It’s been almost two years since the new advertising policy of clean feed was implemented in Nepal. The policy put brakes on the advertisement spillovers of foreign channels to Nepali audiences which many global and Indian brands were relying on for many years for their media planning. Brands had been considering almost 50% of their media mileage would come from them. Another key change it brought was to stop the use of dubbed TV commercials which was a widely prevailing norm.
The timing was a bit abrupt though, as the policy got implemented between the acute pandemic time and before the festive season in October 2020 – usually the time of the year when marketing activities are at their highest. The concept was already introduced in October 2019 aligned with the Advertising Act 2019 published in the Nepal Gazette. Mr Laxman Humagain was appointed as the chairman of the advertisement board and a timeframe of one year was given to implement the same. The board also released the advertisement code of conduct in July 2022 and is now expected to release the advertising policy within the next year.
How did the brands respond to these changes?
Few global and Indian brands were prepared beforehand and were already producing local films targeted at Nepali audiences even before the policy was implemented. The only change for them was, that now they needed to do 100% TV media planning in Nepali channels versus in the past when they could have taken leverage of 50% media spillover from foreign channels.
Some waited till the day to start planning for producing local films. Due to the pandemic and restrictions, it was an uphill task. However, the Nepali advertising fraternity and brand teams worked together to produce local films in between these challenging times – adapted concepts with Nepali insights or created new original concepts for the country. There are still a few large brands that are yet to start the process.
But many took this challenge positively as it also meant an opening for those brands to start their journey towards Nepalisation.
Nepalisation simply means there is a large opportunity to invest in understanding the consumer minds and create content driven by Nepal’s local insights. Nepal is a youth-dominated country with over 70% population below 35 years and it will remain so for the next few decades. These youth are very evolved as they have exposure to the world with the power of digital media and the internet. Like any other youth, they are not just interested in just another brand message replicated or adapted or produced for some other audiences in some part of the world. The message strategy has to speak to them in their language with cultural relevance respecting the social and cultural norms of the country. The prime factor that needs to be noted is today Nepal is a proud country with courage, so the way to win our hearts is to make a brand stand out by making its communication undergo ‘Nepalisation’ in the right terms, with an emotional connection with the land and its people.
I am sure, many marketers would love this new challenge to understand their consumers more closely. A consumer who is a lot more exposed to global trends, as compared to their forefathers, whose ambitions are larger than what the country has to offer and so a large chunk of them are going aboard or waiting to go aboard, either to study or work. They are more nationalist than ever before and passionate to make sure they succeed in their life.
With the youth full of aspiration, the country is ready to take the next leap. It’s not just the country being rebuilt physically and infrastructurally post the 2015 earthquake but also through its attitude and emotions. The national sentiments have now moved from hopelessness to hopefulness. I believe transformation came across post-earthquake 2015, which was quite visible immediately with lots of youth volunteering to help victims and also restore and build historically important sites in their neighbourhood. And the last two years of the pandemic tested their patience which has made them more resilient than ever before.
The local elections held in May 2022, brought a new dynamism by electing two young candidates – Mr Balen Shah and Miss Sunita Dongol both below 35 years. Balen is a civil engineer, a popular Nepali rapper and a politician now by profession. He is currently serving as the 15th Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City. Sunita, under 30, a heritage conservationist, Newa language activist and a beauty pageant titleholder, is the deputy mayor of Kathmandu. Such is the ambition and power of today’s youth in Nepali ecosystem.
In 2021, Nepal became a power surplus country with multiple hydro projects ready to supply electricity. The country has already started exporting electricity to India. Mobile phone penetration has exceeded 135%. The penetration of digital media and smartphones is higher than in most comparable countries. The opportunity exists in terms of driving the consumer digitalisation journey. Lot many scalable business models, especially with manufacturing based is yet to explore with the recent initiative of 'Make in Nepal - Swadeshi' advocacy. In the future, if remittance coming from abroad is coupled with industrialisation and high local employment, the country will make vast progress fueling further consumerism. The road connectivity in the country is also increasing which is helping FMCG brands to have better market linkages across the country and given the fact that Nepal has the highest beauty quotient consumer in the region. From a demographic perspective, the country also has increasing urbanisation with a highly aspirational consumer class.
The policy also brought in opportunities for local production teams who have been working with their agency counterparts to produce global standard creative outputs. Also, the demand for local artists, celebrities and influencers has soared with many becoming brand ambassadors and campaign endorsers. This has helped boost the Nepali creative industry and many youths now aspire to use the creative industry and make it a career choice. Also, multiple new international franchise shows including high-value domestic content are launched on Nepali TV channels which has increased viewership and content engagement. There is also some high-value local content exclusive to YouTube channels which have also started during the period with demand for entertainment content going up among Nepali audiences. Few new TV channels got launched during this time with a larger entertainment portfolio giving an advantage to advertisers to create optimized media plans.
Overall, we could say that the implication of clean feed in Nepal has opened new avenues and opportunities for the marketing and advertising ecosystem in the country. Consumer insights, strategic thinking and planning are taking center stage among the agency and brand team, unlike in the past when marketers were largely tactically driven to meet immediate sales targets. Nepal has always been a country that welcomes any positive change and this time the clean feed policy has shown a heavy boon for the marketing industry not just commercially but also in broadening the thinking process. Thus, helping in the overall growth of the industry as well.
The author is the founder and managing director of Outreach Nepal and the author of ‘Brandsutra’.