Recently, I moderated a panel discussion on how advertisers can reach what we at afaqs! like to call the 'modern media dark' belt of consumers – people who claim to have stopped watching television. I must admit, I was anxious before this session because India is a market where the efficacy of TV as a medium is a time tested fact and one can't hinge a discussion on anecdotal evidence (“I don't watch TV”) alone.
Though large research firms tell us that millions of Indians are subscribed to OTT platforms, can one assume they are migrating away from television? For the sake of this discussion, yes. A panel of experts answered my questions about reaching 'the unreachables', that is, people who turn to internet-enabled, on-demand video content, for entertainment, instead of television – the 'cord cutters', 'cord shavers' and 'cord nevers' of our market.
Watch the full discussion here
We also spoke about the phenomenon of connected TVs, or as the New York based Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) calls it 'TV with benefits' and whether that has influenced media planning; it has led to more 'interest based planning' and multi-screen planning, which, experts say, will affect high involvement categories and high-end, luxury brands and services first. Though India is largely a commute-streaming market, where OTT content is consumed on the mobile screen, a small fraction of the population has started streaming content on the wifi-enabled TV screen, through Amazon's Firestick device, Google's Chromecast, hybrid set-top-boxes or on smart TVs.
I entered the discussion with three questions in mind: What characterises this pool of migrants, who have apparently shifted from TV to OTT – are they just the young, urban elite? Which product categories need worry about losing these eyeballs? And does the buck stop at branded content, something we see every now and then on OTT, at the script level? An example of this is a dialogue in Inside Edge, a show on Amazon Prime Video, in which one of the lead characters, a fit cricketer, while justifying munching Too Yumm! chips to a concerned onlooker, says, “It's baked”, a proposition Virat Kohli's been selling for the brand in TV commercials.
Dhirendra Singh, vice president at media agency Initiative India, who led media planning for the RP-Sanjiv Goenka owned FMCG brand, said, “We integrated the brand into the storyline of a show, which, in a disguised manner, gave viewers an IPL-like feel. We wanted a protagonist who resembles Virat to speak about the brand being (a) healthy (alternative to fried snacks)...” To him, people are migrating to OTT for better choice of content, convenience and customisation.
Rahul Pansare, marketing head, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, is not worried about TV drop-outs. “This change was expected; we were looking forward to it. OTT platforms give us the opportunity to dissect and select our audience. We can customise our content, we can do programmatic... on TV, appointment viewing is not happening, so the chances of missing your audience are much higher, but on OTT you know the person is going to watch the entire series at some point.”
Insisting that pure cord cutters form a “very thin sliver” of the audience in India, Anand Chakravarthy, managing director, Essence (a GroupM agency) spoke, instead, about the “cord stacker”, someone who watches linear TV but has added an OTT platform as an additional layer on top of it, and who represents the largest chunk of the new-age audience advertisers are tasked with addressing.
Dubbing the concept of the 'modern media dark' a “misnomer”, and bringing up, instead, the “light TV viewer”, Starcom CEO Rathi Gangappa spoke about the co-existence of linear TV and OTT, a reality wherein lies the “confusion and chaos” for professionals of her ilk. “TV will remain the main reach builder for all of us, as media planners” she said.
Citing the example of her agency's 'Bollywood Trails' campaign for Jeep (a brand from the stable of Fiat), Gangappa said, “It is branded content that is not necessarily only for TV; it works well on OTT, social media... we created the IP such that it fits across all... In a day and age when there are so many opportunities available to consumers, you need to ensure that whatever you create and put out there for a brand is available across all platforms...”
Fiat's Pansare added, “There is no single media behind the communication we do. This (Jeep Bollywood Trails) went on television and also had an OTT branch to it. The busy Indian who was not able to see it on TV through an appointment, could go on OTT and watch it. So yes, from a media planning point of view we are trying to cover everything.” The campaign is essentially a travelogue, in which Hindi film directors travel to – in Jeep SUVs – famous locations they filmed their movies in. The show is being telecast on Sony Pictures Networks India's TV channels AXN and Max HD, and streaming app Sony Liv.
Sanjay Tripathy, former marketing executive at HDFC Life, who runs a startup studio called Agilio Labs presently, is of the view that while TV viewing will sustain in all households, it will be restricted to live sports and one's favourite channels and programmes. “The rest will be substituted by OTT and other things...” he said.
This panel discussion was conducted on January 29, 2020, at the 4th edition of vdonxt asia, an annual convention on the business of online video, organised by afaqs!.