For marketers, ‘unlock’ is the ‘new advertising season’

Be it the anticipation of a third wave or simply the relaxation of lockdown rules after the second wave, advertisers have made a comeback on TV

e4m by Sonam Saini & Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Jul 26, 2021 12:56 PM
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Advertisers are no longer waiting for the festive season to loosen their purse strings. The lockdown relaxations post the second wave of the pandemic has improved consumer sentiments pushing advertisers to make the most of the ‘new advertising season’, automatically providing a fillip to Q2 bottom-line for both broadcasters and publishers.

As per experts, after the lifting of lockdown restrictions, Q2 is likely to witness 20%-30% growth in ad volumes over Q1.

For instance, Maruti Suzuki India Limited, which spent Rs110 crore on advertising in Q1, is looking at pushing spends by 3X in Q2.

“Lockdown restricts all sort of retail activities, so as advertisers, it makes little sense to spend much during the time. This subsequently puts together a cumulative amount that is now available for spending. We are planning to make the most of this period where the Covid situation in the country is under control and consumers want to spend on purchases be it festive season or not,” said Shashank Srivastava, Senior Executive Director, Marketing and Sales, Maruti Suzuki India Limited.

As far as preference for medium is concerned, the automobile brand would be looking at news and sports for affinity building, niche channels for impact buying and GEC for reach. Also, 25-27% of their total ad spend in Q2 would go to digital.

While apprehensions around a possible third wave has motivated brands across sectors to push messaging and drive brand salience in terms of awareness or reach irrespective of what month of the year it is, for a lot of brands the whole concept of earmarking ad spends according to festive periods has changed for good.

“Right now it is not advisable to bucket calendars as per old school philosophy. Brands must motivate people to come back to normalcy and design their products and messaging around it. Brands must be available for engagement and accessible too for their consumers even outside typical festive periods. We will continue to maintain our multimedia approach when it comes to advertising and will not wait for specific period for communication or sales,” said Ranjani Krishnaswamy, GM, Marketing, Tanishq, Titan Company Ltd.

June-July, generally considered a lean period in the marketing calendar, is seeing a complete turnaround in the wake of the new reality defined by the pandemic.

“Lockdowns are the new lean period and any time period outside of it is the spending period,” said Jai Lala, Chief Executive, Zenith India.

“The definition of lean months has shifted in the last two years. Whenever there are lesser cases and there is no lockdown, it is a good time to buy and sell and hence advertisers are motivated to spend now. Automobiles and consumer durables are two sectors that have pumped up their messaging in the June-July period to boost sales,” he said.

Turns out, auto sector ads made a comeback in June 21 post the second wave lockdown. In June, the ads recorded 128% growth over May 21 and 44% over April 21. As per the latest BARC data, the ads from the sector are now at par with June 2019 and 74% higher than 2020.

According to the same data, overall among other sectors, with 15.4 mn seconds in June 2021 alone, ad volumes for the e-commerce sector have also registered a whopping growth of 56% when compared to June 2019. At an all-time high currently, the category has a 12% share in the total ad volume pie.

FMCG continued to lead the share in H1 2021 with 566 mn seconds, a growth of 40% over H1 2019. Building sector registered 30.7 mn seconds of ad volumes; a 24% growth in H1 2021 as compared to H1 2019. Ad Volumes for BFSI sector also grew by 7% over H1 2019 with 14.5 mn seconds in H1 2021.

"All sectors whose sales were summer-led (consumer durables, Travel and Tourism, FMCG etc) and others who leverage the festive season (auto, E-commerce etc.) will   participate in this JAS quarter. The sectors whose peak season was impacted during the second wave of the pandemic will lead advertising in this quarter, wishing to get   back before fears of the third wave impact their business and marketing plans again," said Mahadev Srivatsa, Vice President of Marketing and Brand Strategy at ed-tech     platform, Practically.

No wonder TV businesses expect growth in numbers.

“Q2 over Q1 is likely to witness 20% growth,” said Ashish Sehgal, Chief Growth Officer - Ad Revenue, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL). In spite of the ups and downs in businesses in the wake of lockdown, Sehgal is hopeful of better numbers in Q2.

“July didn't open up to our expectations, mainly because several states were still under lockdown or partial lockdown. However, it did better than June, and there was a 30% growth over June. There is a progression in advertising growth. While August looks similar to what we did in April (that saw high growth this year) hopefully, September would be better than August,” he said.

According to him, some categories like consumer durables and the retail sector that had stopped advertising during the May-June period have now begun spending.
Most broadcasters echo the same positive outlook for Q2.

Rohit Gupta, Chief Revenue Officer - Ad Sales and International Business, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), added, “From July onwards, Q2 started to look better as things are getting back to normal now. Also, we had some significant events like Euro 2020, Tokyo Olympics, and India- Sri Lanka series during this period, and the response has been far better than what we expected.”

“Hopefully, the worst is behind us, and if there is no third wave of Covid, we expect the festive quarter to be a bumper one. Advertisers want to advertise because they have been silent for some time now. Additionally, a lot of categories that stopped advertising in May-June have started returning to TV.”

Gupta is optimistic that Q2 will be higher than Q1 in terms of revenue growth number.

However, he feels that the comparison between Q1 and Q2 won't be fair since the base in Q1 was low. "The important factor is that things are getting back to normal, and advertisers have returned to advertising, he said.

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