Brands attempt new ways to enter ‘ad free’ environments

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on November 01, 2019

The growth of the OTT segment has opened up a powerful platform for promoting a range of corporate brands

Stranger Things, the acclaimed Netflix series, has emerged as a powerful platform for promoting a range of corporate brands. Though Netflix does not accept paid product placements, and rather seeks to subtly weave brands into storylines, the approach has not just boosted brand sales, but has opened up a veritable Pandora's box for the advertising world.

As viewers continue to be spoilt for choice, with programme budgets going through the roof in the war for subscribers, there has been a shift in advertising opportunities for brands, with many attempting to find new ways to enter into these ‘ad-free environments’.

The shift from linear TV to streaming is revolutionary, says Sameer Makani, Co-Founder & MD, Makani Creatives, a digital agency, and the advertising that supports this content warrants a revolution of its own.

"That revolution won’t happen by simply making TV ads more targeted or addressable," he says. As TV goes over the top, it is time to rethink the basics of TV advertising: how and when ads get delivered and how much control users have over that experience.

Postponing the conversation, says Makani, means that by the time the industry gets targeted TV advertising sorted out, there will not be enough people left watching commercial television.

Connecting with non-traditional audiences

The MD notes that nearly every major Netflix or Amazon original series features an abundance of product placements and brand integrations. "Consumers don’t object to them because they don’t look and feel like ads, at least not in the way most people think of traditional TV ads. This is a win for brands that get to connect with non-traditional audiences," he says.

Despite this, he adds, Netflix never misses a chance to talk about the fact that consumers "will never see ads on their service. That is because the company understands that our collective tolerance for interruptive TV advertising is waning. By and large, though, the advertising industry continues to ignore this reality," adds Makani.

According to a PWC report, over the past decade, the video on demand (VoD) market has evolved across the world, including India. Advancements in technology and telecom infrastructure have made 'anything-anytime-anywhere' a definite and scalable reality for content consumption.

With the launch of over-the-top (OTT) services, VoD has been at the forefront of disruption in the media industry. Though some may balk at the idea of OTT advertising out of fear that the largest streaming services are not ad-supported, creative agencies and marketers are warming up to the potential, given that it is an increasingly important component of digital marketing plans.

Arun Gupta, Founder and CEO, MoMagic Technologies, a mobile tech organisation, says OTT video streaming in India has witnessed exponential growth over the last four quarters. "Several tech companies have ventured into OTT streaming with platform-exclusive content in their effort to hold on to consumers," he adds.

Citing an example, he says Flipkart recently launched a streaming video service on its platform, and is now offering original content "as a marketing tool to ensure that its customers are not swayed away by competitors".

With the video streaming industry in India pegged to grow at a CAGR of 21.82 per cent, reaching Rs 11,977 crore by 2023, and OTT set to record the highest growth rate among all segments and drive evolution over the next four years within the media and entertainment industry, which was valued at Rs 2,64,588 crore as of 2018, Gupta foresees more players joining the segment.

"What defines growth is the consumer’s ability to control their own media consumption and curate the selection of channels using OTT," says Makani, who expects 5G networks to further create use cases, enhance user experiences and create disruptions that would generate business opportunities.

Big screen ads, on the other hand, have been skyrocketing since last year, due to which 15 per cent growth was visible for ads in the OTT space, which was earlier at 5 per cent.

Makani points out it is an easy process to place ads on an ad-based OTT platform, but to market a product on a subscription-based platform such as Netflix or Amazon brands, would need the brand to initiate marketing partnerships with these platforms, which would further enable them to integrate their product in the overall script of the show itself.

Citing an example, he says, Netflix’s designated Survivor Season 1, episode 18 featured a Ford vehicle, which was a part of the episode’s narrative. “It is one of the few product placements in a top platform’s show, where the brand is very prominently and evidently promoted. Usually, the placement is done far more subtly.”

Stranger Things Season 3 also boosted revenue for brands such as Coke, BMX and Burger King by having key characters use products of the said brands. The show had a whopping $15 million worth of product placements.

Published on November 01, 2019

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