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In-depth: News genre – building brands and advertising categories

What makes news such a beneficial platform for brands? Can all brands leverage from the genre or is there a specific set of advertisers and categories? talks to experts to analyse

In October 2015, television news channels went berserk with the then established Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev trying to sell Patanjali products on air. Advertisements from Patanjali were flooding the television channels, especially the news genre. It was not that the company started operations around 2015. It has existed since 2006 -- about a decade before its advertising started. But the brand became a household name in the last two years, ever since it started advertising. So much so that the company’s total revenue reportedly shot to approximately Rs 5,000 crore in 2015-2016 from Rs 700 crore till a few years before that. Today, its revenue is estimated to be in the range of Rs 10,000 crore. The company rode to success primarily on the back of the news genre on television.

Patanjali is not the only company to have tasted success on the back of the news genre. “Categories have been built on news genre. Cement and industrial products, agarbattis, men’s innerwear and many local regional advertisers have grown on the genre,” said a senior media expert who did not wish to be named.

While there are a lot of examples to trust the power of the genre, what still remained to be checked was ‘what makes news such a beneficial platform for the brands?’ Can all brands leverage from the genre or is there a specific set of advertisers and categories?

To start with, we analysed what made the fastest growing FMCG brand use the genre.

Asking Patanjali, ‘Why News?’

SK Tijarawala

SK Tijarawala, spokesperson, Patanjali Products, explained how a news watcher is peculiarly different from the rest of the TV viewing universe and why. “News audience are the decision makers in the society. Those who are interested in knowing what is happening around them are more alert. When they are decision makers, they can lead and command the lifestyle and purchase decisions of those dependent on them.”

Some news broadcasters, on condition of anonymity, said that a lot of FMCG giants have now started taking news seriously after the successful ad foray by Patanjali. Tijarawala responded, “If we chose the right path in producing, pricing and selling the products, then people are bound to follow us. We reached out to the people through the most intelligent and wise medium, television and news. A news watcher is equipped enough to analyse the good from bad. We didn’t start selling our products to housewives and women.”

K Srinivas Rao

Asked if any other FMCG brand has used news channels, K Srinivas Rao, MediaCom termed Patanjali as a special case. “You won’t normally find an FMCG use it the way they have. It is the thought process which the agency has cultivated down the line. They have found success in the past, and want to apply it to a new brand.”

He said this big thrust of Patanjali on news may force other brands to hop on to the news bus. “People have taken notice of that. We have seen that there is traction on news from other FMCGs as well. Not to the extent of what those guys (Patanjali) are doing but yeah, the numbers have gone up.”

Why news?

Naveen Khemka

Naveen Khemka, Managing Partner, Maxus said, “The number of advertisements on the news channel is actually the highest. And all the different genres are actually a subset of that.”

As per BARC India data too, news was the leading genre when it came to advertisers in 2016. It hosted 60,841 advertisers. General Entertainment Channels (GEC) stood second with 52,289 advertisers, followed by movies (23,621), music (13,055) and sports (4,234). All languages and regional channels are included in this data.

Avinash Pandey

Avinash Pandey, COO, ABP News Network also gave a valid comparison saying, “While a normal GEC will have about 50-60 advertisers in a month, news has anywhere between 150, which means that there is a lot of variety in advertisements too.”

Khemka further added, “The low entry level cost is one of the main reasons. News channels offer low entry level cost, as their viewership is also low and is built over a period of time. Except for special events like an election result day, viewership may be higher, but otherwise, it has a low continuous viewership and they are building on it.”

Pandey too vouched for the strength of the news channels, and said, “News is the only genre that has developed new categories, clients, entrepreneurs and business houses. A lot of categories have a huge bulk purchase phenomena, but they still advertise and build brands. If they were not getting the benefit of advertising, these categories would have advertised for one year for vanity and then they would have disappeared. But that’s not the case and it’s because when they advertise, the consumption of product and the brand equity in the market goes up.”

There was a time when nobody had thought about seeing a masala (spices) or an agarbatti (incense stick) brand on television. These brands were meant to earn very low margins and hence, lower profits. But volumes can do wonders for any product and that was visible when these brands hopped on to the television sets to become visible and tell their stories. It was in 2012 when once, while watching a Hindi GEC fiction property, the show was sponsored by Cycle Agarbattis. While the association made sense considering the show had a protagonist who was an ideal Indian woman, praying in lavish sarees all the time, the affordability of these brands to advertise hit me hard. I tried to dig about it then, and a senior media planner had told me, it’s all because of the low cost genres of TV channels that give support to these brands while they are small. News is an important one, since the reach is wider than the other low cost genres.

Zed Black agarbatti brand came out with a television commercial featuring former Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is also its brand ambassador. Not only is the association unique but it also forces you to think, where will these ads run?

Ankit Agarwal

Ankit Agarwal, Director, Mysore Deep Perfumery House (Zed Black), said the ad would run on the GECs majorly, along with a huge thrust on news genre. Explaining the journey and importance of advertising for the category and his brand, he said, “We are one of the three largest agarbatti companies in India. Located in Indore, we are opening offices in 2,500 other districts across India. Our marketing happens through a lot of mediums, both ATL and BTL, newspaper ads, TV ads, free sampling and others. We started advertising on television in 2007. We majorly target GECs and news channels. GECs because the main target audience (25+ years married women) is reached. And news is for the trade. Ultimately, sales increases because of a sturdy distribution and top of the mind recall.”

Agarbattis is one category that lived on news in its early days. Whatever be the reason, the size of the established market is small in the incense stick segment. Men’s innerwear is another category that is huge on the news genre. Why do they come to news, despite the fact that the brands have really strong faces to support themselves, including Saif Ali Khan for Amul Macho, Akshay Kumar for Boss, Sunny Deol and Varun Dhawan for Lux and Salman Khan for Rupa Frontline?

Bidyut Nath

Bidyut Nath, Marketing Head, Dollar Industries, explains the importance of news, “I see an advertisement in the morning in the newspaper. By night, there is a greater chance that I would have forgotten all about it. But had I read a story about the brand, I would definitely have remembered it. So we use news portals, newspapers and channels so that the brand message is preserved. Secondly, talking about the brand is equally important. The buyers and consumers will know that what I am buying.”

Reinstating that a lot of brands and categories have been built on news genre, a media planner opined, “The news genre has also performed the tough task of educating the advertisers. A lot of smaller brands didn’t know how to use the television for advertisements but have come out of that cocoon and are advertising in a rampant manner. These brands started their TV journeys on television and have learnt the lessons hard way.”

Rao seconds by adding, “The biggest factor is that news is the easiest genre for new brands who want to enter into television due to its low entry point. News comes to the rescue when a brand has to reach out to a lot of people, like GEC or movies, but the income balance has to be maintained.”

The broadcasters have been seeing a consistent rise in demand. If you must have remembered when the 10+2 ad cap was being implemented and the discussions were ripe about cutting down the commercial time, everyone asked one question: Why does news have the highest commercial time? In the unregulated scenario, when a GEC had 16-20 minutes an hour, news had close to 30 minutes per hour. But that is because of too many advertisers and too little cost. News channels have to entertain more volumes of ads to maintain the amount.

One of the broadcasters pointed out how news is not getting its due despite always being helpful for advertisers. A representative from one of the leading news broadcasters said, “Of the total budget of any typical client, we get about 6-8 per cent of it based on the viewership. Sometimes we get up to 10 per cent because those are categories where we have a better offering. What we need to really look at are the categories in which have about 20 per cent of their TV budgets diverted to news. Those are actually FME clients, who have a little budget and depend only on the genre to establish their credibility.”

The representative also pointed to the migration of advertisers from one platform to another, “News channels play a big role in getting the print advertisers upgraded to television. The classical media planning is ‘Medium is the message’. So, if someone is using the platform, they get my credibility. There is a reach limitation that news would have, after which the advertisers would have to turn to GECs.”

Another leading broadcaster agreed to the phenomenon of helping the print clients to move to TV. He added, “This is exactly where most of my advertising team’s time and energy are spent – in trying to figure out clients that can be upgraded to TV. Moreover, these are the advertisers who don’t go through any agency. Plus, some of them are my viewers from a genre perspective. They would be more comfortable spending here because they know what they consume. This is a more passionate buying and selling.”

Local Clients = National Impact and vice-versa

While the world is moving towards going globalisation, localisation has its importance. In the news genre, there are a lot of things that connect the local to national – right from the coverage of specific markets and regions, to the geo targeting of ads for the national advertisers.

Khemka said the news genre is increasingly becoming a regional affair and that the existence of national channels in the genre is diminishing by the day. He said, “As news channels have become extremely local in nature and there is hardly any national news channel, (except three to four English and Hindi channels), it gives an opportunity for local brands to emerge as the viewership is also very local. Thus, localisation of news has led to smaller advertisers’ presence on television; otherwise TV was a big Daddy’s game.”

Rao pointed out that geo targeting has opened a lot of doors, for both national and regional advertisers. Agreeing with Rao, another senior media planner explained, “A local advertiser uses geo targeted ads to reach a specific region which is his TG since his distribution chain is restricted to that particular region. Additionally, the need for the national brands to reach to the inroads is also equally felt. All brands (national) have a stronghold on a particular region; while trying to strengthen the other regions, there is a lot of spill over in the national channels. Geo targeting is playing a huge role.”

Khemka also added, “A lot of small time brands got the opportunity to be on television because of news, and eventually as they did better they were able to expand to other channels.”

Who is watching news?

So since all the advertisers are moving towards news, we ask ‘for whom?’ Who is being targeted through the genre?

Khemka suggested that the genre offers a discerning male audience as many from the business community from India watches news almost all the time. “It could be stock market, business news or general news – but the small and medium level businessmen (traders, shopkeepers) are always consuming news and a lot of it. So, if you have a look at the news channel viewership, it’s not that the primetime has very high peek; it is spread out across the day. As the viewership is spread out, this many new advertisers can come in.”

But men also consume a lot of movies and GECs. What is the difference between the audiences for the news channel and a GEC/ movies?

Nath explained, “News is primarily male and GEC is for females, but when you see the subsets, you will see that there are common groups among the two genres, and there are separate ones too, for each. So you have to cater to all three of these groups, and so you have to be present in both genres.”

More beneficial to some?

Yes. It has been testified by a lot of experts that the various categories of advertisers treat the genre differently. Similarly, the impact of using the news genre is also different for each one of them. The top 10 categories on the news genre in 2016 are led by social advertisements or DAVP spots, followed by four wheelers and then two wheelers. Cements and paints come next, while pan masala make it to the sixth most advertising category on the genre. Telecom service providers come in next. Surprisingly, toothpaste is the only FMCG product to be listed in the top 10, that too at the 10th spot. Also, against everyone’s common belief, none of the BFSI sub-categories stood in the top 10 advertising categories in the genre.

As per Khemka, “It could be the innerwear brand, the pipes, switches, the electric companies. These are those who dominate news channels, all the male dominated categories who don’t need to meet the family viewership. Add to these the cement brands and the steal brands, which have been built prominently on news. The more B2B type of communications, the more industrial category is built on news channels.”

If we really talk about low entry point being a major reason for brands flocking on the news genre, there are many other genres with similar ad rates. Khemka said, “True. There will be a lot of regional movie channels; regional music channels have a similar ad rate. But news has a segmented viewer in the male audience and the affordability of males is much higher.”

Even the Zed Black incense stick brand, which has a huge upcoming advertising plan for across the genres on TV, feels news is special. Agarwal agreed that initially when it came on to television, news genre was what really helped the brand bridge to TV.

“It is because agarbattis are very important for the distributors and news channels are very good to connect to them. We did not start our TV journey with news alone, but entered all the genres all together, Zee TV, News24, Aaj Tak and others. But you can say it was more on Aaj Tak, News24 and other news channels.”

The brand spends close to 60-70 per cent of its TV ad spends on the news genre. It is also planning to target the geo targeted ads on news.

As per Rao’s observation, the most important category which has become synonymous to news is the men’s innerwear category. Because news has given them a lot of market, they have really grown and have been able to find celebrities like Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar, which is a testimony of the response that they have got. And now these guys have also moved to other genres.

Pandey from ABP News, said, “Patanjali as a brand, is heavy on news and has become such a big brand in last two years. It is only going to grow further. News genre works, it sells your products and that is a clear message, steel, cement, paint and handset companies. It is both B2B to B2C.”

 Alert consumers or ignorant ones?

Considering that the news viewers are being termed as more alert and attentive, is the awareness and alertness restricted to content on the channels or do these viewers also become alert consumers when it comes to ads. Do they ignore the ads or watch them attentively?

Khemka said, “The clutter level on news channels is extremely high as they sell everything possible on the channels, from the ad slots to the L-bands, the weather bands to the headline news. Due to low costs, the volumes have to be higher which increases the clutter too. Running a news channel is not easy and is a continuous cash burn business because it is live all the time; especially 10-12 hours of the day is live. Hence, at any point, they are monetising everything available on the news. That again has driven the prices down.”

Further, he added, “On a long term, it is okay but if you advertise for a small duration, it won’t really work. But most of the brands that you see have been built on very long-term deals.”

Rao opined on a practical note, saying that if the brands are seeing a rise in sales and are ready to come to the genre again, that means that the brands are getting the response that they want, which means that the audiences are consuming the ads.

Since there are so many formats of ads and branded content too, is it too much clutter and does it give a bad viewer experience? Pandey, who spoke from within the system of news broadcast, said, “The news viewer is more engaged than a GEC/ movies viewer since you don’t know the next shot on the news channels. The content is completely unpredictable. For better attention, the ads should be of same quality as the content. The branded content, L-band, S-band should all be of the similar look and feel.”

Broadcasters’ struggle

The passion with which people watch sports is nowhere near to how news is consumed. That is because part of the people have started consuming the news via social media, which is a serious issue since the thin line between fake and real news is getting thinner by the day. A broadcaster showed confidence that, “So even when breaking of news will not happen with us, but they (audience) will come to us because they need a reliable source to authenticate.”

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