Vishnu Sharma, Founder & CEO, Efficacy Worldwide

Vishnu brings a diverse experience of over 25 years. He has led from the front at various global agencies and some of the largest media houses – the Head of agency at Arena (Havas Media) and Senior Vice President for the Initiative being some of the noteworthy hats he has donned. He has added enormous value with his stints at the renowned publishing houses, having worked as the Head of Business Analytics at HT Media group, and the National Brand Head for the India Today group. His innate ability to decipher stories out of data and his deep-rooted understanding of the communications world have helped him build interesting anecdotes of brand transformations. Launching Airtel in Sri Lanka is one of the feathers in his hat, in addition to contributing immensely towards media planning for large clients like Hero Honda, Airtel, LG, Videocon, Maruti, Sony – to name a few. A Civil Engineer by education, skills like team management, client expectation management, and communications planning are his strong suits. He has a knack for looking beyond the obvious – and his lateral thinking abilities work in his favour when he is presented with challenging situations.

 

The future of advertising and marketing lies in the digital space. Brands are already experimenting with various tools and platforms to reach out to their customers.

Consider this: Influencer marketing has grown multi-fold in the past two years. According to the data from the latest annual Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report, influencer marketing has been rising by at least 50% of the market size every year since 2016. Moreover, direct-to-consumer (D-2-C) marketing has been rising too. The D-2-C marketing is expected to rise by 20 percent over the existing levels by the end of the year. As a result, advertising spending on these two modes of marketing will continue to be the mainstay in addition to the existing free and paid channels of social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Instagram etc. All these platforms have reported a significant surge in advertisements in the past two years. But all these modes of advertising and marketing have a common thread: Both disruptive and traditional brands are spending more than ever on promotions and advertisements. And there are reasons behind the trend. 

Advertisers and marketers have gone digital. Interestingly, the rise has come despite the subsequent lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent times, corporates have embraced a digital transformation with renewed vigour.

The journey until now

The past 12 months have been an upward journey where marketers and advertisers have tried to cover all promotions. The early signs of recovery started in the fourth quarter of the 2020 calendar year. By the beginning of January 2021, companies were already preparing an entire strategy to roll out their marketing plan. By the fourth quarter of 2021, marketing teams have already budgeted and planned for next year’s marketing initiatives. It is well established that a significant portion of ad spend is going into digital. According to Asia Pacific Advertising Trends 2021 report, ad revenue is likely to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13% to touch USD13.3 billion by 2025. The findings of Nielsen Ad Intel Data corroborates the trend. The data suggest that advertisers have a clear path for the future. The rebound in activities has led to increased online engagements along with offline campaigns. It also means that there has been a significant rise in the way advertisers now see the use of digital channels.  

What are brands doing?

Many of my marketer friends would agree that several marketing functions within their company’s fold have been internalised with a lesser degree of external dependencies. Hence, content-driven promotions and marketing are now done on corporate websites and through internal channels instead of pushing messaging on big tech only. Brands are now taking a lead through digital platforms to reach their customers. The use of new-age technology has given them the prowess and a competitive edge over the big tech giants. The E-Commerce industry is a perfect example of this trend. As consumers want to buy online, these companies have created their marketplaces, apps, e-kiosks and e-platforms.

As a result, brands have been running various (return-on-investment) ROI-based campaigns as part of the marketing strategy. Brands have been using customer analytics. These allow brands to market and promote or launch new products and meet their customers’ expectations. Digital technologies have empowered them to not only win customers’ trust but also to become more meaningful and impactful. 

Hence, mobile video ads, advertorials (read native advertising), programmatic advertising have become part of the marketing strategy. All these ads help in reputation management, create newer opportunities and help in conversions.  

Where is the ad spend coming from?

In this light, firms doing business online have made it big during the subsequent lockdowns. But companies other than those working online have also grown their business in the last two years. Several companies have set a course back to increasing their advertising spend. These include fast-moving consumer goods companies, white goods companies and those operating in the financial services and distribution companies. Moreover, in times of pandemic, the education sector survived and flourished via the boom of Edtech and online learning. These companies have reformatted their messaging and content to serve their consumers with renewed vigour. 

Other than these, companies that closed their operations during the pandemic have sprung back into action. The pack includes companies operating in real estate space, hospitality, retail and automobile etc. These sectors are now relying heavily on D-2-C and offline marketing to lure their consumers. Take the example of the hospitality sector. With the decline in the number of COVID cases, gradual rise in vaccination numbers across cities and opening of travelling, the hospitality industry has been spending on advertisements since the beginning of the year. The hoteliers, motel operators and tour packages planners started gradually but went all out to attract tourists to places of interest. Their increase in spending on advertisements is directly proportional to the rise in domestic tourism.

With retail and hospitality growing again, restaurants, food and delivery platforms have also grown tremendously. Complimentary to these, the entertainment and gaming industry has yet again taken up the centre stage. The industry has understood that marketing and advertisement need to increase during turbulent times like these. Going ahead, much of 2022 will likely witness marketing and advertising spending getting divided between the brands’ own digital tools and the platforms created by big tech companies. And advertisers will spend on all channels of engagement going forward.

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