Were brands in tune with spending on radio this Diwali?

As per industry heads, brands have been cautious but there has been an upward swing compared to the last quarter

e4m by Noel Dsouza
Updated: Nov 18, 2020 8:31 AM
Radio Diwali ad spends

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the radio industry suffered a massive hit due to the slowdown in various markets. The Pitch Madison Advertising Report Mid-Year Review 2020 reported that Radio de-grew by 90% in the months of April-June. However, taking cautious steps the radio industry turned lockdown into an opportunity and delve further into innovation.

During the lockdown, most radio channels integrated with OTT music streaming apps making their content more accessible to listeners. Amplifying the digital experience, selected FM channels used social media to engage with consumers, organized digital concerts and hosted live chats with celebrities.

As economic activities started to revive during Unlock 1.0, local advertising started gaining traction again on Radio since the medium allows brands to reach the last mile consumer, especially in rural areas.

Now with the festive season in full swing, radio industry leaders say they saw traction from sectors like Electronics, BFSI, Automobile, FMCG, Consumer Non-Durables and e-commerce. Radio industry experts forecast Q3 to be better in terms of profits for the overall industry.
e4m spoke to industry leaders on the brands that have invested on the medium this Diwali season, the campaigns they curated for this festive season and how the festive spends will boost the revival.

Brand Investments
According to Abraham Thomas, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network Limited there has been an upward swing as compared to the last quarter. “This season sees purchases of goods from certain categories being accumulated during this period. Marketers do leverage this opportunity as there is a significant surge in ad volumes. The surge in listenership across different segments (male, female, young and older demographics) has also driven ad volumes in targeted categories,” shared Thomas.

Talking about why the medium is perfect for brands to reach the last mile audience, Thomas says, “Radio is a preferred partner for brands owing to its mass local reach and high engagement. RJs being credible influencers, advertisers look at leveraging the strengths of the medium to reach out to their target audience.”

Ashit Kukian, CEO, Radio City believes brands have been cautious but there has been a slow recovery. “With the festive season around, brands have started showing an uptick in revenues and begun putting resources into Radio. Due to the impact of COVID-19, brands have been judicious about their spending. Hence, the response this year is less as compared to last year. However, having said that, it is still better than what we anticipated during the lockdown phase. With festive spends picking up, I believe that radio is prone to observe improvement in terms of both volumes and revenue in the rest of the year.”

Sharing further insights was Preeti Nihalani, the Chief Revenue Officer, Radio Mirchi. “Volumes that were dulled by the pandemic in the last 2 quarters, are back during the festive season. In the 30 days leading up to Diwali, volumes on radio have grown over the same period last year. Thanks to the success of the ‘Vocal for Local’ initiative, coupled with the ‘innovative solutions’ approach we provide our clients, many new brands have latched on, beyond the traditional ones that come back to advertise every season.”

Nihalani also shared some of the solutions that they have come up with. “At Mirchi Brewery, as we call it internally, we work on marketing challenges faced by brands. Every advertiser has challenges in different cities, for different brands. Most media companies sell ad inventory. At Mirchi Brewery, we work on providing customized, hyper-local, multi-media solutions for brands. The emphasis is on generating results for the client, whether it is generating footfalls, creating buzz, inducing trials, etc. We provide end-to-end solutions, all under one roof.”

Aside from their strong radio presence, Radio Mirchi has 73 frequencies across 63 cities, 12 YouTube channels with 10Mn+ subscribers, 33 online radio stations hosted on Gaana, and 19Mn+ followers across social media platforms. Put together, they nearly reach out to a 100 Mn+ audience a month. They offer the above-mentioned media platforms to provide marketing solutions to their clients.

“We have been able to surpass the social media revenue of all of last year, in the first 7 months of this year. We have seen repeat advertisers who want to work at the back of the strength of our RJ’s as influencers. Clients like Hamdard, Amul, Maruti, Dabur, ITC, Mother Dairy, and many more use the services of Mirchi Brewery to create multi-media solutions,” remarked Nihalani.

Diwali campaigns
Sharing about the campaigns BigFM conceptualized for the Diwali season, Thomas said, “Keeping in line with the spirit of the festival, we have been doing a fun and engaging game for Diwali called ‘BIG Family Jackpot’. Through this, listeners and their families can participate in exciting games and interesting contests from the comforts of their homes. Winners are being rewarded with a range of coveted prizes. Additionally, we have also collaborated with Birla TMT for the campaign #MazbootRishte that encourages listeners to strengthen their bonds with loved ones during this festive season. We have other campaigns and activations as well lined up for the coming weeks, announcements about which will be made in due course.”

Radio City too has had it share of Diwali campaigns. “We recently launched the second edition of ‘City Ki Tech-Shaala’ campaign. This campaign aims to provide laptops/tablets to students who find it difficult to afford them. The campaign has been executed across all the shows in Mumbai, RJs have been urging listeners to come forward and share their stories of why they need the laptop and post thorough analysis of each request, we shortlisted students who will receive the laptops/tablets,” Kukian said.

“In addition to City Ki Tech Shaala, we have also launched, ‘Iss Diwali gale Nahi, Dil Milne do’ campaign to spread the message of safe Diwali during the pandemic. Since a lot of people are away from their families and friends keeping social distancing in mind, we decided to make up for this and help people send Diwali messages to their loved ones. The campaign is live across all our 39 radio stations where RJs have been encouraging listeners to share their stories of how they are celebrating Diwali away from home and share a short message for their families.”

With regards to Radio Mirchi’s campaigns, Nihalani said, “Samsung wanted to create a Festive Centric Engagement (Radio+Digital). The prime objective was to bind an umbrella campaign around the festivities where the brand could act as an enabler in bringing joy to people's lives. Also, to include gratification for Samsung's Dealer Community, the idea we came up with was #KhushiyonSungSamsung, a campaign focusing on making people's festivities happy. This is by bringing happiness into someone's life this festive season and rewarding oneself with exclusive Samsung Gift Vouchers.”

Radio Mirchi also came up with a campaign ‘Khushboo Apnepan Ki’ for Mother Dairy Shudh Ghee. The brand wanted to establish the core proposition around that and increase the recall value of Mother Dairy Shudh Ghee. They created a nostalgic and feel-good campaign. Starting from a radio series on ‘shudh ghee’ dishes and ‘Khushboo Apnepan Ki’ that brought about digital videos of RJs sharing the recipes of life and cooking food made with shudh ghee, reminding them of their loved ones. They finally summed up the campaign with a funny ‘Murga Video’ and a fabric show.

Brands on board

Thomas remarked that their channel has seen engagement from categories like electronics and BFSI. “Other than these, categories such as Automobile, FMCG, Consumer Non-Durables and E-commerce are expected to be active during this period.”

Sharing his insights, Kukian remarked, “During the lockdown, we witnessed advertising requests come in from healthcare and pharmaceutical brands, owing to health and hygiene becoming a key priority. Now, with the opening up of markets and the start of the festive season, we have seen brands from different sectors like retail, auto, consumer electronics, real estate, and FMCG using the power of radio to advertise during the festive season. To give you an example, we will be engaging with retail brands and set up seller driven activities to build footfalls in the actual stores of these brands.”

Radio Mirchi’s Nihalani saw a surge in volumes across categories, led by FMCG, Auto, BFI, Real estate, and OTT players.

Will Diwali be a benefactor to revive spends on Radio?
Thomas shared, “In India, the festive season sees tremendous growth in business as about 40-45% of annual business occurs during this period. With a wide reach that radio offers, marketers are known to leverage the medium to expand their audience reach and engagement. The festive season also sees customers indulge in pent-up shopping and bulk-buying, which they have been deprived of since the onset of lockdown in March. We are looking forward to new launches and huge offers to capitalise on the consumer’s mood change.”

For Kukian, Diwali was bound to bring sme cheer. “We expect Diwali to kickstart and boost the consumption cycle which will lead to brands investing across platforms. While every industry is in the recovery phase, I believe Radio will be amongst the first ones to come out of the woods stronger. In terms of profits, due to the impact of COVID-19, we did see some amount of strain on our profit margin in Q1 and Q2 but as we know, Q3 is the biggest and most anticipated quarter of the year for most industries, I foresee this quarter to be better for us.”

Nihalani too had similar views with hopes that the momentum in the market stays. “Certainly, the festive season surge in advertising demand will help in the profitability overall. However, the effect of the pandemic will be felt for a little longer. We hope to maintain the momentum in the market and are cautiously optimistic about the demand post-Diwali. There is a brief lull post-Diwali before demand surges again in December.”

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