Rise of vernacular advertising MAAS Platform

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Storyboard18 - Stacks & Strategies | Rise of vernacular advertising on digital in India


As more Indians log on to the internet, the demand for local language content is steadily growing followed by the need for advertisers to consider creating regional advertising which has gone beyond dubbed ads.

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Softbank and Meta-backed e-commerce platform Meesho’s recent campaign “Arre Waah” has been tailored to capture India’s regional nuances and thereby build resonance among various audiences. The campaign was shot in three zonal languages such as Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil, and it was further amplified in other regional languages.

Similarly, logistics and grocery delivery platform Dunzo is known for creating hyperlocal advertising such as “Kannada Starter Pack” or Netflix that often partners with audio streaming sites to create local language content to promote regional titles being released on its platform.

As more Indians log on to the internet, the demand for local language content is steadily growing, followed by the need for advertisers to consider creating regional advertising which has gone beyond dubbed ads. This is reflective in user behaviour which is why the click-through rate of regional creatives is much higher and why 70 percent of Indians find vernacular digital content more reliable than English, according to a joint study conducted by Google and KPMG.

Of the 700 million active internet users in India, only 216 million transact online. According to the IAMAI-Kantar ICUBE 2020 report, this is expected to swell to 900 million by 2025. New consumer segments are continuously being formed and the purchasing power is increasing steadfastly.

Experts and platforms Storyboard18 spoke to asserted that vernacular content is helping brands break adoption barriers and making the experience of not only consuming content but also transacting online more relatable. Unlike print or TV, digital does not need a separate regional edition or channel, as it can be personalised real time via an instance.

Stay focused, stay local

Shradha Agarwal, CEO and Co-Founder, Grapes, believes that regional content cannot be homogenized, hence, gone are the days when dubbing used to be done in the region-specific dialect.

“Creative teams must curate messages keeping in mind the region and integrate the lifestyle, interests, colloquialisms, and cultural nuances of the specific audience base. Collaborating with nano and micro-influencers can prove to be very helpful in bringing out the desired result. It has endless scope for personalisation for the generation of hyper-focused messaging winning the loyalty of the regional audience,” she added.

Brands are taking note too.

For instance, Megha Agarwal, CXO, Growth at Meesho shared that with audiences increasingly veering towards video content in vernacular languages, 90 percent of the company’s campaigns are localized. The company has been amplifying its campaigns in a plethora of languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Punjabi and Assamese, among others.

“We are also working closely with Google and Meta to tailor our narrative to our audiences. We are also exploring strategic tie-ups with advertising video on demand (AVOD) and subscription video on demand (SVOD) OTT platforms, especially with respect to regional content,” she said.

Meesho said that it primarily engages with micro and nano influencers from Tier II+ regions as well to connect with consumers across smaller towns of the country.

“Through sustained influencer engagement, we have acquired over 700,000 unique transactors (directly attributable) since March 2021. Brands need to invest in better understanding this diverse India, if the next wave of growth has to be unlocked. 10X more visual, completely vernacular, short form content will have a large role to play in the foreseeable future,” Agarwal said.

Rise of regional influencers, content

Platforms which take on the burden of curation such as Google search require heavy investments at a technology and infrastructure level to support each new language, for example machine learning for identifying, serving and moderating content. On the other hand, social platforms which rely primarily on user generated content can easily host a Marathi, Bengali, Bhojpuri video on the same platform, with basic translation of user prompts and buttons.

“This makes video platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Josh and Moj (owned by Sharechat) a powerful medium to connect with people in local languages. Further, the emergence of regional creators on these platforms means that it takes the load off the platform and brand to create high quality content, as these regional creators are great at touching a cord with the right use of language and nuance — whereas a lot of regional ads can often be prosaic translations or at best transliteration of a master created in Mumbai or Delhi,” said Amaresh Godbole, CEO, Digital Technology Business, Publicis Groupe India.

Indian social media platform ShareChat, for instance, said that it witnessed exponential growth during the first phase of lockdown. Post lockdown era, ShareChat has grown from 60 million monthly active users (MAU) to 180 million MAU, and the average user time spent increased from 24 minutes to 31 minutes daily.

The company, which opened its platform to advertising in early 2020, has signed up over 150 brands within six months including brands such as Nykaa, MTR, Bharti Airtel, Future Group, Snapdeal and Flipkart. The platform is available in 15 Indic languages, out of which Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi and Bengali are the most popular among brands for advertising.

“Localised content is mainstream on ShareChat, giving brands the advantage to advertise by micro-targeting. Regional creators are aware of the regional sensitivities and cultural nuances. They are rapidly growing on the platform especially due to the expansion of our monetisation models like influencer marketing, virtual gifting, and live and video commerce,” said Akshat Sahu, director of marketing, ShareChat.

Key challenges

Advertisers across a number of sectors such as fintech, edtech and e-commerce have realised that vernacular advertising is essential for reaching a wider audience in order to drive recommendations and conversions and the number is continuously growing.

Vipul Kedia, chief data & platforms officer and head of MAAS India (Affle) said that given the demographics of the audience, the video and audio formats are more effective since they are more engaging and rich.

“We obviously need multiple creative sets for each language with regional context, but more importantly, it needs deeper data distillation and sharper targeting to be able to identify and target consumers based on their language preferences,” he added.

Listing some challenges related to local language advertising, Kedia noted that having to communicate in several Indian dialects simultaneously can be resource-heavy for brands.

“During the campaign, there is also additional data analysis and reporting complexity given the numerous sub-campaigns and creatives. The optimisation complexity also increases accordingly. Another challenge is that regional marketing cannot be standardised. Brands must pay attention to regional insights to customise their content,” he adds.

Diksha Sahni

Diksha currently leads Communications & PR at Affle. With a passion for content marketing, she also takes the lead in crafting compelling narratives for the MAAS Platform. A journalist turned marketer, she has worked in the B2B and AdTech industries and writes on all things mobile on the MAAS Platform blog.