e4m e-Conclave: Marketers should focus on regional channels post COVID-19, say experts

At the e4m e-Conclave, panellists Vikram Sakhuja, Prathyusha Agarwal, Vivek Sharma & Ashish Pherwani discussed the impact of the pandemic on media & entertainment industry in India

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: May 4, 2020 9:18 AM  | 9 min read

TV and digital are two best platforms for the advertiser at the moment according to Vikram Sakhuja, Group CEO & OOH, Madison World. He was speaking at the e4m webinar “Covid-19: Impact on Media & Entertainment Industry in India”. Other than Sakhuja, the esteemed panel included Prathyusha Agarwal, Chief Consumer Officer, Zee Entertainment Enterprises and Vivek Sharma, CMO, Pidilite Industries Ltd. The session was moderated by Ashish Pherwani, Media & Entertainment Leader, EY India.

Speaking about the most relevant channels of advertisement and marketing in the times of COVID-19, Sakhuja said, “TV saw a growth of 40% post lockdown, and digital of 10%, with social media and news grabbing the maximum share. Print is also there but of hindrance in production, the medium has taken a hit.”

He added that out of home (OOH) and cinema are completely wiped out due to lockdown. He also pointed out that there is a significant drop in advertisers at the moment."30%-35% drop in the number of advertisers on all sources. The overall inventory sold on TV has dropped by 25%-50%. The spends on TV has come down by 70%-80%. The advertisers who are still adverting are automatically getting great value offers advertisers", he said.

According to him, ads with social messaging are also at an all-time high with a mammoth share of 30%. Normally it’s around 5% of the total messaging.

Adding to Sakhuja’s statement, Sharma said that it’s a good time for brands to build equity for themselves through the right messaging.

"It is an opportunity for the brand to build brand equity at a time when the clutter in the market is less. Brands could easily grab a share of consumer’s attention”, he said.

He cited the example of the insurance sector, which has increased the adverting at the moment. “It is the right time for the insurance sector to get the messaging across the consumer as people are more security conscious” he added.

Sharma also thinks that marketers should use this opportunity to redefine their relationship with their consumers, dealers, distributors and contractors. Companies should demonstrate that they care for them.

Pherwani, who was moderating the event, observed that due to disruption in the supply chain, brand loyalty may get affected. He said, "Brand loyalty may be getting impacted because of the lockdown and advertising will be required to prime the economy and it will play a vital role in getting things back on track"

Agreeing to Pherwani's observation, Sharma added, “Eroding brand loyalty is the reality of the changing social scenario. Now, when the consumers go to a store, and could not find the preferred brand, they move on to next available option. By doing so, they’ll come to know that there is not much of difference between the products, and they can make do with other option too.”

According to Sharma, there are two ways through which marketers could persuade consumers to stay loyal to the brand. “Brands have two choices. One is, reaching out to consumers now through advertisement and maintaining a constant presence in their consciousness, and other is coming out with full force once the lockdown is lifted.”

On Pherwani's question about the increase in the ad spends, Sharma said: “Budget will depend upon profit, loss and business consideration, but long time marketers know that these are the times when they need to invest more in brand as well as innovation.”

“We’ll see marketers investing more than necessary to get the momentum going when the situation comes close to normal, just to start the movement in the market” he added.

Weighing in on what media channels should be doing at a time when the viewership is growing and yet the adverting is going down, Agarwal said that as markers, one should deconstruct the growth model and see who is the new consumer who constitutes the 40% growth of TV and accordingly tailor-make the content.

She said, “The viewing unit is changing. Instead of a single unit, it has changed to a family as a consumption unit. The change is also in a time of consumption. Viewership has changed from primetime to all seven days.”

Agarwal told the panel that GEC saw an increase of 12%, while the movie genre is at 60% growth. Regional markets are also exploding. She added, “As a marketer, one should focus on grabbing the market share.”

Commenting on the increase in GEC, which is largely dominated by Ramayan on Doordarshan, Pherwani observed that, "In times of trouble, we're moving more towards mythology for escapism"

Answering to a viewer who asked whether the decline of OHH would be permanent, Sakhuja said, "It’s definitely not a permanent set back. When we see the normalcy of people going back on the road, it'll be back on track". He added that he’s more worried about entertainment, especially cinema, as the audience will take a while before they go back to cinema halls to watch movies. “This will impact the industry”, he said.

Talking about his strategy as a marketer when the market opens, Sharma observed, "We will see a latent pent-up demand post this lockdown".

He added, "We have various plans to reach out to our consumers. We’ll see changes in attitude, behaviour and consumption of consumers post the lockdown. They’ll be more conscious about what they are buying. Also, they will be comfortable with digital and would want to reach the brand directly online, therefore it opens the new avenue for marketers to develop directly to consumer channels of reach.”

When a viewer asked about the future of print, Sakhuja observed, "Print is right now coming in the back of a soft 2019. They were flat to marginal growth last year. Total readership in the past 1 month is sort of steady but a bit weak. "

He added, "Circulation levels of print are 80% and newspapers are half the size they used to be. I don't see people going off subscription but the final readership will see a residual dip".

According to Sakhuja, despite the dip, the newspaper will still remain relevant because it’s seen as the most authentic mode of information.

"The role of newspapers is very much existent. I won't write off the concept but it'll see a dip for a while and the circulation pattern will need more monitoring”, he said.

Addressing the question about the conflict between OTT and TV viewership, Agarwal said that though the consumer intention to pay for content has increased to 70% from the earlier 40%, still there is no comparison between the two.

"OTT content is very metro and SEC centric. It’s built for an upper intellect audience. We have a total of 630 million consumers who consume TV, opposed to 60 million total OTT users”, she said.

When asked about whether the change in consumption patterns would be permanent, Sharma denies that.

He said, "Normal consumer & consumption will come back. Life will not change but there will be residual effects of the pandemic on consumer’s behaviour. They will focus their purchases on essential. Marketers need to get the messaging across to the consumer about why their product is an essential commodity for them.”

Elaborating on the need to bring in a change in the messaging in the post-COVID-19 world, Sakhuja explained an 'AEIOU' mantra for the marketers.

"I have a mantra for marketers who need to look at the 5 vowels. A is for the authenticity of the messaging, and availability of the product. E stands for essentials. Marketers need to tell the consumer why their product is essential for them. I stand for Insular/Intimacy/Indian. There is an increase in barriers in society. People are more focused on using homegrown products, so brands should focus on 'Make in India’. O is for Online. Post COVID-19, the consumer will be more comfortable with e-commerce and online transaction. Therefore brands should focus on building online channels of communication and commerce. The last is U, which stands for uncertainty management”, he said.

Talking about the revival of the market, Sharma speculated that revival should start form Tier 2 and 3 markets. He said, "Possibly, given the situation, COVID will not reach remote areas. And demand will revive from their first".

He added that the recovery of the market will depend majorly on the shape of the recovery model, whether it’s U shaped or V-shaped, and on the efficiency of supply chain along with liquidity in the system.

According to Sakhuja, the revival of the market should start the moment lockdown gets relaxed. He said, “The moment relax the guidelines of the lockdown, demand should start going up. Marketers need to dial-up or capitalize."

Sharma added to Sakhuja's statement and said, "Demand will be staggered depending on red, orange and green zone. Marketers need to plan their media to reach the consumers"

He further added, "We will be looking for media owner and regional transit to reach the consumer faster in the remote markets.”

Agarwal agreed with Sharma and said, "Regional channel will do a lot better in post-COVID-19 world. The share of regional channels has grown at a much faster rate in the past few years.”

Sakhuja too agreed with his fellow panellists and cited the example of regional markets that are performing well. He said, "The way Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, Bhojpuri etc are coming out with regional channels, it shows that the expansion is going great"

On the question of whether marketers should focus on one-time impact or building reach, Shakhuja said according to him, currently, brands should focus on building reach.

"There is about an average of 25% more time spent on TV. We need to know and differentiate between deciding on showing the message more or focus on a one time impact", he said.

Agarwal, when asked- what are the new challenges she sees in the post-COVID-19 world, observed that production needs to undergo innovation. “We are rethinking production format. There are many new innovations coming up”, she said.

She added that there will also be a change in demand of content genres and there will be a need for light-hearted comedy once this over.

Sharma was asked by a viewer about the future of experiential marketing, and he observed that there will be an increment in online experiential marketing, but a decline in on-ground ones.

Sakhuja added to Sharma' s observation and said, "There are a bunch of virtual concerts, which are getting way more participation than a physical concert. Experiential will stay but it'll be in a different format”.

He concluded the session with a message for brands. He said, "Brands should focus on making themselves available & heard, make sure they are giving some value to their clients".




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