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MARKETING 101

In numbers: The advertising blitz that followed Modi’s shock demonetisation decision

By Suneera Tandon

First, there was the shock demonetisation, then came the advertising blitzkrieg.

In the weeks and days after prime minister Narendra Modi’s decision to pull Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes out of the economy, some Indian companies went for the kill, as cash-strapped citizens struggled to find a way around the note ban.

In particular, online wallet companies, including Paytm and Freecharge, and banking services, all made a big push for more television advertising slots, according to data from marketing company SilverPush. News channels drew the largest share of advertising spending and many brands increased their presence on Hindi and kids channels, too.

SilverPush tracked advertisements across 150 television channels for the month of November.

All that advertising didn’t go in vain. Online searches for mobile wallet apps surged by 20% in the weeks following demonetisation.

The clear winner within the space is Paytm, promoted by entrepreneur Vijay Shekhar Sharma and backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Online searches for the digital payments company went up by 40% in the days after demonetisation, according to SilverPush, and 97% of all online searches for the category were for Paytm.

To cash in on the opportunity, Paytm also doubled its investment in advertising, SilverPush noted. For instance, the morning after the demonetisation announcement, the company put out advertisements in various national dailies, thanking prime minister Modi for the move. The ads did grab eyeballs, but they also came under fire from critics who accused the company of receiving special benefits from the government.

E-commerce play

But despite all the advertising efforts of e-wallet companies, Indian television channels were dominated by one of the usual suspects: the country’s e-commerce behemoths.

Amazon, Flipkart, and Snapdeal continued to hog most of the ad spots following demonetisation, according to SilverPush, although cash-starved Indian shoppers cut back on spending, hurting sales at online retailers. The sharp drop in online searches for e-commerce firms was a likely indicator of this decline, though evidently, things have picked up since.