Small was big and less was more during slowdown

Written by Pritha Mitra Dasgupta | Updated: Nov 10 2009, 08:33am hrs
Starcom MediaVest Group, the brand communications arm of Paris-based Publicis Groupe, which is one of the worlds top marketing services company, recently released a study on how the recent economic downturn impacted consumers across Asia and the lessons to be learnt from consumer behaviour during challenging times (highlights of the study in the graphics below). The study, which measured consumers brand behaviour and media consump- tion habits, was supported by the groups real-time consumer intent behaviour tracking tool, IntenTrack. IntenTrack samples around 250 consumers across 35 product categories on a weekly basis and tracks consumers intent to research, purchase or recommend 400 brands in 32 countries. Joanna von Felkerzam, headinsights and captivation, at Starcom MediaVest Group, Asia, and also one of the authors of the study, was in Mumbai recently. She spoke with FEs Pritha Mitra Dasgupta about various aspects of the report. Edited excerpts:

Why was the research done and how is it going to benefit Starcom MediVest Group and its clients

The slowdown had a big impact on countries outside Asia. It, however, impacted Asian consumers as well to a good extent. We wanted to know how the Asian consumers were faring at a time when the world was battling with the slowdown and to better understand their realities, behaviour and attitude. This in turn helps us anticipate and prepare ourselves as we move through the timeline of the slowdown to recovery. Our clients benefited from having a cross-market understanding of consumer realities and the underlying change in mindset and needs that have a direct impact on brand purchase decision-making.

Tell us about some of your key findings about the Indian market.

We saw that more time spent at home watching TV or surfing the internet on account of postponed or cancelled holidays and time spent viewing TV increased in the first half of 2009 as compared to 2008. In fact, more overseas holidays were cancelled. We had predicted earlier that low-cost airlines would make money and domestic getaways will be popular, especially, the pilgrimage getaways. Secondly, virtual and offline socialising such as online socialising on Facebook, Twitter saw an approximately 500% growth in the number of registered users in 2009 compared against 2008. Thirdly, we had said faith in government institutions such as banks will see a revival with a spate of fresh account openings or investments and there would be less faith in private banks.

We still have to get some evidence from our banking clients on this.

There was a renewed faith in financial instruments such as bonds, gold and property as against mutual funds and equity; classical packs rather than exotic variants were sold more in the consumer products categories. Small local stores were back in favour than modern retail outlets but again we need some data from retail clients to support this.

There was a pride in Indianness, which was evident at the Oscars this year because of the success of Slumdog Millionare. This was more evident in the sports sector with the Indian cricket team doing well and we also captured the imagination in other sports such as billiards and boxing.

Small is better and less is more was evident in the redefined upgrades for cars. We predicted that small cars would be the focus and indeed, they were. Most auto companies just focused in that segment and it is this segment alone that has buoyed up the auto sales so far. So these are some of the basic assumptions and hypotheses, which we went in with in our slowdown study and as you can see some of them did turn out true.

Your study reveals that time spent watching TV increased by 30% but a number of media agencies in India talk about growth of ad avoidance on TV. Have you observed any change in that

The difference between the programme rating and slot rating is usually the measure of how many people watch the porgramme and skip the ad breaks. Slot TRPs (television rating points) or the percentage of people watching a particular programme at a given point in time) have always been around 15-20% less than the programme rating, depending on the genre of programmes.

Typically, on live cricket telecast, the drop in slot TRP will be much less than the drop in slot TRP in comparison with movies and general entertainment shows. This figure of a 15-20% drop has been consistent across the last two years, and has not really affected by the slowdown.

A lot many media pundits across the world said that traditional medias loss during the downturn will be online mediums gain. What is the trend on this front

Investment, travel, automotive, high tech and consumer electronics are the key advertisers in the digital space. A similar trend is seen across Asia. Digital industry in India is expected to grow about 20% between 2009 and 2010. This is on a par with the trend estimated for China.

Growth will be driven by search, social media and branded content, with mobile becoming ever more important in the overall digital offering with 3G/mobile internet growth. In China, there will continue to be growth in online video space.

Out-of-Home had a particularly bad year in India because of the slowdown. What was the trend in the other Asian markets Do you foresee a recovery for this medium

There continues to be a growth in OOH in China with the proliferation of the outdoor channels whether mobile TV in buses, or LCDs in buildings among others. We anticipate the growth in China to be 5% in line with the estimated 5% investment growth for total Asia.