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How coronavirus will change the face of festive ad campaigns this year

India's festive campaigns are all about uplifting spirits and celebrating together. But this year will be different as the pandemic has hurt the overall sentiments. How will festive communication of brands look this time? India's leading creative minds explain

It is said that advertising is a mirror of society. With the onset of the festive spell, the second half of the year is always full of excitement for both brands and customers alike. For brands, it’s an opportunity to make an emotional connection with consumers.

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Meeting friends and families and celebrating the festivals together has been part of Indian culture for centuries and this has been captured by brands so far in most campaigns. Though, this festive season is not the same as previous seasons, and for all the known reasons. Hence, brands will have to have a new narrative keeping in mind safety and hygiene and need to be careful in what they show in their campaigns.

Ashish Ohlyan

"Our brief to the agency always includes being careful and sensitive to the current environment," said Ashish Ohlyan, Head of Marketing at Cholayil (the maker of Medimix soaps).

Ohlyan said it’s important for brands to be positive, high on hope and aspirations. The current mood of the nation is that people want to be free from the shackles of the current situation and lead the life the way they want.

“While we cannot change the situation, we can prepare our mind to be ready and take it head-on. A low-cost FMCG brand can create a new narrative for itself and touch upon the lives of consumers rather than just the usage of the product,” Ohlyan said.

When distance between people is more, they tend to be extra caring, loving, have more empathy and festivals are a reason to showcase all these genuine emotions when they talk to each other. The celebration will change, but the human emotions won’t change due to the distance between people. The emotions become stronger when people are not together—the intensity of relationship, the craving to be together and a hope to meet soon becomes even stronger.

Madhavan P

“It is important to understand the change in consumer behaviour in detail and find a perfect balance between their needs and best practices to devise a campaign for this season,” said Madhavan P, Executive Vice-President, Sales and Marketing at TVS Srichakra.

Ad campaigns need to ensure that their messaging is unique; focuses more on safety and is in line with the new lifestyle. It is important to utilise the reach of trusted mediums to avoid the spread of misinformation during these sensitive times, Madhavan said.

As consumers are getting increasingly comfortable with social media and online platforms, TVS Srichakra will connect with them on digital during this festive season.

Shirish Agarwal

Brands will be more aggressive in their offering as far as festive schemes are concerned. With IPL scheduled during the same period, we will see brands investing heavily on TV during that period, said Shirish Agarwal Head, Marketing Communications and Brand, Panasonic India.

Advertising agencies feel this phase as an opportunity to demonstrate exceptional creativity and storytelling by integrating messages like social distancing, work from home and hygienic norms in the campaigns.

Manish Bhatt

“Our campaigns will be innovative with all the challenges this crisis has thrown at us. We are doing communications in the aspects available. And the aspects that are not available would push us to come up with compelling campaigns,” said Manish Bhatt, Founder of Scarecrow M&C Saatchi.

Bhatt said the primary briefs by brands are to bring positivity, optimism, humanity. It's an opportunity to show these aspects of the campaign.

Along with hygiene and safety, brands have to induce and inject positivity in the consumer's mind.

Sandeep Sreekumar

“As an agency, we are brainstorming on creative ideas to craft digital campaigns for our brands to promote social messages along with the brand products. Following the idea to be creative yet contextual, we are emphasising on giving out the message in a manner that sounds interesting to the listener. We are demonstrating innovative communication to support such social messages through our campaigns,” said Sandeep Sreekumar, MD, Media Moments.

At Media Moments, clients are suggested to develop meaningful campaigns that showcase a new way to enjoy brand affinity but digitally. “We are making the best use of elements like wit, humour and emotions to lend an engaging experience to the customers through product un-boxing, gifting and contests," Sreekumar said.

Scarecrow M&C created a campaign called Positive-tea for its client Wagh Bakri tea. The campaign showed hope and tried to convey that everything will be back to normal like pre-Covid times.

Communication on hope, positivity and humanity around festive season can fill consumers’ heart with goodness, Bhatt said. Bhatt said many brands had gone into a cocoon and not everyone was spending on advertising. But now slowly and steadily, everyone is coming out.

According to Bhatt, brands that talk too much about indulgence and luxury are probably not appropriate. “Our economy has gone down and so showing extra luxury will not go well with the people.”

“This year we won't promote how the festival should be celebrated but we will show how it was celebrated in past years and tell consumers why this year is different and how people in all kinds of situation should and can cherish it in multiple ways,” Bhatt said.

Speaking on how challenging it has become to create campaigns for the festive season, Ohlyan said, “It has cast a huge challenge for the brands as all past learnings and capturing the cultural nuances for a greater connect are not going to be relevant any more. A new culture is being formed now and brands will need to find a festival celebration narrative within the new forming culture. From collective growth to individual success by maintaining an emotional connection with a larger world is going to be a new norm at least for some time. The same will have to be captured by brands to keep going in the current environment.”

After communication, packaging of the entire value proposition to stand out of the clutter will be another challenge that the brands will have to overcome, concluded Agarwal.


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