On the sidelines of AdAsia 2017, Ujaya Shakya, vice president, Advertising Association of Nepal (AAN) and the founder & managing director of Outreach Nepal took time out to discuss the future of advertising in the Himalayan kingdom. Excerpts:
How is the advertising industry shaping up in Nepal? What are the opportunities?
We can easily start with saying that the advertising industry is growing rapidly in Nepal with expanding media options across print, television, radio and the rapid rise of digital media. Media owners have started to invest in good content production both internally and in partnership with international franchises like Fremantle media and others, which is helping to gain a sizeable audience for the domestic TV channels in the recent times.
The show Nepal Idol was a huge success with almost the whole nation interacting on social media during the final rounds. Similarly there are many new investments that are now taking place in the GEC formats that used to be largely news dominated content in the past due to uncertainties. There are also investments happening in sports properties like Everest Premier League (EPL) as the Nepali Cricket team has started to perform well in the region. Channels have bought all the telecast rights for sporting events like EPL and All Nepal Football Associations (ANFA) events. These events are projected to expand the viewership giving more options to marketers to reach their target audience in the most effective manner.
I am a true optimist. I only see opportunities from here on. With the GDP growth rate of 7.5% last year and continuous stability for the last few years have given constant high business growth to both local and international companies, making them interested to invest in localising branded content specific to Nepal. This gives immense opportunity for Nepalese creative professionals to showcase and contribute with good advertising ideas. The nation is gaining momentum now and investments will flow which will contribute to our industry either way.
Is the advertising industry keeping pace with these developments?
Media planning and buying, PR, Activation and Digital are in the true sense, still at a very juvenile stage. This will grow exponentially if we can provide more planned solutions to our clients. Print readership is still growing with increasing literacy rates even in semi-urban and rural Nepal. While TV, cable & DTH penetration is expanding fast and with a 97 per cent mobile penetration and over 40 per cent internet penetration, digital media will rapidly grow. Digital media for me is the huge unconquered segment, which will revolutionise the industry soon. While the whole world is still discovering it, in Nepal we have just taken baby steps. Digital media is also where the opportunities lie in the coming years.
What keeps you awake at night about this business?
I consider ‘idea' is the key for our industry to flourish, for which we need people with a fresh creative outlook. We need high level creative resources to create and position our industry as lucrative as any other profession. We are losing out many good people from the industry to other organised and expanding sectors like banking, insurance, corporate and international development sector projects among others.
The Advertising Association of Nepal (AAN) will have to play a key role in organising talks and workshops to encourage fresh minds to ‘think different’ and join our fraternity. We are already in discussion with regional organisations like Asian Federation of Advertising Associations (AFAA) about introducing a few programs in Kathmandu like showcasing of International Award winning works, bringing successful creative honchos to interact with young minds and hosting creative competitions at college levels and so on.
There are other industry issues like introducing syndicated media data which is also in discussion but, none more important than generating new ideas and attracting young minds to our industry.
Is the business of advertising regulated or censored by the Government? What are some conditions?
We have a policy to do government censorship of TV Commercials before releasing on National TV channels. Others like a Clean Feed Policy and localised production of branded content are in process but not implemented as of now. There are also discussions going on for setting up of the Advertising Council but the modality is yet to get prepared.
What is one prediction for 2018 and beyond that you would like to make about the future of the ad business in your country?
As I said earlier, I am very optimistic about our future. A lot of investment is going into good content which is expanding the Nepalese audience base. This will help bring about more effective results for our clients’ businesses.
With growth in digital penetration and young creative minds joining the industry, there will be many new innovations which will further help to disrupt our industry and will bring more growth momentum.
Nepalese advertising is also getting recognised in the region. An activation agency from Nepal, Lemon, has been doing extremely good creative work in the recent years. They got the maximum awards in South Asia Category at the Flame Awards Asia 2017 organised by Rural Marketing Association of India (RMAI), ahead of entries from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. My own agency, Outreach Nepal has also won ‘Independent Agency of the Year Award 2016 (Bronze)’ last December with Campaign South Asia. This was a first for Nepal. We also recently won 14 metals at the 9th Crity Awards 2017, a creative award hosted by Advertising Association of Nepal (AAN). Our entries were shortlisted at Ad Stars Busan, South Korea as the finalist for two consecutive years. Nepal is recognised for the first time within Marico for the campaign of SETWET in their internal marketing excellence awards, where all their international offices participate. All these are very positive signs for Nepal advertising industry to expand further and bring more innovations in future.
I also see a good future for localisation of content, large scale brand activation businesses, organised media planning & buying for more effective ROI and of course, digital disruptions. There are already many new examples in the digital projects that are doing extremely well for the brands continuously reaching out to the consumers.
And of course, we being between the two giant economies of the world (India and China), which are both doing extremely well, we have vast opportunities, where the advertising industry can also play a crucial role.
If you had to change one thing about the ad business what would it be?
The traditional way of thinking that advertising means the process of making and running television commercials, print advertisements etc… has to go away. The new thinking has to be introduced where we are sitting together with the client to think on the ‘media neutral ideas’ that can work across different touch points to bring effective business results. In this sense, even the clients’ attitude towards the agency has to change and they should involve agency teams from the very beginning of product development, not just use it to provide marketing communication services once everything has been done. Client should start considering the agency as their extended brand team and facilitate a synergy so that they can both work together for the larger purpose. All these will need more investment in talent management at the agency business, which clients need to acknowledge and should be willing to compensate on a similar scale.
Not just clients, even media custodians, should be willing to work together with both agencies and brands from the very beginning to introduce relevant content and collaborate with brands providing platforms which will help brands to reach larger audiences more effectively. This will work towards to create good partnership between all the three major stakeholders – advertisers, agencies & media owners.
I feel it is a time for all stakeholders to collaborate and create a conducive atmosphere for the ad industry. Twisting the old saying a bit, “Together we will win, divided the industry will suffer,” is what I believe in.