An advertiser's handbook for 2018

It is often easier to talk about the next decade than about the next year. One year is just too short a period to forecast trends. The best way to predict the key market dynamics for 2018 is to draw lessons from the last three years and see how they will impact the coming year. So here are ten broad indicative predictions, with respect to the world of marketing, advertising and media.


The year will see a new media company marketing the highly popular Indian Premier League Cricket tournament. The new owners are themselves reporting to a new owner (Disney) but the bets that have been taken are big and some news reports indicate that Star India’s global owners were nudged towards Disney thanks to Facebook entering the IPL bidding wars. Be that as it may, I am predicting a dramatic increase in the rates for advertising on IPL 2018. The flip side of this could be a windfall for all general entertainment television channels. On the coat-tails of the new IPL rates they too can raise their ad rates. Indian television rates are among the lowest in the world while brands are paying a huge premium to advertise on digital channels like YouTube. This gross distortion of Cost Per Thousand (CPM) rates may see some readjustments in the coming year.


No one would have predicted 24 months ago that by January 2018 India will top the world in digital media / video consumption. A lot of this has happened thanks to the Reliance Jio free offer. Almost 100 million consumers took up the free offer. A number of experts thought that the numbers will fall off a cliff when Jio went pay-for-1GB-a-day. But that did not happen. We will see the huge rise of paid premium mobile content in 2018. IPL, once again, may set the bar. And this can help all other content providers and OTT players to price their premium content.


Globally the print medium is in decline but it is predicted to grow in India. This is thanks to the growing power of Indian language print publications. If you are in marketing and you don’t read at least one Indian language magazine or newspaper, you need to redo the reading list. Language newspapers and magazines will continue to innovate and create more engaging content. Many of them will also have digital content and will integrate them seamlessly with their print versions. Brands will try and look beyond the typical full page ads and get the print titles to create special content for their brands.


The Indian consumer wants more interesting experiences. The airline business has tapped into this desire and has been witnessing a growth of 25 per cent per annum for the last three years, aided by low oil prices and inter-airline competition. The young and the not-so-young Indian consumer is looking for other interesting experiences in addition to air travel. Experience economy will continue to grow.


The last two years have seen two big disruptions as far as the Indian retailer is concerned. First there was #demonetization then there was #GST. As a cashew wholesaler in Goa explained to me last week, business for the wholesale class has taken a big beating and most of them are trying to see how to rejig their businesses. The wholesaler plays a vital role in the distribution of consumer packaged goods and all other types of products. They operate at low margins but make up the profits from huge volumes. And most of the volume is invisible to the taxman. All this could change in 2018. The wholesaler will have to become legitimate, if he wants to continue to stock and sell reputed brands. And as they turn legit, they will have to get ready to pay the taxes. And to do that they may have to hike their margins. And some of them will get squeezed out. The bigger boys will become bigger, organised retail will enter the ‘wholesale’ business in a big way. Those were the first five predictions, now I have five more in a more succinct form.


Innovative bundled products could find their day under the sun.  Saregama’s Caraavan has been pronounced a success, I expect many more to follow in its wake.


Ecommerce will start maturing as some players start playing the omnichannel game. Online customers will look beyond discounts and niche digital players will grow.


IPOs (and mutual funds) have had a stellar year in 2017. Expect 2018 to be even better for IPOs as money is moving from real estate, gold and bank fixed deposits to stocks and shares.


The urban-rural divide will continue to narrow as we start seeing more and more roads linking the rural hinterland with the cities, and mobile networks extending to rural areas. And finally the tenth prediction… that is for the reader to add to the list!  The author is an independent brand strategist, author and founder

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