Everyone is singing the praises of digital media in these troubled times. While it is a micro-targeted, engaging and cost-effective medium without any parallel, the findings of a recent survey are thought-provoking. Internet ads in Asia are seen as informative but are often relatively weak in prompting consumers to make a buying decision, says a survey of Asian consumers and enterprises by IDC Asia Pacific Emerging Technologies Research.
More than 60% of respondents said they perceived Internet ads as informative—considerably higher than the figures for TV and print ads. On the flip side, consumers found TV ads more enjoyable and more likely to make them want to buy the product being advertised.
My take: The online creative and brand building bar has to be raised in Asia. Many ad and media agencies, for all their acquisitions in the space, are still producing lacklustre, unengaging online ads and brand experiences. Many media specialists still have just a handful of digital “specialists” in their fold, and are pushing what they understand best—television over digital. Hardly surprising, since work on TV still pays much better than a small commission on very modestly priced digital ads. Mahesh Murthy, CEO, Pinstorm, says the problem is that in India and China, the best creative talent is still doing TV commercials and not digital—though this migration will happen as the medium gains numbers.
Global branding expert John Philip Jones says advertisers are realizing that the Internet is effective as an advertising medium only for high-involvement goods and services. “These, of course, include many of the discretionary goods and services bought by the rich. The Internet is a search medium for these. I believe, therefore, that the Internet will do well, but not for low-involvement consumer goods. Banner advertisements for these types of products are now considered to be virtually useless.”
Low-involvement goods are those where the process of buying does not involve much rational decision making. The price of the goods is normally low: Most low-involvement product categories are fast moving consumer goods, he says. Low-involvement media such as TV and radio are considered to work effectively for low-involvement products by reminding or nudging consumers to make a purchase. For high-involvement categories, the audience seeks media advertising which provides the information needed to lubricate a rational decision-making process, Jones adds.
Murthy, however, believes the Net can build brands and emotional values for both high- and low-involvement slots, citing how one-third of Google’s ad revenues come from outside search. While it may take three to five years before the Net becomes a primary medium for low-involvement products, he says the process has already started.
He has a few suggestions for speeding this up:
First, get the numbers in place. That’s already happening. This year, India saw a distinct shift, with urban youth in the age group of 16-30, and belonging to socio-economic classes (SEC) A and B+ (the two highest socio-economic classes among urban Indian households) driving online audiences for many major brands. Around 20.3 million of this demographic now spends more than 45 minutes daily online in India, making the medium very sticky.
Second, evangelize the numbers and change client mindsets.
Finally, change the metrics. Most agencies still operate on CPM or cost per thousand impressions. Pinstorm, which buys around Rs110 crore of digital media across South Asia, talks about CPI or cost per impact and basically rewards a site which delivers stickiness. It negotiates online ad rates based on ad size, unique viewership, and clutter of the page where the ad is placed—for example, some home pages are deluged with ads. In turn, it charges on performance, based not just on sales but also branding parameters.
Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org