MUMBAI: Advertising continues to be allocated the largest share of annual marketing budgets in India, but a growing number of Indian CMOs are shifting spend to PR and integrated communication, according to a new survey.

MSL Group, the strategic communications consultancy owned by Publicis Groupe, the agency holding company, conducted a nationwide poll of CMOs who work in eight sectors, ranging from consumer goods to healthcare.

Nearly half (45%) said their overall marketing budget was allocated to advertising, followed by PR and digital (15% each), market research (10%), experiential and activation (also 10%) and events (5%).

But 80% said their budget allocation for PR had grown over the past five years and, on average, their PR budgets had increased by 23%.

Over half (51%) said they plan to allocate a higher budget for PR in 2015 and a full 78% said their PR budget had grown over the past five years because they want more integrated communication.

So strong is this trend, the report said, that two-thirds (67%) said they have adopted the integrated model to achieve higher engagement with audiences (47%) and greater visibility (43%).

When asked what would be the main business advantage if their agency offered integrated communication, 37% of respondents expected increased productivity with other advantages being better management of teams (25%) and cost savings (22%).

"PR is increasingly becoming a key factor in corporate success," said Prasun Aacharrya, head of marketing at Liberty Videocon, the insurance group.

"The essential difference it brings to the table is its capability to disseminate complex messages and information, initiate discussions and win endorsements from influential third parties," he added.

However, while the report indicated that PR and the integrated model is growing in importance for Indian marketers, advertising remained their top choice.

A high proportion (48%) of survey respondents ranked advertising as their first choice for marketing communication, with PR ranked third at 21%. Digital was favoured by a quarter (25%).

And when it came to return on investment (RoI), clients still felt that advertising worked better. Nearly two-thirds (65%) said advertising delivered greater RoI, while just 29% said the same of PR.

Data sourced from MSL Group; additional content by Warc staff