FICCI Frames 2012: The critical game called 'Digital'

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | March 16, 2012
Experts in the digital, media and research arenas discussed the positives of digital media, and how a marketer ought to eye it more seriously.

On Day 2 of FICCI Frames 2012/03, a panel comprising media, research and digital experts was assigned the task of discussing 'Innovations in the advertising industry in the digital world'. What the panel landed up addressing was the viability of digital as a medium for advertising - a much dissected topic since the launch of the medium itself.

Moderated by Rajiv Makhni, managing editor, technology, NDTV, the session included speakers Rajan Anandan, vice-president and MD, Google India; Olivier Fleurot, CEO, MSL Group; Frederic Josue, executive director, Havas Media; Vikram Sakhuja, CEO, South Asia, GroupM; Kapil Agarwal, joint MD, UFO Moviez and Varun Gupta, director, strategy transaction services, KPMG India.

Rajan Anandan

Varun Gupta

Frederic Josue

Olivier Fleurot

Vikram Sakhuja

Kapil Agarwal

Anandan of Google set the pace for the discussion with statistics: with 120 million internet users in India, the country is the third largest internet market in the world. This figure stood at just two million in the year 2000, and then too, driven chiefly by IT companies in South India.

The medium has come a long way since, building itself on scale, and propelled by the utilitarian nature of the web - it started off as a one-way street of content, moved on to email, social media, e-commerce and now has means for co-creation of content.

"The year 2012/03 is the year of the online video, if you ask me," Anandan stated. There are currently 35-40 million users of online video in India today, and YouTube generates around 25 million unique users a month.

"At YouTube, we are in the initial phases of rolling out TrueView, which allows visitors to 'log out' or avoid ads they feel are not relevant to them," he said. This is pretty much how search-based advertising works as well, and Anandan predicted that in the age of consumer empowerment in this manner, one can't afford to dump TV ads online.

What's further encouraging about the evolution of the medium is the prediction that in India, there will be more mobile internet users than desktop internet users. "India is an emerging web-based ad market. With the iOS, Android and Symbian OS on smartphones, the click-through rates on mobile advertising will only grow exponentially," Anandan said. Gupta of KPMG agreed that mobile will lead digital consumption in India.

More trends include the emergence of 'second screens' such as the iPad. While watching a travel show on television (the first screen) for instance, the viewer may want to use a second screen to check out details about the place of travel being shown. Josue stressed on crowd sourcing as an important digital tool, the principles of which are used by gaming platforms such as Zenga.

The digital advertising industry, currently valued at Rs 1,500 crore, is growing at 35-40 per cent year on year.

Next, Fleurot stepped in to say that there is a profound disruption happening in traditional media advertising, brought about by social media tools. "However, despite this, advertisers seem to be organised for the 20th century, and not the 21st!" he joked. "They still operate in silos such as marketing, PR, BTL and ATL, whereas on the online medium, those silos disappear."

The moderator then asked the panel if the high measurability of digital is an impediment for it, in the sense that it may land up being a reach tool as opposed to a brand builder. The panel responded with mixed reactions.

Sakhuja stated that innovation is broader than creativity, and that digital technology is over-estimated for the short term and under-estimated for the long term. "Digital is only 3 per cent of a marketer's spends today. So let's not give cute ideas here, we need to question how the dynamics will change the ad industry as a whole," Sakhuja said. A further advantage of digitisation - be it the UID, set top box or Google Analytics - it reduces dependence on arriving at a few representative samples for data. Furthermore, it is a two-way mechanism for communication in a social environment.

It allows for vastly superior targeting (and hence curbs wastage of spends), and gives a whole new meaning to the words 'marketing content'. "The syntax of content will be totally different, and UGC will change the way marketing content works," Sakhuja said, adding that the role of the 30-second commercial will come down in favour of Apps, and earned content on the back of UGC.

He cited the example of the creation of a virtual supermarket online by TESCO, including elements like virtual bar-coding of products, and payments through counters.

One of Mindshare's clients, GSK, recently cashed in on the 'Kolaveri Di' song popularity and got the singer Dhanush to do an anthem for Sachin Tendulkar for Boost. In four days, it generated 10 million views, but the UGC bit stepped in, too - there were 20 million adaptations of the anthem created by viewers. "The deliveries of this were equal to 20 per cent of a media plan led by GRPs," Sakhuja said.

Fleurot added that mediums such as print are becoming less popular, particularly in the US. Anandan echoed the sentiment, saying that print commanded several hundreds of crores worth of job advertising; now the game has shifted to online. "There's performance-based advertising and there's brand building-based advertising. While the latter is yet to catch up on digital, the former works terrifically here, and the growing job portals and real estate portals are proof that this dynamic is shifting from print to digital," he said.

Venture capitalists have invested Rs 40 million in online real estate portals, and a majority of these portals are in the NCR.

Anandan stated that perhaps the only area where print scores over digital in terms of ad revenues, is regional content. "Print has a single digit growth - 6-7 per cent - and quite a chunk comes in from regional publications; 2012/03 onwards, we shall see regional web take off as well," he predicted.

Agarwal of UFO Moviez gave his perspective on how cinema advertising was dying a natural death in India. About 10,000 screens in more than 200 cities and towns, and it was becoming virtually impossible to reach each one and innovate in terms of going beyond the local ads run in halls, or the 30-seconder run twice as a filler.

"We digitised the theatres, and through a central server, we can monitor all cinemas using online means," he said, stressing on the importance of digitisation.

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