Published in Nov-Dec 2021
If one were to describe the past 12 months in a word, it would be transformative. From the way we think to the way we work, shop, interact and even consume information… change became inevitable. As the world recalibrated to a ‘new normal’ so did the media, and the beauty of media is its adaptability to change – which is exactly what happened in 2021. As consumers and advertisers found their bearings, the media evolved beyond just delivering the communication towards adopting a multifaceted approach, centred on consistency, continuity and actionable impact.
The question is, will media channels in Pakistan continue down this path and keep innovating as advertisers evolve? If we look back at the recovery period, which started in Q4 2020, the momentum that picked up towards the end of that year followed through in 2021. By Q3 of 2021, advertising spends had surpassed those of the same period last year by over 30%. If individual touchpoints are factored in for the same period, TV spends increased by 40%, print by 105%, digital by 12% and OOH and radio by five percent. The expectation of the year closing on a three-year high set the stage for an even more robust 2022.
How will media trends shape up in the coming months? While some trends and touchpoints will flourish, some will barely scrape by and many may be completely wiped out and be replaced by media touchpoints better suited to the new normal.
TV – Rising From the Ashes: As advertisers regained confidence and began to take Covid-19 in their stride, the compass moved back from communication that focused almost exclusively on personal care, hygiene and well-being, to a situation where carbonated soft drinks, telecom and FMCG giants were in a position to regain their ‘lion’s share’. With events such as the ICC World Cup, Pakistan Super League (PSL) and Ramzan making their way back to our TV screens, the momentum is expected to continue in 2022. Furthermore, cross-pollination is expected as online businesses (such as food ordering platforms) start to use TV as a means of acquiring a larger chunk of their target audience. In 2022, the top categories driving media will include beauty and homecare, beverages, confectionery, FMCGs and telecom companies. The automobile sector, government and real estate will be the categories to look out for, keeping in mind new entrants who will want to capture the attention of their target customers through TV.
Digital & E-Commerce Metamorphose into a Future Giant: The year 2021 saw digital moving into the personal movie screen space, as going to the cinema was almost completely wiped out as an entertainment option for the average consumer. This led to a new world of content possibilities for OTT media, with platforms such as Netflix registering a growth of over 142% in a mere nine months. Social media, local and video platforms not only became mediums of content consumption, they turned into data banks for content created by consumers for consumers. Snapchat and TikTok emerged as the new-age heroes in the world of social connectivity. Based on digital consumption in 2021, Snapchat grew by 131%, Facebook by 63% and TikTok by 43%. However, with players such as Snack Video and Daraz Live entering the arena and TikTok facing a ban, 2022 will be an interesting battle of wits to watch out for, as each platform tries to make its way into consumers’ screens.
As a result of this surge in digital consumption, digital ad-spend increased by three percent in 2021, taking away share from TV. Digital became a portal for consumer communication and convenience; for advertisers, it became a way of bringing their products closer to their consumers, rather than waiting for consumers to seek them out. This had a huge impact on e-commerce, a momentum that is expected to grow in 2022. Consumers have shifted from buying stuff at a discount online to buying essentials and luxuries, because of convenience, choice and quick delivery. An arena previously dominated by a single player – Daraz – saw players like Airlift, Cheetay, Foodpanda and Naheed entering the fray.
Although the big spenders on digital remain banks, FMCGs and telecom companies, the next growth spurt is expected to come from the microfinance and payment solution categories, with Abhi, ForeePay, Paynest, QisstPay and SadaPay moving to provide customised solutions that bypass lengthy procedures and save time. According to the State Bank of Pakistan’s Payment System Review, the forecast growth of e-commerce merchants is expected to surpass the 25% growth mark achieved in FY 20 and 21, with the market expected to double in the next two years.
Print – The Path to Recovery: Considered a dying medium, print is in recovery with ad spend hitting its first high since 2018, with the major contributions coming from real estate, finance and education. As we enter 2022, a further increase of 20% is anticipated; the construction sector is expected to use print to attract investment and the government to gear up the elections in 2023.
Radio – Peaks and Troughs Can Only Do So Much: Here the recovery has been weak, mainly due to the disruption caused by the pandemic. As uncertainty continues and organisations moved towards adopting a WFH model, radio consumption took a nosedive bringing ad spend to an all-time low. Although radio is expected to recover, it will not be going back to its glory days. The year 2021 also saw the entry in Pakistan of audio giant Spotify. With options to curate one’s own playlists, use paid and free services and enjoy uninterrupted musical experiences, Spotify will be a tough competitor for radio.
OOH – A Hidden Creative Gem: In 2021, OOH brought innovative solutions to advertisers. From LED buildings to mobile displays, the medium is used by most heritage brands that aim to stay top of mind among consumers or have recently repositioned globally. In 2021, carbonated soft drinks used the medium the most and in 2022, further advancements on how the medium can be creatively deployed will be the driving force behind the platform’s effectiveness.
Although each medium has a vital role to play in reshaping the new advertising landscape, it is pertinent to acknowledge the presence of external factors that could affect media spend. More to the point, with the resurgence of the dollar, it remains to be seen how advertising as a whole will react. Nevertheless, the media remains a dynamic force and stands to benefit positively from technological advancements and innovative creative solutions.
Sumbul Ateeq Chaudhry is Business Lead – Planning and Strategy, Starcom. email@example.com