It is official. The shape was “U”
The recession was thrust down on India. We were last in and first out. Global companies showed more caution than Indian; and a few sectors like Finance, Realty, and, to an extent, Auto and Telecom, did slow down. Worst affected was 2008-9, and first half of 2009-10. In 2010-11 they have all bounced back and we have revised 2010-11 growth from 14 to 24%. While we read 2009-10 perfectly, we were all pleasantly surprised by the extent of the bounce back; especially Print where we went bizarrely wrong — expecting 7% growth in 2010-11, it will grow 26%.
The collateral damage of the downturn was the flux created because of pitches with clients looking for the bottom of the barrel price. This is hopefully behind us. We got more than our fair share of wins so we are not complaining, but Clients looking at changing Agency relationships for price alone to me is sounding as opportunistic as Channel Owners (along with Hotels and Airlines) scalping their customers when they get the opportunity. More on that later.
Digital is not just fashionable anymore, it is serious business
Till 2008, Digital was a top up that most marketers asked for to keep abreast of a phenomenon that would become important one day. In 2009 with the downturn, regrettably but not unexpectedly, marketers played “safe”. And rather than seize the Digital opportunitythey trusted TV over others, and Digital growth slowed down rather than accelerating.
But now I am getting a feeling in my bones that the inflexion point for Digital is not far away.A few reasons:
- The 50-70 million internet user base number is getting disputed less, driven by one off sites like Facebook, Yahoo and Google showing their own India site penetration numbers in the range of 15-20 mn; Unofficial data from the likes of Tata Photon, Reliance dataconnect etc., indicating sales by the millions; overall legitimising critical mass to broadband connections. As a result, purely from a media agnostic standpoint, the Reach and CPMs offered by Digital at far lower outlays is a superior proposition to any other medium.
- Advertisers are now able to get a sense of “marketing products” in digital: They see advertising of course – banner and video; they see the power of search in finding the consumer when it matters most, and they see the power of word of mouth that social media can bring about. We see a vast opportunity in advertising, social and search; and all will be growth drivers.
- A bit immodestly if I may add, Marketing Services majors such as ourselves are putting our weight behind Digital. I believe when a few of us integrated marketers walk the digital talk, the impact will be measured on the Richter scale (second of course to Rajnikanthsaar). Against the 32%, we are expecting Industry to grow Digital in 2010-11, our billings growth will top 55%.
- Key enablers/ barriers to this juggernaut will be measurement (Ratings equivalent) and influx of good creative. The former is being addressed. The latter if Creative Agencies don’t embrace, Media Agencies will fill the void.
Game is getting polarized between little high end premium and a large commoditized inventory
In 2010, close to 500 channels would have generated 82 mn 10” ad units and 4.4 m n All India C&S 10” GRPs. That comes to 0.05 TVR/ spot. Over 93% of all GEC TV inventory is below 1 rating. In 2010 GroupM would have released over 10 million TV spots, 1.6 million radio spots and 280,000 press inserts. Separately GroupM on average carried about 50% of the inventory of the tentpole programming on GEC/ Cricket.
This TV scenario pretty much characterises media today. Pay a premium for reach, clutter breaking impact, salience and association, and treat everything else as one more eyeball that can be picked up. This will truly change the way Media planning and buying is done, especially with there being no abatement in the launch of channels/publishers, and inflexion point on subscription sales contribution still being a few years away.Ad Serving will become a huge opportunity as inventory gets more commoditised and digitised. Savvy Agencies will be able to buy time and space and convert that into valuable targeted audiences for their clients.
On High Reach shows, more accountability will happen. An impact show on TV charges a 4X premium on CPM and a premium position in a newspaper charges 2-4X. These will be questioned if not accompanied by high reach.
We are at the cusp of truly integrated media plans not just multi-media plans built as silos.
I am old fashioned. I have deconstructed the Media game to delivering advertising with reach, breaking clutter, providing salience and building associations with the environment and/or with sponsorship properties. To do that, a good practitioner of the Medium needs to understand the category he is marketing, and how the consumer in that category consumes Media. The resultant plan that is executed should seamlessly deliver Reach, Impressions (Salience), Association and Clutter breaking innovations at the most efficient cost. That is today getting manifested in multi-media plans that are wrongly being termed integrated plans. TV, Print, Radio, OOH, Internet, Cinema are all being constructed in silos and presented as an integrated plan. Whereas the answer lies in seamlessly moving between Media as the plan is being constructed. I see CPM as the key enabler to delivering integrated plans, and believe that not only will it eliminate wastage in plans, it will also bring about a sanity in media pricing and preventing both Media Owner and Advertiser from getting too opportunistic. While data fusion will help build an integrated plank on baselines, a good dose of common sense can also allow us to make assumptions and proceed.
On balance, 2010 presents us at a Media crossroads. The beaten track will take us down inflation and anonymity. More savvy integrated planning and an intelligent approach to Digital, can lead to the consumer looking at your proposition with renewed interest. This is the time when the tried and tested approach is the riskier one.