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Indian automakers have kicked off an advertisement and promotional blitz to stoke demand for cars during the festive season, which accounts for 25% of annual sales of these companies.

The top auto firms are expected to spend more than 1,500 crore in advertising over the next three months as they introduce models and upgrade older ones, according to estimates by media buyers. Automakers are among the biggest advertisers in India, accounting for a tenth of overall spending.

Carmakers are pinning their hopes on a demand revival during the festive season, when households make high-value purchases, as they seek to shake off the coronavirus gloom. Sales have recovered somewhat after the nationwide lockdown was eased in end-May, but demand still remains tepid in Asia’s third-largest economy, which is headed for the biggest contraction since Independence.

Media buyers said the Indian Premier League (IPL), which is coinciding with the festive season this year, will prompt companies to spend on advertisements and promotional campaigns.

“This is where IPL can create a difference; it is a proven awareness driver, especially in discretionary and male-centric categories. It gives a national platform and builds quick reach and, therefore, has been preferred by many auto players and they will continue to leverage it in the same manner, if not more, during this festive season," said Girish Upadhyay, chief operating officer at Madison Media Infinity.

For vehicle makers, the festive season will be crucial. Most manufacturers are expecting a recovery in retail sales to continue during the festive season due to renewed interest in personal mobility products to avoid infections and strong demand in rural areas.

Most have raised production to build inventory, anticipating a jump in sales. In the last two years, vehicle sales during Navratri and Diwali have remained subdued because of an economic slowdown.

Carmakers Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, Tata Motors Ltd and Mercedes-Benz India Pvt. Ltd are planning aggressive marketing campaigns on traditional and digital media platforms to connect with prospective customers. While Maruti Suzuki is an associate sponsor on Disney+ Hotstar, Tata Motors’ car brand Altroz is the official partner of IPL.

“At Maruti Suzuki, we are riding on the associate sponsorship title for Dream 11 IPL 2020 on Hotstar. IPL offers an opportunity to reach a large audience in a relatively short time. We are at the beginning of the festive season and it will help us to make up for the lost opportunity in the past months," said Shashank Srivastava, executive director, sales and marketing, Maruti Suzuki.

Mercedes-Benz India recently launched ‘Unlock with Mercedes’ campaign, which will be promoted during IPL on both television and digital.

“We have also chosen Disney+ Hotstar and Star Sports Select for a clutter-free campaign reach for our customers during the IPL. The campaign is important for us as it marks our return to print and TV genre apart from our digital presence," said Santosh Iyer, vice-president, sales and marketing, Mercedes-Benz India.

Ads for automobiles are already visible across television print, with a sporadic presence on billboards in high-traffic areas. However, experts said digital and experiential marketing are also expected to play a key role this year because of social distancing norms.

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