Reality Check: Why advertisers are tuned in to non-fiction properties on TV

IPL had 18 sponsors in its kitty even before the launch of the current season, KBC roped in 10 sponsors even before the start, and Big Boss already has four sponsors so far

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Sep 30, 2020 10:32 AM

With the festive season around the corner, advertisers are making all attempts to reach out to their consumers so that they can meet their sales target and capitalize the last quarter of the year better. It is interesing to see that despite the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to hit the economy hard, marketers are not hesitating to loosen their purse strings, especially when it comes to non-fiction properties like Indian Premier League (IPL), Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) and Big Boss. 

IPL, seen as one of the biggest impact properties in the broadcasting industry, had 18 sponsors in its kitty even before the launch of the current season. Kaun Banega Crorepati hosted by Amitabh Bachchan, now in its 12th season, roped in 10 sponsors even before the start. The show is 'co-powered' by Vedantu and Tata Salt. The 'associate sponsors' are IDFC FIRST Bank, LIC, Asian Paints, Ultratech Cement, QuickHeal, Sensodyne and Nissan.

Similarly, Bigg Boss 2020, which is starting on October 12, has signed in MPL as 'presenting sponsor' along with  Dabur Dant Rakshak Ayurvedic Paste and TRESemmé as 'powered by' sponsor, along with 'beauty partner' Lotus and 'associate sponsor' Ching’s. Even on regional channel Star Vijay where it is starting on October 4, Bigg Boss already has 13 sponsors on board, including Dabur Herbal Clove Toothpaste as 'presenting sponsor'. 

According to industry experts, this heightened interest of advertisers and brands in non-fiction high impact properties on television could be the result of a change in consumer behaviour caused by the lockdown. Due to the lack of original programming or fresh content on GECs, people had no other option but to watch the repeat content on television, because of which a lot of fatigue settled in. Hence, it is expected that the consumption of non-fiction properties will be higher than fiction in the days to come, opine industry watchers. 

Talking about this change in consumer behaviour trend, Rachana Monteiro, General Manager, MediaCom, a GroupM-owned media agency, says, “One of the things this entire 'pause' has done is change the viewership pattern. The consumer has been at home consuming a lot of media. They were binge-watching without even knowing that they've been watching. A lot of fatigue has settled in and that's something coming out in the behavioural trends as well. Therefore, the consumer himself is looking for something new. Given his propensity to consume media has increased, his ability to consume IPL, Big Boss or KBC will be way higher than the consumed fiction. So, a couple of things have changed from a viewership standpoint."

"As a result, advertisers believe that the consumer will be more attuned to watching this kind of content than the regular fiction shows. That's one of the big reasons to flock towards any kind of non-fiction show,” she adds.

For example, Dream 11 is the 'title sponsor' of IPL this year. The consumer is sitting at home and will have the time to play the game. Therefore, investing on IPL means the chances of returns this year are way higher than it would have been in any other given year. Similarly, MPL, which is the 'presenting sponsor' on Bigg Boss, is not just about cricket, it's about multi-player gaming and that should work on many more genres of games. Being on Bigg Boss gives them an opportunity to do more integrated association than a fiction property, Monteiro explains further.

“First is, of course, the change of behaviour. Second is how and where do brands get to integrate themselves better with, and third is that this is the last quarter to make sure that you get your maximum return. That’s why they might as well bet on something that for sure is going to have the highest amount of viewership traction,” says Monteiro putting things in perspective.

Another factor driving this changed consumer behaviour trend is the coming of new brands and categories, like eSports and online education, as sponsors this year.

According to Shekhar Banerjee, Chief Client Officer & Head - West, Wavemaker India, non-fiction formats like sports, KBC and Bigg Boss always bring in new audiences, create a habit for broadcasters and a great imagery builder for advertisers.

“Advertisers are always keen to associate with these properties, but this year is different. They all are bunched together, and this is the perfect stimulus for a brand leading up to the festive period. Advertisers are looking for a great kickstart to the festive season, and these formats lend in the impact,” shares Banerjee.

Fiction with storytelling ability has its own merit. But these months of lockdown have deprived viewers of fresh content of fiction as well as reality formats, says Himanka Das, CEO, Vizeum.

“People are confined at home, and thus, any form of fresh content attracts eyeballs with enthusiasm. Yes, reality shows, as packaged and marketed as flagship programming by broadcasters, attract viewers and that translates into higher ratings. Marketers also treat reality shows as an impact presence layering over the overall campaign. This needs to be seen from a strategic perspective to rationalize investment,” Das says.

Looking from the broadcasters’ perspective, this trend of advertisers’ affinity towards non-fiction properties is not really new.

Rohit Gupta, President (Network Sales & International Business) Sony Pictures Network, reasons that during the festive period, advertisers are obviously investing more on high- impact properties to break away from the clutter. Properties like KBC give assured viewership, bringing in new audiences every year. Hence, the advertisers/brands are willing to pay to come onto these properties.

Stating similar thoughts, Ashish Shegal, Chief Growth Officer- Advertisement Revenue, ZEEL, says this is the time of recovery as we are getting close to the festive period and hence, brands are spending money on advertising so that they can increase the consumption of their product. “The brands that are advertising on impact properties are not looking at sustained advertising. They want an immediate impact on sales, and to do that, they need reach, and impact properties bring reach and new consumers.”

He shares that every year around festive season, they witness a spike in advertising on impact properties, and this year is no different. But one thing that has changed this year is that a lot of new categories, which were not there earlier, have emerged. Hence, the pool of brands looks bigger on impact properties.    

A lot of new categories, including online gaming, e-wallets and online education, have emerged during the lockdown period. One such brand is Vedantu, an edtech start-up which is 'co-powered by sponsor' on KBC. Though the brand had been buying spots on fiction shows of leading channels, this is the first time it has come on board as a sponsor. 

“This is the first time that we have been associated as a 'co-powered sponsor' with a large non-fiction show like KBC. The show is all about knowledge and it has been running for the last two decades. Hence, the brand fit was very strong. Also, on our app, ‘quiz’ is a very strong engagement property which we run on a daily basis and KBC has a similar format- quiz and incentivisation. Therefore, KBC was the right fit to be associated with Vedantu,” says Shivani Suri, Chief Marketing Officer, Vedantu.

According to Suri, being an education platform, the brand looks for the right mix to associate with fiction and non-fiction properties. However, Suri says, the ability to drive deeper engagement does not exist  as seamlessly in fiction properties as it does in non-fiction.  

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