be carefully prepared to attract the audience. Apart from company’s jingle, it could feature parody songs (you take a popular tune, re-record the song with lyrics promoting companies products) mimicry, featuring voice of famous film stars, politicians, etc. (nobody entertains better than film stars and politicians!)
Similarly, the video programme played through the van must be carefully produced to make it a good “edutainment” film. It should not be of more than 10 minutes length, and must be designed to hold the interest of the audience. Dubbing sequences from popular films, with the campaign message, using the services of mimicry artists has been found to be very effective.
A gimmick to involve the audience, in the form of a game or contest, and attractive prizes for the participants, is a must. If the gimmick is centered on the product, results would be even better. In fact, the gimmick must be used to make the participants mouth the brand being promoted. This will leave a lasting impression on the crowd gathered.
Plan something for the children in the audience. They are important carriers of your message to their respective homes.
Select the target audience carefully and plan the van programme accordingly. If your target audience is children, there is no point in conducting the show in chandies. Select schools. If your target audience is women go to the residential areas to attract the women through events in which they can participate. If you are targeting men, go to the villages in the evening. If your target audience cuts across age/income categories, choose places where the crowd gathers like chandies, village markets, bus stands, etc.
The audio and video software for the van must be prepared with the help of professionals who understand the region’s peculiarities. If the van announcer is trained to adapt himself to the local dialect, it enhances the impact of the programme.
On the face of it, van operations look expensive. But they are important to carry your messages to the interiors.
Do not participate in van operations dealing with multiple brands (of other companies).
Engage a professional agency, to plan the program in such a way, that you leave behind a residual impact of the brands in the imagination of the target audience for weeks if not months.
It is also important to do a follow up operation after a couple of months. This could be done using local vehicles with the help of local dealers, featuring only audio messages. Or, if you have collected a database of addresses, do a direct mail campaign.
Use all the available media formats, as part of a well thought out integrated campaign, to reach the rural masses.
Most important, do not look on van operations merely as a propaganda vehicle but as the powerful MARKETING TOOL that it is.
(Extracts from the book `Don`t Flirt with Rural Marketing` by RV Rajan, published by Productivity and Quality Publishing Private, Chennai. The author is the former Chairman of Anugrah Madison Advertising)