Vritti i-Media’s unique selling proposition has been its distinct range of outdoor advertising services. The most prominent of these is a result of the company’s tie-up with Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) that has enabled it to make announcements at village bus stations, combining bus announcements with advertising. This OOH offering encapsulates a fundamental credo of the company, which is reaching the consumer when he is idle and receptive to information or communication. This service has been among Vritti i-Media’s most distinct and successful offerings since it has allowed advertisers to establish a significant degree of brand recall among the target audience. So, having met peerless success for this innovative advertising solution, Vritti i-Media has stepped up its plans for aggressive growth and expansion in the country by now taking its entire groundbreaking basket of offerings to north and south India.
IT and media solution provider Vritti Solutions Limited empowers brands and advertisers to connect with audiences at a grass-root level, through its unique media subset – Vritti i-Media, that is known for its innovative outdoor marketing solutions. A two-time winner of ‘The Best Zonal Media Owner – West India’ at the ‘Outdoor Advertising Award,’ Vritti i-Media has handled some noteworthy and prestigious projects involving effective mass and regional marketing for significant brand entities from almost every segment, especially retail, in the grass roots of India. Its esteemed clientele includes some of India’s largest and most successful brands, namely, Tata Agro Products, HUL’s Wheel and Lux, Big Bazaar, Airtel, Maruti Suzuki, State Bank of India, Star Plus, Star Pravah, J K Cement and Make My Trip, in addition to government entities like Maharashtra Energy Development Agency, National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), among others.
Have you wondered what is common among the characters of ‘Meghna’ in the movie ‘Fashion,’ ‘Babli’ in ‘Bunty Aur Babli’ and ‘Geet’ in the blockbuster ‘Jab We Met’? The answer is, they are all small town women with big aspirations. The modern small-town Indian woman is cultured with traditional values, but boasts of a modern mindset thanks to exposure to media and internet. So, what impact this woman has on advertisers’ bottom lines? As a consumer, this woman values her freedom, is independent and indulges in what makes her happy; whether it is the latest brand of lipstick, a smartphone or simply a luxurious pedicure in a salon. She has emerged as a key influencer in purchase decisions for home decor, lifestyle products, automobile and even financial products, besides her daily grocery and vegetable shopping.
As per a PWC report, the Rs. 20,000 crore beauty and wellness industry is growing at a faster pace in small cities than metros. This has led companies like VLCC, Jawed Habib Group, Shahnaaz Hussian to expand their centers in cities like Tirupur, Panchkula, Ahmednagar, Bhatinda and Raipur; while jeweler Gitanjali Gems has registered a growth of 100% in tier-2 and tier-3 markets, compared to 40% in large cities.
Owing to these trends, India’s FMCG behemoths are all charting their unique trajectories for success in middle India. For instance, in its ad campaigns, Lux has traditionally harped on women aspiring to be as beautiful as their ‘Bollywood icons,’ starting from Sridevi to Kareena Kapoor. However, the brand’s ‘LUX Crystal Shine’ variant has tried to alter this positioning by employing a new idea where a celebrity is a manifestation of a star that lives in every ordinary woman.
Honda roped in Priyanka Chopra as the brand ambassador for its two wheeler brand ‘Pleasure’ aimed at girls in small towns. The message, ‘why should boys have all the fun’ was strategically communicated by this star icon who was born in Jamshedpur and raised in Bareilly, maintaining the essence of this idea brilliantly. Through its TV commercial, jewellery brand Tanishq portrayed a confident young woman who is tempted by jewelry to accept the idea of an arranged marriage. The intellect of small town women is further emphasised by an SBI home loan commercial where on losing a bet with his wife concerning a loan feature, a husband is shown rolling out papads. Through the Freedom 5 commercial for an intra-uterine device, the company aims to eradicate the hesitation of women in small towns to seek advice on pregnancy and the use of contraceptives.
Today, internet savvy women in small and middle towns are driving the e-commerce industry in a variety of categories ranging from mixer–grinders to branded lingerie, to tide over local supply gaps. This is because women in middle India know what they want and do not have any fixed loyalties. Given these factors, it is prudent for advertisers to build a bond with this population by playing on their aspirations, which are just as complex in small towns as in metros. Tapping this sentiment of evolution and empowerment is posed to bring limitless success to advertisers.
Most marketers these days acknowledge that the largest, most challenging as well as the most lucrative consumer groups today, reside far beyond our metros. More and more people are recognising a truth about Indiathat Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, noticed decades ago—that it is a country with boundless potential at the grassroots. Indeed, the consumer market is not only growing but becoming more sophisticated in our hinterlands due to a rising standard of living in small towns and villages. A recent study by MART shows that milk supplement brands like Bournvita and Horlicks and a variety of electronic goods have now made their way into rural households. According to Hindustan Thompson Associates’ research arm, IMRB International, in the FMCG category, milk food and drinks has witnessed tremendous expansion in rural volumes to 41% in 2011 over the previous year. Better options in healthcare, real estate and education are auguring this hunger among the emerging consumer class. These signs are promising because they signify an important shift in the Indian consumer market.
Choosing the right medium
Given this backdrop of golden optimism, the problem that most marketers continue to face revolves around attracting this consumer group. To create a bridge, marketers firstly need to understand the rural mindset and tap the right nerves. For instance, modernisation or not, Indian villages continue to suffer gaping inequities relating to infrastructure. The availability and adequacy of power continues to be a pressing concern in small towns and villages. Given such handicaps, advertising to this population through TV channels like Doordarshan cannot guarantee visibility. On the other hand, it is possible to create alternative touch points. In small towns and villages, locals are seen regularly travelling intra-district or further for studying, employment, shopping, legal work or business. The opportunity to reach them while they are on road can invaluably help advertisers connect to the masses. In fact, advertising on a local level has a better chance to connect to people than through TV and cable. It enhances not only brand visibility, but also brand loyalty. For instance, Vritti i-Media’s OOH audio network medium has helped advertisers draw impressive enquiries. Given lower literacy levels, such media also allow masses to easily grasp audio and visual content better than newspapers.
Creating a memorable campaign
Speaking of OOH, hoardings, information boards, ST bus panels, public vehicle branding, pole kiosks and audio networks for announcements at ST bus stands are among the most successful offerings of Vritti i-Media for rural reach. These modes offer fabulous opportunities to advertisers to communicate interact and engage with people when they are on the move for work, education or recreation. Yet, the real challenge is styling OOH or Digital OOH (DOOH) communication to aptly convince the audience. So, it is important for communication to be different, unique and relevant. A right balance should be created between disseminating and withholding information, with regard to the advertisement, so as to create curiosity about the brand.
For effective OOH, the core idea should be simple and easy to grasp. The OOH campaign should be unique and clutter-free, while the theme should resonate with the social fabric of the region to trigger mass sentiment or a wow factor. Vritti i-Media’s Digital OOH audio network at ST Bus stands, for example, garners plentiful interest of its captive audience as it integrates advertisements with content of public utility. Since advertisements are meshed with bus arrival and departure announcements, it engrains the advertising message in the minds of alert travellers, presumably people who impact buying decisions in their households. This is a very innovative concept and has worked well for several prominent brands inIndia.
An interesting case is that of 9X Jhakas, a newly launched Marathi music channel. Since the intent was attracting residents of small towns inMaharashtra, Vritti i-Media adopted a cent-percent OOH approach for them. To this end, an MSRTC bus was hired and embellished with the brand identity of 9X Jhakaas. The bus was then used to provide free rides to commuters. Audio announcements as well as hoardings and sign boards were further put up at MSRTC bus stands to inform masses about the free rides provided by 9X Jhakaas. The point was to garner significant captive audience through the rides for ensuing engagements with them during their travel by the bus, which included quiz contests and music shows. Participants were awarded a range of freebies. The initiative was a true 360-degree awareness connect through an outdoor medium for rural masses and its success helped 9X Jhakas reach out to more than 15 target districts in Maharashtra.
Given the growing dynamism of life in metros and beyond, such a 360-degree integrated approach can immensely impact consumers. Appropriate implementation of an integrated marketing strategy will vary as per industry vertical and dictate which medium will have greatest impact when coupled with OOH. For instance, FMCG sector loves to combine outdoor with TV, while banks go for a 360-degree approach by roping in TV, newspaper, radio and outdoor media. Today, DOOH media such as Vritti i-Media’s audio and audio-visual networks bring both, time and cost efficiency to the table. They are the very embodiment of dynamism in rural advertising today and are extremely affordable as well. Given the invaluable benefit of reaching consumers inIndia’s remotest areas, the relevance of DOOH will only increase in times to come.
In November 2010, HUL and their agency Portland which is part of Group M, strategised the launch of an outdoor campaign across Maharashtra to generate interest for a new variant of Lux soap, Lux Sandal and Cream. With a view to reach out to urban, semi-urban and rural markets, they decided to bring Vritti i-Media on board for audio advertisements as well as hoardings at Maharashtra State Road Transport Service’s ST bus stands, for which they are the only authorised agency.
Vritti i-Media was approached about a month before the campaign’s launch, which was scheduled to run for 30 days at 85 bus-stands at urban, semi-urban and rural locations. They availed 30 spots a day at per bus-stand for audio advertisements, mainly to target women in the 18–35 year age-bracket. The objective was simply to communicate that Sandal or chandan makes skin soft. This belief is already popular since any chandan soap sells easily in Maharashtra, especially during festive times.
Since it was discovered that average waiting time at bus-stands is less than 30 minutes, it was decided to play ads at 20-minute intervals. Despite this, it was adjudged that only 20–25% of the masses were impacted by the campaign. Additionally, the word ‘sandal’ used in the jingle could be mistaken as the footwear variant and confuse the audience.
Execution and Impact
Vritti i-Media played a hands-on role in developing the jingle used in the audio ad along with the Portland team. This jingle ran from December 15th to January15th, 2010, 30 times a day. To evaluate the effectiveness of this medium on the audience, Vritti i-Media joined up with research agency, Genesis Management and Market Research, to study its impact on female passengers at the bus-stands. It was found that 67% respondents were aware of the ad. Recall was higher for Lux Sandal & Cream as compared to Santoor soap ads. 71% respondents were using Lux Sandal & Cream and were aware of its beneficial properties; while 29% respondents among non-users showed interest in using the soap in the future. Aided response was highest for Lux Sandal and Cream among respondents at 86%.
Learnings and Outcome
In retrospect, it was learnt that the jingles could have been played more frequently for better recall. Also, with a view to increase audio impact, HUL should have avoided playing distracting music in between messages; in fact, the ad would have worked better without any music. In small towns where the ads were played, they were more effective than hoarding or print ads due to the high percentage of under-literate people there.
Lux Sandal and cream was able to emotionally connect with women. Triggers like fragrance, colour and affordability, which this soap satisfied, can help the brand become a 100% market-leader in the rural and semi-urban segments. As a result of this success, Vritti i-Media received enquiries for similar campaigns of HUL brands Pepsodent and Vim. They were also appreciated by Portland and roped in for a pilot project for ‘Wheel’ at a location in Nashik.
Watch how the advertising campaign was carried out at the MSRTC bus stands:
Since liberalisation, when the economy was seen turning over a new leaf, SMEs have spearheaded India’s technical and service expertise in several industries. By operating in every tier of workmanship—from servicing suppliers to servicing consumers—SMEs have fit like a piece of a jigsaw into the rich tapestry of the Indian economy. The rallying support of local folks that have been receptive to their quality offerings, are among the main reasons of their success. But what happens when such SMEs want to grow? How do they appeal for acceptance across districts and dialects?
At such points in their growth stories, SMEs must consider innovative, affordable advertising methods that help them get there. The opportunity to strike gold in non-metro markets emerges from the fact that it translates to a population of 800 million consumers that display low brand loyalty today. Audio advertising and OOH (that is predominantly pictorial) is perfect to reach such markets because of a set of factors. For instance low literacy does not allow full utilisation of the medium of print, while TV is dependent on unsteady power supply. Conversing with the audience in their language, at a time convenient to them is therefore a relevant solution.
A pertinent example of such an advertising strategy is Vritti i-Media’s innovative audio advertising solution for advertisers. The company has tied up with the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) with a view to broadcast advertisements at district bus terminals. They are the sole agency authorised to run audio commercials alongside arrival/departure announcements. This arrangement enables them to create recall among passengers frequenting travelling on these bus routes. These advertisements penetrate more than 80 locations in rural Maharashtra reaching 103 million people. The cost of using this medium per person is 10% of other media, despite its phenomenal impact on those passengers that are eagerly awaiting such announcements. These ads play 16 hours a day and may be heard up to a 100-meter periphery.
SMEs also get to choose from a bouquet of options. Transit advertising or advertising at food malls (on highways) are beginning to see success. An instance of transit advertising was the 9X Jhakaas campaign conducted at ST Depots in Maharashtra. Travellers could watch the channel’s shows on a TV mounted in the busses. They were offered not only a free ride in those buses, but also given goodies and prizes. In this way, thinking out of the box can enable SMEs to spread their word far and wide through such dynamic and innovative means.