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How print continues to be resilient in COVID-19 second wave & lockdown

Ad Space in Print soared by 4x in April 2021, even as COVID-19 cases were soaring across India. According to TAM AdEx data, in Week 3 of April 2021, Ad Space in print surged by 6x, compared to Week 3 of April 2020. Tally of categories, advertisers and brands in Print grew by 19%, 24% and 32%, respectively, during April 2021, compared to April 2020. Over 120+ new categories, 12.4 K+ new advertisers and 14.6 K+ new brands seen in Print during April 2021 over April 2020, TAM AdEx data reveals.

Meanwhile, in May 2021, Ad Space/ Publication in the Print medium saw an increase of 58%, compared to May 2020. The Top 5 advertisers collectively had 14% and 27% share of the ad space in April 2021 and May 2021, respectively. In April 2021, SBS Biotech, GCMMF (Amul), TVS Motor Company, Amazon Online India and Maruti Suzuki India were the Top 5 advertisers. In May 2021, SBS Biotech, Emami, Hindustan Unilever, Aakash Educational Services and Mankind Pharma constituted the Top 5 advertisers.

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Print to degrow 20-25% in Apr'21-Mar'22, but huge comeback seen in last 2 Qs of FY22

Speaking about print advertising’s performance during the second wave of COVID-19 in India, Mayank Bhatnagar, Executive Vice President, Carat India, noted, “In the second wave, the impact was not as severe as what we had observed in 2020. On the contrary, we see a growth in Ad Volumes of 8-10% if I compare Jan-May 2020 to Jan-May 2021. However, comparing it to the pre-pandemic level, obviously there is a huge degrowth that we have seen.”

Agreeing with this, Shekhar Banerjee, Chief Client Officer and Head - West, Wavemaker India, said, “The trends on Print as a medium is much better than wave 1. Consumer sentiment and access to the medium is superior and so are the AdEx trends. We are seeing more than 100% increase in Adex vis-a-vis wave 1.”

At the same time Banerjee cautioned that the challenge of increasing input cost for the industry is very serious and will take some time for them to adjust to this. “It also means that they need to bring back a lot of lost advertisers and categories who have migrated to digital. For now, we are seeing the topical categories like Health, OTC, Publishers and social advertising dominating the medium.”

Bhatnagar added here, “For certain categories, print plays a very important role in the mix and these categories have continued to invest in these mediums and we have seen growth in even this year. In this second wave, we have seen growth in volume and spends in categories like services and personal healthcare of BFSI Durables. So, overall I feel that the sentiments are positive. In the second wave the circulation has not been impacted to what it was in 2020, and that is why these categories have continued to invest in print.”

Advertiser sentiments are positive as compared to 2020. While compared to pre-pandemic level the reach of print has impacted heavily, however, in Jan-May 2021 versus Jan-May 2020, the circulation is more or less stable, and that has actually given a positive growth in Ad volumes.

Bhatnagar further said, “I see a lot of brands, especially the regional publications, changing gears in terms of integration and reach, because there are people who have moved out of print. Those who have stopped their newspaper circulation have now moved to digital platforms and are consuming the news on digital platforms. Therefore, brands are also looking for integrated solutions and that is how they are being able to sustain the growth.”

When asked to give his projections for print advertising growth/ degrowth in FY2022, Bhatnagar said, “If I compare FY2021 with FY2020, we see a growth of around 8-10%, but obviously going back to the pre-pandemic level won’t be possible, but if we compare Jan-May 2021 with Jan-May 2020, we already see a positive growth and I am sure when we enter Q4, around Diwali time, brands will start investing more and increase spends on the medium. From Q2 specifically, a lot of brands have moved their campaigns to Q3, so I am sure once we go near the festive season, a lot of sales will also happen during that period and I see the print medium witnessing positive growth.”

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