FMCGs step up the pace on online marketing

By Tarana Khan , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | June 09, 2008
FMCG brands have moved from creating static websites to interactive and engaging experiences on the Internet

FMCG brands & #BANNER1 & # have always been accused of being slow in adopting the online medium. However, the online presence of FMCG brands is no longer confined to brochure like web pages. Most of these brands are actively engaging their consumers by creating interactive online campaigns using microsites, games and social media sites.

Evolving online
The websites of most FMCG brands now lead consumers to games, Facebook applications and entertaining videos, which is keeping digital agencies quite busy.

Lux Magic of Black Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) is reportedly one of the biggest FMCG companies to spend on Internet marketing. It has a website for most of its popular brands and some of these sites are quite engaging. The best known example, of course, is Sunsilk Gang of Girls, which has become a case study for Indian marketers on how to use the online medium. HUL's latest campaign online was for the Lux Provocateur limited edition soap, for which the company created a fantasy themed site and a Facebook application.

BC Web Wise created the Sunsilk Gang of Girls site for HUL. The agency has created online campaigns for other FMCG companies, too, such as Lifebuoy, Sunfeast, Kelloggs, Horlicks and Pepsi.

Chaya Brian Carvalho, managing director and chief executive officer of BC Web Wise, says, "These companies are definitely moving towards consumer engagement and long term strategies. The focus is on relationship building and looking at the entire spectrum of consumer needs that align with their brand proposition. They have gone so much beyond product push."

Pepsico is another brand which has a dynamic online strategy. The latest campaign by the beverage brand is about a non-existent place called Youngistaan. The Internet is the only medium which could give real shape to the concept. So, BC Web Wise created a virtual Youngistaan for Pepsi, complete with a movie theatre, a pizza joint and a canteen.

7-Up Bheja Fry Another brand of PepsiCo, 7-Up, has an animated site on the soft drink's latest campaign, Bheja Fry. As animated nuisances bother the character on the site, a bottle of 7-Up makes them all disappear, aptly demonstrating the campaign's message. People visiting the site have been invited to upload videos, audios, pictures and SMS messages of their own Bheja Fry situations.

Webchutney is the agency behind the 7-Up site and it is also creating campaigns for brands such as Mirinda, Mountain Dew, Happydent and Orbit. Commenting on the changing attitudes of FMCG companies, Siddharth Rao, co-founder and CEO of Webchutney, says, "The focus on user generated content (UGC) has increased, and in fact, brands insist on creating a platform to encourage their consumers to contribute to the brand story per se. A more aware breed of brands and agencies are willing to experiment with the medium through social media and entertaining and engaging content. Marketing online is shifting towards creating conversations which range from UGC to feedback."

The agency has also developed viral campaigns for these companies, another medium which has caught the fancy of the category. Brands such as Sunsilk, Happydent and Bingo have experimented with virals or animated videos which are usually humorous.

Social experiments
Social media is still a new realm for Indian advertisers, though brands such as Lux, 5 Star and Bournvita are experimenting with the medium through Facebook applications.

Lost in 5Star Some brands have taken the next step in interactivity. Cadbury's site for 5 Star,, has a section where people can create a Missing video of their friends and send it to them as a prank. Something similar has been developed on Perfetti's site for Center Shock, where a fake news bulletin can be created using a friend's name. ITC created a virtual campus on its site for chips brand Bingo, and has plans to evolve it into a Second Life type of world.

Though HUL, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Perfetti Van Melle and ITC are the usual suspects with big budgets, there are other FMCG companies, which were not seen as Net friendly in India, but are now pulling up their socks. So, now we have companies such as Godrej, Marico, CavinKare, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive, which have joined the bandwagon for their brands, which include Cinthol, Saffola, Spinz, Whisper and Colgate Max Fresh.

"We are moving fast - from 'How can you take this TVC forward online' to 'What are the interesting things I can do online in the next three years?'. FMCG clients are increasingly looking at online as an effective marketing tool, and it makes sense as their target audience is all here, especially the youth," says Subhomoy Sengupta, creative director, Interactive Avenues. The independent digital agency has developed an interactive site for Godrej's personal care brand, Cinthol, where people can play games on the freshness theme. The agency also works with John Players, Colgate and Coca-Cola for their online campaigns.

Despite the positivity, many still believe that with their spending power and brand muscle, FMCG brands could still do better in exploiting the online medium. CVS Sharma, senior vice-president and director, Arc Worldwide, says, "There are some who still believe in ending a TV ad with a log on to and participate in 'khelo' and 'jeeto', which serves no purpose. The 3,000 entries that happen do not merit the ad space wasted. Neither are they using their TV spot effectively, nor are they maximising their online presence. Our advice to FMCG marketers is to treat online as no different from the TV medium. No one is going to buy a 50 paise candy by logging on to a website. Maximise campaign visibility using interesting creative hooks at various digital media touch points. If you have a target of 5,000,000 views for a TV ad, similarly, see how many views your banner ad/ microsite can generate."

Arc Worldwide, the integrated marketing arm of Leo Burnett, recently won the account for the Indian version of P&G's community site for its brand Whisper, Besides P&G, the agency also works with Heinz, Tata Salt and Perfetti.

Still a small slice
Again, while the spending by FMCG companies online may appear large in volume, their budgets are still only up to 5 per cent of the total ad spend, according to industry sources. These companies spend about Rs 40-50 lakh on an online campaign (including promotion) and Rs 15-20 lakh on a website or viral. A small slice, considering they spend about 10 times that amount on mass media.

Some major companies don't even have their online strategy in place. Dabur, which has brands such as Dabur Honey, Vatika, Real and Hajmola, only has a basic corporate website. When contacted, a Dabur spokesperson said the company had no immediate plans for their brands on the Internet. Other brands which are still in the fancy website era are Nestle (Maggi, KitKat, Nescafe), Britannia, Emami and Parle Agro.

The reason is probably a lack of faith in online media, according to Krishna Kumar, CEO of interactive agency Media2win. "There is a lack of authenticated data about the online media. Traditional media has enough third party authenticated data and hence, the belief is obviously higher," he says.

Kumar also feels that Internet advertising does not work as well for regional companies, "In India, there are many regional FMCG brands that do exceedingly well in their respective regions. Here, TV plays a dominant role. The Internet does well when you need to cover the entire country, and region level targeting is not yet accurate."

Media2win recently developed a game for Garnier's sunscreen. Aimed at women, the online game is called Miss in the City and players are required to go around a virtual town without getting sunburnt. The agency has also created campaigns for Domino's Pizza and Colgate Max Fresh.

One thing is certain - most FMCG companies have changed their goals in online marketing from branding to consumer engagement. As Sengupta puts it, "The strategy was Test matches, now things are headed in the Twenty20 direction!"