The NDTV Group’s former CEO and Executive Vice-Chairperson, Late KVL Narayan Rao had once mentioned during a causal conversation that news channels should be treated as public service providers and be supported rather than being left to compete for advertising monies.
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When the entire world is fighting the coronavirus pandemic today, many will agree the job of disseminating information at the present time (when the entire country is locked up) is nothing less than a public service.
Moreover, channels are performing their duties with increased expenses on newsgathering. That too when there is a significant drop in ad revenues as only a few essential goods brands are advertising while other categories have gone silent. That said, this article is not to evoke emotions for news channels. Rather, it is to tell brands how, in such a crisis, they may get most out of their investment on the news channels.
In a global crisis like this, every consumer is only worried about his safety and is only talking about their well-being. In such a situation, every brand has to relook at their communication strategies. Some categories such as FMCG, health and pharma have stepped up their advertising activities while others have either tweaked their communication and scaled-down their spends.
This shall pass in a few weeks or months. But the brands that had recently spent huge amounts to build a brand recall will have to again start from scratch if they completely put off their communication. Be it a compassionate public service advertising or subtle messaging, they need to remain in the game to be in their consumers’ mind space.
Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP News Network, believes that if brands advertise during adverse timings of the business, they gain the maximum.
“If everything is going well then there are too many people shouting. When the economy is down and people are locked in, the degree of attention and their willingness to accept the communication is very high. Hence, if you advertise in such a time, your long-term result would be far bigger than the people who don’t advertise. It’s up to marketers what they choose but what I’m telling you is a historically proven fact,” Pandey said.
According to the latest BARC India data, overall advertising on TV increased by 11% in Week 10 over the previous week.
Talking about the categories that are continuing with their aggressive communication plans, Vikas Khanchandani, CEO of Republic Media Network, said, “There are a lot of brands who will try to ride the resilience of this opportunity. There are brands whose immediate call to action is not to buy and but they are advertising with an objective to build their brands. Within this context, while people are at home their ability to absorb or retain will be the maximum because of the amount of consumption that they are doing.”
“In our offices, we have created work shifts where we have separated 3,000 to 4,000 sq.ft to sanitise so that nobody occupies that space. In terms of cost, it is a very crucial time,” said Khanchandani.
Advertisers say their spends depend upon the channels’ investment on the content. In today’s time, when GECs’ investments on content are temporarily down and news channels’ investments have shot up heavily, they should spend big on news genre, by their own logic.
“Not only the FCT of news channels are bound to grow immensely, but they also have all the right reasons to ask for increased ad rates,” said an industry observer. “If they are investing huge monies, they must charge proportionately depending on supply and demand. There are other ways to do charity like investing in CSR which most of the brands are doing but if their investment into content and infrastructure is helping brands sell more products, they are not unreasonable in asking for higher rates for increased reach and viewership.”
You would be working in high visibility and fresh content. At such a time, brands also need to be with partners, so I think PSA advertising will go up. Brands will show solidarity with consumers and such advertising will be relevant,” Khanchandani added.
The entire ad world is working from home and so there could be delayed turnaround time for coming up with a new message. Brands also do not have much time to call a pitch. In that case, news channels will have to be ready to help brands create quick PSAs.
Asked if news channels are equipped and ready to help brands, Pandey said yes. “We will be more than willing to help them.”
Talking about what kind of communication should run on the television screen at a time when they are running serious news 24x7, Pandey said, “People are smart and they can differentiate between serious and non-serious communication. Brands should advertise even more. People know what communication is to be taken seriously, what is to be enjoyed and what communication is to be used.”