Grabbing the eye balls

The emerging rural phenomenon has brought a sea change in the way advertising industry operates. Now, most of the leading advertising agencies have a dedicated vertical to serve their clients targeting rural India, which is also visible in the form of more local flavoured TVCs, wall paintings, van publicity, and the other modes. R&M illustrates the current state of rural advertising.
Grabbing the eye balls

‘Thanda matlab coca cola’, a catchy one liner by Prasoon Joshi, perfectly delivered on the screen by Aamir Khan, created a buzz some years ago. This famous television commercial opened up a new avenue to be explored by advertising agencies and a new era in advertising started then.
Rural advertising is finally opening its wings and this is visible in the form of more local and regional content-driven advertisements.
Late 90s and post 2000 witnessed an exodus of brands rushing to rural India. And to get their presence felt, these brands have realised the need of indigenous and local flavoured advertisements. Rural India’s rise in recent years has caught attention of the marketers and nobody wants to stay behind in the race in reaching this large base of consumers. And to woo this 70 per cent plus population, they are leaving no stone unturned.

The phenomenal rise of rural India in the recent years has been mentioned so many times that now it sounds clichéd. The demand in the rural can be substantiated with one fact that many advertising agencies having their dedicated rural verticals to serve the consumers. Leading advertising agencies like Ogilvy, Mudra, LOWE Lintas are now having their out-and-out divisions to focus intensively on this emerging business avenue.
Reports suggest that currently, the larger share of the advertising in rural India goes to FMCG and automobile sectors. Apart from this, mobiles and electronic goods also form a big stake.  The boosted aspiration level of rural consumers has forced companies to launch products and market it through village melas (fairs), road theatre, boat branding, mobile vans and wall paintings — at minimal cost.

Preferred modes of advertising in rural remain the old traditional mediums like wall paintings, publicity through vans, fairs and haats, etc.
Says Rajkumar Jha, creative director of Ogilvy Action, “Marketers want inexpensive advertisements with long-term recall value. Mobile phones’ have brought a paradigm change in the consumption habits of rural consumers. They are no longer unaware of developments in urban.”
Even the increased exposure of televisions has brought a paradigm change among the rural masses. Rising demands of fairness products, electronic goods and once considered urban products like baby diapers are some of the indicators of increasing awareness levels among the rural populace. Wider availability of television sets in the rural India is one of the reasons for increased demands of more urban products in the hinterland. Now, entire India watches the same content on television and it is no longer a privilege of urbanites.

With wider exposure to trends, aspiration levels of rural masses have also gone up. Now, they also want to use the same products as their urban counterparts do. Wall paintings remain one of the most preferred mediums in advertising as it is inexpensive and stays longer than other.
Sharing his views on the importance of wall paintings in advertising, Mihir Mody, CEO of Adwallz says, “Any other medium of advertising comes to an end (television, radio) but wall-painting remains as long as the weather permits it to. It has got longer life as compared to any other medium of rural advertising.”

Apart from this, another medium that is preferred for intense public participation is van publicity. Through this medium, companies reach the target audience in more effective manner, and to make it more participatory, companies have designed various attractive games, contests, etc.
Avinash Oza, director, brand communication with DDB Mudra, says, “Static and interactive (engaging and delivering memorable brand experience) mediums are preferred mediums. The approach and innovations in these mediums has changed due to telecom penetration which is bridging the gap between urban and rural.”

As experts opine, better connectivity of roads in the rural areas has made a lot of difference in the recent past. It has become easy for marketers to reach the aspiring consumers and ensuring timely supply of their products.  The one challenge that is left to infuse aspirations to buy their products is being effectively handled by advertising agencies. Various below the line (BTL) activations like the one Dabur did recently to attract more consumers through participation saw sale figures going up for its hair oil brand. In the recent past, advertising for rural has witnessed many changes. Now, advertising is not just restricted to wall paintings or TVCs. More consumer-intensive BTL initiatives are done to generate hype and familiarity to a product.

Experts view that brand loyalty in rural India is observed quite often. In many of the villages, there’s only one brand that has wider acceptability and breaking that perception at times is a challenging task. This brand loyalty has forced companies to generate product experience through various mediums. On the need of modern-day communication to the rural masses, Avinas Oza says, “You need to have a different and up-to-date communication approach as they are more evolved, uses all features of an i-phone look alike, shares MMS, clicks images, watches gadget guru, increasing pester power in high involvement categories.”

Rural masses now have access to education that in turn has made them aware about several new developments in the urban areas. They are no longer ignorant about new and emerging trends and are keenly following them. As experts say that rural consumers’ aspirations should be taken into consideration while planning any activity and those who have done that they have succeeded in the long run.
Consumers in rural India attach to a brand after taking lot of time. They develop a deep relationship with a particular product and don’t change their choices easily.

Portion packs give rural masses an opportunity to buy even expensive products and most of the FMCG firms focus on low unit packs ranging from Rs 2-8 and are present in categories such as shampoos, oil, food items, creams, soaps and toothpaste, as they are easily consumed.
Programmes such as Hindustan Unilever’s initiative Khushiyon Ki Doli is another inexpensive medium of multi-brand activation. This was launched in 2010 in three States – Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. The company reached out to more than 10 million consumers with the help of 170,000 retailers.

As per the figures provided by Euromonitor International, a research agency, 68 per cent of personal care products retailed by FMCG companies were sold in rural India in fiscal 2011-12, as against 32 per cent in cities. And marketers believe that this is ‘just the beginning.’ There is a strong indication that the rural markets will drive India’s growth in future and that is what is keeping marketers as well as advertisers hopeful.

The Changing Face of Rural India