A road trip through the country’s national highways perhaps unfolds all the facets of Indian advertising, and most importantly, the strange repertoire of regional advertising. Starting from the emoting faces of local TV stars to known Bollywood faces endorsing tractors and steel pipes, from ice cream licking RJs to colourful words in translated hotch potch, the roadside billboards, temple sidewalls, roof top water tanks, boundary walls of sugar factories, all convey a very significant story of Indian advertising – that is, the coming of age of regional advertising.
There has been much talk about the growing revenue shares of regional markets, as a result of which a lot of international and national media players have begun to target these markets to increase their ad revenues. The Tier II and III cities have become the apple of the marketer’s eye, and local interests and languages have started to get their due importance. exchange4media spoke to a few ad makers located far from the Mecca of Indian advertising and the one point that merged prominently was that Indian ads need to go regional in a big way.
Regional markets go big
With markets in the metros getting saturated, the regional markets have gained in importance, and when the markets become important, it calls for increased promotion and advertising.
According to Vijay Jacob Parakkal, VP & General Manager, Bates 141, Chennai, “With increasing competition, brands will be trying to get a closer connect to the consumer, and going regional will definitely form part of that effort.”
GV Vijaya Kumar, Associate Vice-President, Lintas Media Group, Chennai, pointed out, “Already, a number of advertisers have shifted their focus to regional ads. This should only increase as more advertisers see the advantages of speaking in a common context with the consumer rather than just a common language. However, this will vary on a case-to-case basis, depending on the category and the product.”
P Subramanian, Branch Manager, Interface, Chennai, agreed with the certainty of the growing regionalisation in advertising, and said, “The more disposable agri income is driving the boom in the rural economy, and it will continue to do so. In addition, when markets such as Mumbai and Delhi look saturated, gradually people are coming down South.”
Accepting the visible trend of growing regionalisation in advertising, Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, Brand-comm, said, “As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, there is a great realisation that the language, custom and people are quite different here. Companies have to balance this growing importance of the regional market with the cost of making separate ads for each region.”
Sounding optimistic about the pan-India image, Abhishek D Shah of be positive 24, said, “India is becoming a more homogenised place with a more unified culture. There is a huge migration of north Indians to South and the vice-versa. So, going regional with ads perhaps doesn’t count for the cities, but if the Sec B and Sec C population is one’s important target group, then regional ads count a lot.”
Lost in translation
A lot of media observers have pointed out – and so have the consumers – the ridiculous commercials that are aired after dubbing the Hindi ads into local languages. Whether the purpose of the ads gets served or whether the distorted meaning – and thereby the controversial or humour quotient of the ad makes it tick – is a question that needs to be looked into.
According to Vijaya Kumar of Lintas, “In regionally strong markets, ads that are mainly for a Hindi speaking audience dubbed badly into the regional language do not go down well. In some cases, ads seem to be specifically created for the Delhi/ Mumbai market, and the dubbed commercial comes off as an afterthought. Needless to say, a consumer is hardly going to develop an empathy with a brand in this case.”
Subramanian added, “Most of the time, dubbed versions do not connect with the consumer and become a laughing stock. All of us know about this.”
However, Vijay Jacob observed, “The connect depends on the idea. There is always the scope to get that close to the consumer.”
Time to experiment with the regional connect
According to Sridhar, “If the growing flavour of the regional market is not captured, then that is surely a problem area. Cable penetration has already given us a huge scope to reach the masses, and we have to make the best use of it. A market like Chennai definitely needs region-specific ads.”
Vijay Jacob stressed, “Experimenting with the regional markets is not an option anymore.”
While there are issues like the dearth of talent capable of ideating in vernacular languages and the cost of making region-specific ads on the one hand, on the other hand, there is growing competitive regional market for the advertisers. The popularity of regional channels and their penetration across different sections of the population is offering not just increasing options, but improved options for advertisers to reach their target groups.