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Durga Puja: Advertisers optimistic as demand returns

According to experts, consumer demand has increased in the past 15 days.

MUMBAI: By now it’s evident that the Covid2019 pandemic is not going away anytime soon. After spiralling caseloads - ravaged the economy, and played spoilsport with travel plans - scary ol' Corona seems to be on the wane in time for the festive season, though it’s too early to celebrate outright. But with the markets rallying and consumer sentiments surging, brands and advertisers are sniffing the air hopefully, even as they tread with caution. 

Every year, several categories like FMCGs, apparel, auto, e-commerce and consumer durables become the biggest spenders during the Durga Puja-Diwali stretch. The query their marketing teams puts up is not ‘how much?’ but ‘why not?’ This time around, the question is: how brands plan to advertise in the year of Corona.

However, the Tata group owned fashion and lifestyle chain Westside has braced to make the most out of the circumstances. The brand’s ‘What’s Your Festive’ campaign focuses on all the products, right from clothing, cosmetics, footwear to  home décor. For the campaign, Westside has created four festive installations, each of which spans 15 seconds in which viewers can catch a glimpse of everything that it offers.

Westside customer head Umashan Naidoo explained, “The films are directed by the very talented Devang Desai and the cast consists of Westside employees, customers and designers from the ethnic wear brand. After all, who better to advocate style and share the joy of their products but the creators themselves? We believe that these are real people with the aspirations of the brand at heart.”

Read more news on Durga Puja 

The films are meant to uplift spirits and have nothing to do with hard selling, said Naidoo, adding in an aside that the sparkling diyas featured in the video are part of a CSR project started in 2003 by Simone Naval Tata herself.

As the options for big outdoor displays and activities are limited, brands are shifting to the digital space to keep their connect with customers alive. For instance, Fortune the Adani Wilmar group's Fortune brand has been running a digital campaign called Pet Pujo for the last three years to engage consumers. The brand’s media & strategy head Sanjay Adesara said: “This year, we have given it a twist keeping the current Covid situation in mind. From the last 3-4 years, we were doing a separate digital activity outside. This year also we are keeping it digital.”

Adesara also shared that the trends in the West Bengal market during the pre-Puja period are similar to last year’s: there’s been no dip in additional grocery buying and shopping for clothes and personal care products.

Kolkata is a major market for RSH Global-owned Joy Personal Care. CMO Poulomi Roy is of the view that from November onwards, things are going to pick-up in the northern part of the country, especially before Diwali. The skincare maker has launched a new campaign ahead of Durga Puja in West Bengal. As part of the campaign, the brand released the peppy, upbeat music video Dugga Elo featuring ten popular Bengali celebrities which captures vivid moments that highlight the vibe of pujo. Intended to create a festive mood and keep the spirit alive, the campaign song will be played out on television, radio, OTT platform and social media platforms of SVF Brands.

Observing that while the personal care segment such as hand wash, soap, sunscreen segments had gone down during the initial phase of the lockdown, Roy said one category that witnessed a boost was luxury products.

“People have stayed back at home and instead of spending outside, they have actively been indulging and taking care of themselves by using  personal care  products,” she added. The disruption that happened at the outset of the pandemic affected the company's supply chain but as things are getting back to normal, the demand is steadily returning.

Experts echoed the sentiment, saying consumer demand has definitely picked up in the past 15 days. Experimental and cross-shopping is on the rise, especially for categories such as cosmetics, lingerie and home décor. They project that brands which have the best style, value, availability, and experience will surely witness growth.

Tata CLiQ CMO Kishore Mardikar noted that since people are still on guard against contracting the virus, there’s been a lull in out-of-doors puja activity, especially shopping. Instead, they’ve switched to online to purchase their discretionary needs along with daily essentials. Broadly, there’s been an accelerated digital adoption this year,  with increased exploration and buying in all the categories including fashion and electronics.

Looking to capitalise on this shift, the primary focus of Tata CLiQ is on audiences that have higher intent/consideration to purchase and thereby engage with them to catapult traffic to the platform. The company's marketing plan during the season is positioned around the theme of gifting.

“This year our focus is to drive transactional efficiencies and hence our marketing choices are dictated mainly by digital media complimented with engagements via our social platforms,” Mardikar added.

Even after Covid and government-mandated guidelines to check it, brands have improvised, adapted and are desperately trying to overcome all the challenges. Will they get to have the last laugh? Or will the Calcutta High Court's direction to make all pujo pandals in the state 'no-entry zones' prove to be their undoing?

MediaCom chief growth officer Soumak Banik paints a not-so-rosy picture of the situation. “When you talk about Durga Puja or event festivities, the maximum of the money goes on ground. This time that is itself cut down, taking a huge hit. Even if the entire outdoor budget is lesser, it will impact advertising fundamentals at the end of the day,” he said.

The festive season is an auspicious time in terms of sales for businesses across the board and marketers leverage this opportunity with promotions galore. This year, the festivities may be subdued and the volume of ads may be low, but brands are not down and out for the count. They're trying to reach out to customers in new ways and formats.

“There is cautious optimism in the air. Brands are planning activities and are expecting offtakes to happen,” summed up Havas Media Group MD India Mohit Joshi.

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