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Trending Now: I anticipate a reduction in ad spends in 2020: Subhash Kamath

Subhash Kamath, CEO and Managing Partner, BBH India, highlights some key trends in the content ecosystem, growth of Video & Voice, changes in shopping behaviour, challenges to ad spend growth in 2020 and much more. 

What were the few big changes that you think were of importance in 2019 for our industry?

The biggest change, not just in 2019 but happening over the past few years, I believe, is the rise of the mobile phone. From being used to just connecting with people in the past, it has moved on to become the single point of accessing everything one wants in life – knowledge, information, entertainment, utilities, shopping, banking … everything. With data and smartphones becoming cheaper, everyone has access to whatever they want. So, more and more time is being spent on the mobile and less on the traditional mediums/ platforms. 

As a consequence of the above, the second big trend one has seen is the rise of ‘video’. Video is now used to watch news, access recipes, in education, product reviews & demos, medical & health tips, humour, entertainment… everything is video! So much so, that more youngsters seem to be ‘watching’ music rather than just listening to it! Importantly, videos are shareable easily on WhatsApp and FB, etc. The critical thing to remember, however, is that most of these videos are being watched on a tiny 3-5 inch screen (on one’s mobile), often with the sound on mute. So, people creating these videos need to keep that in mind. 

The sudden success and adoption of platforms like TikTok also tells you how much consumers, especially the younger ones, want to express themselves constantly through short-form videos. And this, I believe, isn’t just amongst the big city youth, it’s taken even small town India by storm. 

I think brands and advertising agencies have only just begun to learn how to use these changes effectively. In these platforms, brand messages have to learn to look and sound less like ads and feel more like content for consumers to be engaged. Otherwise, with so much ad blocking software being downloaded on phones, you’d get blocked off. Which means, people are actually paying to avoid advertising, but are willing to pay for content that they enjoy. It’s time brand marketers learnt from content publishers on how to manage this. 

What are the big changes you are expecting in 2020?

  • Video will continue to grow in a big way. And this will give rise to more and more vernacular and regional content. The Internet is no longer an ‘English’ medium, as it was once considered to be. 
  • Also, given the levels of literacy in India, ‘voice’ will become big to access and interact with the internet. 
  • I believe OTT platforms will grow big in the coming years, changing the way people consume their entertainment. 
  • And lastly, more shopping is going to happen through e-commerce platforms, putting huge pressure on traditional distribution channels for brands. 

All of these will have a big impact on the advertising world as well. Many of the traditional methods of reaching and engaging the consumers will have to be dumped. 

How has the consumer behaviour changed with the introduction of tech-based marketing?

It has changed a lot, in almost every aspect. Take a look at shopping behaviour, for example. Consumers today have access to information easily on any product they want to buy. They can scout and process that information, compare costs and benefits amongst competing products/ brands, watch product reviews and demonstrations, look at what other customers are saying about their experience with the brand etc., all by sitting at home and doing this on their phones! And this is not just for small ticket items, but purchase of expensive things like cars/ two wheelers, holiday packages, hotel bookings, etc.! The Internet has completely changed shopping behaviour. 

Tech-based marketing has also enabled a lot of personalisation, which is the Holy Grail in consumer marketing. In many categories like apparel, foods, and even in the automotive sector, technology has enabled brands to customise their offering based on a customer’s individual preference. It’s great for the consumer who wants it “my way” and is willing to pay for that personalisation. 

Are we expected to see some big shifts around data regulation in India? How will it affect your business?

Globally, data protection is taking centre stage. The proposed Data Protection Bill is yet to become an act. From an advertising perspective, it will be beneficial to have laws that will enable researchers to collect information without violating an individual’s privacy. If we get access to consensual data from users, it can mean sharper targeting. 

How do you anticipate the AdEx growth across platforms in 2020?

I definitely anticipate a reduction in ad spends, given the overall economic slowdown. Initially, people were predicting a growth of 12-13 per cent, but I personally think it’ll be in single digits. Television spends growth will only be around 5-6 per cent, print and radio will hardly grow, while outdoor and cinema advertising will grow only marginally. Digital will be the only one that’ll continue to grow healthily, at 25-30 per cent, but on a smaller base.

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