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Business - India;Industry shifts focus to BTL activities

Pallavi Goorha

The current economic slowdown has been leading to several changes in the industry,
media and advertising spends. A gradual shift is beginning to emerge from above-
the-line to below-the-line activities, which is due to, in part, the result of
changing consumer attitudes and a more sophisticated consumer demand relevant
messaging that engages them in a dialog, and which allows them to interact with the
marketer through their preferred communication channels. At the same time,
technology allows marketers to better target consumers and to better track results
and measure ROI of BTL campaigns.

exchange4media spoke to a cross-section of agencies, media planners and clients on


the reasons for this shift from ATL to BTL activities.

How much of this shift has been triggered by the slowdown?

According to Alok Lall, Managing Director, iris Worldwide, �This shift has been
triggered by the economic slowdown because there was a general trend towards this
over recent years with clients trying to find news ways and touch points to reach
the target audiences as well as the fact that it has always been easier to prove
effectiveness. The economic slowdown has accelerated this shift as clients
increasingly need to focus on ROI and agencies become more accountable. Those
agencies that are centered on ATL activities will really start to feel the pinch.�

Ajit Narayan, Chief Strategy Officer & Digital Evangelist � Asia, 141Sercon, said,
�This question is really assuming that the shift has very much happened, when it
has not. The entire marketing and communication fraternity is talking about the
much-touted shift. The talk and the hype don�t really mean action. Over the last
few years, at least in India, with the proliferation of products, choices and
options for consumers, marketing has been evolving into a multifaceted discipline.
It�s all about people and how they would like to be spoken to, which drives
marketing communications. This is the main reason for the entry of other ways of
getting in touch with the consumer, apart from mass media � call it direct
marketing, BTL, activation, digital, whatever.� Chandradeep Mitra, President, Mudra
Max, opined, �Though not the only reason, the economic slowdown is definitely
contributing to increased focus on those marketing activities that can produce
immediate/ short-term sales generation, and a large part of such activities are
BTL. Hence, there is an added thrust on BTL activities due to the slowdown.�

On a different note, Tarun Nigam, Executive Director India - North, Starcom


Mediawest Group, said, �To us, it will be never be a shift. It is a decision
between short term to long term and sustainability versus expedience. Some
marketing colleagues would like to take expedient decisions which would help them
survive them in the short run, while the smart marketers would like to take
decisions that would be long term ones.�

Laxmikant Gupta, CMO, LGEIL, informed exchange4media, �We are very much active on
the ATL front. In fact, we have significantly increased advertising spending in
2008 as compared to the previous year. The economic slowdown, if it happens, will
mean we will look for better efficiencies, but we will not increase BTL at the cost
of ATL. We will continue doing normal as well as innovative BTL, which will
increase the propensity of consumers to choose LG at the point of sale.�

Sunil Dutt, Country Head, Samsung Telecom Business, said, � At Samsung, this focus
on BTL has been integrally linked with our strategy to expand our footprint in the
country. Thus, our efforts to increase four-fold our Samsung Mobile Privileged
Partner (SMPP) network, enhance in-shop displays at retail counters, POP/POS
material or road shows are all part of our concerted strategy to enhance consumer
interface for our mobiles at every level.�

What are the other reasons for this shift from ATL to BTL?

Lal added, �Changes in consumer behaviour are also a large factor and we are now
living in an experience economy, where it is all about engagement � whether that is
through sponsorship activation of sports events or from a retail experience through
recreational time spent at a mall. The other reason is accountability. Clients need
to prove quick and effective ROI and ultimately sales. It is no longer about
opportunities to view. The old media metrics clients need results and that�s about
getting products into the hands of the consumers.�

Mitra opined, �There is an overall ongoing trend, irrespective of the slowdown, of


a gradual shift from ATL to BTL, due to marketers seeking other avenues beyond
traditional media solutions to build brands, and also due to marketers looking for
more accountable ROI-driven marketing programmes.�

Nigam, too, said that the economic slowdown was one of the reasons for the shift.
According to him, another reason was optimising marketing investments to get the
best return on objective. Gupta maintained that they were not shifting from ATL to
BTL, but were doing both in equal measures.

What kind of BTL activities are clients looking for?

Lall informed exchnage4media, �The clients are looking for activity that elicits
behaviour change and are sales driven. You could say that they are looking for
solutions that are �besides or beyond the line� rather than ATL or BTL. They are
looking at a fresher, more innovative and integrated approach to reaching out to
their consumers and we are seeing a significant increase in investments in
promotional, digital and retail activities.�

�BTL activities that we look for are the ones that directly impact our brand�s
ability to influence consumer�s choice in our favour at the shop level. These
include both brand building activities like roadshows and mall activities as well
as those directly linked to converting consideration to purchase like catalogues,
shop demonstrators, other POP material. The closer we are to point of sale, the
more the emphasis on closing the sale,� Gupta added.

According to Dutt, �The kind of BTL activities being done by companies depends on
the needs and strategies of a company. They can range from participation in events,
road shows, exhibitions, etc., to focus on consumer demonstrations on products to
POP/POS material.�

Will we see more of interactive digital medium now?

Lall felt there was a definite shift and the balance of power was being re-
addressed. �There will always be place for traditional advertising, but the
dominance of ATL agencies having a seat at the top table is a thing of the past.
Mediums like digital and experiential will come to the fore in these times,� he
added.

Narayan pointed out that the shift had started way before one had even heard the
words �economic slowdown� in the current state of affairs.

Mitra, too, said that the shift started happening years back and the process would
continue gradually for many more years as traditional media still commanded a very
large proportion of consumer engagement opportunities. �Net penetration is still
low, while mobile marketing has not evolved we as yet,� he said.
Nigam added here, �Traditional to non-traditional is a fad now. It�s a shift of
thinking that we need to do and move ourselves to the return of imagination from
the so-called return on investment mode. Digital is one such step that would help
us optimise spends with a robust measurement.�

Gupta commented, �Both traditional advertising media as well as new media such as
digital media have roles to play in a consumers� purchase cycle. We will continue
to invest in traditional media since they continue to play key roles in enhancing
brand image, creating awareness of products and their features and benefits and in
generating consumers� consideration to purchase our brand.�

Dutt observed, �The idea is to reach out to consumers in a more interactive manner,
rather than relying on mere print or TV advertising .Giving the consumer an
experience of the product, the form factor, the performance, etc., today are
increasingly becoming more relevant, especially in technology led categories, and
that is why marketing needs to move from mere advertising to more interactive forms
using BTL or other media like Internet, etc., along with traditional advertising.�