Advertising on television today has evolved today to become more participative. But in a large and diverse country like India, it is also becomes difficult for TV ads to connect to every customer. Rohit Ohri, Executive Chairman, Dentsu India & CEO, Dentsu Asia Pacific (South), a jury member of the exchange4media Prime Time Awards that will take place on January 16, 2015, speaks to us on the challenges agencies face in creating TV advertising, ingredients needed to make clutter breaking ads, return on investment (ROI) and future trends in the TV advertising industry.
What are the challenges agencies face while creating and strategising TV advertising campaigns in India today?
One of the biggest challenges for an advertising agency while creating a television campaign is around the fragmentation. Each state in India has its own peculiarities and the television viewing habits are very different. In some parts, they are watching national, some parts they are watching regional and some parts it is the combination of the two. In yet others, it is a spill over from another state, which is really not their own state channel. So it is a very hard challenge to figure out what is the right mix when you look at television. The other thing is that, television also reaches a large population, now hypothetically if your ad is a mass market one; you need to create something that will work for all segments. So how do you create an ad, which works for north and south, east and west from a geographic differences point of view, and SEC A1+ to socio economic classification? There are so many different parameters that actually come into play in the complexity of India that it becomes really hard for an advertising agency … if the client wants one film, and that one film has to do so many different tasks, how do you hit the sweet spot? That is the big challenge.
What does a TV campaign need to break through the clutter and make a brand stand out from the rest?
Quite honestly it is very hard to say, because if one could say that with a great deal of certainty then every brand would be creating an ad which would cut through the clutter. But currently, there are a few broad emerging trends - one is emotion, which is the one thing that can be used to bind people together. So whether you’re a technology company or a FMCG or a service brand… emotion is something that really gets people… the spate of ad films that are happening online now with Nestle, PepsiCo, etc. are actually using emotion to connect and cut through. The other thing that we are seeing is that there is a lot of participation in the communication. You are almost engaging with it at a different level, where you are also participating in the communication. It is a part activation, part television film. There are many brands that have done stuff like that which gets people to not just lean back and watch a commercial, but lean forward and participate. So that is another thing that we found enormously successful in cutting through the clutter. Don’t just look at it as ads but as content. Take the ice-bucket challenge for example. You could look at it as content, where you see people doing it in their own different ways and the ice bucket challenge is also challenging you. If you think of it in a branding context, then you have to be a part of it. How do you do that?
Take the new campaign that the BJP government has created around ‘Swachh Bharat’. Now ‘Swachh Bharat’ is content in a way that you are putting up photographs of before after and challenging other people to do the same. So this kind of thing has become very popular nowadays where you can be part of the story as well, not just listen to a story. That I think is the new art of storytelling for brands - including the listener of the story into the story as well.
How effective are TV ad campaigns in comparison to other media in terms ROI?
It is a double-edged sword. On the one hand television reaches a large segment of the audience and you get a lot of wastage in that sense, in terms of the spill-off of customers you may not be targeting with your brand. But when it comes to building a national brand in terms of awareness and quick build up, a television film is really critical. While we say that it is the age of the digital, which is good and the writing is on the wall, the fact is, television is also here to stay. Even in developed markets like Japan, television hasn’t faded away. It still plays an important part of the process. To answer the question specifically, there is a challenge in sharply defining ROI when it comes to television films because of the nature of the medium. But still very important when you look at a country like India which has so much of diversity. India is like a broadband; at the top of the band people are living in 2014 and at the bottom of the band people are living in 1986. What you say for India is true and the opposite is also true. When we are talking about technology, there is a large part of the Indian population, which doesn’t have electricity or access to laptops and mobiles. So that is a whole different challenge for communication… it is a hard sell on ROI still in television.
Where do you see the future moving towards for TV campaigns in terms of trends in India?
The biggest trend that is going to happen is really where television is actually consumed. What we are seeing increasingly is that consumption of television in the conventional way, which is the whole family gathering around the TV and watching, is pretty much passé. Today, appointment viewing of television has become very critical… people of a certain SEC are recording their programmes and watching it at their own free will. And the other thing is that, they are watching it on other devices, whether it is on mobile phones or laptops… At the same time, there are a large number of people who do watch television together. But if you ask me what is the trend going to be, then it is about where the consumption is happening, and for television that is a very big change. Because if I am watching TV on my phone or laptop, then the big question is how do I connect brands into that space.