How television set the stage for growth of digital platform brands in 2020

New Delhi: For decades, television has remained a leading destination for brands looking to consolidate their growth in the market. Then came the digital and it opened floodgates to several other innovative avenues. But what continues to remain constant is the reach that TV still holds across the vast swathes of the country.

This was evident when the pandemic ravaged the world and people returned to the safety of their homes. Once again, the medium brought families together in the age of multiple digital screens. Large number of people at home preferred to watch the much- awaited Indian Premier League (IPL) on their television screens, when it began in September, 2020.

The 13th edition of IPL registered 31.57 million average impressions per match which was 23 per cent higher than IPL 12, according to 2+ All India (U+R) data released by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). Lots of digital platform brands which are app-based like Spotify, PhonePe, UrbanClap bet big on the cricketing league to gain national foothold. If 2020 belonged to the digital brands, then IPL set the perfect stage.

“The digital-only audiences are definitely on the rise. But, if the brand’s target is to create large-scale awareness, then TV is still the way to go. It continues to deliver the big numbers for most brands and digital is used as a top-up. Especially during broadcasts of live sports, when people are highly engaged. Look at a high-impact property like IPL. The kind of frequency that a brand would normally achieve in six months, IPL can do that in six weeks. But it depends on how well they are able to execute it with new creatives,” said Anupam Bokey, chief marketing officer, Allied Blenders and Distillers (ABD).

Brands are also keen to leverage live sports events to tap into a much larger audience, whose attention is no longer restricted to a specific medium. Unlike the days of yore, when viewers’ attention was perhaps focussed on TV, now it’s divided among a host of other digital platforms. Most TV viewers are either scrolling on their phones or engaged on their laptop. It is this ready access to a second-screen, that advertisers and brands are keen to cash on.

“There have been lots of studies which measured how search surges for a product while the specific ad is playing on television especially during a reality show or any live event. There is a definite uptick in searches if a campaign is run with a high-impact property like an IPL, but only if it is done in an optimised manner,” said Sujata Dwibedy, group trading director, Amplifi at Dentsu Aegis Network.

But experts highlighted that both TV and digital have to be used in the best possible way if brands are to create a multiplier effect and gain maximum impact. “When it comes to TV, it has still not reached the saturation point. There are tier two cities and rural areas where it remains a dominant medium and is growing. This is why most of the new-age brands or ed-tech platforms need IPL/India Cricket or a big property as a launching pad. They take large sponsorships because of the impact it creates,” added Dwibedy.

The larger idea is to no longer see digital as a second medium that takes away the attention from the television, but as something that helps drive a call to action. This is how IPL has been a game changer for brands like PhonePe, Spotify or Josh (DailyHunt). Not only the record viewership, IPL 2020 had also emerged as one of the top most trends on Google last year. The visibility it provided across multiple touchpoints enabled them to increase the brand recall value. Agencies contend that the share of search also gives them a second layer of confidence and some indication of return on investment.

PhonePe, for instance, had a record month in October, 2020 while the IPL was on. It processed 925 million transactions and crossed the 250 million registered user milestones. It was able to reach a massive audience that had not yet gone digital for payments and benefitted from its association with IPL and growth of fantasy sports applications.

Spotify too used IPL to expand its reach beyond metros and reach tier-two and tier-three cities. The music streaming app added more than 6.4 million new users since the IPL concluded in November, 2020.  India’s own news and content aggregator Dailyhunt also used the platform to promote its newly launched short video app, JOSH in September, 2020 with 15-second humorous ad films. The app recorded 86 per cent growth in average downloads during IPL spot days suggests data from App Annie and continues to be among the fastest growing short video apps.

Apart from post-ad spikes in online activities on the website/app, such brand integrations also offer an opportunity to drive non-users to their digital platforms. It’s almost a spill over effect from TV to digital which augurs well especially, for digital platform brands eyeing to expand their foothold in the market and seed their overall narrative.

“The high inventory demand on TV amidst a finite limited supply is proof of the fact that TV brings immense value to advertisers. It very much stays to be the preferred medium to build reach and awareness. Digital complements, rather than substitutes TV,” said Vanita Keswani, chief executive officer, Madison Media Sigma.

No wonder, television continues to contribute about 38 per cent to the total advertising expenditure, despite the pandemic, which is much higher than digital. While digital may be the way to reach specific geo-targets, TV would remain the medium for mass awareness for a long time to come.

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