Onam, the 10 days long annual harvest festivity, which was predominantly celebrated by the people in Kerala or the Malayali Speaking audiences, has continually been a ‘sweet spot’ for brands who aim to target or have a strong presence in the southern market of India.
As per Priya Iyer, COO (South), Initiative India, Onam remains a pivotal occasion for brands with a Kerala focus for it allows one to maximise brand presence and capture a share of the consumer wallet. Therefore, even with initial concerns pertaining to the delay in monsoon and the approaching of the festive season, the sentiment among clients appears “cautiously optimistic” with Print media continuing to be the leading medium for most local retailers, she added.
She also pointed out that there is a noticeable shift towards combining Print and digital or TV and digital in the brands’ marketing mix to achieve various objectives across the consumer funnel and that one such category which has shifted gears from Print to TV advertising is that of Consumer Durables and Auto.
“We have observed certain categories, such as consumer durables and Auto, shifting from Print to TV advertising. The growth this year is expected to be on par with or moderately higher than the same period last year, with overall adex inching towards pre-pandemic levels in Kerala,” Iyer opined.
Trupti Dave, Vice President, Starcom India, believes that since festivals and India have a great connection altogether and that it will always be there, a majority of the brands increase their advertising and media placements during festive seasons by ~25% and it is no different during Onam in Kerala.
“This is not just a virtue of clients spending higher but also due to ~35-40% higher number of advertisers participating during the festive periods,” she said.
She also emphasised that while the Auto category had been higher skewed during this period over the years, in 2022, it was Retail and Durables which showed significant growth.
Dave emphasised that while festive campaigns predominantly include TV as the pivotal medium in the brand’s media mix, the focus has now shifted to digital mediums owing to the rising digital consumption which provides the opportunity to create Onam-specific content that also resonates with people and culture and at the same time, touches the emotions and sentiments of the consumers.
Furthermore, Initiative India’s Iyer also highlighted that this year's shorter Onam window has created a sense of urgency for brands, particularly in the jewellery and consumer durables sectors, leading to a frenzy of impact ad space purchases to secure a higher share of voice.
“The entertainment category is witnessing higher spending due to special Onam episodes, Cinema releases, and OTT releases. Also, Onam celebrations have transcended geographical boundaries and are no longer limited to the Kerala population or Malayalis alone, which has opened up newer avenues for advertisers,” she stated.
As per Sri Harsha, Associate Vice President and Cluster Head, DDB Mudramax, during Kerala's Onam festival, marketers align their marketing with local culture, using traditional elements and local celebrities.
“According to the 2023 AdEX forecast report, we anticipate a 15% increase in ad spends in India, which will proportionally boost Kerala market ad spends. Brands expand their advertising during Onam across TV, radio, print, online, and social media. Online platforms and influencers are also gaining popularity due to their targeted reach,” he said.
Of these ad mediums, Harsha said that TV is a popular medium (98% reach as per TGI) for Onam advertising due to its wide audience reach and cost-effectiveness and that Digital advertising (90%+ reach) including social media and Influencer marketing has also grown in popularity.
“Brands have started using interactive content, collaborations, and contests to engage specific audience segments. Newspapers and magazines usually work well for mature audiences and offer-driven segments. For categories like kitchenware, durables, spices, and electronics, influencer marketing is on the rise. Outdoor advertising (80% market reach) is usually used for boosting brand presence and drive footfall to physical stores,” he opined.
Stemming from the fact that anything between 20-25% of Mathrubhumi’s revenues come from the Onam period, M V Shreyams Kumar, Managing Director, Mathrubhumi, stated that Kerala is a ‘unique’ market since its currently the only market where Print has an edge over TV in terms of overall reach and that in their current estimates, the publication is poised to grow over 30% during this Onam, compared to the previous year.
“We have also planned various ground initiates during the season and we are also in receipt of multiple Onam-specific briefs from advertisers which our team is currently cracking in order to make each a unique one,” he said.
Commenting on the advertisers’ build-up for Onam on the Print publication’s assets, he stated that Mathrubhumi has rolled out a marketing communication based on its concept of ‘Gateway to Kerala’ where all of Mathrubhumi’s assets- Print, TV, Radio and Digital come together to deliver 73% of Kerala’s media consumer to advertisers at incomparable CPTs.
According to Abraham Thomas, CEO of RBNL, this year’s build-up to Onam, a festival period which leads up to 18-20% of annual revenues for BIG FM, definitely seems better than last year.
Since the revenue generated will only be an outcome of the engagement, the radio player is focussed on delivering value and meaningful engagement with prominent ad slots to its partners to build excitement in the audience through the content lineup constituting on-air shows, captivating on-ground events, meet and greet sessions, on-air elements and heartwarming stories shared by RJs along with Digital platforms.
“Because Onam is a significant festival in Kerala, we have curated a special festive program called 'BIG Maveli Vannu - Ini ellam sari aagum' (‘The Return of BIG Maveli - Now everything will be Alright’) to celebrate the return of King Maveli, who is believed to visit his subjects, speak to people, bless them and make them happy, during Onam. We aim to recreate his character, giving people a chance to experience his presence and offer them an opportunity to interact with him through this first-of-its-kind execution in Trivandrum,” he added.
Mathrubhumi’s Kumar said, “What gives Print an edge over other media vehicles is the “topicality”, “larger than life feel” and “authority” for brands. Notably, he shares that the search volumes of a campaign and its impact, broken in Print vs any other medium is also a great indicator for the medium’s X factor, where the priority is not only for breaking news, but provide easily understandable yet deep content.
“Earlier, it was only local/retail businesses that became more active during this period, but now national clients too are realising the importance of the season where anywhere between 25-40% of their stocks, depending upon the category, is also cleared. Auto, Consumer Durables, Travel, BFSI, E-commerce, Telecom, FMCG, home décor, Fashion, Food are some of the categories we are already witnessing traction,” he replied when questioned as to which are some of the categories which are showing deep interest for Onam advertising.
Similarly, Thomas also emphasised that commenting on these categories that are expected to splurge in a big way for ad slots on Radio, during the festivity, Thomas shared that, a multitude of industries including Retail, Jewellery, FMCG, Automobile, Consumer Durables, Food and fashion, etc. to a multitude of industries will be seen leveraging advertising on the platform during Onam.
“As an integral part of our offerings, we will also reach out to our partnering brands to join us in making wishes and dreams come true, encapsulating the true essence of Onam for our listeners and customers. Through the collection and analysis of wishes from our Wish box, we will identify realistic dreams, dedicating our efforts towards fulfilling them,” he said.
As per DDB Mudramax’s Harsha, categories like retail outlets, auto/car, durables, jewellers, and E-commerce contribute 30% of the ad spends during the Onam season, which is why, the media agency is expecting these segments to experience significant advertising growth due to increased cash flow from NRI inflows and government employees' seasonal bonuses.
“TV will continue to be the dominant medium but to beat the clutter on TV during this season, brands employ content associations, Impact shows, post-production integrations and so on. Most of the brands employ integrated marketing campaigns to produce one cohesive message and maximise exposure and have surround impact,” he suggested.
Additionally, Harsha also opined that national brands in Auto, Durables, Electronics, and Jewellery focus on southern markets during Onam to capitalise on the seasonal cash flow.
“Kerala's early festival season attracts companies from across India to enter the southern market due to its significance and increased consumer spending which is also seen during the festivals of Dussehra-Diwali,” he said.
Furthermore, Initiative India’s Iyer also emphasised that since Onam marks the commencement of the festive season in India, many times advertisers use it as a gauge to predict the rest of the season's performance.
“The growth this year is expected to match or slightly exceed the figures from last year, as the overall adex approaches pre-pandemic levels in Kerala. While brand health metrics and higher share of voice (SOV) remain essential objectives, we are noticing an increasing focus on ROI (Return on Investment) or ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend) among retail clients which impacts the media plans,” Iyer added.
Additionally, Starcom India’s Dave also suggested that marketers need to keep their buzz going by relevant and attractive offers and plan an effective marketing strategy with creative expression, customised outreach, and two-way communication along with a well-balanced marketing and branding strategy to address customers across demographics.