‘Brands are exploring OTT properties for disruptive branding’

Bhairav Shanth, MD of ITW Consulting, on how OTT activations can enhance branding exercises

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Oct 19, 2021 10:10 AM
Bhairav Shanth

In conversation with Bhairav Shanth, MD of ITW Consulting who shares how new-age brands are willing to try out innovative activations on OTT to lift their branding efforts

How much importance do established and upcoming brands give to branding these days?

It’s an interesting change that has happened over the last 2-3 years, that brands no longer prefer plain vanilla branding. While legacy brands, who continue to enjoy stronger brand equity, still spend a large part of the branding budget on OOH, Print, and Television advertising, the new-age brands are becoming more innovative and are ready to take that little bit of risk to get tangible results. We work with over a thousand brands and provide branding solutions to reach out to consumers through investment in marquee sporting properties, cricket being one of them.

Plain vanilla branding does have its benefits and helps brands in establishing their identity and how they want the market to perceive them,  however, marketing and brand teams today keep looking for something disruptive to measure returns on their investments, analyze and improve further.

What are the various metrics to measure branding? How do you convince different brands to go for branding?

When we started working with CRED they were a 200 million dollar valued startup. They started two years ago and aimed to be in the big league. They wanted to create an impact, at the same time they didn't want to target the masses. Their target audience was credit card holders above a certain credit score.

When we started with CRED, we were told to share measurable KRAs. Now, any normal agency would have given them a nice mix of TV, digital, and everything put together. However, we decided to experiment and pushed them to associate with IPL as an official partner. Of course, this is not something cheap and comes at a cost. The general belief is that sponsorships are not measurable. So, we took them to a very interesting activation called CRED Powerplay, which was very simple. Anyone who paid the credit card bill through CRED during the IPL Powerplay received 100 percent cashback. We amplified the whole message and ensured that while the match was going on in the second innings we would actually show the live picture or video of the person who had received the cashback. This activation went viral and people loved it. The number of downloads increased 7X. The business grew by leaps and bounds. At the end of season one, we had really exceeded all benchmarks. This campaign was also supported with  a holistic digital and TV plan that helped in achieving the KRAs.

So you prefer to go beyond vanilla branding for your brands as far as OTT is concerned?

The CRED activation was very different from what other similar brands had done before. It was well executed. CRED achieved much more than just a typical branding exposure. The whole customized interaction, sponsorship benefits, mentions on-air, TV coverage, backed by a holistic digital OTT plan with live cricket made their day. They raised another valuation of 1.2 billion- just after the IPL. So brands are not just looking at associations to spend the ad budget, they are looking for tangible and innovative ways to invest in branding, how people perceive it, and how they measure the metrics. As a company, we feel happy to work with many such startups and we've been with them through their journey.

ITW is heavily focused on sports sponsorships, Disney+ Hotstar has some of the biggest sporting properties with them. To what extent is the platform relevant for you

Our collaboration with Disney+ Hotstar is relatively new. It has just been eight months and we are already looking forward to more. We are working back to back with Disney+Hotstar for the second season of IPL.  There are a lot of synergies between the way Disney+ Hotstar and we work, and that's why we are able to do more and perform better. I have worked with a lot of OTT platforms, and I notice that the interest to deliver to the clients is greater at Disney+ Hotstar.  They come in with the knowledge and data points and not a plain vanilla thought process and we come in with the relationship and understanding of the sports market.

Do you believe in creating an audience-driven strategy or content-driven strategy for your clients? How do you pick a platform and on what basis?

When we choose a campaign or an integrated sponsorship campaign that involves digital and other aspects of branding, we are very clear that the plan has to be based on the numbers, the previous benchmark and case studies that similar category brands have had. For example, sometimes brands just want to advertise during live sports or live cricket matches, because everyone is doing so. If the spend is not optimum and not going to achieve the objectives, we've actually advised brands against it.

The general belief is that the new-age brands will move towards performance and established ones towards branding… What kind of brands are going for branding according to you?

Five years ago, IPL had 6 -8 traditional legacy brands out of 10 sponsors. Today you'll find only two legacy brands associated with IPL. Everyone is a startup, there are brands that have big aspirations, some of them are unicorns or planning an IPO, so I would say that the requirement of the new-age brand is completely different and the digital revolution is fueling their success.

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