What a dramatic change this Covid19 has brought to our lives, whether it is the business or for us human beings. India went for a complete lockdown beginning March to fight the pandemic. Undoubtedly, all business establishments irrespective of their strength and type of industry have been affected by the recent outbreak of COVID-19 to a great extent.
Businesses, jobs, saw great upheavals, the world also saw a tectonic shift in the way we communicated. The Indian Advertising all through this crisis/ lockdown has been on their feet by innovating new methods of communication for their brands to reach out to their consumers. Brand communication was more empathetic, keeping in mind the sentiments and moods of the consumer in general.
Medianews4u in their series ‘Back to Business’ have spoken to 70+ brands on how they are effectively changing their communication strategies. We are now talking to the Advertising Agencies who are the brand custodians on what will be their strategy for their clients in the new normal.
Anand Bhadkamkar, CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network India speaks exclusively to us on the Strategies and a revival in the coming festive season coupled with IPL
The lockdown is in the 5.0 phase, what as an Agency would be your priorities toward your brands?
From a work perspective, execution has started in multiple areas now. Post lockdown, many things have started opening-up and the economy has steadily started reviving. It is going to be a long way ahead. Gradually, consumer interest in multiple areas is coming back. Industries & businesses have started getting back in the market and there are several new launches. Thereby, slowly advertisers have started reaching out to consumers.
The client interest is more from a digital aspect than large format advertising. Team calls and brainstorming ideas continue over Zoom and Microsoft teams. Clients are keeping in touch with the teams in terms of planning and strategising but the actual spends in the market are yet to come back to normalcy.
To speak about the businesses in lockdown, April was the lowest month of all. From April, May was better and it is improving month on month, which is a positive sign. Although, people were expecting that post lockdown market will move faster but that could not happen because in July we saw a sudden increase in cases, which has made consumers more cautious and thus, movements are still restricted and resultant spends have not gone up as anticipated. We are hopeful about this spread to get contained and for us to get normalcy before Diwali this year. If situation stabilises from now and improves thereon, we will be in a good place as we approach the festive period.
Pitches have increased since the lockdown began. Clients have been looking at new ideas and teams have been quite active in pitching, engaging and ideating with clients. However, marketers are evaluating their strategies and the focus is also short-term as every 10-15 days there is a new reality around us. To be honest, large pitches are far and few during this period.
Clients will continue with their long-term partnerships. Pitching is focused on tactical requirements and short-term ideas with large focus on the digital side. Clients are now interested in knowing about what they can do on an immediate basis in this digital transformation while reaching out to consumers and reviving their interest. There are more immediate responses to evolving situations and how you get ready for immediate challenges and that is where the entire efforts across businesses are. In industries such as healthcare, FMCG, etc., which have relatively remained stable during the lockdown are now seeing fillip in the unlock phase.
Brands in the new normal are now seeing new buying habits, as a brand custodian what will be the new strategies and advertising message?
Advertising is need-based and the need from an advertiser’s perspective is a derivative of the client’s business performance as well. If there is more demand and ability to create more business opportunities, then only a marketer would invest more in advertising. Currently, the consumers are still not spending as the unlock has not happened completely. While the new unlock guidelines do show a positive intent, for businesses to reach pre-Covid levels will still take a long time.
To look back at spends in the lockdown, it is coming back gradually because now we can see positive movement in the situation and consistent messaging on unlock from the government authorities too. All these things together bring back a lot of confidence and everyone has started creating awareness back again.
It will be a slow and long walk ahead but in a positive and concrete state.
As brands now are going digital, will you advise them to also start their own e commerce platforms?
Yes, many marketers are taking the route of e-commerce to reach out to the final consumer. Our focus now is on digitising the marketing funnel, brand journey & digital transformation; and yes, we as an agency, are assisting clients on that aspect in their e-commerce journey by strategising, auditing, planning, implementation and evaluation techniques.
Will brands now be more open to more spend on digital as compared to traditional platforms?
Currently, digital is playing a huge role as advertisers are looking at ways to reach their core customers through targeted advertising. Consumers are spending more time on OTT platforms, TV, or on their mobiles being at home. Thus, advertisers want to reach out to them more efficiently and manage marketing dollars in a smarter way. I think tech-capabilities are something clients will look at predominantly as they embrace the digital journey post-Covid. The consumer behaviour is changing rapidly when compared to what it was pre-Covid. There is a lot of short-term planning and immediacy in decision making is imperative. Hence, the creative strategy, ideation, delivery, and the way we target and reach the consumer also has witnessed a sea of change.
Earlier, it was large-format advertising, however, now there are several data points available for facilitating a targeted audience/consumer reach through digital and social media platforms. Additionally, it is also about reaching the consumer at the right time with the right messaging to facilitate the decision making.
With the approaching festive season will we see a spike in Ad spends, will traditional mediums benefit?
It is not going to be normal advertising as it was pre-Covid. The industry clocks around 40% business in the timeframe between August to December. When compared to April, things have started opening up. Advertisers are finally showing interest and now having multiple conversations with us in terms of advertising. Tier 2-3 cities and rural market are showing strong signs of growth in the economic activity as compared to the metro and large cities while coming out of Covid. Moreover, even the monsoons seem to be on track at present. So, there are a few positives as the festive period approaches.
However, in July we witnessed Covid cases surface again in certain states. While we are seeing some green shoots across businesses on the back of unlock, Covid is still on a rise and a vaccine is awaited to get the pandemic behind us. Thus, we will have to take it month by month and also adapt way forward. It is going to be a slow recovery in terms of both Covid and economy but seems like we are getting there.
How will you rebuild brand loyalty?
It comes back to communication; the first part is building the bridge back with the consumer by aligning the availability of the product. For many brands, the supply chain was disrupted, however, now most have it back in place. Also, reaching out to the consumer with the right communication is crucial along with building the connect to say we are now available. During these difficult times, brands need to be sensitive to its customer needs. They need to demonstrate a caring approach through responsible behaviour and communication. Many brands have adopted digital and are using the digital platforms progressively as consumers have started transitioning to the online world. Brands are using the e-commerce platforms through third party or their own platforms aggressively after the Covid outbreak, making the products easily accessible to the consumers through the phygital journey. This transition has started more actively as an outcome of Covid. Hence, digital is widely used as a medium to reach the consumers beyond the traditional TV and print mediums in these times. Nevertheless, now, spends must be done wisely and in a focused manner.
Brands have started working on this from May itself, now everyone is geared for the festive season to set in. To be honest, the critical part is, as we have mentioned earlier also that brands cannot go media dark. It is imperative for them to reach out to consumers during these times in a sensible manner with relevant messaging. It is now also important for brands to step up and use digital extensively through targeted communication and by understanding & seizing the right opportunity. Consequently, brands should also make sure of the product availability and visibility across all platforms. And thus, successively, other marketing spends, or activities will kick in. Reactivating and re-engaging the brand with the consumer is also extremely essential.
IPL & festive season
IPL coming along with the festive season is encouraging news. IPL is going to be the mood elevator. Digital will certainly be the large player this year, be it for the festive period or IPL. Television medium definitely has larger volumes and spends, but I believe that digital will play a key role all across. Other mediums should also start seeing the spends improving, but with IPL, it will be more television and digital as that is where the format is currently geared toward. Since it is in the UAE, there will be no spectators in the stadium, only viewers, either through digital mediums or television.