afaqs!

Big Bang: Can the digital medium deliver?

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | December 16, 2008
In a seminar organized by The Advertising Club Bombay, experts from the digital arena discussed the future of the medium and clients' perception of digital media

TV & #BANNER1 & # scripts and press ads are great, but a large number of clients in India still haven't warmed up to the digital medium as much as digital agencies would like them to. Many still have a "Let's throw in some banners as well" mindset towards the medium.

Why is digital media given such stepsisterly treatment in the media plan? What will it take for agencies and advertisers to fully comprehend the prowess of the medium, and its ability to target consumers in a relevant way? Answering such questions was a panel of experts in the digital arena, at the seminar, 'Big Bang: Witness Great Minds Collide', organised by the EMDI Institute of Media and Communication and the Advertising Club Bombay.

Vishal Jhunjhunwala, AGM, branding, Tata Consultancy Services, began the discussion, admitting that at TCS, digital as a medium was adopted rather late. "Last year, our ratio of traditional media versus digital was disproportional, with an unbelievable figure tipping towards the former. This year it is almost 50:50," he said. "This is because we have come to realise that opportunities are endless in this medium, particularly for a B2B outfit like ours."

Vivek Bhargava, CEO of search marketing company, Communicate2, spoke of digitally evolved phenomena like the 'Muchhad Paanwala website' or travel and ticketing opportunities on the Web, which were unthinkable a few years ago. "Internet advertising is doubling every year in India…it has taken its own sweet time, but is getting there rapidly," he said.

Moderator Neville Taraporewala, CEO, Publicitas Digital, supported that with statistics. In the last five years, the Internet has grown by 90 per cent year on year, and is expected to touch Rs 1,000 crore by 2010.

On what digital media can mean to a consumer, Anita Varma, digital creative director, Digital Driftwood, gave the digital advertising creator's point of view. "This is a two-way street… an ever-changing medium that allows for engaging and interacting with consumers like no other medium," she said. "It is challenging to produce separate creatives for it." She also stated that some clients have, in the past, approached Digital Driftwood and flooded the firm with print ads, asking them to "put in applications like Flash and animate the text, and then put it up as a banner."

On the flip side, Varma opined that things are looking up. "We also have mature clients who understand what this medium can do for them creatively, and are willing to go beyond banners and e-mailers," she said.

Madan Sanglikar, partner, invention, Mindshare, spoke about the power of the medium. "While you lean back to read a newspaper, you lean forward while playing an animated game," he began. "That is the nature of the digital medium itself: it is a pulsating, forward looking one." However, he cited bandwidth and political width as the only two problems faced by the Web in India.

Debadatta Upadhayaya, national sales manager, Yahoo! India, gave the 'immigrants' versus 'natives' spin to the debate. "The challenge lies in the fact that the decision making on media plan executions is still primarily in the hands of 'digital immigrants'. A major shift will happen when the 20+ somethings who are the 'digital natives' start moving into those roles." Having said that, she added that the so-called digital immigrants are definitely making efforts in this space by spending time on blogs and social networking sites, and are trying to understand consumer behaviour and trends on the Web, in order to implement plans that are in sync with the times. "It's a slow process that's gaining momentum by the day," she said.

"It's easy to sell outdoor to a client, as you often buy hoardings outside his office or on his route to office, where he can see them," quipped Sanglikar of Mindshare, agreeing with Upadhayaya. "It certainly helps to convince clients about digital, when they are on Facebook or write a blog."

Upadhayaya said that digital agencies had failed to go beyond clicks and impressions while educating advertisers on the importance of the medium.

Next, Taraporewala quizzed Bhargava about the effectiveness of search marketing. "Is it a guzzler?" asked a candid Taraporewala. Bhargava was quick to retort, "I thought TV and print burned the client's money faster than any other medium…those are the guzzlers, not digital!"

Through search marketing, he added, one could target products towards specific consumers, who have an interest in them or possess an intention to purchase. "Google is the closest man has come to a mind-reading machine," he mused. "And you're reaching six billion minds every month that way." Besides, an advertiser doesn't have to pay a thing if his ad isn't clicked upon, Bhargava added.

Before the debate on search marketing could snowball, however, the floor was opened to questions.

A member of the audience asked the panel why there was no uniform, systematic measurement system for Digital, on the lines of TAM for TV and RAM for radio.

Bhargava replied, "The Internet is the only medium where you can measure everything, from clicks to impressions, to you-name-it. In fact, I think the problem is, the Internet is over-measurable… It is time now to concentrate on branding on the Internet, as opposed to the numbers game."