Advertising is the way brands get to be great brands. However, due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19, most organisations have abridged advertising costs.

The Chairperson/ Managing Director of dentsu Grant Group, Neela Marikkar stated that 2021 will be a challenging year as businesses try to grapple with how to plan ahead with the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn. However, Neela, who is a driven businesswoman, foresees opportunities even during economic downturns.

“At dentsu Grant, ‘client centricity’ will be at our core, to help support, grow our clients’ businesses and their brands during this challenging time. We are scaling up to be more agile, more innovative and are investing in deeper consumer understanding. Our focus is to drive business solutions for our clients. Today, with the huge digital transformation, we see globally there is much learning that we can bring to our clients through our network with their wealth of expertise in ‘total commerce solutions’. Therefore, while 2021 may look challenging, I see it as a year to transform, to evaluate and have positive outcomes. To this end, we are introducing many new tools and platforms including ‘Workday’ and ‘Sales Force’ to improve our internal efficiencies. I’m excited with the opportunities all these presents and that will help us future proof our business.”

Stating the effects of the pandemic on the Advertising industry, Neela explained that there has been a significant decline overall, especially in the print and radio mediums, while television has remained stable.

“Print and radio mediums in particular have significantly fallen seen a decline in spends. The event and activation business has come to a virtual halt. The out-of-home business is also heavily affected with curtailed movements of the public, digital screens and billboards suffering heavily. However, television has remained stable and we have seen a significant increase in digital spends. The pandemic has pushed marketeers to leapfrog into the digital world, an area that they were slow to adopt. We also see big strides in e-commerce as a platform that has been embraced by consumers out of a sheer need. This was especially the case for smaller more agile brands who were quick to adopt.”

Describing how she will tackle the effects and challenges the pandemic has posed, Neela stated, “We anticipate moderate growth in 2021. Given this, the most prudent way forward is to relook at our operational costs – the one area that is within our control. It will enable us to be more effective and better integrate our lines of business so we can be more effective in our delivery both to our clients and our shareholders. It will also enable us to invest more in talent development so we can continue to retain and attract the best talent. While the Advertising industry is hard hit, it’s important to build a sense of positivity among our co-workers as our people are our assets. I want our rising stars to feel that they have opportunities beyond our shores. Today, dentsu has over 60,000 staff operating in 355 offices in 143 countries.

“We will also go ahead with our plans to launch our consumer insights study – the ‘Consumer Connect Survey’, as behavioral insights is an area that is crucial to our clients. For brands to remain relevant in the lives of consumers, understanding their attitudes and lifestyle choices becomes critical given the current pandemic. As communicators and storytellers, our role becomes even more relevant to help our clients achieve meaningful growth for their business. In our recent Global CMO survey conducted by dentsu across the markets, surprisingly only 10% of brands have deployed new strategies during this pandemic. I believe this creates an opportunity for us to step in and partner our clients bringing in our best global practice and knowledge that uses a unified approach of data, technology and creativity to help our clients’ brands thrive in these very uncertain and volatile times.”

Disclosing the total media spend forecasted for the year 2021, Neela said, “ Given the pandemic and its spikes, we expect there will be volatility in client spends. Some brands are already pushing back on new product launches due to the uncertainty, and others such as technology, health and hygiene related will see increase in their sales and hence will continue to spend. The Banking and Financial sector saw an almost 25% decline from last year, and the country’s economic situation will directly impact this sector, creating a further ripple effect on many other related sectors. Businesses that promote local agriculture and food supplies will likely see an increase in spend with the government’s new policy direction. TV will remain a key medium and will continue to see a significant shift of spends towards digital platforms. Print mediums will need to have strong parallel online platforms that supplement their revenues as consumers move to online news portals. Radio too will see less spends as drive time belts are not attracting the level of listenership as before due to the pandemic. However, on the positive side, many of our clients are still optimistic and are in discussion with us to consider similar advertising spends for 2021.”