Has working remotely led to a dearth of good IPL ads this year?
Experts share the reason behind the dip in quality advertising this yearDream11
Experts tell us the reason behind the plunge in quality IPL ads this year so far

Has working remotely led to a dearth of good IPL ads this year?

Experts tell us the reason behind the plunge in quality IPL ads this year so far
  • As the industry copes with the after-effects of the lockdown, which had paralyzed the logistics and production involved in making ad films, communication around IPL has not been very impressive this year.
  • A lot of people have been talking about the dearth of quality ads that stand out or that have created an impact this year.
  • We speak to experts to find out the reason behind the dip in quality advertising this year and how ad agencies can buckle up to help their clients reap the best benefits in the upcoming days of IPL.
Indian Premier League (IPL) has almost become a festival of its own that gives brands an opportunity to reach out to a huge number of people who are glued to their television sets for close to two months every year. Dream11 IPL 2020’s opening match itself was watched by 200 million people, which indicates why IPL is the biggest marketing opportunity for brands this year to bounce back.

IPL also brings along an array of wonderful ads every year. In the early years, brands like Vodafone, Kingfisher and Nestle created some spectacular work to take advantage of this uniquely-engaging event.

However, the on-going pandemic has brought in a lot of challenges for agencies. They are producing ads with minimum money, trying to operate within the government guidelines of production and selling it for really expensive slots. They are also expected to create an ad that stands out in a sea full of celebrity-endorsing cliches. And after seeing a lean first-half this year, all kinds of brands are trying to cash in on IPL’s fervor.

With this increased pressure and responsibility, agencies are working extra hours to meet clients’ expectations. To top that, an air of despondency is still looming around because of the fear of the unknown, blues of working in isolation, pressure to overperform in a dismal atmosphere, salary cuts, work overload and time-crunch. Ergo, COVID-19 has had a clear impact on the country's creative minds as well, possibly leading to unimpressive production this year.

A lot of people have been talking about the dearth of quality ads that stand out or that have created an impact this year. A few experts did appreciate Dream11 and Khatabook for their IPL ads but largely, they were disappointed with the plunge in quality ads.

Roshan Abbas, MD and Founder, Geometry Encompass took to Twitter and said, “The drought in quality advertising during IPL is mind boggling. Show me one good ad, please one good ad.”

On lack of quality, Satbir Singh, Founder and CCO of Thinkstr, commented, “Over the next 45 days, clients are going to spend over 2,000 crores on ads on IPL. About 500 crores on celebrities. And, looking at the ads, a couple of crores in creative fees.”

Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and former HP, Asia Marketing Head found this year’s IPL to be quite disappointing. He said, “I guess in their keenness to use cricket and cricket stars the brand proposition has got lost. There are a few exceptions though. My personal favourite is the Swiggy spots – esp. the middle aged men getting together to watch IPL. Harsha Bhogle’s commentary at a key moment lends a great touch. IPL sponsor Dream 11’s ads using the superstars in classic gully street cricket situations with the line ‘yeh apna game hain’ is funny, endearing and tells consumers everyone is an equal when it comes to Dream 11.”

On whether lockdown has impacted industry’s creativity, Mathias said, “Not really. I think many advertisers think that a spot in the IPL must be anchored in cricket – and sometimes the best spots have little to do with the sport. Vodafone’s zoozoos are a great case in point.”

On the other hand, Ambi Parameswaran, Founder, Brand-Building helped us look at the brighter side and appreciated brands who have trusted in advertising despite seeing gloomy days.

Parameswaran said, “There is a lot of debate on the fall of creative quality of ads in this year’s IPL. But this is a false argument. The country faced a severe lockdown and even now the movie halls are yet to open. Film shootings are happening in stages. So it is futile to say that why are the ads not their sparkling best. Instead we should applaud the brands that have boldly decided to advertise. These brands are demonstrating their faith in advertising and its effectiveness. Yes, there is a surfeit of tech-enabled brands and that is to be expected. But there are also so many auto brands, consumer product brands, consumer service brands, etc., that have decided to bet on IPL. Each and every one of those brands needs to be praised and not criticised for their relative tame creative quality. Research has shown, over a broad range of products, the creative quality may account for just about 7 - 11 % of ad effectiveness. The balance rests with media weight and the core messaging. So let us put our hands together for those brave brands who have decided to stimulate the market, nudge the consumer out of their inertia, to start spending.”

Earlier while conceptualising TV ads, production challenges were given scant thought while approving scripts. However today, the starting point of conceptualising creatives would be around the associated production constraints, which Ronita Mitra, Founder and Chief Strategist, Brand Eagle Consulting said is one of the reasons why IPL ads are impacted this year.

Mitra said, “All these constraints and challenges are visible in the ads being played during IPL 2020. However, these challenging times are also the litmus test of the true creative potential of the creative teams. Due to cuts in marketing budgets, ads have probably been made on much lower budgets. Further given the safety protocols to be followed these days you can see that most brand ads are either old ones or shot with solo models, or using animation. Viewers would also be seeing ads with those filters in mind and therefore be tempering their expectations of the entertainment value of the ads. Still, IPL 2020 could have been the ideal opportunity for brands and agencies to showcase some real creative talent, and to show that creativity and the power of idea can rise above the constraints of low budgets or execution constraints. To that extent, the display of creative thinking has been rather disappointing. For me, the Dream 11 ads are the only ones that stand out for making a serious attempt at creating a series of engaging ads.”

Albeit, Kuber Chopra, Founder, Creative & Strategy Director, Rasta, said that lack of creativity is not due to lockdown constraints.

Chopra said, “I don't think one should attribute this lack of creativity to the lockdown because all good creatives enjoy good constraints. I am personally just really surprised that no one has done anything contextual which is focussed on the consumers who’ve been dealing with the pandemic. For instance the ad by Paytm featuring Sachin Tendulkar is quite campy where the service is also lost. I really like Dream11’s focus on the active fan. It is also good to see how the cricket demigods have been humanised and are happy to be part of the sobering script. In my opinion, ads need to have some cultural connect with viewers and much of this is missing as is evident even in the ad for Apple 11.”

“It’s surprising how brands haven't taken a chance with either new stories or fresh treatment. Decision-makers and creative heads have chosen to be safe,” added Chopra.

IPL is considered India’s Super Bowl, not only because it’s the biggest sporting event but also because over the years, it has come to become the benchmark for creativity in advertisements.

Shashwat Das, Founder, Almond Branding, said, “Whether it was the iconic Zoozoos or Jio dhan dhanadan, Amazon’s Chonkpur Cheetahs or IPL’s own Jumping Japang campaign, we always looked up to what’s new and path-breaking each season. The expectations have only grown over the years. However, this season, apart from the funny series of Dream11 ads nothing else have yet got people talking. With more digital viewers of IPL this year than ever before, the engagement and online conversations that a brand can pull is the biggest success parameter. Sadly I still remember the DLF Maxima from the initial days of IPL more than any brand campaign this season. I am hoping as the game progresses, brands will rise to the occasion and surprise us.”

On how ad agencies can buckle up to help their clients reap the best benefits in the upcoming days of IPL, Sameer Makani, Co-Founder and Managing Director Makani Creatives said, “The industry is still coping up with the after-effects of the lockdown which had led to paralyzing the logistics and production involved in making ad films. Although progress in digital advertising is visible, the attention span of the audience is significantly reduced. Today, it’s about opting for a more concentrated approach and creating content that resonates with the audience instead of conventional carpet bombing. For instance – video content has become an excellent medium to touch, feel and engage with the audience in this new normal. It has helped several brands in channelizing the content in a manner that helps in leverage relationship with customers. The quality of ads depends on how well the advertiser is capable of sending the message and how well the audience perceives the message. This is an opportunity for brands to understand and conceptualize ads as per needs.”

The story is not over yet

Mathias anticipates that things will change as we get deeper into the league.

He said, “I would expect a few brands may release fresh creatives as the tournament progresses. Given that viewership of the IPL has been phenomenal in the first phase and the tournament will build up to the festive season – there should be better advertising on the anvil.”

Chopra is hoping to see smaller brands shine on Disney+ Hotstar.

“I’m rooting for the iconic equivalent of 'Flipkart Kids' from the ed-tech folks who’ve heavily invested in the IPL. It’s really their moment to own. As a footnote, I’d keep an eye on Disney+ Hotstar -- where smaller advertisers can express themselves efficiently with lower media spends,” said he.