The advertising industry is riding high on the surge of spending across a broad spectrum of non-traditional media, or what would one call 'below the line ' activities such as events, promotions, haats, melas, sky writing, etc.
Despite the fact that below the line activities on the whole contributes only about three to five per cent to the total ad industry revenues of over Rs 8,000 crore, as per industry guesstimates, it is becoming an important part of the marketers' spend, irrespective of the category they belong to.
Expanded advertising options have enhanced the ability of advertisers to reach their target audiences, forcing the media consumers to direct significant rupees towards new media deliveries. This appears to be a continuing trend. And, consumers are moving towards media options offering a high degree of control and interactivity.
Says Ashish Bhasin, Director, IMAX, Lintas India: "In spite of the mushrooming of TV channels, newspapers, niche magazines etc, traditional media in India reaches out to a poor three-and-a-half out of 10 consumers. Through the line activities (that's how IMAX addresses non-conventional advertising), advertisers get a real brand experience, building direct contact with its consumers.
Reiterating Bhasin's views on the advantages of non-conventional channels of advertising, Deepak Netram, Planning Director, MPG Bombay, says: "Non-traditional media is catching up real fast. Advertisers have realised its importance and effectiveness and are going all out for it. Not only it is a cheaper option and has minimum spill-overs, it reaches the target audience directly."
While sharing the advantages of below the line activities, Anil Khera, Director - Marketing, Sansui, says: "It is a very effective medium to reach out to the target audience. The strength of this platform lies in innovation and hence it beats the issues of cluttering. Better the innovation, higher is the impact with the consumer. At present Sansui spends six to seven per cent of its total advertising revenues on such activities."
Netram adds: "Non-traditional media has yet another advantage that cannot be duplicated by the traditional media. It is the rightly timed delivery and its ability to catch people when they are in the propensity to spend mode. For example, at multiplexes you see at least two to three ongoing promotions, even on a weekday."
Media and audience fragmentation is stimulating advertisers to spend on non-traditional media but the million-dollar question remains as whether it is going to upset the revenue cart of the traditional system.
According to Bhasin, below the line advertising is growing at double the speed of traditional media. “While, line advertising is seeing a growth rate of almost 20 per cent, traditional media is growing at just about seven to eight per cent," he says, adding: "A trend that can be noticed in the market is that there is an element of wastage in going above the line, whereas below the line is not only more cost effective but also reaches directly to the consumer. However, non-traditional media is surely not a threat to the traditional system as no client will work with one of them in isolation but supplement the both."
What is likely to happen is that the ratio between the traditional and non-traditional media is going to change with the latter being the growing number. If at present, the advertiser's ratio on traditional and non-traditional media is 80:20, it is likely to become 60:40 in the future, Bhasin observes.
Echoing Bhasin's views, Netram adds: "Non-traditional media is definitely eating into the revenue share of the traditional system. The ad budgets have not increased and advertisers are taking money out of the traditional media for spending on the non-traditional system."
Sharing the advertiser's perspective, Khera says: "The new channels of communications are definitely not a threat to the traditional media. All media vehicles have certain USPs and depending on his objectivity, the advertiser chooses between them."
It is undoubtedly becoming more and more difficult to reliably plan media and with this there is the increasing need for media expertise in maximising the effectiveness of the advertising rupee.
However, a robust measurement system and accountability for audience delivery is a big grey area holding back the revenue from flowing in. "One of the major hurdles faced by non-traditional media is that it is not quantifiable as there are no industry approved parameters to gauge its effectiveness. This factor is a major deterrent in its growth," Netram points out.
Industry players are also of the opinion that the lack of measurability and accountability is a definite bottleneck that this nascent industry is facing currently. Moreover, there are several vendors operating in this field in a very unprofessional manner and hence, send out wrong messages to the advertiser.
To summarise, the community at large is of the opinion that advertising options in the media are increasing everyday and so is the complexity in both planning and buying. Advertisers are turning a whole 360 degrees, exploring all the options available to get in the line of view of their target audience. The traditional and the non-traditional media are being weaved together to get the maximum of the viewer's short attention span.