Television
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TV advertising stares at a stressful quarter amid low market sentiment

Brands will not pull out but be very cautious about media spend.

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KOLKATA: Television advertising is expected to bounce back this year, courtesy a power-packed live sports line-up. While the January-March period has been exceptionally good for the industry, there has been a sudden reversal since then – IPL 2021 has been halted midway, partial lockdown has been imposed in several states, and the augury of a third wave of the Covid2019 pandemic have raised the question whether the year will pan out as initially forecast. It is for certain that this quarter will be under stress, experts said in a virtual roundtable organised by Indiantelevision.com.

One of the major talking points at The Television Ad Room, moderated by Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO & editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari, was how the spend on IPL would be reallocated. As the cricket festival is a high-profile media event, cancelling it would result in a massive setback, Madison Media Sigma CEO Vanita Keswani acknowledged. However, it should be taken in true spirits by the advertisers and stakeholders involved due to health and safety concerns.

Undoubtedly, monies will have to be switched around, plans for upcoming launches and campaigns will need to be recalibrated, panelists concurred. In this highly volatile situation, planners have to be more agile than ever, Keswani noted.

Policybazaar brand marketing head Samir Sethi agreed that the suspension of the IPL will be tough for brands that planned around the league, albeit the safety angle should be considered. Now, advertisers will have to look somewhere else to make up for the loss of eyeballs. Nonetheless, it would not be possible to fully compensate for the loss due to the mammoth viewership of IPL.

“We went in with the mindset that what if there is a cancellation. We had a Plan B early on and ensured to be nimble to switchover. Half the event is gone – which is the good news, because there’s exposure for brands to that extent,” OMD India CEO Priti Murthy said.

Moreover, this May is a month when advertisers don’t want to go aggressive on media. Looking at the market reality, the spike in cases, lockdowns in different states, suspending IPL could be a blessing in disguise; otherwise, advertisers would not have been able to pull out easily. Hence, they can now look at more digital-led, content-led campaigns, Murthy added.

While a pre-planned strategy can be more focused on content-led high impact digital marketing, Keswani is of the view that the roles of TV and digital are intertwined, not exchangeable. The television spend for IPL will not go totally into digital but can be fragmented and dispersed. However, a lot of the brands may not want to put the same amount of money in the quarter.

Already, many businesses have decided to go slow and want to look at the next quarter. In addition to that, consumer sentiment is also not right in the present scenario.

Following the outbreak of the pandemic, several brands had pulled out of advertising entirely last year, but 2021 will not repeat the trend. Although many categories will be affected, this year will see work in motion. For example, auto, luxury FMCG, consumer durables will be affected but essential FMCG, e-commerce will continue to grow.

“Businesses have figured out a way to operate in this volatile environment. Spends are not going to be completely pulled back in any category. There will be recalibration and rethinking but things are going to keep moving,” Policybazaar’s Sethi commented.

Yamaha Motor India Sales marketing head Vijay Kaul added that if a brand has already invested money in a regular platform, it’s also not good to hold back. In case of the IPL, it would be wise for brands that have already carried out launches not to stopper their advertising spends and lose the momentum they have gained. There will be a rejig in terms of switching to digital, he agreed, but the brands will back it up with TV too.

For Yamaha Motor, both TV and digital are the preferred modes of advertising. But with the IPL off the table now, the kind of money that they had set aside may be reallocated to subsequent quarters. While the brand will not pull out of media, it will be cautious with its ad budget given the unpredictability of the situation. However, the two-wheeler maker may double its spends in the festive season again if the current state of affairs improves.

While every business is differently affected, they will continue to spend depending on the nature, dynamics of business, Sethi said. But brands will try to be very careful when spending big bucks. Big-ticket launches may get delayed in the next one-two months, events like sale days may get postponed, he noted.

Despite the momentary headwinds, TV advertising will grow this year, at a double-digit rate, experts asserted.

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