No major drop in ad rates: So, how did print tide over Covid’s second wave?

While ad rates haven’t shown any significant drops, there hasn’t been any increase in the same since 2019. Newspapers are targeting to touch 2019 numbers before increasing rates

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Jul 20, 2021 11:03 AM

Jacket ads and masthead integrations are back on all major newspapers and across languages. Newspapers like The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran and many others are regularly printing full-pagers. Does this suggest lowering of ad rates or stabilizing of business after the second wave?

Interestingly, with print betting high on cost cuts and ad volumes to drive growth, there has been no significant drop in ad rates to stabilize toplines as businesses start opening up after the second wave of the pandemic.

After a dry two month phase between April and June, newspapers are back cracking deals with brands without any deep discount or ancillary offers. Experts suggest that the industry is likely to witness sharp ad growth on a YoY basis in FY22 with publishers eying recovery of ad volumes and no drop in ad rates especially in language newspapers.

In fact, as per media planners’ estimations, an inside page ad is upgraded to jacket with 30%-40% premium on base rate on regular days, but on special days and festive season, the premium goes up to 4X and there has been no changes in these rates even in the present times.

“Print never held back pricing, they only added value to it in terms of additional space/schemes. Noticeably print is working its way back to recovery, and by the end of this financial year, print is expected to go back to 85% to 90% of numbers it clocked in 2019, be it in terms of volume or advertising revenue. Presently, as businesses have started opening up and brands are investing in advertising, print is also getting back its due share in terms of volumes. However, the schemes which use to exist are no longer prevalent when it comes to leading players in the country,” said Ramsai Panchapakesan, SVP, Media Buying, Zenith.

While there has been a temporary increase in newsprint prices in Q4FY21, given the lower pagination and contracted inventory, the impact has been much lower than the price rise.

“There was no impact on circulation in non-metro cities. Not even in the first lockdown. This has given the language newspapers an upper hand to maintain both ad volumes and ad rates. During the months where consumer sentiment was low, publishers were offering value ads. But as businesses open up, these offers have dried up as well unless it is for a special client,” said another media planner.

Talking of ad volumes, while April saw a drop in numbers in the wake of the second wave of the ongoing pandemic, according to latest TAM AdEx report, during May'21, ad space in print grew by 53% compared to May'20 and overall ad space per publication rose by 7% in June'21 over June'20.

According to experts, while there has been no drop in ad rates there has also not been any significant growth in ad rates.

“Print is targeting to bring back numbers as the targets are based over last year and numbers are expected to be big and aspirational by driving growth in ad volumes by offering innovative solutions,” Panchapakesan said.

Coming to innovations, as per TAM Ad Ex, indexed ad insertion growth of ad innovations in print medium was 12% higher in June 2021 as compared to June 2020. Three out of five ad innovations were common in print in both periods. Top five add innovations In June 2021 were French Window, Tab, Figured Outline, Masthead Integration and Seamless Jacket. While in June 2020, the top five innovations included Figured Outline with 82% share followed by L shape ads, Masthead Integrations, Circular Shape and Tab.

Experts also suggest that last year, inventory utilization had almost reduced by 60-80% across national and vernacular publications. This had led to a huge reduction in print rates – very high discounts on card rates, special schemes, value adds etc.

 “Even in August-September’20, when advertising was beginning to resume, print rates were at higher discount percentages. With festive season in 2020, print rates started witnessing an upward trend. With the second wave of Covid, print inventories again started falling down. However the discounts were not as high as they were during the first wave,” said Navin Kathuria, EVP & Principal Partner, OMD Mudramax.

One of the reasons for this is that in first wave, the distribution and circulation of dailies/magazines was affected badly, which was not the case during second wave.

“Also with advertising resuming with the conventional print categories like Retail, E-commerce shopping sites etc, demand for print inventory has gone up and so have the prices. Having said that print rates have yet not reached the pre-Covid levels. Current rates are higher than last year, but still slightly lower than the pre-Covid levels,” said Kathuria.

As it turns out, print's credibility has ensured that the ad prices don’t go down. Even in this pandemic induced environment, print managed to bounce back and gain stability thoroughly riding on the years of credibility under its belt.

Reach in language markets is another big factor behind brands, both big and small, counting on print medium.

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