There’s a clear market shift towards vernacular & digital advertising: Sapna Chadha

Sapna Chadha, Senior Director of Marketing for SEA & India, Google, talks about YouTube’s first-ever regional language Ads Leaderboard

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published: Dec 18, 2020 9:18 AM  | 7 min read
sapna Chahda

Move over Hindi and English. Regional language dominates both content and ad stream in YouTube.

YouTube’s first-ever regional language Ads Leaderboard released today signals a clear consumer preference for vernacular content online. Marketers are also jumping on to the trend of using a vernacular content strategy to maximize reach and access.

Interestingly, the list of the top 10 most watched ads through the second half of 2020 includes advertisements in six regional Indian languages, Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, Marathi, Kannada and Telugu.

Turns out, YouTube watchtime jumped 45% in July this year since the same time in 2019, with regional language content being one of the strongest drivers of this growth. According to the September 2019 Google/Kantar Video Landscape Research, 93% of YouTube viewers prefer watching content in regional languages.

Marketers have realized how consumers are more likely to consider a purchase when they are reached in their preferred language.

Sapna Chadha, Senior Director of Marketing for SEA & India, Google, spoke to e4M on how languages are the taking the lead on Youtube, brands that stole the show, scope for marketers when they reach out to their consumers in local languages and how Google helps them do that.


Voice and languages are the future of internet and marketers are realizing it too. Tell us a little about the kind of demand you have seen in vernacular advertisements.

Today, 1 out 3 Indians consumes online video. YouTube’s appeal is in its ability to host diversity of content, which includes languages, and build strong, authentic connections based on this. What’s heartening to see is that brands are being agile, and creating marketing assets especially to reach users in different languages. This first regional leaderboard is a sign of the times, and consumers can expect more memorable language advertising in 2021 on YouTube.”

We've been looking at trends for years now. But what we're seeing today is unlike any other time and I think we're seeing signals that users want to have content given to them and brands talk to them in their language. India's digital transformation will be incomplete if English proficiency continues to be the entry barrier.

As an advertiser myself, we've evolved a lot as we talk as Google to India. Language is playing even more important part of the story from an advertiser standpoint and all that is coming because we see what is happening on the user side. So one thing impacts the other.

What we're seeing on YouTube is even more unprecedented. For online videos in India, we're now reaching over 325 million unique Indians every month and it's the number one platform for accessing videos in regional languages.

With over 500 million Indians online now and with time spent online only going up, we are seeing a preference for choosing to consume in local language and there is no better place than YouTube to do this. We're inspired by how advertisers are leaning into this and choosing a local language over English today.

The leaderboard signals that shift in consumer preference for regional languages, and specifically ads online. Google and YouTube are really leaning into this language space. This is not a trend or fad that is a one-time thing. You are going to see this much more from us over the times to come.

Is it just the regional brands or we have national brands too who are taking to advertising on YouTube in vernacular languages? Help us with some examples.

We're seeing national brands like Asian Paints, Kodak, PolicyBazaar, Games24X7 come on board. There’s a clear market shift towards vernacular and digital advertising that we're seeing and I think these are brands that are smart in terms of driving performance and driving impact

So we are seeing national brands as well as local ones who are taking to vernacular language advertising.

YouTube’s top regional language ads for July-December include-

  1. Tamil: The Taste of India by Amul
  2. Malayalam: #MassEntri with Entri App! by Entri App
  3. Bengali: Goodknight Gold Flash | No more disease-causing mosquitoes by Goodknight
  4. Marathi: प्रेमाचा हा १५ वर्षांचा प्रवास घेऊन आलोय फक्त तुमच्यासाठी | पीएनजी ज्वेलर्स by PNG Jewellers
  5. Kannada: Sudeep+Body by BYJU’s
  6. Tamil: Muhurat At Home by Kalyan Jewellers
  7. Telugu: స్టడ్స్ & డ్రాప్స్ ఫెస్టివల్ - ప్రతి రూపానికి సరైన జోడి(to be checked) by

Malabar Gold and Diamonds

  1. Kannada: India’s biggest offers begin tomorrow with #TheBigBillionDays! by Flipkart
  2. Bengali: #CloserThisRakhi by Cadbury Celebrations
  3. Bengali: Sujit Chattopadhyay - A retired school teacher home schooling underprivileged children by Colgate India


Do we have any particular sectors that are using vernacular ads more than the others?

I don't think there’s any particular sector to point out. We see unexpected advertisers leading in.

Take a brand like Asian Paints, they have a very strong regional marketing strategy and I think they're doing really clever work. In terms of personalization at scale, they're really thinking about using different forms, bumpers and other formats to engage their users on the medium. So they're building on the medium and they have a very healthy language strategy. Most recently, they did a campaign on their product called Ultima. They had a reach of more than 15 million people through their campaign and they saw a huge increase in total awareness that drove impact in sales.

So it isn’t just the tech savvy sectors only that are running the show. There are all sorts of sectors.

Any particular region where there is more focus on such ads? Which are the best performing markets for vernacular ads?

I think this is still playing out.  Hindi has dominated the space for a long time, so that's going to touch upon several regions. But what we're seeing now is that the reach on digital platforms is now meaningful across regions especially the six that we have put in the leaderboard which is Tamil Malayalam, Bengali, Marathi, Kannada and Telegu. So after Hindi, Bengali and languages of south have seen maximum traction, but the space is fast evolving and I think that is what is so exciting about YouTube.

YouTube is known for the host of tools it offers marketers---tell us about the latest additions and how it is helping brands?

There are several things that we have done.  In order to democratize many aspects of the video ecosystem around the globe, one of the interesting things we have launched recently for those marketers who have limited experience and resources to produce a video on their own for a Google ad campaign is Video Builder. Video Builder manually populates video layouts with different types of images (eg. product or lifestyle shots from Display, Print, Social Media, Website, etc), branding elements (eg. logo, brand colours), and messaging/copy, to produce a YouTube-optimized video for any marketing objective. This will be useful also for those marketers who have more narrowly defined consumer geographies and consumers who have a clear choice of a regional language.

We have recently refreshed the way advertisers leverage Search on YouTube. The ad format is now bigger and very much in sync with answering a marketer's branding goal while marrying the user behaviour of coming to YouTube seeking the right answers. 

We have also recently launched Video action campaigns to simplify campaigns for clients with performance goals. It is a simple and cost-effective way to drive more conversions across YouTube as it automatically brings video ads that drive action to the YouTube home feed, watch pages, and Google video partners, all within one campaign. This way advertisers can save time to focus on strategic initiatives like crafting the right creative and messaging for your audiences.

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