Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Rise of vernacular advertising on digital in India

With the demand for local language content is steadily growing in India, there is a need for advertisers to consider creating regional advertising which goes beyond dubbed ads

Published: Jun 16, 2022 06:26:29 PM IST
Updated: Jun 16, 2022 07:13:38 PM IST

Rise of vernacular advertising on digital in IndiaUnlike print or TV, digital does not need a separate regional edition or channel, as it can be personalised in real-time via an instance. Image: Shutterstock

Softbank and Meta-backed ecommerce 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—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 the “Kannada Starter Pack.” Or Netflix, which often partners with audio streaming sites to create local language content to promote regional titles being released on its platform.
As more Indians log onto 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 approximately 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 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 in real-time via an instance.

Stay focussed, stay local

Shradha Agarwal, CEO and cofounder, Grapes, believes that regional content cannot be homogenised. 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 adds.
Brands are taking note too.
For instance, Megha Agarwal, CXO, Growth, at Meesho, shares that with audiences increasingly veering toward video content in vernacular languages, 90 percent of the company’s campaigns are localised.

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 AVOD (advertising video on demand) and SVOD (subscription video on demand) OTT platforms, especially concerning regional content,” she adds.

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 a better understanding of 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 notes.

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—e.g. 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, and Bhojpuri video on the same platform, with a basic translation of the 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 chord 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," notes Amaresh Godbole, CEO, Digital Technology Business, Publicis Groupe India.

For instance, the Indian social media platform ShareChat said that it witnessed exponential growth during the first phase of lockdown. Post-lockdown era, ShareChat has grown from 60 million MAU (monthly active users) 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 Indian languages, out of which Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, and Bengali are the most popular 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,” says Akshat Sahu, director of marketing, ShareChat.

Key challenges

Advertisers across several sectors such as fintech, edtech and ecommerce have realised that vernacular advertising is essential for reaching a wider audience to drive recommendations and conversions, and the number is continuously growing.

Vipul Kedia, chief data & platforms officer and head of MAAS India (Affle), shares 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 adds.

Listing some challenges related to local language advertising, Kedia notes 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.

Note to readers: Storyboard18’s new Month In Focus initiative spotlights themes and topics that are pushing marketers to reshape and rethink how brands interact with today’s customers. Our theme for this month is Stacks & Strategies, a martech and adtech spotlight on how decision-makers and marketers are advancing the adoption of new technologies and tech-driven strategies in the brand marketing ecosystem. From the defining trends and preparing for a cookiepocalypse to how progressive martech strategies help fast-track business and brand growth. Catch this special on Storyboard18.