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Brands bullish this festive season but not for Navratri

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MUMBAI: Marketing mavens are aware that a majority of brand spending in India takes place between August and December every year because of a range of festivals that dot this period. It begins with Raksha Bandhan and chugs ahead with Ganesh Chaturthi and gathers steam in September with Navratri, Durga Pooja and Dussehra, only to move at a superfast speed during Diwali, until the calendar year ends. Indian consumers are in a celebratory mood, flush with cash, courtesy employment bonuses.

The past 10 months have, however, been different. The reason: the double whammy of demonetisation and the rollout of goods and services tax (GST) put the brakes on optimism. Both forced brand custodians to zip up their ad purses and postpone any spends until customers had money to splurge and the entire GST process – which commenced on 1 July 2017 - panned out.

Net result: even the months of August 2017 and early September 2017 have seen sedate brand activity. Questions are being asked whether marketers are ready to let their hair down during Navratri 2017 to get consumers back to spending on goodies ostentatiously?

Indiantelevision.com got in touch with a clutch of marketers and agency heads and the consensus was that a majority of national brands are going to go easy on both, Navratri and Dussehra, but they are going to go hell for leather during Durga Pooja and Diwali, allocating a large chunk of their ad and promotional budgets during these two periods.

Even in Gujarat, which normally goes into marketing overdrive during Navratri,  there will be some amount of softness this year between 21-29 September.

“Navratri is clearly the biggest festival in Gujarat which is bigger than Diwali in terms of activations and promotions. It is a big period for Gujarati channels (national and local) as all major FMCG brands, automobile brands and local retailers want to make the most of this season but the spends will be soft this year because of GST and demonetisation,” says a media expert.

Navratri event organisers in Mumbai and Gujarat had to struggle this year to find sponsors mainly due to the fact that real estate and telecom categories, which otherwise are heavy advertisers during the nine-day festival, shied away, unlike previous years.  The real estate sector was relatively cold as a majority of the developers are busy getting their houses in order to comply with the stringent requirements that new real estate regulations that have been thrust on them by RERA. Adding to developers’ relative lack of enthusiasm is the GST rollout.

Says a media buyer from a leading agency: “Navratri this year will see a lot of local and retail advertising rather than multinational players. This is a great opportunity for local and small brands to promote themselves on the venue or via various BTL activations at a reasonable cost which otherwise would be priced very high.”

Indeed, some savvy companies are stepping in to take advantage of the opportunity and spend on the various garba events that have been organised across Mumbai and Gujarat. Thousands gather on various grounds in these two states to dance to the rhythms of dandiya stars -- Falguni Pathak, Parthiv Gohil, Preeti Pinky, among other. These events are normally aired on the local cable TV channels as well as on some of the handful Gujarati language channels.

Consider:

* ONE Broadband, Hinduja Group's Flagship Company for Telecom Data Services for Consumer & Enterprise Segments will be offering unlimited 10mbs free Wi-Fi service to the devotees during Navratri season across Maharashtra and Gujarat.

* Residential, commercial and real estate company Ruparel Realty is the title sponsor for Mumbai’s Navratri Mahotsav 2017 while Colors Gujarati is the television partner for the event. Gujarati queen Falguni Pathak will be seen performing at the event for nine days.

* Ride hailing app Uber will provide lucky customers with a free gift hamper which consists of free passes for Radio Mirchi Rock n Dhol garba event in Gujarat along with two dandiya sticks.

* Online e-commerce platforms  Flipkart, Amazon and Ebay have also announced their big sales to commence the festive season encouraging people to buy more products online. The sale on these platforms began yesterday and will go on for a week.

Dentsu Aegis Network chairman and CEO - South Asia Ashish Bhasin told Indiantelevision.com that there’s no reason to worry, however, as overall he sees the festive season spends this year growing 20 per cent over the last year even as the advertising budgets for the whole year will expand 10-12 per cent. What this means is that the last quarters of this year should contribute heavily, and help make up for the losses during the previous quarters.

Bhasin notes that consumer goods, automobiles and FMCG  sector are going to go all-out with campaigns to seduce India’s fast-burgeoning middle class.

A media planner adds that brands are actually drawing up massive plans and there’s actually going to be a shower of spending (mainly by categories like automobiles, real estate, jewelry, electronics along with e-commerce)  this festive season as most of them have got over the demonetisation and GST issues.

That should be music to most media and TV ad sales professionals who have been toiling away, struggling to meet their ad sales targets.

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