Online marketing for a ‘Godman’…. nearly!

This happened a few years ago. At a search engine marketing conference in Singapore, I got acquainted with someone who had started his own broadcast media consultancy/ media sales company. A highly experienced media sales executive, he had worked in many cities around the world with reputed media companies and advertising agencies before settling down in Singapore and venturing out on his own. Owing to his contacts, he had already obtained the exclusive rights to sell ad slots for a sports channel in the Asia Pacific, where this channel didn’t have a significant presence in those days. He was nice to talk to and we spent quite a bit of time during the conference speaking to one another and agreed to stay in touch after the event. May be, we could help one another with some business, we thought.

A few days later, we agreed to meet up over coffee. After the initial pleasantries that centered around the birth of my daughter (which happened at about the same time as the above mentioned conference), he mentioned that his family is involved with a charity organisation connected with a Swamiji in India. He seemed extremely reverential towards the Swamiji and had a lot to talk about the effect the latter had on his family. The young Swamiji is a great thinker, a philosopher whose wisdom belies his age. Now, Swamiji was due to come to Singapore in a few months’ time and the charity wanted to plan for the event and make it extremely successful. The charity wanted to explore using online marketing to attract visitors to the 2 or 3-day event.
Would I be interested in pitching for the business, my new friend asked? And like most would be clients that we seem to deal with, he emphasised that the charity will not have a large budget for marketing! I agreed to give it a bit of thought, check out the Swamiji’s website and then take a call on whether my company would be interested in pitching to promote the young Godman.

As promised, I went back and checked out the website I had been referred to. The Swamiji was indeed quite young– he seemed quite boyish in fact. I patiently went through a couple of videos where the Godman articulated his views. To be honest, I was disappointed- I didn’t feel the aura of a very strong spiritual leader; his talks missed the magnetic appeal that I have experienced with a couple of other spiritual leaders whose talks on the Bhagvad Gita I had heard. My ‘research’ on this ‘prospect’ left me with a slight heaviness of some emptiness- that itchy sensation of ’something’s not right’. Nevertheless, I worked out a proposal for online marketing for the Swamiji’s programme in Singapore and sent it over to my friend.

Then came the follow-up stage. Every few days, I would touch base with my friend, asking about the status of our proposal. “It is still under consideration”; “The board of trustees will be discussing it” ; “Is there any scope for reducing the service fees and the advertising budget you’ve specified?”; “We are expecting a decision soon” ……. thus went the responses. Slowly, I cut down the frequency of my follow-up, thereby signaling the downgrading of the saintly prospect from a ‘hot’ one to a ‘lukewarm’ one.

A few weeks later, I saw the headline on Rediff – the God-man was caught in a video sting in a compromising position with an aspiring starlet! “Swamiji has been framed” was the immediate response from his Trust; however, he was soon in hiding. I am not sure how exactly the case panned out- and whether the young Swamiji still continues his practice (I haven’t bothered to check out his website even as I write this a few years after I had first heard of him and submitted my proposal to market his religious discourses in Singapore).

I look back with the realisation that it is better not to have some clients in your portfolio; thank God for saving me from that (God)man!

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