M&E industry stays crisis-ready to keep brands afloat in the pandemic

Maintaining visibility, staying agile and sticking to the basics can help the industry tide over the impact of the second lockdown, say experts

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Updated: Apr 27, 2021 9:12 AM
m&e industry

As India grapples with the second wave of COVID-19 infections, the Media and Entertainment (M&E) industry is gearing up to minimise the impact of the lockdown on businesses across the country. In 2020, the industry had suffered up to a 70% drop in the adex during the peak lockdown period.  But now, with India facing it for the second time, media experts believe they are better prepared to handle the crisis both for themselves and their clients. 

“This time around, there is more preparedness and an overall economic shutdown is less likely,” says Vikram Sakhuja, Group CEO, Madison Media and OOH. He, however, reconfirms that their April business so far is on track. “We are continuing as per plans made before the second wave gripped. Some sectors will be affected, but overall activity should grow strongly. As of now, briefs and spends are largely unchanged,” he added.

Jai Lala, CEO, Zenith India, concurs with Sakhuja’s view on the second wave not yet affecting the business plans significantly. “At this point, there is no change per se. Somewhere at the back of our minds, as consumers and marketers, we feel like Covid-19 is here to stay. We have the second wave and we may also have a third wave. It is obviously something that we have to learn to live with. In business, as well as the clients we are mentally prepared.” 

Shekhar Banerjee, Chief Client Officer & Head – West, Wavemaker India, however, is anticipating some impact on the business soon.  “While we don’t want it, the reality of the fact is that the lockdown or partial restrictions across states will impact the supply and distribution chain at advertiser’s end and this is going to last longer than the current 15 days announcement,” Banerjee told e4m. 

Meanwhile, Prithi Murthy CEO of OMD India believes that the second phase of the pandemic has brought a change in both the message and the medium that the client wants to or can deploy. “This is, in large parts, a direct result of changing consumer demand, attitude, knowledge and behaviour that requires more purposeful branding, real-time response management and empathetic execution.”

Experts unanimously believe that the industry is prepared to handle the crisis. “Last year, when there was a demand in the FMCG sector, there weren’t many ways to deliver the goods to the end retailer as there was a shortage of certain sources. However, this time right from the distribution team, marketing team and the media team is well prepared when it comes to making new adjustments, like working from home, etc,” said Lala. 

He further added that the lockdowns that are taking place are more or less partial lockdowns. “There might be a lot of changes in terms of Auto or consumer durables as the shops will be shut and one can’t make the purchase. Since people are home-bound, there is an increase in demand for house based products as well as FMCG products. So from the media, advertising and marketing point of view, we are well prepared to deliver positive results throughout this second wave,” he added. 

Learnings from the first lockdown:-

Media experts believe maintaining visibility despite the challenges of lockdown will work for brands in the long term. Sakhuja explains how sticking to the basics can help brands stay afloat during this phase.

“They must ensure product supply and distribution is in place and their advertising is consistently reaching consumers. Advertisers are faced with quarterly profit pressures and there can be a tendency to cut ad budgets. Our observation is that advertisers who invest grow better not only in the long term but medium-term as well. Use the pandemic to invest in understanding how marketing investments drive brand outcomes through the funnel,” he added. 

Banerjee, however,  believes with things evolving every day, media planners should look out for three things in the coming weeks. “A more agile approach to the market in terms of prioritisation because the degree of impact is varying between states. Secondly, reclassification of what essential means and hence what we can advertise more, short term shifts in media deployment between top and bottom-funnel plus a choice of TV genres and digital platforms. We should brace ourselves for some loss in TV AdEx; it will not be as sudden as last year nor will it be as bad”.

Murthy suggests that it's time for clients to keep an eye on brand health and consideration. They should innovate and strengthen the brand story. 

“Clients are recalibrated to COVID-19 reality for business growth. TV retains its relevance & digital media remains the strongest advertising platform and more so with improved internet and smart device accessibility in addition to the demand for data-led consumer insights. That said, consumer and advertiser sentiments will have to be a lot more optimistic for the advertising industry to see holistic growth, especially across OOH, radio and print. Dynamic planning is a reality depending on how the market moves and we need to adapt business decisions with agility,” Murthy told e4m. 

Before closing, Murthy shared that the pandemic has taught media planners to be nimble, use rapid prototyping,  offer business outcome-led media solutions. “We are ensuring that we adapt to business demands keeping short term and long term needs in alignment,” she concluded.

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