With the IPL from September 19-October 15, 2021, T20 World Cup from October 17-November 14, and Diwali on November 4, there’s no break for those who make commercials for a living. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)
In the great Indian festive season, there’s no break for those who make commercials for a living. This time, however, the 'golden quarter' is more packed than usual due to the addition of two major sports events.
Ahead of Diwali (November 4), the Indian Premier League (IPL), from September 19-October 15, and the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, which begins on October 17, are keeping advertising folk up all night as they try to crack pitches and briefs for clients with unforgiving deadlines.
And from what agency executives told Storyboard, audiences can expect to see advertising that is not “formulaic”.
Also read: Storyboard | Festive season and cricket fever aid recovery in advertising
“This year’s festive season is like a bitter-sweet pill for marketers and advertisers with bouts of excitement and anxiety in equal measure,” says Anil Nair, CEO of WPP-owned network VMLY&R India. Nair believes that the tussle between excitement and anxiety will actually yield more clutter-breaking work. “Adverse times always give rise to edgier, better advertising,” he tells us. A clutch of startup brands like Cred, upGrad and CoinSwitch Kuber, among others, could prove Nair right with their recent commercials and campaigns.
Still in at-home mode
Though Covid-19 restrictions are easing, consumers are still cautious and haven’t entirely abandoned behaviours they picked up during the early months of the pandemic. But we can safely assume, none of us is still singing Happy Birthday while washing hands.
Companies like PepsiCo and Mondelez continue to reflect the new-normal consumer behaviours in their advertising approach. For Mondelez India and its flagship chocolate brand Cadbury, the priority is to push festive gifting sales and drive demand for “in-home consumption”, says Anil Viswanathan, senior director – marketing, Mondelez India.
Beverage and snacks company PepsiCo is closely looking at “consumers’ changing needs and cultural shifts” to add fresh insights in ad campaigns, says a company spokesperson. “Consumers no longer want to be told what their culture looks like, nor what stories should bear importance to their truth —they want to take part in that cultural development on a real-time basis,” adds the spokesperson. A good example of Pepsi’s strategy in action is its recent partnership with Netflix and the wildly popular heist crime drama Money Heist.
Season for launches
Financial services major Visa plans to use the festive period to spotlight and amplify its recent brand transformation through the ‘Meet Visa’ campaign. Sujatha V. Kumar, head of marketing, India and South Asia, Visa, tells us the company intends “to change the perception among the audience of merely being a credit card company to a wide network of payment systems.” Visa will also launch a campaign to promote the benefits of cashless transactions during the festive quarter, traditionally a period of high spending.
According to Vivek B. Srivatsa, head-marketing, passenger and electric vehicles business unit, Tata Motors, “Over the last couple of months demand is moving in an upward trajectory.” The auto major is heavily investing in new product launches, including its newest SUV, the Tata Punch, and, as IPL’s associate sponsor, in TV and digital advertising.
Mapping consumer journeys
Agencies also have to get their work in front of people when they are most receptive to messages. That’s why it is “important to understand new consumer journeys,” says Rohit Ohri, chairman and CEO, FCB Group India. He explains, “Consumer journeys are no longer linear. It can start and end anywhere. Therefore, it is important to understand what message to send out to your consumers at what point in time.”
According to Tata-owned jewellery brand Tanishq’s internal sentiment study, around 74% of consumers said they are “actively considering buying jewellery in this festive period,” says Arun Narayan, vice-president - category, marketing & retail, Tanishq. The brand is set to roll out a major national festive ad campaign soon. The other major player in the category, Kalyan Jewellers, is following “a hyperlocal product and customer outreach strategy,” says Ramesh Kalyanaraman, executive director, Kalyan Jewellers.
Kalyan is also widening its multiple region-specific jewellery collections to cater to the whole of “Bharat”. With consumers spending more time on small screens and on OTT platforms, the brand has made temporary changes to its media mix with a more digital-centric approach. When it comes to challenges of advertising during a clutter period, Kalyanaraman says the key issue is “to keep up with the fast-changing consumer preferences, which has made it tougher for companies to sustain outreach through campaigns for a very long time.”The build-up
Executives of leading advertising agencies are optimistic despite the uncertainty. “We are expecting a strong surge of positive intent from consumers given the backdrop of the last 18 months of uncertainty,” says Hari Krishnan, CEO, Mullen Lintas.
Cricket and festivals are “a good excuse for celebration for Indians”, says Jitender Dabas, chief operating officer and CSO, McCann Worldgroup India. However, he says, in times of uncertainty “consumers can retreat into their shell which can impact spending, especially on big-ticket items. So festive season advertising needs to get consumers out of their shell.”
Dabas believes, “Cricket has the power to get people out of their emotional shell.” In that sense, this time around, IPL is the opening act in the run-up to the peak festive season. IPL creates the right dose of “excitement that will help marketers in building up the right celebratory mood before the season,” he says, “That should be one of the key deliverables of the festive campaigns this year.”