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IPL during festivities — two strokes of luck for ad agencies

Ad agencies hope for an upswing of business in this quarter as clients are banking a lot on the revival during IPL and festivities. Agency heads told that the absence of exposure has made the brands hungrier to advertise. While many advertisers will make a comeback, the pre-Covid spends will take time to return

Brands want to be optimistic given suspension of their regular brand-building cadence for most of 2020. The marketplace also needs all the energy and enthusiasm to build overall momentum. And hopefully a combination of cricketing and festival season will get the creative, media and digital actions going.

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After staring at a blank canvas in the first half of 2020, agencies are now hoping that cricket and festivals will spark a revival in their business with various integrated brand campaigns.

IPL has always brought with it a whirlwind to creative and communication agencies and this year it will be no exception. With public sentiment finally seeing an uptick and the return of a global phenomenon like IPL, creative agencies are expecting a boom in business.

Anil Nair

“Any move northwards is good news. I am seeing a positive outlook and enthusiasm for IPL and IPL-related activities. It will also be a general shot in the arm for the overall marketing ecosystem given the otherwise bleak outlook. I can see IPL films, content, media and digital engagement work picking up coupled with the festive season campaigns which is also running parallel with the event,” said Anil Nair, CEO, VMLY&R India.

Poran Malani

Diwali and IPL coming together is a good sign and I think it's very beneficial to kick-start the businesses. It's going to have a good impact, morally for the country, Poran Malani, Director at S4 Capital said.

S4 Capital has got a significant number of briefs for the Indian Premier League. Malani said that Mediamonks has seen an exponential growth this year despite the crisis and lockdown.

Dheeraj Sinha

“Everybody is hoping for an upswing in this quarter. Clients are banking a lot on the revival during these times. So definitely it gives better business for advertising as well,” said Dheeraj Sinha MD, CSO at Leo Burnett India and South Asia.

Sinha said that business started coming back at creative agencies after a countrywide unlock. For many categories, the agency saw the business curve going up right after unlock. “In many segments, clients have come back to 70% of previous years spends.”

The buzz around IPL and festivities is definitely palpable with more and more brands actively jumping in on the opportunity to make their voices heard and loosen the consumer’s purse strings and get them to splurge a bit since they have been limited to essentials during the lockdown.

Irfan Khan

IPL might just be the inflection point that creative agencies are looking for and can help brands get the most bangs for their buck by capitalising on IPL's popularity and fanfare, said Irfan Khan, Partner, YAAP.

Return of advertisers to agencies

Malani said brands are determined on how to communicate around IPL and so a lot of advertisers will make a comeback to advertising but the pre-Covid spends will take time to return.

“I think there are a lot of instances on how brands are looking at Covid normalisation and post-Covid. There's going to be a lot of comebacks,” he said.

“IPL becomes more than just a cricket match. It becomes an expected part of the calendar and brings so much joy and it's an exciting part of the year. Marketers always want to be part of it to grow and spread and it is something that will grow and continue,” Malani said.

Nair said the ad spends won’t reach a crescendo of what it would have been in a normal year if all was well. But given the background and context of this pandemic year, any positive outcomes will have more relevance and meaning.

Nair said IPL touches a finite set of brands and festive is traditionally a peak season for the marcom fraternity. “We do see a zeal and fervour by brands to make up for their pandemic hiatus. For me, the psychological impact of a good vibrant IPL+festive season has more long-term benefits than just the immediate mitigation of loss.”

Experts said the absence of exposure made brands hungrier to advertise.

“We’ve seen a huge spike in interest coming from brands in the past 30 days since their confidence in IPL has allowed them to loosen up a bit in terms of spending. This is great news for agencies but creativity and innovation are going to be of paramount importance to get noticed,” Khan said.

While a spike in advertising is being noticed, these are still challenging times for brands. Brands are a lot more vigilant about their marketing spend, focusing much more on qualitative and quantitative metrics as a result of being far more ROI-driven than ever before.

Khan said that it's fair to assume that IPL and the festive season could result in a noticeable spike in business, saying he is optimistic and excited about the prospects of the next few months.

“Because of the iffy-ness over sporting events, clients had adopted a wait-and-watch syndrome. But now that the tournament is happening, I see frenetic catch-up action. Am told that a lot of clients are evincing interest and the inventory is hugely in demand. Also the absence of exposure has made brands hungrier and more open to risk-taking, which is good news,” said Nair.

Experts said even though business has increased from previous months, spends are not as widespread as earlier. It’s lesser with fewer clients than the previous year.

“There has been a slowdown or deferment in business plans from clients,” Arun Raman, Chief Intelligence Officer at Grey Group, said.

Sinha said IPL and Bigg Boss add their positivity of normalcy to the sentiment and give advertisers platforms to advertise and don't drive demand. “You purchase things to celebrate Diwali and Durga Puja you don't do so in IPL. Hence, such marquee events don’t fuel demand but the festive season does,” he said.

Sinha said shops opening up after unlock has opened demand, which make advertisers to advertise on various platforms. “The fundamental driver for demand is unlocking, people moving out in whatever degrees they are, shops being opened and opening up of demand.”

Sandeep Sreekumar

Even before the start, social media is ablaze with excitement for this biggest marketing extravaganza, attracting advertisers and brands, said Sandeep Sreekumar, Managing Director, Media Moments.

Aakash Chatterjee

“With better viewership across television and digital channels, IPL is expected to deliver better for brands this year, opening avenues for a healthy creative competition,” said Aakash Chatterjee, Regional Head, Operations (West), Watconsult.

If we take a look at events and how events change radically, obviously we won't have stadiums full of people, big congregations this year. Most sporting events encourage people to get together.

In Diwali, we look at family getting together and celebrating.

Most of FMCG ads are about groups sharing celebrations together. Malani said such communication needs to be changed, there has to be personalised interaction that needs to be concentrated on the kind of virtual sharing.

“How you create groups within sporting events without being physically there? Technology comes into play now, where you are able to create virtual crowd, virtual noise and virtual atmosphere. That space needs to be explored and is being explored,” Malani said.

Hence, even agencies need to consider communication according to current times.

Creative briefs to agency partners

Experts said that the briefs, holistically, have changed this year, with the approach being more consumer-oriented, more subtle and engaging. The content for any campaign can’t be generic anymore, it has to be specific and highly relatable because the pandemic has brought about a huge change and has affected literally everyone, so it’s next to impossible to not consider that in an agency’s communication.

Malani said the brief is all about how to create interaction and engagement given the crisis challenges and the new reality.

“A role for everything has subtly changed because people's psychology has changed and so the brief happens to reflect that. Agencies will have to answer what clients are looking for right now,” he said.

Nair said we are going through various phases of pandemic response by brands. “Starting with empathy and concern to now a more optimistic, ‘we shall overcome’ messaging tone.”

Every client is trying to respond to the current situation, which is coming back from the lockdown context. That's the sentiment most brands would like to capture, said Sinha.

Chaterjee said the briefs are focused on digital rather than on other mediums. Brands are willing to be more interactive and engaging with the audience, as quality interaction is somewhat of a rarity with social distancing and with the excess of free time, consumers have more time to spend with their brands.

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