Onam delivers a little below market expectations; national advertisers go big on spending

Ad spends look pretty much similar to last year

NEW DELHI: The merging of age-old agrarian myths and traditions with the commercial realities of today, the festival of Onam is a happy celebration for the Malayalis and businesses encashing their festivities. Historically, the festival acts as a hotbed of ad spends, consumer-friendly deals, the launch of new products, and flared up sales. It’s close proximity to the wedding season which also makes it a big opportunity for the advertising and the marketing industry to cash on. 

However, for the past two years, the deadly floods washing the thin strip of land in the southwestern edge of India have also been drowning the great marketing fiesta it used to be. This year, while the rains were friendly, the ongoing Covid2019 crisis acted as a dampener to the celebrations.

Albeit, if the insiders are to be believed, the festival has led the industry to raise its head a little above the sad water. had extensively covered in a series of stories, and also in an exclusive one-day-long virtual conclave how Kerala ad market is pinning its hope on Onam to bring some respite to its dwindling cash reserves and the latest update is that it might have managed to achieve 50-70 per cent of what was expected out of it. 

MPlan CEO Parag Masteh shares while the national advertisers went big on spends during Onam, local advertisers were very conscious of the spending and preferred staying away from making any big investments. This is also why the local agencies couldn’t soak in the benefits of the festival. However, it surely brought some respite from the lull of the previous months. “If I compare with the last month, our cash registers witnessed a hike of 15 per cent from the previous month,” he noted. 

Nestle Milkmaid recently launched a campaign #SpreadSweetness around Onam. The brand rolled out a 30-second ad film with the cast of one “Vanambaadi”, a popular TV series of the region. The film showcases the famous mother-daughter duo discussing the excitement during the 10 days of Onam starting from Atham to Thiruvonam.  

Nestle India director Vineet Singh said, “As part of the initiative, Nestlé Milkmaid is sharing 10,000+ bowls of payasam with the less privileged and we encourage people to do their own act of kindness, by pledging and sharing a bowl of Payasam with someone who needs it. We hope you will visit and spread joy and sweetness and create delightful experiences for the underprivileged.”  

Another major FMCG player Marico also launched a digital campaign #ThankYouNurses honouring the unparalleled spirit of nurses across the country. The campaign salutes the brave warriors and provides a platform for all Indians celebrating Onam to come forward and express their gratitude for the nurses through their Pookalams, a popular floor decoration with flowers which is an integral part of Onam celebrations.

Marico chief marketing officer Koshy George said, “As India continues its fight against the pandemic, we wanted to honour the nurturing spirit and tireless efforts of the nurses who have ensured millions of COVID survivors are with their families this festive season. Parachute Advansed Gold stands for care and nurturance and has a deeper connect with the consumer larger than just hair. With this heartwarming ode, Parachute Advansed Gold aims to not only salute them, but also encourages every individual to remember them and dedicate their pookalams to the unparalleled spirit of these warriors”  

Amplifi EVP Chandra P Dobhal adds that for national advertisers, the purpose of advertising is not just sales but for a broader perspective of brand building as well. That’s why they continued advertising. “Smaller, local brands don’t have that big budgets. I won’t say that they weren’t advertising at all but they were conscious of where they were putting their money. Also, it seems they don't want to be the reason for the spread of covid2019 and don't want their shops to be crowded.”

He also mentions that surprisingly there was an uptick in the ad spends by local advertisers at the end of July and the first week of August. However, they started pulling back mid-August. 

As per the TAM Adex data published in reports, the print medium witnessed 280 per cent rise in ad volumes in July 2020 as opposed to April 2020 in Kerala market. Further, more than 180 categories, over 1,400 advertisers, the region saw an upsurge of advertisements as more than 1600 brands started to advertise on the print medium. Similarly, ad volumes on television in Kerala witnessed 102 per cent rise in the same period. With more than 160 categories, over 320 advertisers, and 540 brands advertising on television platforms, the market saw an upsurge of advertisements as top 10 advertisers contributed to almost 50 per cent of the ad volume share of advertising on Kerala TV channels.

Maitri Advertising MD Raju Menon notes that one of the reasons for local advertisers staying away from the festival was the weekend lockdown that was mandated in the state. “Local advertisers felt they will not get any benefit from advertising if the consumers can’t reach their shops. There was no RoI they could see given the lockdown restrictions and also keeping in mind the safety concerns.” 

Another reason that Menon mentions for local advertisers saving ad money is the positive consumer sentiment, “Many local players were also saying that we are getting consumers even without advertising, why should we spend money then?” 

The expectation from Onam was that more categories will start advertising during the period, but that did not really happen.

Masteh shares, “The categories that were active during the previous months were pretty much the ones who were advertising. Healthcare kept spending big, gold retail started spending, and some other categories like FMCG and white goods kept spending.”

Menon adds, “Local retailers were conscious of their ad spends but white goods and FMCG were fairly active during the period. It is also because these were industries where consumers are actively spending.” 

On the other hand, Fourth Dimension Media Solutions CEO Shankar B feels that while Onam might not have been able to help the market recover fully, it has certainly set the ball rolling. 

Dobhal quips, “I am hoping that at the overall level the ad spends would be much closer to what it was last year. The best part is that schemes and discounts on products are being extended, especially keeping the limited footfalls in the market due to time restrictions for keeping the shops open. Hence it is expected that advertisers to support their channel partners will let their activities go in September too! The positive in all this is that advertisers will now spread their activity for a longer period rather than planning for a few dates or weeks before the main festival.” 

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