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Guest column: Looking back at 20 to look ahead at 21

Linear TV will continue to be the highest reach, most brand-safe medium in the near term.

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MUMBAI: Many media and entertainment industry professionals would have already activated their “OOO” messages, while the others would be counting down to call time on what would have been the craziest year yet in their careers. However, before we do that, a little bit of looking back and some amount of looking ahead to 2021 is par for the course.

For many of us (including me), the dominant sentiment is: did you ever imagine?

For no one predicted the onset of the pandemic, and even when we started accepting the new “strange”- it continued to surprise us basis how it played out. What mattered was the vantage point and the ability to be both adaptively agile and resilient at the same time.

Here is a bit of crystal ball gazing even at the risk of falling flat on my face, given how unpredictable and unchartered the waters seem to be. These observations are based on conversations with marketers and experts, and my personal experiences of the last nine months of seeing media and brands in various stages of lockdown and unlock phase. 

1. Resilient television (linear - let us call it LTV) will continue to be the highest reach, most brand-safe medium in the near term. However, LTV’s babies - connected TVs, streaming and OTT - will start to make their impact felt with advertisers demanding “video neutral” planning that drives incremental reach. With media owners offering viewership, optimisation and brand lift measurement (a la Star’s Sirius); this may become a reality sooner than later. Also, with programmatic and addressable options eventually opening up, measurement and DSP integration will be the key.

2. Fickle subscription behaviour will finally begin to change, thanks to the fillip provided by Covid2019’s last few months, with urban audiences willing to pay for content behind the paywall. It will be visible on video as well as be heard on audio and consumed on digital avatars of erstwhile print and upcoming digital offerings. So Disney+ Hotstar will continue to dominate the space that Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are increasingly winning with deep pockets of locally produced content. Spotify playlists and substack subscriptions will start showing signs of choice overload and the role of the algorithm (no prediction can be complete without mentioning these and AI) to make better quality recommendations will become critical. 

3. Enter retailer and e-commerce media  will become key lines on media plans thanks to increased online shopping which saw 25 to 30 million new shoppers giving the addressable size a lift to 150 million. With large numbers (>70 per cent) of e-consumers willing to continue during the unlocking, this growth and behaviour seem irreversible. The opportunities for social commerce (Meesho, Instagram/Facebook shops) and D2C brand investments will further open up opportunities for consumer experiences and conversations with voice, local/vernacular content and video becoming key components.

4. Doctors and healthcare professionals will be a video call away, giving telehealth/telemedicine a huge shot in its arm. While this part of the advertising landscape is regulated and is unlikely to change, given the sheer magnitude of the opportunity and its big data/ technology ramifications- this may lead to a transformation in pharma/wellness/healthcare communications and demand generation.

5. News as a genre will continue to find consumption and advertising growth. Given the uncertainty and unpredictability of the environment, consumers will gravitate towards established news platforms and the tussle between social media and legacy news giants will lead to an “infomedic” with fake news and ways to counter toxic, harmful, misleading content gaining more urgency.

(The author is CCO, Zenith. Indiantelevision.com may not subscribe to his views.)

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