As the COVID-19 situation evolves, so do media consumption habits. Here are some observations based on how brands can pivot their media platforms in the short and long term.
An explosive growth in the last few years and COVID-19 has been a further catalyst for growth. The top three digital platforms in Pakistan are Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. YouTube has about 35 million users, Facebook has about 33 million users and Instagram (although relatively small), has a respectable user base of five million. YouTube is primarily a long form video content platform; content on Facebook and Instagram is mostly consumed on the go. There has been a shift from Facebook and Instagram to YouTube because people have more time at their disposal and brands are therefore allocating more of their marketing spend to YouTube despite the fact that the inventory is more expensive than Facebook’s.
Definitely gaining momentum and this is likely to last post COVID-19. Looking back we can track the emergence of Alibaba in China to the SARS outbreak of 2003. The pandemic provided a conducive climate to disrupt traditional trade as people were quarantined in their homes. The launch of Careem Super App may well be the harbinger of such a change in Pakistan.
A few years ago who would have thought that influencer marketing would go from an ancillary touch-point to one driving purchase intent? Marketers are embracing the trend with open arms as they understand that fans hold the opinion of influencers in high regard. The reason for their success is because influencers are real people and therefore lend more credibility to a brand message than any other form of communication. Furthermore, consumers are increasingly aware that celebrity endorsements are paid, added to which, more often than not, celebrities contradict their messages (a celebrity endorsing a healthy diet may go on to endorse a carbonated drink). This holds true for influencers as well and it should be a criterion when selecting influencers. YouTube, Instagram and even TikTok have made it possible for normal people to become influencers and have a voice of their own.
Although viewership may be decreasing (especially among Millennials), TV still has the widest reach in Pakistan and its importance has grown following COVID-19. As people are restricted to their homes and apprehension looms, they turn to TV to stay updated and there has been shift to news channels as well as talk shows. Entertainment is also a winner as people resort to these channels to relax and kill time. Apart from anything else, the Turkish drama series, Ertugrul Dirilis and its subsequent endorsement by Imran Khan has sent TV viewership through the roof. A 30-second spot in Ertugrul Dirilis goes for Rs 180,000; compare this with the average spot rate of Rs 18,000 for a tier A entertainment channels! This will be short-lived (until the series lasts), but it will be long enough to cover the COVID-19 period. Cartoon channels have also seen a boom as kids spend time at home rather than at school.
Following COVID-19, OOH has seen a massive decline and empty billboards are a common sight, even in the most coveted locations where many are booked on the basis of a full year contract. However, OOH will regain importance and share of spend once people ease out of restricted living and adjust to the new normal.
Although an effective medium for targeted communication (kids and young teens in superhero or animated movies), cinema advertising has been interrupted following the closure of cinemas.
For SEC A and B, radio listening mostly happens in the car (dropping kids to school or commuting to and from office). As schools are closed and many people are still WFH, radio listening has reduced drastically. However, it will regain importance as a frequency builder and TOM aid once life returns to normal.
Social distancing and heightened caution have made BTL activations largely ineffective. Leisure shopping has almost disappeared and with it the frame of mind to try new product samples. Door to door activations, which were heavily deployed in the case of emerging and regional brands, have met a similar fate as people do not want unnecessary visitors in their homes.
Once considered an integral part of integrated marketing campaigns, print is slowly dying among most FMCG brands. The only ads appearing in the print media now are for banks, construction companies and insurance companies – mostly targeted to older audiences. During a training session for management trainees, I asked how many people had read a newspaper in the last year and only three out of a total of 20 people raised their hand. I asked the same question for the last one month and only one person raised his hand. I finally asked how many get a newspaper at home and none raised their hand. Magazines, especially those related to fashion, are perhaps the last of the dinosaurs in print but their readership is dwindling due to a shift to e-magazines which enjoy a much bigger footprint.
Surprising as it may seem, packaging is the biggest touch-point for many brands, especially those which have mass appeal. A FMCG brand sells anywhere between 50 to 60 million packs a month on average and for brands playing in smaller SKUs, the number is way more. Compare this to the 15 million or so impressions generated by a digital campaign; impressions generated by a TV campaign average 40 million a month. Clearly packaging delivers more consumer contacts than TV or digital. This said, packaging is not an alternative to TV or digital, but it is extremely under-leveraged and can be used to share brand stories and highlight the goodness of the product within.
All said and done a one size fits approach will not work here. Brands must assess which touch-points work best for them. However agility to act remains the name of the game! Your thoughts? I would love to have your feedback.
Affan Cheema is a marketing professional in FMCG industry. The views expressed here are personal andn do not reflect the views of the writer’s company.