The much discussed clean-feed policy has been effectively implemented since 23 October 2020 with most foreign channels now either beaming without advertisements in-between or have been on halt till they are technically able to telecast without advertisements. As per the television signal distributors, many of these foreign channels are already preparing to be back soon without advertising in-between once that becomes technically feasible.
With this new development, it is an end of an era for many global brands leveraging on spillover advertising, which created demand without much marketing spends in Nepal.
Of course, there were other brands that understood the ‘Nepalisation’ earlier and made it a point to invest in media strategy taking advantage of both spillover media and scheduling done with local media channels with adaptation of creative taking into consideration, local insights and culture. These brands became much larger in their market size, grew faster than their category counterparts. There are many such successful case studies in FMCG, consumer durables and paint categories that one can go back to.
However, spillover advantage is the thing of past with the new clean feed policy. Now if you want to attract the eyeballs of Nepali audiences, you will have to do your media planning specific to Nepali channels.
But is that the only challenge the global brands are facing? Of course, NOT.
Another advantage global brands had in the past was to run the dubbed version of their television commercials, saving the production cost except for voice-over dubbing. The new policy has barred the dubbed advertisement for playing in the television channels in Nepal. It means, they will have to produce films specifically for the Nepal market with Nepali artists.
Let’s also break the myth that Nepal (unlike many who feel) is not just the Himalayas – we have geographical diversity, languages and cultures specific to the regions of Nepal. Our landscape is divided into three regions – Mountains, Hills and Plains (Terai). Unlike Bangladesh, which has a very homogenous cluster.
Also, in this changing backdrop of politics and social changes, it is a must to understand the emotions and the insights of the people of the land. In my last article on similar subject I did touch upon this. The Nepalese youth have global minds with exposures and tools to connect to the world and these youth, like any other youth in the world, are proud of their country - so the way to win their hearts is to make a brand stand out by making its communication undergo ‘Nepalisation’. Many senior marketeers who visiting Nepal often with their assignments have clearly pointed out this youth aspiration and this can be a game changer.
It is true that clean feed will create an initial ripple in the market but in the long run, I strongly believe, that it is a blessing to true marketeer who can connect well to the context and do their brand planning to win consumer minds before their counterparts.
At times, the global advertisements displayed have no relevance culturally or emotionally for the Nepali audience and the dubbing into Nepali looks superficial as the communication does not undergo proper localizstion which has at times further distance those brands from the consumers creating wrong impression.
As I mentioned, certain multinationals understood 'Nepalisation' even before the policy was implemented and they worked with their local partners to create communications, which had true Nepali emotions and connects with their audiences. There are a few good examples, where brands have earned the respect and adulation by integrating Nepali emotions, stories or festivals. Their ads have imbibed the true essence of the local culture. Few have adapted their Indian commercials successfully into Nepali context with same vigor, product quality and finishing. Their endeavor of making Nepali context into their master idea was crafted seamlessly by the creative minds, talents and production teams and has been much appreciated by both the fraternity and the consumers.
With this opportunity to create communication specific to Nepal, there is also new strategy planning role for the global brands, which was largely ignored in the past by both advertiser and the agency partner. As I feel, there will be the hunt for key consumer insight relevant to the target market which will help to create a competitive edge in terms of cracking the right understanding for the brand communication they would like to produce for Nepal. The planner should also have the local insights, culture and knowledge to such idea. Those insights will help to change the game in connecting well with the consumers.
With a population of around 30 million, Nepal is a sizeable market for many Indian and global brands and with high remittance inflow, rising desire due to increase exposure to the outside world and inflating agriculture price index, the rural markets are also gearing up to higher consumption aspiration not different from their urban counterparts. I am sure, global brands will take this as an opportunity to a build solid foundation in the minds of the Nepali consumers and rural Nepal is going to play an intregral role in that growth story.
Industry experts are predicting that the current coffer of NPR 12 billion Nepal’s advertisement industry is expected to rise by at least 50% or more giving rise to spending by the global advertisers who were largely depended on the spillover advertisement so far. There is also an expectation that the domestic brands will grow faster with a level playing field and their advertising spends will also rise. There are already examples of the categories in Nepal where previously foreign brand dominated industries are now taken over by the domestic brands or truly multinational brands that decided to localize their communication for Nepal much before these policies came to the fore.
As an optimist, I strongly feel that many truly global brands will be cognizant of diverse Nepali culture, local consumer insights and youth aspirations to build much stronger consumer connect with the Nepali audiences by recognising '#Nepalisation'.
The author is the founder managing director of Outreach Nepal and the author of ‘Brandsutra’
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Watch the film conceptualised by Daiko FHO here