Durga Puja and Navratri is finally here, but are advertisers excited?
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Will advertisers spend money during Durga Puja this year?

Durga Puja and Navratri is finally here, but are advertisers excited?

Will advertisers spend money during Durga Puja this year?
  • While Durga Puja/Navratri is here, this year, the festivites are subdued.
  • Brands are therefore excercising caution in where and how much they spend in the next few days.
  • However, things are gradually improving and there are signs of recovery, experts tell us.
Durga Puja or Navratri is one of the biggest festivals in India and every year the festival is marked by marketers pouring in big monies during the nine days of festivity. Actually the festival is so big in states like West Bengal that streets of cities like Kolkata usually become one big advertising canvas.

However, things are different this year. With coronavirus still going nowhere, people are cautious. While every year, the streets become adorned by ads and hoardings from brands from all kinds of industries, because this is the best way to grab people’s attentions, this year, even during the festival, advertisers have been cautious.

For the ad and marketing industry which saw a huge dip in investments during the first few months of the lockdown, a lot of hope had been resting on the festive season. However, this year there will hardly be a celebration. Just yesterday, the Calcutta High Court also directed all Durga puja pandals in the state to be turned into 'no-entry zones'. Many pandals in the city are barring physical entry of devotees and making the entire experience virtual. Even in other cities, people are planning to give the festivities a skip. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address to the nation advised people to exercise caution while going out during the festival.

So what does this mean for advertisers? Will they get a bang out of their buck if they advertiser this year?

Explaining how things are going to be different this year, Sujata Dwibedy, Group Trading Director, Amplifi India, dentsu international said, “Durga Puja in the east and Navratri in the west, are two of the grandest of all festivals, The festival marks the start of the auspicious period. Dussehra is followed by Kali Puja/Diwali/Laxmi Puja and Bhai Dooj. People shop a lot. The purchase of household durables, cars, bikes, home renovations, capital expenditures in businesses are seen in this period. A lot of business-led decisions are also made around this time. However, this year would be different as people would not step out like before, but they would be hooked on to the media to get a glimpse of the Goddess. So, the media/channel who can give them the best experience would score over the others.”

Every year, categories like FMCG, apparel, auto, e-commerce and consumer durables become the biggest spenders during the festive season. But have these brands come ahead and advertised this year?

Sidharth Parashar, President – Investments and Pricing, GroupM India said, “With demand picking up in Aug-Sep, key categories like Ecommerce, FMCG, Telecom, Durables, Auto and certain segments within BFSI are expected see increased ad spends this festive season. FMCG saw recovery in Jul-Sep quarter, driven by essentials like health-hygiene products and immunity boosting food products. Brands in these categories coupled with discretionary like skin & personal care products are likely to see an uptick in consumer spending and therefore in ad spending too. Consumer durables and Retail are expected to benefit from the govt.’s LTC cash voucher and festival advance schemes, which would lead to increased spending from government employees on products like apparels, laptops, smart phones, consumer durables, home appliances, fitness, jewellery, beauty & personal care during this festive. For Ecommerce sector, RedSeer estimates this festive to surpass a GMV of U$D 7Bn. driven by a surge in shoppers from Tier-II towns, considerable discounts available and financing options being easily accessible to consumers. Large players like Amazon and Flipkart are scaling up their supply chain vendors, fulfillment centres and higher manpower for delivery, in order to meet surge in demand and are spending heavily on TV, digital & Print.”

While people might give pandal-hopping a skip this year, they have also started spending money. At this point, people are on the lookout for a change, for something positive and this has led to a visible shift in consumer sentiments in the past few months, Dwivedy added, “We are seeing that market sentiments have improved over the past few months. A surge in online purchases has been witnessed through the various platforms. Indian consumers have started embracing the new normal, and consumption of products is back. There are multiple new categories of products, new convenience food products, health, hygiene-related – all have been accepted and are being tried out. In the last few days, the malls have also opened with new offerings from the shops. Many are offering home delivery, video selections and are even ready to send people home with multiple samples for trials. Home delivery of groceries, foods and other products is preferred. Implying that the emotions have revived, the consumption has begun, however, the mode of consumption is new.”

This positive sentiment has led to a month-on-month increase in spends since July across categories. “TV has been almost at the same levels as the previous year. Print, on the other hand, is kind of catching up but it will still take some more time in top metros. Nevertheless, Tier II towns are tracking better. Radio has also picked up. OOH and Cinema that have been worst hit this year should see some relief in this quarter,” she explained.

While Television has steadily been seeing an increase in ad spends over the past few months, mediums like Radio and OOH that had suffered a lot during the lockdown are hoping to see some recovery. These are both mediums that see a lot of spends during the festive season in normal years. So how are things this year?

Abraham Thomas, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network Limited said, “The festive season is considered the 5th quarter in India, an auspicious time, for businesses across industries, that contributes 40-45% of sales. Marketers certainly leverage this opportunity with ad volumes showcasing a significant surge. Clearly the most trusted and credible media, this lockdown has helped radio being reimagined amongst the audiences with the overall listenership of medium growing by 30%. The surge in listenership across different TG’s have driven ad volumes across Males, Females, the young and older targeted brands. We have witnessed a rise of 24% in Ad Volumes in week 33 with consistent growth in Ad volume from Aug’20 where average Ad volume surged by 4.8 times as compared to April. With the staggered unlocking of the economy, Radio with its ‘mass local reach’, trusted influencers and digital amplification have witnessed a sharp recovery with certain categories booming more than the others.”

However, things aren’t all that great in the outdoor medium and Noomi Mehta, Chairman & MD, Selvel One paints a not-so-rosy picture. He said, “Right now we are at 50% in terms of business when compared to a normal year, and if you compare puja-to-puja, we would be at less than 40% this year. It is true that people are venturing out now and there is an opportunity for brands but they are very cautious.”

Every year, especially during Navratri/Durga Puja, brands from segments like FMCG, consumer durables etc go all out and make a lot of noise. “But this year, only those forced to advertise are advertising. For instance, auto brands that are launching new offerings are advertising and currently they are out top advertisers. Every year, we see financial institutes, paint companies, e-commerce platforms and apparel brands also invest in festive but that hasn’t happened this year,” he shared.

Despite the fact that brands are cautious in spending, data points towards many cities almost coming to a state of normalcy. Shared Atul Shrivastava, CEO, Laqshya Media Group, “As far as traffic on the roads is concerned, per data generated through SHARP, Laqshya’s traffic metrics platform, traffic in Kolkata is currently 89-92% of normal times and it is increasing every day. Long traffic jams are also back. So, we see that situation is coming back to normal, aided by the festive season.”

However, Shrivastava had something positive to share. He pointed towards signs of recovery, even in terms of ad spends. “Even in the current situation, we are seeing brands in the jewellery, textiles, retail, garments, footwear and the automobile sectors spending their pent-up OOH budgets. FMCG brands are also advertising in OOH media, especially for sanitizing products. OTT platforms and entertainment channels are also investing in OOH media to promote new shows and programs. Hence, even if we do not see 100% spend by clients as compared to last year, current spends are around 60-65%.”

On what the rest of the year will look like, Arnab Samanta, Head of Marketing, Graphixstory said, “With the nation gradually ‘unlocking’ itself and with IPL happening around the festive season, the markets are much positive of a revival in the second half of the year. Brands will be spending 1.5 times digitally more than the usual plan of action. The advertising spend will be increased, thoughtful engaging ad campaigns and tech innovations like augmented reality will be introduced to create massive engagement with the target audience. The higher ad spends for various brands will be distributed on a different mix of categories and channels compared to last year, depending on consumer trends and shopping pattern. Digital businesses will now make the way for a sharper trajectory.”

While things have still not picked up as much as the ad industry had hoped, the number of new coronavirus infections dropped below 50,000 for the first time in nearly three months in India yesterday. So here’s hoping that things will keep getting better gradually and we will have a better and safer Diwali, one that also brings relief to the industry.