If one traces back the history of the human race, you will find that early humans drew on walls to preserve stories and messages for their future generations – this is the earliest documented instance of wall painting, making it the oldest media to ever be created – long before other mediums like print, television, radio and internet. In India, wall painting has continued to survive and thrive over the past several decades. Yet, it’s only recently that the medium has regained importance for brand managers and media buyers looking to reach out to rural consumers with targeted messaging…
Wall painting defined
While driving along a highway you may have come across several places where ads of companies from telecom, cement, FMCG, banks etc. are painted on walls. These are among the most prominent examples of wall painting. Simply put, wall painting is ads painted on private walls in either a rural or urban area. As a medium, wall painting is feasible for both large national brands as well as local regional brand.
An underutilised Medium
The Indian market is largely divided into two broad segments that some have christened ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’, where India refers to the urban consumers while Bharat is a reference to the rural consumer. Till about a decade and half ago, it was only the urban consumer who dictated the kind of products that were in demand, the tone of messaging, the price points, etc. However, as the market started to saturate, brands looked towards the rural parts of the country to expand their footprints (it definitely helped that the rural consumer too was becoming more informed and demanding at this stage).
However, traditional mediums of advertising are expensive to reach this wide base of consumers. And this is where wall painting offers brands and ideal opportunity to reach out to their core TG (Target Groups) with messaging that is catered to individual regions and sub-regions. So, in a small town like Dhule (in Maharashtra) you can have three (or even more) wall painting campaigns running for consumers in different parts of the town, customizing your messages based on the profile of consumers you are targeting in the region.
There are two key benefits that wall painting provides as compared to other forms of advertising i.e. reach and cost. Lets look at the reach of some of the major advertising mediums – print reaches out to only the literate part of the population, online – reaches about 100 million consumers i.e. approx 10% of the country’s population. FM Radio stations are not present in more than 50 cities in India. But wall painting can be everywhere. Wall painting has reach even in regions where the population is just a few thousands, giving brands a wide base to reach out to their TG.
Economising Ad budgets
As compared to other established mediums, television has the highest penetration in the country. Yet, if you want a pan-India presence for your brand, an ad on a national channel will cost a lot more as compared to creating targeted messages for the brand via wall painting at a pan-India level. So while an advertising campaign on a national channel will need a few crores, a wall campaign can be done with a lower cost, and help the brand reach out to a wider TG. For any brand, an advertising campaign needs to accomplish two aspects – brand recall and sales. However, mediums that are not visual (like print) do not help brands create the right impact. Even today, the literacy levels among the rural population are low, and hence unless brands can create engaging advertising that relies on more on visuals they will not be able to communicate effectively with their potential consumers. Wall painting gives brands the freedom to create communication in an engaging format, so that it has high recall.
Also, since each wall has to be painted individually, the entire ad can be localized as per the local sensiblities of the region. Hence, the same campaign will look different in an Indore versus a Mysore… thought both would be selling the same product/ brand to the consumer.
One of the biggest challenges for wall painting has been the fragmentation in the industry. For a brand that wanted to execute an all India campaign it would need to individually engage close to 200-300 vendors per state. In addition to this, there was no mechanism to implement control over the quality of work. These difficulties had resulted in wall painting not being included in the marketing budgets and plans for major brands.
Another major challenge faced by the industry was the lack of sufficient qualified painters to do the job. This was due to the fact that many painters were turning away from this industry since the earning were not sufficient for them to support even the basic needs of their families. However, when we started wall painting our objective was to help the industry turn into an organised space versus the fragmented industry it was. We also wanted that brand managers should allocate budgets for wall painting too as a part of their overall marketing and advertising budgets. To achieve this aim, we started by creating a national network of 15000 painters across the country – a move that allowed brands to plan and launch pan India wall painting campaigns.
The interest from the brands brought in sustained work for the painters, who now could earn a lot more from this job. We also used technology as an enabler to update brands on their campaigns and pay the painters. The last few years have just seen the beginning of wall painting being recognized as a viable medium for advertising. I am sure that over the next few years, every brand will set out marketing budgets specifically for wall painting like all other media.
(The writer is CEO, Adwallz)