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BFSI’s adex contribution to remain consistent at 3-5% in 2022: Vishal Subharwal of HDFC Life

Subharwal, Head - Marketing, Digital Business and E-commerce, HDFC Life, says their ad spends are likely to remain consistent in the current fiscal. With the main focus on TV and digital, it also plans to return to cinema advertising

Vishal Subharwal

The financial problems caused to a large section of the population during the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with faster technology adoption, has heightened the interest among Indian customers regarding financial products. In the past few years, the BFSI sector has emerged as one of the top spenders on the digital medium, while it also continues to spend on traditional mediums and marquee properties.

According to Vishal Subharwal, Head - Marketing, Digital Business and E-commerce, HDFC Life, BFSI’s contribution to the overall adex growth next year is likely to remain consistent at the usual rate. He also said that they will most likely keep their spending consistent for the remaining part of the current fiscal year.

The BFSI sector remained aggressive throughout the year, even during the Covid-19 induced lockdown period, when marketing budgets of most brands witnessed huge cuts.

Subharwal said, “In my opinion BFSI contribution to adex is likely to remain consistent at the usual 3-5 per cent. The FinTech contribution would be an interesting story to watch-out for.

Our ad spends are likely to remain consistent this year. We remained affirmed to our goals and didn’t stop our communication efforts in the past two years.”

On a broad level, this past year it has seen TV and Digital becoming the favoured medium for primary reach. Also, as per him, there has been a significant spike in consumption of news and sports as genres.

“Our media mix, however, is bespoke based on the business objectives we will drive. The operating environment currently keeps changing at very short time frames, hence, often context needs to precede content when planning any campaign, for it to reflect changing consumer trends,” he said.

HDFC Life’s major efforts would focus on capturing relevant insights from its consumer’s life while remaining rooted to its longer- term brand philosophy of 'Sar Utha Ke Jiyo'.

“One thing we didn’t do this year was to be present in cinema halls, given the circumstances. As audiences return for their share of popcorn and movies, we too would like to make a return to the big screen,” he added.

In the past the company had launched many content-led marketing pieces, like HDFC Life YoungStars and Behind the Journey.

#BehindTheJourney - Ritviz | Investment Goals | HDFC Life - YouTube

Child Insurance Plans - YoungStar Udaan 3 - HDFC Life - Sar Utha Ke Jiyo - YouTube

In the coming year, Subharwal said that its content marketing efforts would largely depend on its specific campaign objectives, desired TG, focus categories and so on.

He feels traditional brands which provide trust and empathy coupled with technology adoption would thrive in 2022.

Discussing how the advertising and marketing trends will change in the next year for the BFSI category, he said, “Advertising and marketing are a reflection of what is happening in society. The pandemic coupled with faster technology adoption has heightened interests among customers to understand the role and importance of financial products, not just during their lifetimes but in terms of securing the future of their loved ones. Coming face to face with our vulnerabilities has created a definite pull for insurance solutions, not only on a stand-alone basis but also along with other needs.” 

“Traditional brands which provide trust and empathy coupled with technology adoption would thrive. If the economic recovery continues, on the media side one is likely to see recovery happening with marketing spends increasing. With media being as fragmented as it is, it will be critical for brands to dial-up on insights and innovation to ensure they reach their preferred audience effectively,” he added.

Despite the tailwind of the pandemic, life insurance penetration in India has remained low. Even today, insurance remains a distribution driven category and not a pull-based category.

He hopes that more Indians will come forward and buy adequate life insurance cover based on an individual's 'Human Life Value' (HLV) and life goals.

The company also updated its website in 2021 to offer consumers a superior discovery experience and in 2022 it will ramp up its efforts to improve the overall customer experience.

He added that in the coming year, the brand would continue to be agile for the company and its partners. 

“Tracking consumer behaviour is going to be a continuous process this year due to the multiple scenarios and possibilities that could emerge. It would be critical for brands to ensure they are not planning based on yesterday’s newspaper and are riding the emerging trends instead. Our agencies and communication partners would play a critical role in helping us achieve this,” Subharwal said.

To keep abreast with the evolving social media ecosystem, he said that data-driven decision making is the key, as far as digital and social media platforms are concerned.

The number of insights and analytics one can potentially generate out of digital platforms and then use those for driving business objectives is critical. He shared that marketers who can retain independence of thought and have a sharper RoI focus will do better in this space since this is a space in which rapid experimentation can happen. Also, having a strong online reputation management system is important, as per Subharwal.

The brand outlook is to ensure that it becomes India’s most trusted and preferred life insurance brand in the next business cycle i.e. over the next three-to-five years. For this, it would need to constantly innovate its product offerings, customer experience, distribution reach, technology and yet be consistent with its roots and legacy. The ability to manage this duality of a strong legacy and yet be at the cutting edge of customer expectation will define the brand, he said.

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