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Diwali adex provides much-needed relief to India's embattling media industry; ad spends surpass 2019 levels

A solid double-digit growth has been seen across platforms with TV and print leading the pack

It has truly turned out to be a happy and bright Diwali for India's media industry that saw its advertising shrink by more than 20% in the last 18 months.

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As brands piled up inventories to cash in on the resurgence in consumer demand, adex flowed into the cricket properties, news and general entertainment in equal measure.

Shashi Sinha

"Overall there is buoyancy across the board. I feel all mediums of advertising have made a comeback. Print recovery is very market-specific. In some markets, it has bounced back and seen good growth since small-town retailers have done well. Other than outdoor, which has been slow, TV, Print and digital all have come back. It is not like one medium is doing better than the other," said Shashi Sinha, CEO, Mediabrands India.

Mona Jain

"This festival was obviously much better than both 2019 and 2020. During the Covid period also, our reach and revenues grew. In fact, the news genre is estimated to perform better than pre-Covid period," said Mona Jain, Chief Revenue Officer, ABP Network.

Sudipto Chowdhuri

Sudipto Chowdhuri, Chief Revenue Officer, India TV, said, "Festive build-up started in August concluding with Diwali and these three months went off amazingly well. Our festive revenues were up in Covid year and this year has been better than that. The interesting point to note is that we achieved these figures despite limiting our inventories by 20%."

Before the festive season started, there was a worry that big-ticket properties such as Cricket and Big Boss would take away a major chunk of advertising and the news genre may not see a major increase. The news industry players, however, say that no major impact was seen as a lot of traditional categories increased their ad spends on news and new economy brands too pitched in.

"There was a little overlap between cricket and news advertisers but it did not really impact us much. A lot of new categories like gaming and bitcoins latched on to cricket to make instant noise. They any which way use the news genre for frequency and not really from a strategic point of view. So, we were not impacted at all. Rather, start-ups increased spending in the news genre," Jain said.

"News was an essential genre for a lot of categories, especially those who wanted to target male audiences. But the target audience for news has expanded after Covid resulting in the new addition of categories for advertising. For example, FMCG used to buy news earlier also but now it has become a part of their strategic buying. Traditional categories such as Food and Beverages, Personal Care and Education have increased their spends. At the same time, the news genre is continuing to add newer categories," she added.

"In terms of new categories, Crypto has started spending on the news genre while fantasy gaming continues to be present heavily on the genre. SMEs across the business categories, in the quest to bounce back, spent huge on marketing this festive season, which is evident by the festive retail sales numbers which have broken a 10-year record," Chowdhuri of India TV added.

In the last calendar year, the overall adex fell by over 20%, with print seeing the steepest decline of nearly 40%. Several industry reports had predicted that this calendar year, the adex would be back to pre-Covid levels. However, seeing the trend this year, some say the industry is poised to post a decent single-digit growth over the 2019 numbers. Most of the brands spend almost 30% of their total adex around Diwali.

"The two-three months before Diwali have been better than the three months before Diwali last year," Sinha of Mediabrands India said.

He said that despite supply constraints in sectors such as Auto and electronic devices, brands are not pulling back advertising.

"Across the categories brands are spending. In certain categories, there are still supply-side issues. For example, there is a supply issue in the auto category. People are booking and waiting for 6 months. This is creating artificial demand. There are also supply issues in the handset category," he said.

Sharing if there was any impact of BARC rating suspension on the advertising revenue growth of news channels during the festive season, Jain of ABP Network said, "In the absence of BARC data for the news genre, advertisers are picking up channels basis impact on their sales. ROI has become the key parameter of selection in the reckoner. Earlier, ROI used to be one of the norms. Now, it has become “the norm”.”

“When it comes to ABP Network channels, we are very strong on delivery making our channels among the top of the media plans across all the categories of advertisers. It goes without saying that the advertiser will have more liberal spending when they are returning to your channel after tasting success in terms of direct impact on sales," Jain added.

When asked if there will be a lull in advertising post-Diwali, experts said that it is always the case. However, with elections in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and others coming up, there will be a good increase in the government and political advertising across mediums.

"There may be a little lull in terms of volume immediately after Diwali but with UP elections scheduled to take place in the next 3-4 months, the revenues will further go up," Chowdhuri said.

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