Return of advertisers brings cheer to Print

The pace of recovery is faster in Tier 2, 3 and beyond markets as compared to the metros, say industry players

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published: Jul 30, 2020 8:46 AM  | 7 min read

After a torrid two months, print is seeing a slow but steady growth in toplines, with advertisers returning to their traditional favourite. COVID has redefined the role of print in the media mix. Cashing in on their credibility factor most print brands are welcoming back their ad clientele especially in the last one month.

Of all the advertisers coming back to print, 75% are in Hindi and English Language, shows the latest Tam AdEx data. Interestingly, for some major players the demand is more from non-metro cities.

Return of the Advertisers

Shedding light on the pattern of recovery was Satyajit Sen Gupta, Chief Corporate Sales and Marketing officer at DB Corp: “The market is showing distinct signs of recovery. As expected, the pace of recovery is much faster in Tier 2, 3 and beyond markets as compared to the metros. Automobile category comprising 4 wheelers and 2 wheelers, which is our largest category, has been the first to recover and most vehicles are seeing robust sales. They were the first to resume advertising from May-end. Other categories like FMCG and Healthcare, Education, Durables and Home Appliances started from June and are aggressive right now. Lifestyle, personal accessories, jewellery etc. have also started advertising in July and are building volumes.”

In terms of state-wise share, Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 17% of ad volume share followed by Maharashtra at 10%. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu come next.

According to Sivakumar Sundaram, Chairman, Executive Committee (CEC), Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd, “Multiple researches have shown that this is not the time for brands to stay silent.”

This explains TAM data that shows in the April-June period a total of 189 categories, 28000+ advertisers and 31300+ brands exclusively advertised on print.

Talking of the inventory movement back at TOI, Sundaram said, “Inventory movement is surely growing month on month. Today, if you see our newspapers, advertising vibrancy is back. The jackets are back and we have published several special features and supplements. The path to full recovery is all set. The growing thickness of the newspaper is a positive reflection on the economy and has a direct positive impact on consumer mindset.”

In terms of categories, Sundaram is on the same page with Sen Gupta. “It’s a direct function of categories that are being able to build or alter their business faster and those focused on demand generation. Consumption categories like FMCG, mobile phones and healthcare are back and the categories that cater to needs of the New Normal i.e. Consumer Durables, Auto and Real Estate are also growing. We are seeing early signs of return of discretionary spends like jewellery. I must admit that all categories are active,” he said.

Publishers also have their hopes tied to the festive season.

Reinforcing that business is coming back, Varghese Chandy, VP, Marketing, Advertising Sales, Malayala Manorama, said: “Relatively, month on month, post Covid, business has been picking up. However, it is not comparable to the pre-Covid days. Brands are active and if we look at Kerala specifically, Onam is also around and that tempts clients to be active.” 

The south market has also seen new entrants in terms of advertiser category bringing in the much need cheer to the industry. “Cleaning/washing and hygiene brands, which were not that active in print have now became regular advertisers,” said Mathrubhumi Managing Director M V Shreyams Kumar.

What brands want

As per TAM data, brands from 220 categories were going for sales promotions and in print discount promotion grabbed almost 32% share followed by 29% of multiple promotion.

Sundaram believes advertisers are primarily looking for two things. “A credible environment where their brands can be showcased in the right context and a sense of positivity that augurs a return of consumer confidence and vibrancy in the economy,” he said.

Advertisers are also asking for sizeable amounts of discount to be back in action. According to sources, advertisers have asked for as much as 50-60% discount in the earlier days of the lockdown. However, newspapers are no longer encouraging discounted ad rates for clients. While most have brought down the discount numbers, some are on their way to do away with it completely as India enters Unlock 2.0.

“In order to help advertisers reach their consumers to again pick up and regain sales volume, we did offer some schemes till July. However, with more and more advertisers regaining their sales, we are getting out of all schemes from August,” Sen Gupta pointed out.

For Sundaram it is more of a ‘fresh start’ from April 2020. “Doubling rate is not a good word in Covid times, but in the context of the economy and revenue we are seeing doubling of revenues and volumes month after month. July is no exception. Pricing in our case has always been determined by a robust pricing engine, which is AI and ML based and optimises pricing for each advertiser based on several factors. We have always been in the value game and aim to consistently deliver value for our customers,” he said.

The situation is similar down south where discounts are being done away with. "Thankfully, the Kerala market is insulated from this discount pandemic. During the lockdown period, we accommodated our regular clients’ interests by offering rate markdown but now the tariff is back to previous operating levels. We were able to overcome this market turbulence since the state bounced back quickly from the lockdown due to strict observance of health protocols enforced by a proactive government. And now, mercifully, the Onam season is on. Though we might not experience a great festive spree in line with previous years, the season will definitely be upbeat," said Kumar.

 What newspapers are offering

The primary focus of most newspapers in the present times is to enhance reader interest and affinity. Covid has changed people’s expectations from a newspaper, making it the most dependable source of facts. “We are ensuring that we maintain a balance of utility and reading pleasure. In our category, reader affinity plays a critical role and we try to ensure that by reading the newspaper, our readers can navigate better through these times,” Sundaram said.

Sharing more on the market feedback, Sen Gupta said: “All our efforts are towards helping advertisers get back their consumers. Integrated plans, performance-oriented advertising are being offered to many advertisers. The good part is that results are evident. Market feedback is that print advertising is directly driving sales unlike TV and digital advertising. As more categories get back on track, our market-based solutions approach will be driving growth.”

While advertisers are coming back to print, experts have their doubts on whether the business this season will match up to that of last year. The struggle might have eased out for the sector but not over said media agencies. “During the lockdown, print suffered the most, to be precise newspapers were almost dying due to absolutely ‘no sale’ in the market. While their e-paper was still grabbing the viewers’ attention, but their overall revenue saw a huge dip. With things gradually moving, it feels that the festive season may help in seeing a slight uphill in the print industry. But yet we cannot predict that the business during July 2020 would match to what it was in July 2019, as the COVID-19 impacts on this industry have been worse/unimaginable in the last few months,” said Jai Lala, COO, at Publicis Group-owned media agency Zenith.

“To put an eye on, even the Auto industry is now slowly and progressively coming back. But I believe that the Airline, Luxury and Retail to name a few, would definitely take longer to make a comeback because of the obvious current situations,” he added.

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