‘IPL outcome has debunked myth about TV’s death’

BAMBOLIM, GOA : Amin Lakhani, chief executive for South Asia at GroupM-owned media services company Mindshare, said that both Disney Star and JioCinema, the TV and digital rights holders of the Indian Premier League (IPL), have failed to achieve their threshold advertising potential this season. While digital has grown, he said that the myth that TV is dead was disproved. In an interview on the sidelines of the 16th edition of the Goafest, an advertising festival, he spoke about the signs of revival and growth in sectors such as fashion, consumer packaged goods and auto while pointing out that some categories and brands continue with a cautious approach. The start of 2023 has been slower than envisaged in multiple ways, he said. Edited excerpts:

How has the standoff between traditional TV and digital played out for the advertising industry during the IPL?

From the overall aspiration perspective, both digital and TV have not achieved their threshold potential this year. While IPL has done well, there is still a lot of potential left to be achieved in digital, both from the connected TV and from the other perspective too. From the industry’s standpoint, the entire TV versus digital war may not have played out well at all. While I believe in the growth of the digital medium, numbers demonstrate that you cannot rule out TV in India. It can build strong brand connections. But it is not one versus the other medium since you cannot just write TV off.

But the digital campaign was that TV is dead. Is that true?

Star has done the out-of-home or OOH distribution smartly. The viewership on TV has become better. It is proven that people are spending time watching the tournament on TV. The myth that TV is dead has been disproved.

Was it a good idea for JioCinema to make IPL free to view?

It depends on the business’s ambition and appetite for growth. Obviously, there is some thought given to this, and they have leveraged the opportunity. While we say it is free, data consumption is not. It would have seen some uptick in data consumption, and somebody who was watching it for free for 10 minutes earlier (when Hotstar had the rights) and has watched an hour or more this time. The viewer has obviously paid for data. If all these trials and sampling can form a habit for a consumer, it will go a long way for the platform at an overall level.

How impactful has the Women’s Premier League been? Many women-centric brands shied away from advertising.

I am a big fan of how WPL has been received and how brands have leveraged that opportunity. We must give it some time. Brands are taking the risk of investing in future potential. This initiative will fructify, but it won’t be good to judge based on whether the rights holders made money.

How is the market looking since there is volume degrowth in FMCG in rural areas, and advertising has shown a strong link to that?

There are early signs of revival coming through at an overall level. Maruti Suzuki, for example, our new client, has had its best quarter yet. If the auto sector is doing well, it usually speaks directly of the economy. I also see that inflation has started to get booked into the baseline. Fears around inflationary pressures are easing, and price cuts and price reversals are happening right now. Challenges continue, but with a lower intensity. Brands are trying to address them at a granular level. Some of these things will take time to reflect in ad spending. I am hopeful in the quarters ahead, some of these results will start encouraging companies to bring brands to attention on brand building and funding brands to continue to engage with consumers.

Which sectors are doing well right now?

Overall, consumer packaged goods companies, fashion and auto are doing very well. It is not a quarter which has come out of the blues, from both a price rise and value perspective. The stress on new-age economy clients will continue. Amazon and Flipkart are kind of turning the needle, but the pressure on funding winter has got extended. We have seen some offshoots of funding come back in the right manner. If a company’s business fundamentals are in place, then the spending on ads comes back, but if they are still under repair, then the focus is on getting them right. We have seen some improvement in fintech. Slowly and steadily, the most difficult headwinds have eased out, and some of that reflation will come back to ads.

So, has money moved more to lower-funnel advertising?

Clients have realized that compromising on the upper funnel (a blend of reach and quality ads) and doing only the lower funnel doesn’t help. We continue to be fans of full-funnel activations. In a category where we had two different kinds of clients, it came out that in difficult times, it doesn’t help in growth and adds up to the accretive.

Last year, you’d said that 2022 was your best performance year yet. Will 2023 play out similarly?

Brands have been cautious as some brands’ campaigns have been rescheduled, and the start of 2023 has been slower than envisaged in multiple ways. However, our new business pipeline has been strong. Organic and “new organic» growth will help us cross the line. We are seeing a lot of campaigns coming back and a lot of companies planning for the second half of the year. There is the World Cup, a test championship and so on.

What about companies focusing on digital? Will the pie grow further this year?

Digital campaigns will continue to eat into the share of traditional mediums. They will take the larger share of the new growth money.

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Updated: 27 May 2023, 12:36 AM IST

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