Ujaya Shakya
Jan 13, 2022

A view from Nepal: The much-awaited advertising transformation

The founder of Outreach Nepal provides an update on how the ad industry is evolving in Nepal, including how brands are adapting to new regulations, and how new alliances are being formed to advance the industry.

A view from Nepal: The much-awaited advertising transformation

As we prepare for the post-pandemic world, things do not remain the same even in Nepali advertising, as we see a change in pattern in the whole consumer journey. To cope with these changes and prepare for the 'marketing of tomorrow', marketing leaders are adopting new marketing tactics to increase engagement and are acquiring new kinds of talent and skills to understand data science. In addition, many want to transform their business to leverage ecommerce and online transactions—which have subsequently increased in recent times.

Beyond digital transformation, here are other factors that are making our profession more interesting as we work together to build the marketing ecosystem in the country.

The much-discussed clean-feed policy got implemented in the midst of the Covid pandemic, starting from October 2020, with all the key foreign channels broadcasting within Nepal going without paid advertisements. It was an end of an era for many global brands that had leveraged spillover advertising in the past. Now if you want to attract the eyeballs of Nepali audiences, you will have to do your media planning specific to Nepali channels, particularly if your consumer journey demands audiovisual demonstration as a brand catering to mass audiences. And how long will they wait till they decide to take on media-planning specifically for the Nepali audience as we have a sizeable audience of over 30 million population for a relatively small country in the region?

Almost two-thirds of the population is considered a young audience by definition. They are entering the job market and will become the primary wage earners, decision-makers and influencers in their household purchases. If the presumption is right, within this same decade, we will also see the rise of the middle class, as these younger lot enter the job market to create a larger impact on our economy. We all have good learning in the region particularly from countries like India and Bangladesh, which should be helpful to devise our country’s marketing strategy as we move from here.

With the same policy, dubbed advertisements for television channels in Nepal have been barred as well. This means marketers will now have to produce films specifically for the Nepal market with Nepali artists. Many brands have accepted this challenge and have re-created, re-produced or conceptualised films successfully.

At the same time, the government has also formed the Advertisement Board, based on the Advertisement (Regulation) Act 2019. This aims to regulate, monitor and operate the entire advertisement market. The board is currently working with all the major stakeholders to finalise the first advertising policies of the country which will try to define a framework to bring more clarity to the process.

With the opportunity that came along—both in terms of the content industry and clean feed policy—most homegrown channels who largely relied on news and current affairs programs have suddenly tilted their investment towards high-value entertainment programs and upgraded their technology to the high-definition television format. There are sudden boosts in entertainment content in the likes of reality shows, music and dance shows, movies, crime stories, sitcom comedy series, live sports and many more, which has suddenly heightened the viewership of domestic channels. Their YouTube uploads are also largely trending with millions of views. Of course, to leverage this, many new Nepali channels have been launched in the space. There are more than 40 national satellite channels besides regional channels options while you browse through your DTH which have been able to successfully penetrate almost 60% of TV homes in Nepal, as per a recent study.

Not to forget, local Nepali YouTube channels with millions of subscribers, local influencers and category-specific KOLs have considerable fan followings and have made this their profession. Ever-growing local platforms work together with global social-media and content platforms to create effective digital touchpoints for reaching Nepali audiences, as they largely serve their content in vernacular language in comfort to the wider mass Nepali population. The most successful Nepali app, Hamro Patra, has crossed over 10 million downloads. Also, a few local OTT entertainment platforms are trying their luck and will surely make good progress soon with the ever-increasing mobile subscription and countrywide 4G penetration.

With this, the advertising ecosystem is slowly getting recognised as an industry, which was not the case when I started my career over two decades ago. I am particularly happy to see other industry bodies which are now becoming more active or being launched and created to help in the process.

Last year also showcased a more active role from The Ad Club of Nepal which has wider professional participation from the whole business ecosystem of agency, brand and media marketing professionals. We also celebrated the first Ad Day celebrating Nepali advertising (Bigyapan) for the whole week which was organised by the Advertising Association of Nepal (AAN). The formation of the Nepalese Marketing Association (NMA) last month for the first time brings together larger marketing professionals, academics and other stakeholders to usher in positive changes.

Also, the formation of Media Alliance Nepal during the pandemic along with Media Society Nepal—which will work towards the betterment of Nepali media and the content industry—brings more positive hope for the future of our profession. Through this, we will have the opportunity to work in hand-in-hand with a wider ecosystem to enable marketing communication and establish brands that are loved by consumers.

And there's a whole new breed of next-generation ad professionals, largely millennials, who are more digital-savvy, more data-driven and understand the IT ecosystem more than anyone. They also have the ambition to achieve something great for the love of this profession and the country as the world becomes more globally connected. 

And of course, not to forget the consumer journey, where we can map a person through the day which criss-crosses between the digital world and the real world. In the process, the task is to build a narrative of the brand through the journey of the person not just looking at things from the conventional format where we used to divide their journey sharply between digital and traditional. But learnings to acknowledge the fact that both go together to create a largely impactful brand.

Ujaya Shakya is the founder and managing director of Outreach Nepal and the author of ‘Brandsutra’.

Campaign India

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