OTT Advertising: Supporting star of media mix set to take a bigger role?

Saloni Surti
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OTT advertising

With OTT viewership snowballing in the wake of the lockdown, brands & agencies too take to the medium for wider outreach campaigns. A look at the what & why of OTT advertising in the current context.

One doesn’t need statistics to realize the impact of the pandemic on OTT advertising & viewership, personal experience is testament enough. Nonetheless, numbers too, echo the sentiment. All major OTT platforms have reported a spike in viewership & subscriber base during the lockdown - Zee5 allegedly witnessed an 80 percent hike in subscription whereas ALTBalaji has had an 17,000 increase in new subscribers each day in lockdown. 

The old & new subscribers have been thriving on throngs of unique titles, catch up content, and new titles that are being released almost daily. Brand integrations was the natural next step. 

The Pandemic Effect 

For the longest, marketing through OTT or web content usually worked with titular sponsorships, product placements, and plot integrations like ‘Tu beer hai’ (remember, TVF Pitchers?). The gradual progression of OTT advertising happened with ads being placed as content pieces on OTT platforms - Fevicol’s 60th anniversary ad was posted on Hotstar as a snackible video, for instance. The pandemic however, witnessed a complete make-over, with OTT advertising taking center stage in many senses. 

The spike in viewership catalysed by the lockdown also translated into a rise in OTT advertising. According to data by TAM, ad insertions on OTT platforms doubled in April 2020 over March 2020 (Platforms included - Eros Now, Zee5, Disney+Hotstar, MX Player, Sony Liv, YuppTV, VOOT, Viu). 

In addition to ad placements, there were a number of creative campaigns. The pandemic saw many tactical OTT advertising campaigns coming in - this could be attributed to mainline agencies catering to OTT media buying, individual platform ad tools, and theatre releases being shifted to OTT platforms. 

Leveraging New Titles 

Gulabo Sitabo opened the floodgates of OTT movie releases, bringing in its wake many brand integrations. Godrej Security, MI TV India - to name a few, these however could have been tie ups with the movie makers and not the OTT platform. Though the releases that followed since, had much to offer to brands. 

Content Integration 

In addition to product placement or sponsorship, content integration on OTT platforms has enabled brands to complete the purchase cycle. Amazon’s Prime Video’s work with Shakuntala Devi & Tata Tea Gold makes for an interesting example, as the brand had the opportunity to place CTA links as a part of the campaign. 

Tata Tea Gold tied up with the movie, Shakuntala Devi which released on Prime Video India on July 31. The idea was to advocate brand proposition of #DilKiSuno through the story of Shakuntala Devi. 

Puneet Das, Vice President Marketing, Beverages– India,TATA Consumer Products, said, “OTT/Online streaming consumption has been steadily increasing. This partnership will help in driving brand recall through Prime video movie partnership and complete the consumer journey for Tata Tea Gold, with association on”

As a part of the association, Tata Tea Gold was the exclusive beverage partner of the film; the brand kicked off the campaign with co-branded creatives on before launching a 360° media campaign on TV, digital and social media across all key markets. AOR for the campaign was Wavemaker. 

Content Extension

While content extension as a concept isn’t new in movie marketing, it has been usually restricted to the big screen. For example, when the lead pair of a movie would be casted as their characters in a TVC or spoke about a product in reference to their release. 

OTT releases too have taken a similar turn. In conjunction with Prime Video India Center Fresh collaborated with Bandish Bandits. As a part of the campaign, the brand created two TVCs featuring the lead cast of the series. These were also amplified on social media. 

A form of organic content extension would be the Memes & trending formats that follow. Netflix’s Instant Matchmaking is a key example of this. Sima Aunty became a phenomenon that brands & users alike wanted to be a part of. While Sima Aunty was more or less an organic trend, meme campaigns to popularize a series of movies have become common. 

Branded Content 

Branded Content is probably the oldest form of content marketing - it existed in the days of Doordarshan, it existed when web-series started popularizing, and it is thriving now as OTT players flourish. From Trippling with Tiago to AIB’s Creep Qawali for dating app, TrulyMadly - Brand Content in all shapes and sizes have been a part of the Indian OTT Advertising ecosystem. 

A recent example is Nykaa’s multi-title deal with Netflix, wherein the brand will be associating with the movies, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl and Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare, and series, Masaba Masaba for their campaign, ‘Beauty in her Story’. 

The campaign started with the release of Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl with Janhvi Kapoor, in a behind the scenes video ‘Ready For Takeoff with Janhvi’, where she shares her journey of getting to know the war veteran and pilot Gunjan Saxena. Nykaa is also slated to launch an Instagram filter छूलें आसमान (Reach For The Sky).

Anchit Nayar, Chief Marketing Officer, Nykaa said, “We are very excited to see our brand ambassador Janhvi Kapoor showcase the grit and determination of Gunjan Saxena. Along with Netflix, we hope to inspire our viewers to follow their dreams and celebrate the beauty in their stories.”

Creating New IPs 

A number of brands resorted to creating new IPs. Dabur Honey in collaboration with Zee5 created a fitness talk show titled, Dabur Honey Hello Fitness. The show was a part of ZEE5’s ad suite, Ampli5. Hosted by actor, Karan Wahi, the show gave the viewers a peek into the fitness routines and healthy habits of celebrities. 


Prashant Aggarwal, Head of Marketing, Health Supplements, Dabur said, “This association with Zee5 is an attempt to get consumers to know the lifestyles and habits of celebrities and how they keep themselves fit and healthy even in trying times like these.”

Also Read: Bulbbul: Increasing the shelf life of OTT films with thematic marketing

OTT Ad Suites 

Most major OTT platforms have their own Ad Suites, providing offerings in various capacities and these have played an integral role in shaping OTT advertising in the past few years. These targetted offerings have seen a surge during the lockdown. A few of the prominent ad suites belong to homegrown OTT apps. Zee5, in 2019, launched Ampli5 and AdVault. While Ampli5 is a brand amplification tool, AdVault helps creating brand awareness through Video, Display, Masthead, Native, Companion available across pricing models such as Cost Per Click, Cost Per Lead and Cost Per Installs. 

On the other hand, Disney + Hotstar’s AdServe offers ad solutions such as Billboard, Native Image, Video Ads, Bumper, Mid-Rolls, Carousel & Leadgen. Each ad format is created for a different objective & leverages various content offerings on the platform - including free, premium, and freemium. 

During the pandemic, in June, Hotstar launched an Influencer Marketing offering - Hotstar Brand Lab. The tool allows brands to access influencers including protagonists of GEC shows and Sporting icons. The idea is to allow fans to connect with both on and off-screen personas of celebrities.

Audio OTT apps too have been active on the advertising front. In February, this year, Gaana rolled out Dynamic Creatives For Audio Ads which allow advertisers to create personalized real time ads based on Age, gender, location, weather, time, music preference, device, and other 3rd party data. 

JioSaavn offers Programmatic Audio Advertising for Mobile Devices since 2017 again targeted on various parameters including gender, age, geography, device, mobile operator, time-of-day. In addition to songs apps, podcast advertising too is pegged to reach new heights in the year, but that is a story for another article. 

Going Forward 

One might recall the conversations around Netflix’s entry in India back in 2016. Experts questioned the platform’s place in the pocket-sensitive Indian market, while also citing the limited and rooted content choices displayed by Indian audiences in the past, as a reason to doubt OTT industry’s growth in the country. But, gone are the days. By 2023, Indian OTT market is slated to hit INR 11,976 crore mark from INR 4,464 crore in 2018. 

With increasing OTT viewers, brands too, were bound to follow. And they did. OTT marketing is now taking a more systemic & mainstream turn with brands and media agencies taking the approach they took for heavier mediums such as television and theaters.The technicalities of OTT marketing will be discussed in articles to come but with the array of options available & OTT advertising taking a more mainline approach, we can confidently say that the medium is on the rise. 

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