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Advertisers tap new platforms as ad spends increase

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Star Plus has always been known for marketing innovations. Recently, it agreed to get involved in a contest - sponsored by Samsung India - during its primetime shows, something that the channel hasn?t done before. The reason being that such initiatives from the channel support advertisers? ploy of breaking the clutter through innovation during the festive season.

And Star Plus is not alone in going in for such marketing strategies. Adidas is sponsoring the ?Know Ball contest? on ESPN Star Sports (ESS), while Airtel has just got involved as the title sponsor for Zee TV?s Thursday Premier movie starting this month.

"Star is always open to new ideas. This (prime time contest) is something which Star has never done before during the prime time band. This is an exclusive Samsung property being run on Star," said an advertising industry source.

According to Starcom India executive director (north) Anita Nayyar, "The objective during the World Cup (cricket) and festive season are pretty different. Yes, the budgets are stringent but the festive two-month period can?t be ignored. This is actually the time when consumers go out and buy

products."

Agrees former LG India marketing head, Ganesh Mahalingam who confesses to be "chilling out at the moment" before taking up a new assignment, "The ad spend during the festive season leading up to Diwali certainly goes up because almost 80 per cent of buying, especially in the consumer durables sector, happens during this time."

The total advertising spend during festive seasons, according to industry analysts, is estimated to be between 25-30 per cent of the approximately Rs 85,000 million advertising industry.

According to Mahalingam, in some cases like electronics goods companies (Samsung, Videocon, LG and Electrolux, for example) the ad spend during this time can go up as high as 50 per cent because of the "cascading effect amongst various players in the segment".

According to industry sources, going by the media planning trends in the last three or four years during the festive season, mass channels, especially general entertainment channels, gain more advertising. Almost to the tune of 15-20 per cent.

"Majority of the increase in spend (during festive season) goes to entertainment channels such as Star Plus and others. In terms of specific channels, Star obviously gains. So the likes of Zee and Sony have to work out their programming strategy. For instance, Sony aired Saathiya during prime time recently, so it received good response," says a media planner. Another media professional estimates the spend to be in the region of Rs 18,000 to Rs 20,000 million.

The analysts feel that even though the likes of Hindustan Lever, Samsung, LG and others had marked substantial budgets during the previous edition of the cricket World Cup, (unprecedented spending in comparison to any other cricket event), the spending for the festive season has hardly been

affected.

"The objective during the World Cup (cricket) and festive season are pretty different. For an event like the World Cup, which definitely delivers in terms of return (brand recall and higher ratings), the clients plan and mark their budgets in advance, but the festive period can?t be ignored," explains Starcom?s Nayyar.

A still from Darna Manna Hai that Zee will air next Thursday

And channels will agree. "The festive season is usually good for channels. For example, in the third quarter (October-December) this year, Zee TV?s advertising mop up may end up 30 per cent higher compared to earlier quarters," points out Zee TV president Apurva Purohit.

SAB TV?s president-sales and marketing Kanta Advani is even more gung-ho about the "relief" channel?s prospects for the festive season. Says Advani, "Business is booming. We have already exceeded 50 per cent as compared to the previous quarters and there are still six days to go before the end of Diwali. Clients are realising that they are getting value for money from our channel."

Advani puts the increased ad spends to the fact that many new clients have come onto the channel, while exisiting ones have significantly upped their spends.

Carat India CEO Sulina Menon points out, "The are certain categories, which spend close to 60 per cent of their budgets during the festive season. Categories like consumer durables, FMCG, textiles, auto companies or even the financial services, which prepare in advance, are the major spenders."

Though some categories like telecom festive season is "not that crucial" as it?s not a seasonal activity, Menon feels that the telecom players have been investing for years and as they enter the consolidation phase, with presence in various circles, the major players have started to get into television

advertising.

"It makes sense for them to go national now (during the festive season)," Menon explained.

The residual effect of such increased spending during this period can be seen on non-mass entertainment channels too. As, Zee News head Jawahar Goel points out, "In the first 17 days of October itself, the news channel?s advertising revenue stood at Rs 70 million and this expected to go up."

A different strategy

The media planning, too, differs during the festive season. According to media specialists, with the spurt in advertising, depending upon the category, there is an alteration in the media plan.

For instance, a category like home appliances, targeted mainly at women, will go in for more of mass channel, whereas for a category like automobile, the planners prefer

niche channels.

Even as the advertising campaigns, especially worked out for the festive season, are doing the rounds with much fanfare, the standard of creative output has hardly evoked an encouraging response.

Advertising professionals feel that there seem to be lack of synergy between the content and context required to differentiate the offering for the festive season.

"If we look at the consumption pattern, ?seasonality? still plays an important role in various categories. And during the festive season, there is a definite increase in buying. But if we look at the quality of advertising, it hasn?t managed to get under the skin as there seems to be no integration of brand properties into the promotion," says McCann Erickson?s

executive planning director Arvind Mohan.

Mohan further adds, "There needs to be a marriage between context, which can be either Diwali or cricket series and the content. Brands must use distinct language in order to differentiate themselves."

The rush to gain consumer attention and influence the buying decision, as expected, is the main drive in the majority of promotional campaigns during the festive season.

Considering the number of brands and campaigns making the rounds, the onus is also on advertising agency - a major component of the overall strategy - to differentiate itself through a superior creative work.

According to Rediffusion general manager Shruti Jain, "During the festive season, the creative challenge is higher. It is a perfect environment for advertising and people are open to messages. But what happens is professionals (agencies) go overboard. The topicality is anyway in the release of the campaign, so the message has to be relevant."

Expectedly, during the festive season, the clients increasingly demand work or creative output for immediate results. And agencies feel, most of the time, this demand leads to a whole lot of promotional creative, which at times suppresses the quality.

"No doubt, the work has to be result-oriented. But the creative work, especially in the print media is not creative at all. Its looks ugly and there seems to be repetition of the same concepts again and again. The majority of the advertisements show some pack with ribbon or crackers splashed. There is no newness or freshness. I don?t think the work prevalent is effective or creative," a critical O&M creative consultant Sudip Bandyopadhyay points out.

O&M, however, is trying to be different here. Bandyopadhyay says the team is working on a campaign for Nestle milk, in which the splash of milk has been associated with stars and crackers to bring out the festive spirit. "But we have retained the properties of the brand for the campaign," he adds.

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