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Corporate biggies romancing the Taj

By Ashish Sinha in New Delhi
June 26, 2007 04:08 IST
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I Media Corporation, part of the Bhaskar group, has drawn up a Rs 70-crore advertising blitz to support the "Vote for Taj" campaign, part of a global voting exercise to include archeological sites in the list of seven new wonders of the world.

It has also roped in two leading sponsors, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (which is using it to promote its Fair and Lovely) and time-share company Club Mahindra.

The company has received the exclusive marketing rights to publicise the Indian leg of the voting from Swiss-based New Seven Wonders Foundation, which is conducting the global campaign for a new list.

The foundation, however, does not have the support of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), which earmarked the older Seven Wonders of the World list.

To bolster support, I Media has also roped in music composer AR Rehman, who will create spots and jingles on television and radio for the movement. Star TV, Zee and Sony are already offering I Media spots at discounted rates or on barter to popularise the voting campaign. Star has offered about 300 seconds of spots every day.

Internet companies like Yahoo, Rediff, MSN and NDTV are also offering the campaign free advertising space. In addition, I Media has tied up with mobile companies like Reliance, Airtel and Vodafone Essar through which consumers can vote.

For instance, Vodafone Essar has sent out SMSs to over 6 million customers asking them to vote for the Taj. Voters have to pay Rs 3 per SMS, which is shared between I Media and the telecom service provider.

"The messages are being localised, so in Uttar Pradesh our message is "UP ka shaan, Bharat ka maan", while in Maharashtra, it will be different," said a Vodafone Essar executive.

Sources say the campaign, for which voting will close on July 6 midnight, has already attracted over 5 million votes through SMS and about 12 million votes on the Internet. "If the Taj Mahal has to come within the top seven positions, it will require at least 16-18 million votes," an industry source said.

Contrary to popular opinion in India, the Taj has never featured in the list of Seven Wonders of the World. Over the past seven years, the list of candidates has come down from 100 to 77 to 21. Of the 21 finalists, the final seven will be declared on July 7 after a global voting exercise.

"Despite no support from the government of India, large numbers of Indians have been voting for it," said Bharat Kapadia, chairman, I Media.

A tourism ministry official said the project was a private campaign that was not recognised by UNESCO. "We support the project as Indians. Officially, however, we cannot support it because it is a private affair," he added.

Others in the competition include the Acropolis, Chichen Itza (a large Maya and Toltec village and temple complex on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico), the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, Petra, the Statue of Christ Redeemer and the statues of Easter Island.

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Ashish Sinha in New Delhi
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