Telewise Bangla: Why West Bengal’s local brands prefer TV as a medium

Reach of TV is far ahead in Bengal as compared to any other mediums

KOLKATA: Behemoths like Hindustan Unilever, Godrej, Procter & Gamble, and others of their ilk, may be lording it over product categories nationally, but in regional markets, they more often than not come up against sprightly, nimble, scrappy local players who give them more than a run for their money.  Not only for space in shop shelves but even as far as media spends on TV, print and digital are concerned. The scenario is no different in west Bengal.

The sentiment and proclivity of local entrepreneur-led brands to use TV as a communication medium and brand builder was the topic of discussion in a virtual session ‘New Bastions of Growth’ at’s  Tele-wise Bangla- the Power of Television summit.  Prestige Ice Creams (owner of Rollick) managing director Gaurav Khemani, Ajanta Shoe, managing director Sagnik Banik, Keya Seth Aromatherapy founder Keya Seth, Initiative Media executive vice president Mahesh Motwani got into conversation with founder, CEO & editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari and senior reporter Gargi Sarkar to give their perspectives.

Khemani, who took over the company five years ago, is a big believer in television as a medium. The company that was growing 23 per cent year-on-year pre-pandemic started expanding the moment it went on TV, albeit improving product quality and distribution also played important roles, he said. Even this year, Rollick launched a campaign in February which ran till March. As Khemani shared, the campaign led to sales reaching levels never reached before in March.

“The reach of TV is far ahead in Bengal, compared to print or any other medium. If you take TV, you can get around 75-80 per cent reach, whereas for print it is 30-35 per cent at best. If you look at the rural segment, print almost does not reach there,” Motwani stated, noting that Bengal is almost 68 per cent rural.

However, the reach of digital still stands at around 50 per cent at best in urban areas of West Bengal. While everyone gets excited about digital, TV is extremely important for any advertiser in the state. Moreover, the brands need to plump for Bengali  TV channels which have the highest reach amongst TV viewers,  Motwani added. For premium programmes like SaReGaMaPa, Dadagiri, advertisers start booking slots way ahead.

Ajanta Shoes’ Banik said it has only been two years since it signed Sourav Ganguly as a  brand ambassador for its sports shoes  as it pivots the company towards being a complete footwear provider from being a manufacturer of slippers alone. And its constant bombardment of the TVC with Ganguly and his dog on Bengali TV channels, has seen its sports shoes kick in sales of Rs 20 crore, Banik claimed. He added that there is no doubt that  TV is important to reach the masses but digital plays a role in  showcasing the technology that goes into the making of a sports shoe.

Keya Seth Aromatherapy takes a different marketing tack.  Rather than jumping on to celebrity endorsements, the beauty brand’s founder Keya Seth and her daughter are  the faces in its promotions. The company was compelled to pull back media spends since filming stopped in March 2020. Seth explained that the company was compelled to do so as Keya Seth Aromatherapy used to produce a half-an hour programme for TV rather than buying spots.

For the past year, it has not opened the lock it has put on its media spend chest  as yet. According to Seth, that has not had much of an impact on its growth with sales rising four-five per cent in the past one year. She asserted that she might opt for ad spends again, but the focus would be on digital.

One of the major issues that some of the local brands are facing is being “outbid” by national advertisers, Seth highlighted. Earlier, regional channels used to treat local and national clients  differently. Some local brands used to spend even Rs 25-30 crore in a year for TV advertising, she noted. And the sales team would stand by them and give them enough priority. But now TV channels are selling slots to any brand which  is willing to fork out more.

 Hence, many of the local brands are not being able to match up their ad budgets with larger brands and gradually shifting to digital. Most of the local brands ink year long deals while many of the national brands just spend for a few premium properties, for a limited period of one -two months. Seth noted that the TV channels are on the verge of losing those long-term investments of local clients prioritising short-term  gains from national brands. While Seth is still keen on coming back to TV, she is of the view that the channels will have to look at how they can add more value.

According to Motwani, most clients in Bengal work closely with agencies on their branding and media strategies, with owners getting on top of even negotiating ad rates. ”Sometimes, because of their relationships, the entrepreneurs get a better buy,” he said. “If the clients don’t feel like they are getting the right rate, they hold back their TVCs. Their thinking is that if they accept a higher quote, it will become the benchmark for future deals.”

What about local Bengal brands spreading their wings nationally? Ajanta Shoes has already started moving beyond the eastern market to enter Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh. Keya Seth Aromatherapy already has a  presence in  Delhi, Jharkhand, Tripura, Assam, Jaipur, Bangladesh, Nepal. As Bengali consumers across the world have emotional attachment to homegrown brands, the beauty brand has some customers in the US and  London too.

Banik stated that he will depend largely on TV to popularise his brand in new states to which it is spreading out. And he will go for a mix of both regional channels there as well as those with a national footprint. But the weightage will be more towards regional channels.

However, Khemani pointed out that he would rather concentrate on building Rollick in east India for now. “Covid has given us opportunities to think through new opportunities. Pre-covid, I was interested in going national straightway. At this point of time, we want to stay in the east at least for three years and  take a leadership position here,” he said.

Motwani in closing pointed out that West Bengal has oodles of entrepreneurial spirit pointing to brands like ITC, Gestetner, tea companies, plywood producers like Century and Green Ply which have come to define and dominate product categories. “They are ambitious and they are great believers of TV as a brand building medium,” he said. “Both locally and nationwide. And that will stand TV in good stead.”

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