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Here’s how brands are counting on a post-Covid summer

With the spike in ad spends, marketers are gunning for a relatively ‘normal’ Summer 2022.

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Mumbai: With the Covid-19 third wave receding quicker than anticipated, the country is witnessing its first relatively ‘normal’ summer after a gap of nearly two years of the world going into shutdown mode. Little wonder then that with the soaring temperatures, hopes and anticipations of marketers and brands are soaring high, too.

After what seemed like an endless phase of cautious optimism and playing the wait-and-watch game, summer-specific brands like beverages, consumer electronics such as fridge, AC, air cooler, and FMCGs can now finally look forward to what a ‘regular’ summer entails - with their advertising campaigns, promotions et al. While it remains to be seen whether it will lead to buoyant demand for these products, it promises to be an exciting summer as ad spends are expected to see a spike, more so with the IPL and upcoming cricket season doubling the anticipation levels.

Beating the Covid-19 downturn

There is zero impact of global factors on Indian brands’ marketing plans this summer, according to Carat India associate vice president of planning Anil Suryavamshi. "Retail will be back in a big way this season after two years of relative quietness and more consumers with increased availability of money in hand to spend this summer. Expect heavy advertising from FMCG, consumer electronics, auto, banking/insurance and investment brands," he adds.

Already the last few weeks have seen a flurry of campaigns for the summer with brands going all out to make the most of the current positive consumer sentiment by gaining visibility on media channels across the board. Summer drinks and beverage brands like Pepsi, Thums Up, Frooti, Slice, Tropicana, PaperBoat, etc have already rolled out their campaigns, positioning themselves as the go-to drink of the season.

"We see huge demands for cooling products like air conditioners in the summers, however, the last two years were a setback for the business due to Covid and lockdown," says consumer electronics major TCL India marketing head Vijay Kumar Mikkilineni. “But now with things coming back to normal brands have pulled up their socks and geared up for the upcoming season. The brands would look ahead for revival strategies and the spending would be realistic rather than bullish,” he further says while emphasising on the brand’s new range of AC.

There has been a gradual increase in the ad spends as we travel into the peak of the season, with the Holi campaigns and activations setting the stage in a big way, affirms SoCheers co-founder and CEO Mehul Gupta. “Moreover, industries which were strongly impacted by the pandemic like travel & tourism, hospitality, cinema, events and more, have amped up their ad spends, and we can expect to see a further spike, given that the relative normalcy and the seemingly post-pandemic era re-opens the opportunities for them to engage and attract consumers.”

Splitting the summer adex pie

As the consumers overcome the effects of the pandemic and plan to ramp up their spends for the summer season, the brands are gearing up to meet the renewed and evolved demands. “Over the last year, we are expecting a growth of at least 12-15 per cent in overall ad spends in summer 2022. TV and digital will lead the advertising pie at par with the 2021 levels. Digital growth will continue with Youtube, Facebook, Sharechat, and OTT being on top for campaign considerations," says Carat India's Suryavamshi. “We can expect a high clutter on video, OTT, CTV through summer, which will further impact CPMs and buys,” he says, adding that, "the brands will continue to maintain their tried and tested strategy of either efficiency planning or impact (IPL)."

“All major categories/advertisers have closed their IPL and non-IPL campaigns. GECs and movie channels are almost sold out for March and are reporting over 90 per cent sell rate for April,” he further says, while adding that except for Crypto brands, all major advertisers are back on IPL this year as well.

The ad spending for the Summer 2022 campaigns is looking to be the period with the highest ever spending due to one major factor: mass digital adoption, according to Digimaze co-founder and CEO Vatsal Rajgor. “Previously, brands felt restrictive in the digital medium due to consumption issues, but as people have moved online, brands can now look at a holistic approach and tie their evolved strategy together, with digital being the main component. The bottom line is that more and more marketers and advertisers realise that investing their time, money, and effort into digital marketing will give them the ROI they need,” he says.

Rajgor adds, “Now that we're in the Summer season, we'll see brands explore a healthy mix of mediums in their overall advertising strategy. While TV and digital remain the core of the strategy, we will see a large variety of different types of advertising. On-ground advertising especially will be a medium that many marketers will explore due to the surge of attendees in cinemas, concerts, festivals, meets, etc. “

However, it's not just video that is seeing a spike in ad spots - OOH (out-of-home), print and radio are back in the channel mix as well to capitalise on the season. The print inventory sell rate is 100 per cent for March/April and Covid induced rate benefits are no longer available for either print or radio, according to Suryavamshi.

While retaining their efforts on digital, brands would be seen increasing their placement on outdoor media and ATL marketing, recognising the return of certain traditional mediums after the effects of the pandemic gradually wash away. The reopening of offices across the country and physical movement getting back in groove will lead to a steady and definite increase in the brands’ attention towards mediums like OOH.

"As the situation normalises, we can certainly expect that now brands would look forward to investing in offline ads," agrees TCL India’s Mikkilineni. “If we speak about the split in advertising we can expect 60 per cent for offline mode and 40 per cent for digital mode.”

Riding the IPL wave

With the IPL celebrating its return to the summer window, armed with a brand-new title sponsor and the addition of two new teams, there has been an added boom in the advertising market leading to further normalisation of spends this summer.

Carat India’s Suryavanshi says IPL is the only performing impact property this summer despite losing 30 per cent ratings in 2021. "For regular IPL advertisers and cash-rich D2C apps economy brands, IPL is the #1 reach medium. Most of them have already closed IPL deals either on TV or Hotstar. Outlays are up by 5-15 per cent over the last year," he adds, “A longer, bigger IPL will mean an increase of at least 15 per cent for the top brands on their summer campaign budgets. We see a majority of advertisers investing in multiple TVCs or Digital films for the same campaigns due to the longer advertising window. More brands are exploring Hotstar IPL this year due to high entry cost for TV.”

This time around with the game making a comeback to the country and fans returning to the stadiums after a wait of two years, marketers believe it will help brands and spectators alike to get out of the pandemic blues. Brands are expecting the stadium to be the perfect place to showcase their most effective and hard-hitting advertisements, while delivering on their brand expectations.

On brands going bullish on the hot cricket property, TCL India’s Mikkilineni is in complete agreement. The brand’s summer 2022 campaign starts with the much-awaited IPL 2022, having partnered with Sunrisers Hyderabad for the third time in a row. “In India, if there is one sport with a huge fan base it certainly has to be cricket. IPL being a shorter format of the game has a lot of thrill and yes, it's one of the best properties and most of the brands would look forward to leveraging this opportunity to the fullest,” adding that the brand has started 360-degree activations to leverage the partnership.

Leveraging celebrities or influencers to amplify the connect

The use of celebrities has seen a big uptick with brands bringing on board all levels of cricket, regional and Bollywood celebs, and the trend is only expected to grow with social media influencers joining the bandwagon in recent times.

Several beverage brands have in the recent past launched summer campaigns with celebrities such as Slice's new brand film with Katrina Kaif, Pepsi’s latest TVC with Salman Khan, Sting’s ad with Akshay Kumar, and Thums Up’s latest campaign with Shah Rukh Khan to name a few. Leveraging celebrities and influencers for social media marketing campaigns has become, more or less, the norm and with the high consumer engagement that it attracts, it’s justified, say the marketers.

A relevant celebrity can help a brand generate instant trust, brand recall and create a predisposition towards the brand thus reducing the time to connect with TG, believes Khabri co-founder and COO Dushyantt Kohli. “This summer, we can expect multiple startups to also start using celebrities considering the hyper-growth some of the startup are experiencing in India,” he adds.

Another unprecedented shift observed during the pandemic was of brands investing heavily in influencers. "59 per cent of marketers have a standalone budget for influencers, while 75 per cent are looking at having a dedicated budget for influencers due to the quality of content they can produce, the relatable aspects in their content, and how they were able to reach an untapped market section," remarks Digimaze's Vatsal Rajgor.

The kind of brand and budget availability also play a role in determining the brand’s choice of a celebrity or an influencer. Over the last two years, several brands have opted out of celebrity marketing in favour of influencer marketing due to the vital role played by influencers and the exponential growth in their following through the pandemic.

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