Diwali is a lucrative time for businesses who cash in during the festive period when Hindus stock up everything from food, jewellery and gifts to cars and electrical goods.
But advertising agencies are only just waking up to the spending potential of ethnic minorities in the UK who splash the cash during numerous religious festivals from Eid to Hannukah.
Debarshi Pandit is the director of Omnicom Media Group (OMG) ethnic, a marketing communications company that helps clients tap into the growing diverse communities in the UK with targeted advertising.
He was recruited by Phillipa Brown, the chief executive of the group, who was keen to tap the market and reports to Sam Phillips, managing director of OMG Ethnic.
Pandit has worked on projects with big brands including Sainsbury’s and Rubicon to reach out to different ethnic groups during festive periods as well as throughout the year.
He told Eastern Eye: “We are trying to educate clients and highlight to them the importance of [different celebrations.] ‘Hey, you’ve got Christmas, but that doesn’t need to be a make or break event for you, if you are smart, you can reach out to the balance 14 per cent of the UK population because they have their own version of Christmas.’
“The amount of money that we spend on Diwali probably outdoes what we spend on Christmas anyway.
“We’ve reached a tipping point where London’s population is 45 per cent ethnic, so clients have realised there is something we need to do that makes a difference.
“Clients have realised that marketing has reached a saturation point where everyone is doing everything which is very similar. The only way you can make a difference is through customised content. Everybody wants to have bespoke communication aimed at the intended market.
“The make-up of the UK is changing significantly, dynamics are changing and it’s the early bird that catches the worm.”
The director explained that while some businesses have made strides in recognising the spending potential of minorities, others are slow to create bold advertising campaigns around religious festivals, which is partly due to the lack of diversity in businesses.
“We’ve still got miles to go because of the board representation of ethnic groups at client companies are still at a dismal low, that’s the reason why it’s more of a challenge,” he said.
“There is a lot of education that is involved in the entire process and it doesn’t help if you do not have a robust representation of ethnic groups even on the client’s side or the boards or different companies.
“There are articles that highlight the more diverse your company is, the better are the returns.”
However, the OMG director said often companies were reluctant to produce specific campaigns for “fear of getting it wrong”.
“I know of a particular supermarket that had a random representation of ethnic foods and they were promoting ham during Ramadan, that’s what happens when there’s a lack of understanding,” he said.
This year, Boots stores promoted perfumes during Eid in areas with high Muslim populations. However, the products were not advertised in newspapers or on television.
“In print, people might take offence to it, so clients are scared,” Pandit said.
This Diwali, Sainsbury’s has been advertising in the ethnic press with its campaign centred around a colourful rangoli pattern to promote offers on oil and chickpeas.
“Now at least they are being a bit bolder in terms of taking action,” Pandit said.