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Due to the restriction on production and limited budgets, the storytelling will not be the same this year.
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Experts expect to see more advertisements around IPL this year than ever before

Due to the restriction on production and limited budgets, the storytelling will not be the same this year.
  • After seeing a few lean months and IPL around the corner, experts are hoping to see their businesses bounce back to normalcy and get on-track to their revenue goals.
  • However, due to the restriction on production and limited budgets, the storytelling will not be the same this year.
  • So we speak to a few advertising agencies to figure out how they are gearing up for IPL’s season 13 this time and how brands should win consumer’s trust this time after a long-dry-spell.
A stadium full of people, the audience cheering for the team or its captain and the theme song goes off in the background -- a standard format that was followed for Indian Premier League ads since its inception. Over the years, we have also seen some ads that were shot remotely, to capture how IPL unites families. All these ads have tried to capture the consumer frenzy around IPL. In fact, its campaign in 2011 called ‘Bharat Bandh’ represented how the entire country shuts down just to watch the tournament. IPL has been a treat for the eyes, not just for the sport, but for the array of wonderful ads that it brings with it too.

However, this year is not the same as the past 12 seasons of IPL and the storytelling will have to be tailored according to the current situation. Advertising agencies will have to shoot the ads with minimum crew or come up with creative solutions to make an IPL-benchmark ad remotely within a limited budget that entertains people as it always has. Consumers are now looking for an escape more than ever before, something that breaks the monotony of their routine. However, the campaigns will also have to be sensitive because the lockdown might be lifted, but the pandemic is not over yet.

What is otherwise celebrated as a gala with a stadium full of spectators, this time, will be viewed mostly on digital platforms. At the same time, after seeing a few lean months, experts are also hoping to see their businesses bounce back to normalcy and get on-track to their revenue goals after IPL. So, there is a lot of hope resting on IPL from all sides -- brands, agency networks and consumers. We spoke to experts to see how they are going to navigate these challenges in the new normal and maintain the level of creativity of the old-normal.

Production challenges

IPL ads are known for their creativity and large-scale production. With limited budget and production scope, how different will this year be?

Tarun Rai, Chairman and Group CEO, Wunderman Thompson, South Asia said that creativity always finds its way.

Rai said, “Production is back and we have found ways of ensuring that we deliver the same quality as before the crisis. I do not, therefore, believe that there will be any compromise in the quality of the advertising. We are a creative industry and have found creative ways to execute even large-scale productions. They may have been supervised remotely but we ensured that quality didn't suffer.”

During the lockdown, agencies turned to their employees or family to shoot footage for their advertisements. We are past that stage now. However, Rahul Mathew, Chief Creative Officer, DDB Mudra Group said that budget restrictions affected industry’s output, not just the production limitations.

He explained, “We seemed to have moved ahead from the phone camera films, as film production has started to find its feet again. But it comes with rules, regulations and anxieties that we will need to learn to work with, and not just for IPL. As for quality, we may not be at our best as an industry, this time around. And not all of it would have to do with the shooting and production limitations. Clients would be mindful of how much they spend and budgets will have a bigger say in who you work with or how elaborate your executions will be. Also, there wasn’t much prep time for this IPL. So all of this may start to show in the work.”

Referring to Nike’s latest ad, Nisha Singhania- Director & Co-Founder, Infectious Advertising, on the other hand, believes that ‘nothing can stop’ the industry from doing what they do best. Creativity will remain unaffected.

She said, “Advertising is getting back on its feet and shoots are happening as we speak. So no reason for any compromises whatsoever, in fact, if anything one has learnt during the lockdown is that more the restrictions, more people think out of the box and innovate. Case in point the Nike ‘You Can’t Stop Us’ ad which was an editing marvel. While the quantity may go down, as brands may want to optimise, no reason for the quality to reduce.”

Mitesh Kothari, Co-Founder, White Rivers Media says a few ads were shot even before COVID-19’s sword started dangling on our heads.

Kothari said, “A lot of ads were shot pre-covid period and were ready. In fact, I believe it will be a welcome change, where people have been used to seeing a lot of low production ads off lately, and with IPL being rescheduled, some precovid, big budget ads would be on, on tv and digital. Also, with a lot of things on an 'unlock' mode, the production budgets are returning to mid size and quality ain’t being compromised.”

While some on the other hand, are turning to animation or UGC content.

“Since the pandemic, we have seen ads being shot on mobile phones and even remotely via zoom. While advertisers are looking at newer and more creative storytelling devices, there has not been a big dent in quality. However, the experience is likely to be different from what we have been used to in the past as more and more brands will lean towards animation or sourced footage either via stock or user generated content backed by stronger scripts and compelling voice overs,” said Premkumar Iyer, Vice President, National Operations, Gozoop.

IPL holds the burden of shifting the first-half of the year on its head

Experts are hoping that consumer sentiment will improve once IPL begins and sales will follow. It is also supposed to bring the advertising industry back on track and end the dry spell.

“We’ve been starved of sport and are still starving for cricket. So I expect this IPL to be gathering some serious eyeballs. And that’s reason enough for a lot of advertisers to be there,” said Mathew.

Telling us why IPL is the most important event for brands this time, Gozoop’s Iyer said, “As per a report, Star will be charging Rs 8 to 10 lakh for a 10-second ad in the upcoming IPL season, It also has to be noted that Star has previously charged brands Rs 25 lakh for 10-second slots during the India vs Pakistan ICC World Cup match and between Rs 16 to 18 lakh for other World Cup matches. In comparison, the IPL ad charges are still reasonable although the rates are among the costliest for a programme in the country. This is where the opportunity lies. For brands, the IPL is a massive event and has real potential to improve the market situation, add to it the fact that it is just before festive season means that brands are likely to take the plunge to make one last and final sales push in order to end the year on a better note.”

Due to reasonable rates and desire to latch onto the first opportunity to reach consumers on a large scale, experts are hoping to see the numbers of ads also going up this time.

“We might see more ads during the IPL this year. There have been few opportunities for brands to talk to their consumers for the past few months and IPL is such a huge property. Advertisers realise that they need to capture all the pent-up consumer demand and with the IPL scheduled just before the start of the festive season in India the timing is even more opportune,” said Rai.

IPL is also coinciding with festive season, two big mood changers, which will bring in more money and ads from brands.

“Because of certain price benefits there shall be a flurry of ads. Also, the fact that IPL is coinciding with festive, brands have all the more reasons to spend. IPL is indeed going to be a big mood-lifter and hopefully shall generate a lot of consumer sentiment upshift,” said Kothari.

Guidelines to follow for ads to win consumer’s trust

All experts we spoke to said that IPL will shift the consumer sentiment in brands’ favour but the macro factors haven’t changed at all. They have worsened. So, creators will have to try extra hard to win consumer’s trust and not turn a blind eye towards the status quo.

Telling us what the advertisers should keep in mind while working on IPL campaigns, Kothari said, “While the fundamentals of marketing remain, one has to understand the fundamentals of marketing layered with covid effects. Brands cannot cease to be empathetic. Since IPL is the first big event lined up for Indian consumers after a silence of 6 months, brands must try every single effort to upshift the mood. The fact that a lot of consumer segments and categories of brands had gone in slumber, a lot more are going to come back with IPL. Hence, brands must take into account the festive & IPL clutter in their creative campaigns and media plans.”

Mathew highlighted how brands might want to talk about how the whole world is behaving in the same manner now and breaking the clutter will be a task this time.

He explained, “Creativity feeds off experiences. And because people have different experiences and influences, you tend to see varied and unique expressions of creativity. But this time around a lot of us have gone through the same experiences; we’ve felt the same and behaved the same way. So it will be very tempting for brands to play off that and end in the sea of sameness. That’s going to be the biggest challenge for brands this year – to find something that’s insightful and not merely a truism from the times we live in. And, of course, be entertaining as far as possible. We could all do with as many reasons to smile.”

Singhania, on the other hand, said that IPL should continue to be the mood-shifter that it is and offer a much-needed break to consumers.

“IPL ads have always been extremely entertaining, and that needs to continue. Even more so in times like this, since people are bored and looking for an escape. While in many categories, people need to be sensitive about the current context, I don’t think that is needed for the IPL. The campaigns have always been light-hearted, and any change in that tonality might just dilute the fun quotient,” said Singhania.