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We spend a lot more to curb ad fraud and ensure brand safety, says J&J’s Saroj Mishra

Mishra, General Marketing Manager, Feminine Hygiene, Consumer Products Division, Johnson & Johnson India, explains how ad fraud is a concern and that brand managers need to take adequate measures to ensure brand safety. He also speaks about the challenges around marketing sanitary napkins

Saroj Mishra

As digital advertising faces credibility issues globally because of the rising number of ad frauds and falling reliability of measurement systems, Johnson & Johnson is partnering with ad fraud diagnostic companies to ensure brand safety so that the multinational giant doesn't fall victim to digital ad frauds. 

"We have partnerships with ad fraud diagnostic companies and in every campaign that we do, we spend a lot more than other companies because we pay an extra fee to ensure that ad fraud doesn’t happen and our ads don’t show up on incorrect content," said Saroj Mishra, General Marketing Manager, Feminine Hygiene, Consumer Products Division, Johnson & Johnson India.


Digital is globally weathering a storm when it comes to ad frauds, measurability and brand safety. Big brands like Unilever are threatening Google and Facebook to clean up their act and P&G recently cut their digital spend by $200 million. 

“It is good that others have started waking up now but we did it two years back. Johnson & Johnson is actually one of the first companies globally to have taken a stance against ad fraud in a big way. We were the first to switch off from YouTube and we went back to YouTube only when we had the reassurance from Google that they had taken adequate measures to curb the menace,” said Mishra.


He agrees that this is a cause for concern and believes brands and brand managers can do their bit to improve the situation. While others are cutting their digital ad spend, J&J is investing more towards creating quality digital content.

“Sometimes in the pursuit of impression and views, brands tend to forget that their ad is funding content that is improper and incorrect. Brand managers need to take adequate measures to ensure brand safety. There is technology available which ensures a fair amount of safety. It is not 100% safe but as technology keeps evolving, you have to ensure that you fund organisations working against ad fraud by participating with them. So, when we pay extra fee for safety we know that some of that money goes in improving the overall safety for everyone and that is what I would encourage more people to do,” added Mishra.


Speaking about the advertising strategy of Stayfree, J&J’s sanitary napkin brand, Mishra said the company was using digital in a big way to reach out to female consumers. 

Deep-seated prejudices and customs make India a difficult market when it comes to marketing products like sanitary napkins and other hygiene products. In such a scenario, the advent of digital has helped sanitary napkin brands to connect with women on a personal level and bring their brand message to them.


“Digital allows you to have a one-on-one conversation with your consumers on subjects which are private. As girls become more digital savvy and the demographic of India becomes younger I think the media monies over a time will gradually shift to one-on-one, private conversations,” he said.

“As education and economic independence among Indian women increases and as India becomes younger, the sanitary napkin category and the overall feminine hygiene category are set to grow aggressively over the next five to 10 years,” added Mishra.

The brand also believes in normalising periods and has launched a new campaign, starring ace badminton player P V Sindhu.

Speaking about the campaign, the insight behind it and the decision to bring PV Sindhu on board, Mishra said, “Millions of young girls in India are dreaming to progress in their lives and a lot of role models around them are pushing the envelope of progress and Sindhu is one of them. She embodies the dreams of these young girls to progress. She is a real girl who has made her dreams of progress true in many ways and therefore she is a natural fit for Stayfree. Also, Stayfree as brand wants to take up the cause of normalising periods in the country and Sindhu helps us do that.”

But Stayfree’s efforts at normalising period don’t stop at just bringing in a celebrity. A lot of sanitary napkin brands were at the receiving end of the ire of women who asked why blue liquid was used in sanitary napkin commercials. In fact, a sanitary napkin brand Bodyform even portrayed menstruating women bleeding red instead of blue as a part of their #bloodnormal campaign.

Commenting on the issue, Mishra said, “In the past I agree that in an attempt to be persuasive, brands have used demonstrations which are insensitive. In 2015 when we launched our extra-large pads, we actually stopped using blue liquid. We have done away with showing any kind of liquid to represent the flow as we understand that some consumers find it offensive. One has to be sensitive in this category both in terms of how you establish the problem and the benefit. In our own way we have tried to weed out some of these old ways of persuasion. We have also shown girls playing football, doing taekwondo and practising jazz in our previous communications. So, we have tried to normalise periods both in terms of the thinking behind it and the demonstration and the communication as well.”

It is also important in a category like this to educate the consumers but without sounding preachy and content marketing can go a long way in achieving that.  

“We have, on and off, used different publishers to generate our own native content on digital media. Similarly, in traditional media space we have used advocates like TV stars, where the message was integrated into the plot or story so that it comes across as native content and therefore looks more authentic,” said Mishra.

While challenges are galore to market any product in a country like India, Mishra says that acceptance is a big issue when it comes to women’s hygiene products like sanitary napkins.

“Receptivity of a message goes up when a category has fewer taboos around it. For example, when you are talking about a new car, it is easier because people are more experienced and therefore word-of-mouth amplifies the media spend that you do. But in categories like sanitary napkins or condoms, the receptivity of message is individual. People are not open to conversations on subjects they think are private even if a brand is talking about it on television or digital or print. Therefore, the fundamental difference you will see in a category like this is receptivity,” said Mishra.

Stayfree currently has a 38% market share in India and Mishra expects the market to grow aggressively for the coming five to 10 years. According to Euromonitor, the India tissue paper and hygiene product market will grow from where it stands currently at Rs 57.8 billion to Rs 100 billion by the year 2020. Despite this huge growth potential, India remains a country where period is a taboo subject.

According to Mishra, Stayfree is a very national brand.

“We have had an all-India presence for almost 50 years. There are pockets where we are number one, there are pockets where we are a close number two and pockets where we are a little behind. We are a very national brand and not a two states, one region kind of a brand,” said Mishra.

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