Has 2021’s festive season given India’s advertising industry a big enough push to recover from the 2020 after-effect?
Brands and advertisers went all out with their marketing activities during the festive season this year
Cautious optimism continues to thrive in the advertising industry

Has 2021’s festive season given India’s advertising industry a big enough push to recover from the 2020 after-effect?

Cautious optimism continues to thrive in the advertising industry
  • The first half of 2020 was so unusual and unprecedented that the ad industry took a nosedive to as low as -60%.
  • Businesses of all kinds and sizes suffered and put their advertising activities on hold to give their consumers space to process the unprecedented times.
  • So, after a year and a half of lull, brands and advertisers went all out with their marketing activities during the festive season this year. Consumers were extra excited to step out, shop zealously and as most research studies reflected, Diwali exceeded expectations and broke previous records.
  • So, we speak to media experts and digital agencies to find out if the advertising industry has managed to bounce back this year, discuss the industry’s spending so far and their expectations from the last festival of the season, Christmas.
After a year and a half of celebrating festivals virtually, Indian consumers were excited to have some sense of normalcy back this year during the festive season. Advertisers and brands also went all out to leverage on this uptick in consumer sentiment, starting from Raksha Bandhan to Diwali. Experts were also hopeful that the festive season will bring in cheer and serve as a respite from the pandemic-associated slumber.

According to Redseer Consulting, 2021 saw India witness its biggest ever Festive Sales with brands clocking a Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) of $9.2 billion through online channels over this period. Online Festive Sales in India continued to grow at a blistering pace and saw a 23% YoY growth in GMV. On the other hand, the categories that witnessed subdued growth this year included the likes of home furnishings, home decor, furnishings and other electronics.

Looking back at 2020, Eeshita Ghosh, General Manager and Office Head, Motivator Bangalore said, “The festival of 2021 is definitely better than 2020 and as high if not more than 2019. The ad volume started picking up from Q3 of 2021 and with more than 20% growth over 2019 Q3. The festival months saw multiple new advertisers getting active, approximately 2000+ new advertisers are active in media. The inventory was full, and the market sentiments were very positive. With festival and IPL, media was very active with multiple new categories.”

A lot of hopes were banking on the festive season for the industry's overall revival, however, unlike Ghosh, Neena Dasgupta, CEO & Director, Zirca Digital Solutions was a little disappointed; not with the numbers but with overall creativity.

Explaining why, Dasgupta said, “Honestly, the performance fell short of expectations. Not only in terms of volume but also the kind of activities. I felt our methods possibly regressed a bit to remain cautious and conservative. Innovative ideas were few and yet each of them benefited. The consumer is now more aware and it’s time we took their psychometric into consideration. And at times where media dollars need to be more efficient and effective, we have to embrace tech that allows us to capture the consumer mindset and then deploy media buys across mediums.”

Sharing how the festive season has panned out so far for the advertising industry, Dasgupta added, “It’s been an interesting festive season. There was exuberance in the consumer spirit and it reflected in some categories. And yet the exuberance didn’t necessarily translate into communication to the same scale. This was possibly a combination of inflation, economic imbalance at consumer levels and some category constraints that impacted sales. What was interesting g though was the growth in rural activities at the consumer end and advertising end too. Every medium had its share. And fintech growth made some aspirations real for this segment. We now have a fascinating growth story for Bharat.”

With a steady monsoon and plump harvest so far, it was a cheerful year for rural India as well. They spent their harvest festivals with more enthusiasm and happiness to share with their loved ones. Brands also left no stone unturned to expand their marketing activities beyond metro and Tier I cities this year. In fact, this year, Tier II and III had the lion’s share in e-commerce spends.

Will we return to 2019’s ad spends?

After June, the advertising industry’s performance picked up by leaps and bounds. Raksha Bandhan, Ganesh Chaturthi and ace festival Diwali, improved consumer sentiment and helped the advertising industry to bounce back. But have we returned to 2019’s levels?

“The ADEX numbers for October and November are yet to come, but as we observed from our billing, we are positive that it has bounced back to 2019 levels,” said Ghosh.

Dasgupta told Advertising and Media Insider that regional and rural markets exceeded 2019’s performance but some markets are yet to reach there.

Decoding media dispersion this festive season

While there was buoyancy across the board, television got the most attention from advertisers yet again, followed by digital.

Talking about medium dispersion, Monaz Todywalla, CEO at PHD Media India said, “In terms of mediums, television and digital continue to drive impact and lead from the front, with digital playing a vital role in ensuring last-mile connectivity and driving sales across multiple touchpoints.

Raman Mittal, CMO and Co-Founder, TO THE NEW was delighted to see digital getting a bigger piece of pie than 2020.

He said, "COVID revolutionized the way people shop. We saw businesses go all out on digital channels this Diwali season to communicate with potential clients. Companies have adjusted their attention on digital marketing to stay up with new shopping channels and get the biggest piece of the pie as a result of continual digital transformation."

"Interaction and Influencers were the two themes that peaked this festive season," Raman continued. "Giveaways, contests, and online polls were used to promote interactive content. In addition, the top celebrities were enlisted to help brands stand out amid the crowd. These tendencies, we believe, will last well into Christmas and New Year."

Within digital, video got the most attention and while traditional advertisers continued to spend heavily, they were matched and at times exceeded by online services/startups.

Mihir Karkare, Cofounder and EVP of Mirum India said, "The videos ruled the roost this festive season. Online video platforms were in great demand – YouTube and OTT were the preferred choices for brands. Apart from Diwali, all the cricketing action also contributed heavily towards increased advertising spends. From a 'growth of share' standpoint, Influencer marketing as come of age."

Hopes rest on Christmas

Christmas is the last festival of the year. Will it give an additional impetus and help the advertising industry exceed 2019’s performance?

“Christmas is a bit low, but we have seen many advertisers continuing with the momentum built during the Q3 period. I expect Q4 to be like Q2 and will be higher than Q4 of 2020 and close to 2019 Q4,” answered Ghosh.

PHD Media’s Todywalla is optimistic that the momentum will continue and brands will keep up with their marketing blitzkrieg.

“With consumers showing an increased propensity to spend, pent-up demand from brands translating into a bouquet of launches - complimented by high-decibel marketing campaigns, and an overall increase in consumption and sales from all corners of the media and entertainment ecosystem, the festivities have ushered in a season that's peppered with a healthy dose of optimism. We believe this wave of hope and optimism is expected to be carried forth into the coming year too," said Todywalla.

With a huge push from key festivals such as Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi and Raksha Bandhan, cautious optimism continues to thrive in the advertising industry.