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Focused communication for rural India

R. V. Rajan Share Comment print T+

Business Line Simple and straight: Tricky, clever, gimmicky or even suggestive advertising does not work with the rural audience. Slice of life approaches, simple and direct, using aspirational urban-looking models work very well. Ads by Google Get New Customers Online - Advertise On Google. Get 2000 INR Advertising Credit When You Sign-Up It is important to understand the rural consumer to get your message across to him. Over the last 25 years, we have been involved in developing campaigns for a variety of products ranging from agri-inputs such as fertilisers, agro chemicals and seeds, to consumer durables,

FMCG and the services sector. This has helped us understand the special characteristics of the rural audience. Some insights: A rural consumer may be illiterate according to the Census definition, but he is very clever, blessed with a lot of common sense. He is highly conscious of value for money. There is a high involvement of the rural customer in any product purchase, more so for high-end products, which involve shelling out a few thousand rupees or more. Tricky, clever, gimmicky or even suggestive advertising does not work with the rural audience. Slice of life' approaches, simple and direct, using aspirational urban-looking models work very well. Combining education with entertainment or edutainment' is a good route to take. Companies will do well to use regional stars for regional campaigns for more effective penetration of brands in rural areas. In case of television spots which are sophisticated in execution and chances of the message going over the heads of the rural consumers high, special efforts will have to be made to interpret the main message to the rural audience. This could be done through a whole lot of below-the-line (BTL) activities, including road shows and VOW (video on wheels) programmes, which elaborate on the theme of the campaign through interactive games and contests. It is clear that in any form of rural communication, while we may have a national strategy, we have to think and act locally. An integrated package consisting of mass media and below-the-line activities works well.

Communication Delivery Strategy

The two vital arms of rural communication are the development of creative to suit specific target audiences and communication delivery using appropriate vehicles. Though rural folks receive all types of selling messages through multiple sources, it has been found that the two-tier system opinion leaders and the masses continues to exist. Opinion leaders continue to play an important role in the decision-making, which is still community or group-based. However, the composition of the opinion leaders has changed over a period of time. For decisions regarding farm inputs, farmers may consult the traditional opinion leaders, including other successful farmers, agricultural officers and dealers. But with the growing aspiration levels (thanks to television), village youth who go to the cities for education and employment have also become important opinion leaders for lifestyle products. And in the case

of personal care products, similar to the trend in the urban areas, school-going children do influence the brand decision. Kids' pester power is not unique to urban India.

Media Strategy for FMCG Products

Television is invariably the primary medium used by most FMCG brands. As television does not distinguish between urban and rural, whether one likes it or not, the commercials are also exposed to a vast majority of the rural audiences. If a company is clear that a particular brand can be targeted at both urban and rural audiences, and since television is already considered the primary medium, it might be a good idea to produce commercials that appeal to both urban and rural audiences. Pre-testing of such commercials among both audiences is vital to ensure success among both. Apart from regional TV channels, one can consider the use of local cable TV networks largely telecasting local shows popular among communities in semi-urban and rural areas. Rural cinemas, especially in South India, are still a popular medium to reach consumers. Radio is one of the cheapest mass media to reach rural masses. Even where electricity is unreliable, transistor radios are very popular among the poorer sections of rural India. With the number of FM stations set to explode after expansion under Phase Three, it would be possible to reach even more remote areas through radio. Haats (weekly markets) and melas tied to temple and religious festivals are great for promoting brands. While haats help in reaching a few thousand villagers from different villages in one place, melas attract lakhs of visitors across the State or across the country as in kumbh melas. They offer a variety of media opportunities in one place. However, it must be remembered that haats are gradually losing their importance in economically developed markets such as Tamil Nadu because of the tremendous progress made by small towns and their easy accessibility to villagers due to better and reliable transport facilities. In the last couple of years, the role of technology has made a huge difference in the way one reaches the rural audience. The growing number of Internet kiosks disseminating useful information to village folk has come to stay. The mindboggling growth of mobile telephones, especially in the rural areas, has created a great opportunity for anyone with a message to reach the rural masses. Sitting at home and at the press of a button, a rural customer is able to access all kinds of information in the process virtually helping the elimination of the middlemen, who have had a stranglehold on him for generations. But this is still an evolving medium. Static media such as wall paintings, hoardings, shop fronts and point of sale continue to be useful as reminder media. So are messages prominently displayed in bus stands, railway stations, on water tanks, wells and pump-sets in villages, as well as mobile media such as local buses and auto-rickshaws.

Media Strategy for Consumer Durables / Services

High-end products such as consumer durables or the service sector call for a two-pronged strategy, covering above-the-line and BTL activities. While mass media helps create awareness about the brands, it has been found necessary to have BTL activities or road-shows as part of direct marketing efforts aimed at specific target audiences. Since the opinion leaders can be easily identified in each village, and they are small in number, direct marketing efforts aimed at opinion leaders must always precede any effort aimed at larger audiences. This becomes even more important for sectors such as banking and insurance, which need concept selling before specific brands are promoted. And to provide opportunities for demonstration and touch and feel' of high-end consumer durables, vehicles or services, it is important to have a well-conceived and executed BTL campaign, ensuring that the communication messages used, integrate well with the mass media campaign.

In Sum
Needless to say any activity, including communication packages aimed at the rural audience, must generate a lot of word of mouth' publicity so that the brand is top of mind' when the rural customer is ready to make a brand decision in the product category. While it is true that the growing economic prosperity has begun to reduce the rural-urban divide in the higher echelons of rural society, the need for special and focused communication aimed at the not-so-well educated and poorer sections of rural India continues to exist. This is true even in the developed rural areas. It will be wishful thinking to say that the rural-urban divide has already melted, based on a few stray experiences. R. V. Rajan is Chairman, Anugrah Madison Advertising Pvt Ltd, and Past President, Rural Marketing Association of India. (This article was published on July 20, 2011) Keywords: Rural audience, advertising, regional campaign, rural communication, television, FMCG, Rural marketing


Indian Readership Survey An analysis by RK Swamy Media Group

By Srabantika Basak (Neogi) Wednesday,Mar 23, 2011 00, 04/06/2013, 23.35 Indian Readership Survey released its Q4 data of 2010 a few days back. The fieldwork for this round (IRS10 Q4) was from October 2009 to October 2010. It has a sample size of 2.41 lakh individuals (12 years+), out of which 1.62 lakh are from urban and 0.79 lakh from rural areas, residing in 1,410 towns, 3,360 villages. The survey includes 451 publications in 13 languages, 200 editions, 317 TV channels and 60 radio channels. Estimated individuals are 88.1 crore, while estimated households are 23.4 crore. Besides the usual debate on the methodology of measuring readership of dailies or magazines or TR/AIR argument, there are some other interesting areas to focus on. The estimated individuals have increased from 87.62 crore in IRS10 Q3 to 88.1 crore in IRS10 Q4. This has been derived on the basis of decennial growth rate as reflected in the Census data.

Overall media reach through conventional media in India is still hovering around 64.7 per cent (64.4 per cent in Q3 & 64 per cent in Q2). In spite of all the technological advances, even today, two out of every five Indians are not reachable by any conventional media. TV reach is the highest. TV ownership has increased from 49.3 per cent in Q110 to 52.4 per cent in Q410, but interestingly, TV reach has not kept pace with it. This is a sign of the growing economy. It is also indicating the gradual increase of nuclear families requiring more TV sets leading relatively to a lesser increase in TV reach (at least once a week). The viewership marginally fell during late evening prime time (711 pm), while slightly increased during early evening prime time (4-7 pm).

C&S household numbers have jumped QoQ from 8.26 crore in Q110 to 9.76 crore in Q410, that is, 18 per cent growth in just 12 months. The growth is mainly coming from rural India. While 23.3 per cent of rural HH had C&S in Q110, it is now 29.2 per cent in Q410. In absolute numbers, C&S Household number in rural India increased by 1 crore in last 12 months, which is more than double than that of urban India. It is now evident that with the declining Non C&S households, Doordarshan is getting marginalised. It is DTH which is driving the growth of television today.

If we consider Total Readership, then Press reach is 38.9 per cent. The average time spent (in a working day) for reading newspaper or periodicals remains same, that is, 31 minutes for last 3 quarters. But the average time spend listening to radio (at least once a week) has slightly increased in Q4, it is now 80 minutes against 77 minutes in last two quarters (in a working day). The place of listening to radio is changing. It is getting skewed towards the work place and on travel. This round of IRS has also come up with data of possible devices used to listening to radio. It clearly shows that after radio/ music system it is the mobile phone which is used most to listen to radio.

Unlike Press & Radio, Internet is growing rapidly. The reach of Internet has grown by 27 per cent from Q1 to Q4. Out of 2.43 crore users of Internet, 1.85 crore use it regularly (at least once in a week). Regular usage is very high allowing quick reach build up. Access to Internet is still highest from the cyber cafs, but now it is increasing rapidly in mobiles. (Refer table below)

Although Internet penetration is very low in rural India compared to that of urban, it is growing. In absolute numbers, rural India added about 16 lakh Internet users in Q410 over Q110.

Lets have a closer look at readership figures:

Dainik Jagran managed to remain at No. 1 for the last couple of rounds. The vernacular dailies are dominating the top 10 list of dailies, except The Times of India, which is the only English daily to make a dent in the top 10 list of dailies. Rajasthan Patrika has come up one position, replacing Daily Thanthi, which was No. 8 in Q3 and Rajasthan Patrika was No. 9. Rest of the dailies has managed to keep its position. Maximum growth has come for Hindustan (6 per cent), followed by Dainik Bhaskar (4 per cent) & The Times of India (2 per cent). Lokmat, Rajasthan Patrika, Daily Thanthi & Mathrubhumi lost their readership over Q3. The loss is highest for Daily Thanthi (3 per cent). In absolute numbers, Hindustan and Dainik Bhaskar added 6 lakh and 5 lakh readers, respectively. In fact, in Total Readership, Hindustan swapped its position with Dainik Bhaskar and became No. 2 with a readership of 3.51 crore against 3.39 crore of Dainik Bhaskar. The scenario for magazines is a bit different. Pratiyogita Darpan replaced Saras Salil in AIR, while Saras Salil is the highest read magazine in TR data. Malayala Manorama (weekly) has shown the highest growth over Q3 (9 per cent). Only three magazines have gained/ retained readership Malayala Manorama (9 per cent), Pratiyogita Darpan (3 per cent), Vanitha (Mal) (0 per cent). If we look at the top four metros, it is The Times of India which is present in the list of top 5 dailies of all the four metros (Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai). In Delhi+NCR, Hindustan Times has left behind The Times of India, though both added 51,000 and 32,000 readers, respectively. But in the financial capital of India, The Times of India has kept its No. 1 position. Gujarat Samachar has replaced Mumbai Mirror and become the third highest read daily in Mumbai. This indicates that after English and Marathi, Gujarati language controls Mumbai market. In Kolkata and Chennai, the vernacular dailies are most preferred to English dailies. Ananda Bazar Patrika and Daily Thanthi are the distant No. 1 in Kolkata and Chennai, respectively. But except Dinakaran, all top dailies in Chennai lost their readership. However, in Kolkata, except Ananda Bazar Patrika all other dailies gained readership. The sole readership of vernacular dailies is higher than that of English dailies, which translates to the fact that a reader who reads an English daily is more likely to go for a vernacular daily as his second choice, while a reader who reads a vernacular daily has lesser affinity towards an English daily as his second choice. Coming to business dailies in India, The Economic Times is the highest read English daily with a readership of 7.97 lakh. Although Mint is the distant No. 2 (1.99 lakh readers), it added 20,000 new readers in this Quarter. Business Standard (Hindi) grew the most (19 per cent) in Q4 and its readership rose to 68,000. The English daily readership (AED) is growing in Hindi speaking market. In Q310, AED readership in Uttar Pradesh was 4.3 per cent of total AED readership, which has become 4.5 per cent in Q410. Although percentage wise the number looks small, but in absolute numbers it has increased by 50,000 readers. In fact, two other language dominated markets, Bihar and West Bengal added 37,000 and 31,000 more readers in AED readership, respectively. To sum it up, still about 35 per cent of India is not reached by conventional mass media.

TV is driving reach and it continues to grow. Non C&S TV HHs are declining (22.4 per cent in Q3 to 20.1 per cent in Q4) and C&S TV HHs are growing rapidly QoQ (77.6 per cent in Q3 to 79.9 per cent in Q4), even in rural India. Its The Times of India which is present in the top 5 dailies list of all four metros (in AIR). Sole readership of vernacular dailies is very high compared to that of English dailies. The average time spent listening to radio (at least once a week) has increased in Q4. It is now 80 minutes against 77 minutes in the last two quarters (in a working day). The place of listening is getting skewed towards the work place and on travel. After radio/ music system it is the mobile phone which is being used more often to listen to radio. Internet is growing rapidly. Regular usage is very high, allowing quick reach build up. Access to Internet is still highest from the cyber cafs, but now it is increasing rapidly in mobiles. [Srabantika Basak (Neogi) is Media Manager at RK Swamy Media Group.]