Brands engage in Hamala; What’s so special about you Mr. Dhamala?
‘Janta Janna chahancha’, a Nepalese copy of the infamous Arnab Goswami ‘Nation wants to know’ catchphrase, is broadcasted every night like a clockwork at Prime Time Television through our own infamous version of Mr. Goswami, Rishi Dhamala. Dhamala’s boisterous persona has turned him into a larger than life character, as the interviewees often end up becoming mute spectators. The interviews instead have become a platform where Dhamala forces his opinions on his interviewees. Whether it be his infamous interview of Paras Khadka, or a heated interview of Prachanda, Dhamala has earned himself top spot in the Nepalese media interview space. It is not a surprise that brands have lined up to have their product advertised on Dhamala’s talk show. What we are curious about, however, is that often competing brands are juxtaposed side by side on his talk show. For any brands, placing their ad next to a competing brand defeats the whole purpose of advertisement. At most, their brand awareness might increase but so will their rivals. Brand awareness alone does not make a brand. So, why are competing brands okay to be placed alongside their competitors on Dhamala’s talk show in particular. Let’s take a deep dive to find out why.
First, as mentioned above, Dhamala’s eccentric interview style has been lapped up by the Nepalese audience making his programmes one of the most sought after by the brands. After all, the brand visibility that Dhamala provides through his eccentrities are not just limited to the airwaves. They make waves on other social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook and YouTube as well. So, at least on paper, finding any slots whether through TVC ad or product/brand placement in the show seems to be a commonsensical strategy.
Second, and more importantly, it seems that popular TV personalities have taken brands hostage, as brands might fear negative criticisms from viral figures like Dhamala. Unless the brand manager of a particular company is particularly incompetent to see the negative consequence of having their brands being juxtaposed next to a competing brand, it makes no sense otherwise. It almost seems like brands are investing money without second thought not to prop up their brand value but to further bolster Dhamala’s show as a strong brand.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, another reason could be the brand-media-politics industry complex. For a country that consistently ranks as one of the most corrupt nations in the world, it won’t come as a surprise to find out that there is an unholy nexus between media houses , politicians and businesses. For example, it is common knowledge about the anti Kulman Ghising crusade Kantipur media house went on after he solved the decade long load shedding crisis. While we cannot make this argument with absolute certainty, Kantipur publications received major backlash after labelling Ghising as being complicit in energy efficient lightbulb procurement deal. While they never issued any apology for such blatant character asssassination attempt, Ghising suffered dire emotional stress from such attempt. So, this we say with absolute certainty that major publication houses have operated beyond their mandate in the name of free speech in the name of ‘investigative’ journalism while continuing to profit from their alliance with major brands and politicians. It won’t, therefore, come as a surprise that one of the prime investors in Prime Time Television is the notorious businessman Durga Prasai, who has gained notoriety for serving Prachanda and K.P Oli ‘Marsi bhat’, To say that Mr. Dhamala would not have any conflict of interest in his journalism to criticize Mr. Prasai would be idiotic. Similarly, we could deduce that this craze to force their brand advertising in a clearly counterproductive fashion thus amounts to nothing more than rent-seeking( Hafta Usuli, as we popularly know it).
So, what can brands do to better market their product/ brands? For one, they could divest their marketing budget in more CSR related ad campaigns. While Nepal is not untouched from the rapid development in internet and satellite technologies, most of the consumers still rely on grass root brand awareness. Moreover, for a corrupt nation, Nepalese citizens tend to be one of the most sociopath-politically conscious population in terms of global comparison. Therefore, the mileage that brands can gain from active civic engagement cannot be underestimated. For sure, a brand might gain more brand awareness by placing its ads on one of the most popular TV shows ( even if the popularity is more for the entertainment value the show provides). However, brand awareness alone does not equate to customer acquisition. Engaging in CSR activities will help not just create brand awareness but increase brand value as well. Simply placing a Maruti cements ad next to Shivam cements will only invite ridicule to both brands.
So, how do you want to advertise your brands? JANATA JANNA CHAHANCHA