The Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to its knees, bringing unprecedented challenges to the fore with every passing day. Consumers’ discretionary expenditure was one of the first things to take a backseat, what with cash conservation and better financial management becoming a priority for people amid a sluggish economy and the resultant job uncertainty. This was especially worrying since retail contributes 10% to the country’s GDP and 8% to the workforce.
The rapidly evolving behaviour of the home-bound consumer brought with it a massive set of challenges for businesses. Categories like essentials, broadband and internet services, OTT, health and hygiene, and personal care and grooming grew during the lockdown; consumers spent on making their home lives more comfortable. However, physical retail stores, real estate, and the restaurant industry took a massive hit, since they depend largely on the consumer being available in person.
The wait for the festive season
What with the relentless onslaught of mostly unpleasant surprises and challenges, businesses eagerly looked forward to the festive season. What’s more, the Indian Premier League (IPL), usually held between April and May each year, moved to September 2020 and overlapped with the festive season. Some popular impact properties like Kaun Banega Crorepati and Bigg Boss were also airing on TV, setting the stage for advertising investments to make a comfortable comeback.
Campaign India spoke to some experts to understand how high-spend properties, led by the IPL and the festive season, have spurred on a positive sentiment for brands and consumers alike.
Sujata Dwibedy, group trading director, Amplifi India, dentsu, explains that the brands that withheld spends in the April to June quarter have been able to invest in the IPL and the year’s quarter. “Additionally, categories that are anyway active during the festive season – e-commerce, consumer durable, retail, clothing, telecom, auto, foods – also started their campaigns.” Several new-age categories like edutech, e-services, fintech, gaming and e-pharma jumped on the festive bandwagon with never-seen-before fervour this year, she points out.
IPL as a mood-lifter
The IPL has ushered in an uplift consumer sentiment, almost being considered 2020’s first real celebration. Now that consumers are loosening their purse strings for discretionary spends thanks to the festive season, the advertising investments are flowing in to trigger an important, positive movement in a slowing economy.
Achint Sethia, vice president, marketing at Myntra says, “The IPL has been an opportunity to win back customers after a lull. Coupled with the festive season, it has proved to be a strong period for us, where our investments have grown.”
“Currently, India’s AdEx stands at 80% as compared to pre-COVID levels,” says Uday Mohan, managing partner, North and West India, Havas Media. “There definitely is positivity in the air, but it is ‘cautious optimism’ both among the marketers as well as the consumers.”
IPL spins advertising into action
The IPL has brought in a wave of advertising for the first time this year, opening up several options for advertisers thanks to its presence on TV and digital, both. While it may have impacted festive spends for several channels and publishers, the overall spends have only seen a surge. According to a TAM report, the IPL recorded a growth of 8% for average ad volumes during this year compared to last year.
Dwibedy says, “There are some advertisers who are almost using the IPL to build awareness from a scratch and some have created their campaigns with IPL as the key driver. The momentum in advertising is back.” She adds that print is seeing a recovery, as are radio and OOH. The IPL and festive season have helped brands and mediums pick up and start recovering.
“A lot of seasonal brands advertise during this time, and the IPL enabled them to have one platform to reach out to their varied set of audiences at once. Unlike previous years, this year there were a lot of small brands that were able to utilise the platform as Star India’s offerings inclined towards avenues to advertise other than Free Commercial Time – features package and packages for only a few days of IPL, among others.”
Mohan also said that brands which found it difficult to leverage the IPL because of high inventory prices were able to invest in packages as low as Rs 2-4 crores. Some of the highest spending categories have been gaming, auto, consumer durables, wallets, education and mobile phones, laying the ground for the festive season, as well.
The domino effect
The IPL has spurred growth for a lot of categories, making way for the festive season as well. How are consumers holding up at the receiving end of multiple communication?
“Honestly, marketers assume that consumers’ attention will get split across multiple platforms when they enter the season. You try getting customers’ attention with the same level of engagement and excitement to come shop,” Setia says. Running multiple campaigns with different messaging is possible by being very clear about each’s objectives. It also helps measure the campaign more accurately against its goals.
Every great challenge also brings with it opportunities to thrive. And the pandemic and the unprecedented times have helped brands re-think a lot of their strategies, spends and messaging to win customers back. Of the many things to learn from this year, adapting and moving forward beyond all odds has been one of the biggest learnings for consumers and brands alike.