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Guest column: Post pandemic, advertising shifts focus to brand building

Indian advertisers are relying on media-led brand building to reap long term benefits.

NEW DELHI: Do you remember TV commercials that featured fans at crowded football games, or that focused around cities choked with people, or with celebrities doing every possible thing to woo their audience? You may call them the "before coronavirus" commercials/ads that no longer work in today’s scenario. With the onset of the pandemic, everything changed in a matter of hours, and TV commercials of various brands were no exception. As the Covid-imposed lockdown continues, Indian advertisers are completely relying on media-led brand building to reap long term benefits.

The rise of ad flexibility

As major live events, where TVCs played a pivotal role, were cancelled keeping in mind to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, advertisers had to regulate themselves according to their new programming slate. This has also been changing according to the scenario outside, making the ads more compassionate and caring towards their customers. Since the airing of many programs was also cancelled due to the pandemic, the TVCs mostly aired during the news broadcast or in the news channel. 

Advertising in digital content

With the remote working and stay at home guidelines, the viewership of TV and OTT platforms is seeing an explosive growth. Though the advertising demand during this phase is being subdued due to the current situation, advertisement in certain categories like essentials, health and hygiene worked like never before. Brands across industries have responded to this situation quite promptly and started investing in TVC and campaigns for essentials and health and hygiene products across media. Whereas, non-essential categories didn’t fall behind and rather started their communications in digital medium by tagging alongside essential categories. Few companies have shifted to the basics and once again emphasised on brand building by highlighting their efforts towards combating the situation through their advertisements. 

Brand building is the new focus

With a stepped-up viewership of TV and OTT platforms, lessened advertiser clutter and potentially lower rates due to lower demand, brands have realised that this is the perfect time to invest in brand building by emphasising more on the brand's core values. Brands have once again started earmarking for BTL so that it can be redirected to deploy on media and have put consumer promos, offers among others on a backseat. They executed brand building by exploring higher ACDs (average commercial durations) and consumer-relatable storytelling. 

New industries, new advertisers

As we have entered a much dreaded second phase of the Covid2019 pandemic, there is no clear timeline by when we will emerge out of the unprecedented situation. Therefore, brands need to engage in rigorous scenario-based planning, where they have to make an imaginary timeline of recovery, changes in consumer behaviour and upgraded budgets. The digital-first approach should be the first line of advertising for a brand in this ‘new normal’ situation. Brand’s media plans also need to be aligned with business strategy so that a balance can be made between opportunity and reality. One needs to keep in mind that whenever there is an extended lockdown, there is a downward pressure on consumer purchasing power and planned purchases will be on the lower side.

(The author is director, Bonn Group of Industries. The views expressed in this column are his own and may not subscribe to them.)

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