We’ve reached out to the govt for some sensitivity & kindness: Ashish Bhasin

In a chat with exchange4media, Bhasin spoke about the set of recommendations that AAAI has sent out to the government for the revival of the Indian ad industry 

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Published: Apr 17, 2020 8:58 AM  | 10 min read
Ashish Bhasin

While advertisers are getting over the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy seems to be sliding into a state of a prolonged downturn. And now, with the lockdown in the country being extended to May 3, the industry is bracing for the impact on the business to linger for months to come. 

Ashish Bhasin, CEO APAC and Chairman India, Dentsu Aegis Network, and President of AAAI, has sent out a detailed set of recommendations on behalf of the members of AAAI to the Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar, emphasising the importance of the advertising industry for the accelerated revival of the economy.

 In a conversation with exchange4media, Bhasin shared details about the recommendations suggested to the government by the AAAI in this respect. He also spoke of COVID-19’s impact on global advertising, the anticipated time for revival and how the Indian ad industry can weather this storm.

Edited excerpts: 

Tell us about the kind of impact COVID-19 has had on the ad industry in India? How much of a loss has the pandemic caused?
The impact, obviously, has been very severe, and it depends upon what part of the business you're in. So for example, if you're in an events business or an outdoor business, the impact has been dramatic, severe and almost catastrophic because the business in that area is down to near zero. There is no part of the advertising, and media business that is not impacted. If you are handling an airline client or some other travel clients, the impact is extremely severe. But almost every part of the business has been substantially hit. The impact doesn't seem to be a short-term event because, for one, the lockdown itself now has been substantially extended.

And even after the lockdown, it’s not as if suddenly everything is going to come back to normal. So, I think the impact is substantial and will be there for a reasonable period of time.

What key relief measures or recommendations has the AAAI suggested to the government for continuity in the advertising business?
Amongst the various problems that the industry is going to face, one of the biggest will be that of liquidity. And liquidity is like a chain. If dealers aren't picking up goods then liquidity stops. If customers aren't going to retailers, liquidity stops. Then clients can't pay the agency fees. Liquidity in any economic cycle is like a chain, and therefore, one of the biggest impacts is going to be on liquidity. There are some easy possibilities to at least temporarily ease that out. One of which is that almost all agencies have crores and crores of rupees stuck in TDS with the government because ours is a very unique business model.

 For example, a media agency makes 2-2.5% margin but the rate of TDS is quite substantial. By the time you get refunds and so on, there is a lot of money which is blocked. This is our own money. So if the government can quickly release that, it will help the industry. So there are suggestions like that. Another suggestion was providing bit more time for the payment of GST. 

Another fundamental suggestion was that - is advertising an expense or an investment? We feel that it's actually an investment in building your brand and can that be allowed to be amortized over a period of time, or some incentives given to clients. Let's say for every Rs 100 that you spend on advertising, you will be given an abatement of say Rs 200. Therefore, you get a bit of a tax benefit on it. Encouragement like that would definitely help advertising at this stage.

The government itself is an advertiser for many agencies and forms a significant part of theIr billings. And it's not just the government, as in the ministries, but there are a lot of PSUs and various government controlled entities, including state ministries who advertise. Crores and crores of rupees have been locked up for a long time and the payment cycle tends to be very long from the government. The government can at least pay up its own dues. That itself will help us in tiding over this crisis. 

You have to remember that even for agencies, people cost is one of the biggest costs. 

We don't want to be in a situation where we have to let go of a large number of people. So if there’s people’s cost but no in-flow, what do you do? 
So it’s in the government's interest and the economy's interest because advertising spurs the economy, it drives consumption, it drives demand. So if we are given a little bit of encouragement, it will help. If we are able to survive through this period, it will make a substantial difference to the economy.

Should the government give in to recommendations, how much of a relief will it be for the industry?
We’ve not asked for a relief package as such. It will help the industry tide over some immediate liquidity crisis because people's costs are such an important part of our industry. Our industry is very unique. A significant cost for most agencies, around 60-70 per cent, tends to be people-related. So if there is no liquidity, then you're left with a very bad option of having to cut down on number of people, which is bad for the economy, bad for the people, and for all of us. That is what I'm hoping will be avoided. We have not asked for a revival or relief package or a grant. We have just asked for some sensitivity and kindness to help tide through these very, very difficult times.

Tell us a little about the impact of the pandemic on the global ad market. What have other governments done for the ad industry in those geographies that we can take note of?
Well, of course, different countries have different packages. For example, Singapore has had two sets of relief packages. So there, for example, they gave up to $4600 and 75% abatement on salary for the month of April. So different countries have come up with different packages, but each economy is handling it differently. Almost all governments are trying to help in some way or the other. The Indian government is also working towards putting money into the pockets of the poor, which is the right thing to do at this moment but I think that was phase one. In phase two, it’s important to look at how smaller industries, medium-sized industries, service industries like ours can be supported to get out of these turbulent times. 

The pandemic has definitely impacted the global advertising in a significant way. China was the first market to be impacted but ironically today China and Taiwan are the only markets in APAC in my company which are working from office and not working from home. Ironically, they are back in business already, albeit still recovering. 

It's a different degree or a different level of impact for different countries, but most markets have now been impacted, not just in Asia Pacific but significantly in Europe as well as the US. So it's pretty much a global phenomenon.

Overall, advertising which was expected to show single-digit growth, I think globally will show negative growth this year. 

What about global accounts? Are they shifting budgets to lesser impacted countries due to the pandemic?
It's not like that. Different countries are responding in different ways. By and large, in many cases the general advertising scale and spend of advertising has significantly been reduced across countries. In some ways it makes sense because this is not a time where people are going to be buying cars or washing machines because even if they want to, many parts of the world are in lockdown. And other than essential goods, there isn't too much that's available, or there's not too much of consumption that is happening. So, in general, I think the consumption, therefore the advertising level itself has gone down across mediums and countries. What has also been noticed almost globally is that television and digital are showing an uptick in terms of consumption.

But we’re in a strange scenario where a higher consumption of television and digital is happening but there isn’t enough advertising. So the supply and demand mismatch is significant and noticeable.

How long should it take for revival to come?
Unfortunately, it’s not going to be short-term. The next two quarters are going to be very bad. I mean, this month of April, of course, is a total lockdown. So therefore it is going to be pretty bad. May also we don't know how it’s going to be, whether it will be fully functional or partly. 

I think one thing people forget is that once an economy is in a shutdown mode, it’s not a switch that you can switch on and hope that next day, things will be back to normal. So, for example, if a factory is shut, labour has gone to the villages, raw material procurement has stopped, you cannot just switch it on and hope that things will get back to normal. It takes over 3-5 months for the production to start coming back to normalcy and for all the offtake to start happening at a retail level, etc. On the positive side, the good news is that prediction at least is that the monsoon should be normal, and should be on time. We underestimate the importance of monsoons in the Indian economy, though it’s something a large part of people are dependent upon. It accounts for around 20% of the GDP, but the number of people who are employed directly/indirectly or partially employed by or influenced by agriculture, are substantial in India. It plays a very important part not just of the economy but if there is a good harvest, if there is a good crop, then that drives more consumption. So they'll buy more soaps, motorcycles, etc. So if the monsoons are good, then I expect that around the Diwali season, the festive season, things will get better. The earliest you'll see some semblance of normalcy coming in is not going to be before the fourth quarter of the calendar year. And that too will be in phases.

What about your suggestions to agencies on how they can navigate this volatile advertising landscape when a pandemic of this stature affects the industry?
I think first of all, you have to look after the safety of your people. Nothing is more important than human life. Make sure that all precautions are in place and if any help is required, provide that. Second thing is to focus on your business continuity planning. I mean, look at us, nearly 3500-4000 people, almost overnight had to adopt work from home. It sounds easy but it needs a lot of preparation. From your VPNs, bandwidth licenses, etc, everything should be in place. So Make sure that a robust BCP is in place as a second step. I think the third step is that you've got to communicate more with your teams to establish clarity in this situation of uncertainty. 

 I think the best way to handle it is to be very honest, and very transparent. This is a global medical based emergency which is now becoming a financial emergency , and therefore everybody is going to get impacted. As leaders, we've got to make sure that we dissipate or reduce and mitigate the impact as much as possible particularly for people at junior levels. 

Last but not the least, you have to give confidence, you have to be optimistic as leaders and as citizens of India. The mid-term and long term future of India is very very bright. And we will emerge stronger from this.

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Hamdard launches campaigns for Cinkara and Naunehal Gripe Syrup

Hamdard has revived its popular campaign, ‘Zindagi ka josh har dum’

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 6:53 PM   |   2 min read


Hamdard Laboratories (Medicine Division) has announced a special summer campaign for its products- Cinkara and Naunehal Gripe Syrup. The campaign highlights how Cinkara and Naunehal Gripe Syrup help in coping with the health issues, arising out of nutritional gaps in case of Cinkara and teething issues in case of Naunehal Syrup.

“Hamdard has revived its popular campaign, ‘Zindagi ka josh har dum’. Cinkara, the most recalled brand of Hamdard is a complete health tonic that restores lost energy, increases appetite, and improves conditions of fatigue. The tonic contains six essential Vitamins along with four minerals and nine effective herbs to keep the body strong, healthy, and agile. While India is the playground for Cinkara, it has a larger footprint in UP, Bihar , West Bengal and Delhi /NCR,” the company said.

Abdul Majeed, Chairman & Managing Trustee, Hamdard Laboratories India ( Medicine Division) said “My late grandfather had a vision for the brand and its role. The Cinkara packaging is inspired by our tricolor, hoping that one day it would become the tonic of the nation. For more than 40 years now, Cinkara has been one of the most popular and affordable health tonics in the country. At Hamdard, it’s our constant endeavor to provide products that are targeted at holistic wellness and keep us energetic to fight life challenges- “Jindagi ka Josh Har Dum” justifies the brand truth”.

“It is always a wonderful feeling to know that Hamdard products touch so many lives, in so many ways. People from different states, and different strata of society swear by our products. Our medicines are affordable and effective. In most cases, Hamdard products have been in families for generations. Through this campaign, we hope to further expand our reach and help people lead healthy and happy lives, free from the burden of illness and health issues” said, Suman Varma, CMO, Hamdard Laboratories. 

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In new campaign, Rajkummar Rao highlights perils of not having Lay’s at home

The campaign is created by Leo Burnett

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 4:29 PM   |   3 min read


Lay’s has launched a new campaign with actor Rajkummar Rao to remind consumers to have ‘Ghar Par Lay’s Always’!

“At-home experiences and occasions are best enjoyed with friends and family, and a pack of Lay’s makes these moments even better. But running out of Lay’s can interrupt the good times and may even induce last-minute panic to restock. In the campaign, Lay’s has hilariously drawn attention to the outcomes of last-minute restocking trips,” the brand said.

The introduction of the latest TVC under the ‘Ghar Par Lay’s Always’ campaign speaks to the consumers on the perils of not stocking-up Lay’s at home.

Directed by Vinil Mathew, the TVC film opens with Rajkummar throwing a costume party at home with himself dressed as a burglar. When his girlfriend (played by Dolly Singh) informs him that they've run out of Lay's, Rajkummar nervously heads out to the grocery store, starting a series of comedic mishaps. From being mistaken as a real burglar by the public to getting arrested by the police, his hilarious roller-coaster of misadventures concludes upon his release from jail, when he tells a jail warden curious about his imprisonment that “Mai toh sirf Lay’s lene gaya tha”. The TVC ends on an entertaining note as Rajkummar explains his Lay's misadventures to Dolly and proudly shows off his fully stocked pantry with Lay's, remarking, “Isliye…Ghar pe Lay’s Always!”.

Speaking about being part of the TVC film, Rajkummar Rao, expressed, “For years, Lay’s, with its iconic and irresistible flavours has been my favourite snack. When the brand reached out for their 'At Home' film, I was instantly drawn towards the comical and playful script because I have always related to the frenzy of keeping my home stocked with Lay’s. I had a lot of fun filming the TVC and I am definitely going to have ‘Ghar Par Lay’s Always’. I hope the audience enjoys the film and ensures Lay’s is a part of all their joyful moments at home.”

Expressing her excitement at the TVC, Shailja Joshi, Director-Marketing, Potato Chips Category, PepsiCo India said, “At Lay’s, we are committed to infuse a sense of joy into our consumers’ lives and uplift their consumption experiences with our distinct offerings and relatable storytelling. Our newest TVC film for ‘Ghar Par Lay's Always’ perfectly captures the central role that Lay's plays during at-home occasions. We're thrilled to have associated with Rajkummar Rao for this campaign and he has fantastically brought this messaging to life in the film. We hope that it will prompt Lay's fans to always keep their favourite Lay’s well-stocked at home and experience fun uninterrupted."

The campaign is created by Leo Burnett.

Speaking about the campaign Rajdeepak Das, CEO & Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett - South Asia, said, “Lay’s has always been the perfect snack partner and with this film we wanted to reiterate to the audiences to stock up their favourite Lay's at home. With this hilariously exaggerated cautionary tale starring Rajkumar Rao, our film gives people a glimpse into the perils of not having 'Ghar Par Lay's Always'! If you don't have Lays, anything can happen.”

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Airtel launches new brand campaign to show ‘limitless possibilities’

The TVC campaign has been conceptualised by DDB Mudra

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 1:57 PM   |   2 min read


Bharti Airtel has rolled out a new brand campaign.

The campaign highlights the clear advantage and limitless possibilities that Airtel 5G Plus offers to its customers in a very contemporary manner.

Shashwat Sharma, Director of Consumer Business, Bharti Airtel, on being asked to comment on the campaign had this to say, “I would first like to take this opportunity to thank our 10 million happy 5G users who have embraced ultrafast Airtel 5G Plus. Customer obsession is what drives us at Airtel and we have taken the lead to simplify the new technology and get our customers to experience the real difference of 5G. Airtel 5G Plus, while delivering incredible speeds and the best voice experience, will work on all 5G smartphones and be kinder to the environment. Additionally, all our customers will be able to enjoy the advantage of 5G services using their existing SIMs at no additional cost. We invite more and more customers to experience the power of limitless possibilities on Airtel 5G Plus.”

The TVC campaign has been conceptualised by DDB Mudra and produced by Equinox Films.

The Airtel 5G Plus TVC has been dubbed in 12 languages and will be localized for audiences all across the country as it is rolled out in full strength.

The 360-degree, high-decibel campaign will be extensively seen across diverse mediums like Television, digital and OOH over the next few weeks.

Commenting on the film, Ram Madhvani, Founder & Director, Equinox Films, had this to say, “The thing I’ve learnt in advertising is that it’s not just about ‘what’ is being said or ‘how’ it’s being said but also about what the audience ‘feels’ when it ‘sees’ any piece of communication. Our film is an example of this. We have tried to create a visceral experience for the audience to create a feeling of speed and future-ready technology which is what Airtel 5G Plus is actually about.”

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Goafest to be held on May 24-26

The 16th edition of the advertising fest will take place at Grand Hyatt, Bambolim, Goa

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 1:47 PM   |   3 min read


South Asia’s biggest advertising festival, Goafest is all set to make a grand return. Co-hosted by The Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and The Advertising Club, Goafest 2023 is scheduled to take place on 24th, 25th and 26th May at Grand Hyatt, Bambolim, Goa. The prestigious fest will also witness the 54th edition of the ABBY’s, South Asia’s Gold standard, that has been recognizing creative excellence in advertising for over five decades. 

Goafest is the definitive annual festival for the advertising, marketing and media industry that attracts over 2000 industry professionals. The festival is an eclectic platter of knowledge, recognition, networking and celebration that makes each day at this 3-days event a remarkable experience. In addition to presentations and sessions by leading industry experts, Goafest 2023 will host a total of 10 knowledge-sharing masterclasses, the highest to date. The upcoming edition of the festival is also expected to have increased participation and presence from advertisers. 

Announcing Goafest 2023, Prasanth Kumar, President, the Advertising Agencies Association of India and CEO, South Asia GroupM said, “Goafest has cemented its position as the most admirable creative festival in South Asia that truly brings together the best of creative and marketing professionals. Our goal is to offer our industry colleagues three power-packed days of learning, engagement, interactivity and curiosity. We are confident that this year's edition will be the biggest and best yet, leaving each attendee with valuable learnings and benefiting the industry as a whole.” 

“Year after year, Goafest has evolved and innovated, making it the most relevant advertising festival in India. From knowledge-sharing sessions to exclusive speakers, we are certain of having guests from across the globe that will benefit the industry, especially younger professionals, this year as well. For the first time, various committees involving senior industry leaders have been formed thus making the event all-inclusive and broad-based for the entire advertising industry. We look forward to curating a festival that drives participation and empowers the fraternity thus positioning India as a sharper contender in the global advertising landscape.” added Jaideep Gandhi, Chairperson Goafest 2023. 

Partha Sinha, President, the Times of India group and President of The Advertising Club, further added, “We believe it is imperative that we celebrate the industry and Goafest enables us to do exactly this. The festival empowers the industry to push creative boundaries and think beyond existing possibilities. We look forward to another year of firsts at Goafest 2023 and encourage India’s creative economy to participate actively.” 

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Asian Paints says ‘Shauq Ki No Limit’ in new campaign

The campaign has been conceptualised by Ogilvy India

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 1:04 PM   |   2 min read

Asian Paints

Asian Paints has launched “Budget mein fit. Shauq ki no limit.” campaign.  Conceptualized by Ogilvy India, in the campaign, the paints are shown to be an ideal solution for homeowners seeking good quality paint within their budget.

The campaign tells a humorous story of a colleague who can fulfil his wishes in his newly painted house, thanks to Tractor Sparc & Ace Sparc Emulsion.

As part of the TVC, the brand has also created a fun, snappy jingle that will stay in consumers' minds and help generate high recall. The jingle conveys Tractor Sparc and Ace Sparc Emulsion's value proposition as high-quality, cost-effective paints that will allow consumers to fulfill other desires through savings on these paints.

Speaking about the new Tractor Sparc & Ace Sparc campaign, Amit Syngle, Managing Director and CEO, of Asian Paints Ltd., commented, “In our endeavor to offer smart, value-for-money offers to the consumer and truly democratize the home décor market, we continue to innovate and launch solutions which offer customer strong propositions. This customer is willing to upgrade to branded solutions, accompanied by a strong quality and décor promise. The new campaign takes quite an entertaining route to communicate the value-for-money proposition of Tractor Sparc and Ace Sparc emulsions.”

Sukesh Nayak, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy India, said, “Asian Paints Tractor Sparc & Ace Sparc Emulsion are cost-effective paints that promise to offer a rich finish for interior and exterior walls at low cost. Our new campaign highlights the benefit of this feature with an enjoyable take. What the world thinks when they notice the amazing paint job, and also the things that are bought to fulfill the wishes, with the money saved from the cost-effective paint.”

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Edelweiss Mutual Funds TVC talks of visibility of returns

The ‘Kitna Milega’ campaign showcases Target Maturity Funds' unique investment approach

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 12:34 PM   |   1 min read

mutual fund

Edelweiss Mutual Funds has unveiled its TVC brand campaign ‘Kitna Milega’, which focuses on Mutual Fund products that are designed to provide visibility of returns.

The ad campaign showcases Target Maturity Funds' unique investment approach, which offers investors visibility of returns* on their investments provided they stay invested till the maturity of the fund. This campaign will also have presence on print media, outdoor and digital and social media.

Speaking about the campaign, Radhika Gupta, MD & CEO, Edelweiss MF said, "Inherently we have heard investors always asking ‘How much return will I make in this product’ before they choose to invest in any financial product/ Mutual Funds. Investors want simple products that provide visibility of returns.

We have picked this insight of ‘Kitna Milega’ to build on the communication for Target Maturity Funds. These funds are structured and designed in a way to give visibility of returns to investors and are simple in a structure like traditional deposits. Investors will be able to understand and invest in this category banking on the growing popularity of Debt Passives and Target Maturity Funds," she adds.

The campaign aims to convey a clear message about returns on investment that investors have while investing in mutual funds.

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Tanishq’s Ugadi film celebrates women creating own narratives

The film is a celebration of the brand’s Ugadi collection ‘Vardhini’

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 12:28 PM   |   2 min read


Tanishq has launched a heart-warming digital film for the auspicious occasion of Ugadi.

Tanishq’s first-ever digital film for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is a tribute to every woman who is not only unique in her thoughts and stance but also supports her decisions by being her voice.

The film is a celebration of brand’s beautiful Ugadi collection ‘Vardhini’, which is inspired by rich culture and crafted with precision for the women who prosper and thrive in all their might.

Conceptualised by Tanishq and Mind Your Language, the 75-second digital film showcases a powerful narrative of how a woman of today believes in carving her own path, takes a stand for herself and weaves a magic of her own new narratives. The film is an ode to the progressive women of today who want to create an identity for themselves, strongly believes in the importance of new beginnings and that life after marriage goes beyond motherhood.

Speaking on the launch of the film and the collection, Ranjani Krishnaswamy, General Manager – Marketing, Tanishq, Titan Company Limited said, “Today, women are yearning to carve an identity for themselves and are creators of their own narrative. The film is a tribute to the women who prosper and thrive in all their might and the Vardhini collection is truly a celebration of her extraordinary beauty and beliefs that make her stand apart.”

Deepan Ramachandran, Creative Director- Mind Your Language!, said “Tanishq, like the protagonist Swati in our Ugadi film, has always stood out with their progressive and new thoughts. Their brief to us was to straddle the conventional celebration of Ugadi with the new-age thinking of today’s woman. That’s when we asked ourselves - Why shouldn’t today’s woman dream differently? We found the answer in the story of Swati.”

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