Bangla channels pin high hopes on Durga Puja

According to experts, the duration of Durga Puja to Diwali is a jackpot for brands and consumers.

MUMBAI: Durga Puja, that time of the year when an entire city descends into wholesome chaos. The fervour sets in days ahead, and during the five-day celebration the streets are teeming as revellers go pandal-hopping, bhog sampling, throng anondo mela (fun fair), indulge in shopping sprees, and a dozen other fun-filled activities. But due to Covid2019, pujo festivities are a lot more toned down this year, with the risk of public gatherings looming large on people’s minds.

With the outlook that folks will stay at home rather than jostle with crowds, Bangla entertainment channels have taken up an aggressive stance programming-wise to maximise viewership and ad revenue during the pujo period.

How Bangla channels are wooing viewers

Sony Aath is trying to dial up the celebrations with a slew of fresh programming. As part of Sunday Funday, the most popular slot on the channel, it will air special Durga Puja-themed episodes of hit family shows - Gopal Bhar, Nut Boltu and NIX. With the recent premiere of new show Baalveer during this festive season, the channel’s also lined up six Honey Bunny movies. A Sony Pictures Networks India Sony Aath and English cluster business head Tushar Shah said, “We are witnessing tremendous interest from the advertisers and a few of them, including Cadbury and Colgate, have already signed up.”

Colors Bangla, too, has a treat in store for its viewers. “There will be a special morning programme titled Sree Sree Sarodiya Durga Pujo. It will provide the audience with a spiritual experience by giving an essence of the various rituals associated with pujo. Evening show Golpe Gaane Pujor Adda is a show with singers and actors entertaining our viewers with popular music and memories. Both the shows are presented by Hellman’s Mayonnaise and powered by Brooke Bond,” said Colors Bangla business head Rahul Chakravarti.

This year a lot of devotees will be offering pujo “virtually”, a trend that had started a few years ago, wherein viewers could do darshan and pushpanjali and get pronami too. TV and digital channels can broadcast these events and let worshippers enjoy the festivities from the safety of their homes. Bangla celebrities and influencers are also being roped in to familiarise their fans with the concept of virtual celebrations along with AR/VR darshans from their apps.

Zee Bangla and Zee Bangla Cinema cluster business head Samrat Ghosh notes that the broadcast industry has pinned its hopes on advertisers. The festival holds immense potential for all stakeholders, especially in the eastern states of West Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Bihar where the arrival of Mother Goddess Durga is celebrated with a lot of pomp and gaiety.

Ghosh said, "The viewership is definitely soaring high and the ad-ex market has also started picking up. I am hopeful that during the festive season advertisers will also help us to revive the ad-ex market. Apart from the usual categories that advertise, we will see a lot of automobile, consumer durable brands doing promotions. The local retail brands are also reviving and have started advertising." He is optimistic about the retail market bouncing back in terms of ad spends.

Apart from special programming on the small screen, Durga Puja is always associated with big ticket movie releases. Keeping movie lovers in mind, Colors Bangla is tapping into its wide repertoire of 200+ Bangla titles and dedicated each day of pujo to a superstar. From Saptami being devoted to fans of Jeet to Ashtami being Mithun Chakrabarty’s day, special movies of superstars will be showcased on the channel.

Brands & advertisers shift focus to safety

With market sentiments improving over the last few months, brands have started coming up with new and dynamic ways to connect with consumers. Advertisers across categories are looking forward to pujo. Wavemaker India managing partner Mansi Datta sees this as a wonderful opportunity for brands to capitalize on buyers’ upbeat sentiments and resonate with them. Durga Puja, traditionally a good time for channels to increase their ad revenues, will help them to make up for losses incurred during the pandemic period.

“This is the time of year for ‘NEW’... Children are told to wait for pujo to get new things. People splurge and indulge. Retail sector claims that for West Bengal, 30-45 per cent of annual sales happen during Durga Puja. This is the reason pujo period marks the highest media activity,” said Datta.

There’s a marked shift in consumer patterns too, and in response, brands have also adapted their seasonal messaging to showcase and promote hygiene, safety and social distancing – while remembering to have a jolly good time, of course.

For instance, the state government has issued a 17 point guideline, with most Durga Puja associations following it strictly and even deploying more safety features. In keeping with these measures, Colors Bangla has launched a special campaign urging viewers to adhere to social distancing norms. Chakravarti shares: “While our faces may be masked, our hearts will be filled with joy and our eyes will reflect our happiness. This is a message that we are amplifying through our special pujo campaign.”

State of the market during pujo 2020

Estimating the size of the Durga Puja economy has mostly been a fraught prospect, although a 2013 Assocham report pegged it at Rs 25,000 crore, growing at about 35 per cent CAGR. The report projected its size to be Rs 40,000 crore by 2015. If that figure were to be extrapolated to 2018 and 2019, the size would be at Rs 1.12 lakh crore and Rs 1.5 lakh crore respectively. As per the estimate, the pujo economy contributes a little over 10 per cent to West Bengal’s GDP.

Sujata Dwibedy, trading director for Dentsu International’s Amplifi India group, observes: “If we add up the Puja economy of Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand – which also celebrate the festival with equal fervour, if not more splendour – the economy of each of the states get a contribution of about 7-10 per cent to the their GDP during Puja. However, 2020 is an exception and the growth will dip extensively because all the outdoor activities, pandals, melas and markets – where traditionally a huge amount of spending takes place – would be restricted.”

She further adds though there was a huge drop in consumption of products in the April-May-June quarter, from July onwards many businesses are back to last year’s levels. Brands diversified and started producing health and hygiene-related products and survived. Media consumption was high, but advertising spends dropped and businesses other than a few categories saw a huge dip.

Traditionally, multinational brands across industry verticals rode on the Puja sentiment through a mix of above-the-line and on-ground activation. “Since this year, the on-ground activations and pandal related events might not be possible, brands should think of innovative ways of reaching out to the consumers. Food, garments and household purchases are the themes of this festival. So, tying up with the food techs, e-commerce and gifting companies could be innovatively used,” suggests Dwibedy.

The duration of Durga Puja to Diwali (or Kali pujo) is a jackpot for brands and consumers. Moreover, advertisers are using every medium to attract eyeballs - from newspapers, billboards, bus/local trains, activations to OTT, social, search of locations, food-spots and pandals in digital. It is a great time for payment apps and BFSI to focus on electronic payments and making things lucrative as well as simpler.

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