Indian advertising has a long way to go on the digital highway

Indian advertising has a long way to go on the digital highway
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First Published: Tue, Dec 29 2009. 12 30 AM IST

Tiny share: Students browsing the Web. Advertising on the Internet currently accounts for only 3% of the country’s total ad spending. Rajkumar / Mint
Tiny share: Students browsing the Web. Advertising on the Internet currently accounts for only 3% of the country’s total ad spending. Rajkumar / Mint
Updated: Tue, Dec 29 2009. 12 30 AM IST
Mumbai: Despite forecasts that growth in Internet advertising would outpace other media such as television and print in the year starting 1 April, marketeers are still cautious in allocating it a bigger share in the pie of ad spending.
Tiny share: Students browsing the Web. Advertising on the Internet currently accounts for only 3% of the country’s total ad spending. Rajkumar / Mint
Online advertising in India will grow at 16% in the year to March 2011, ZenithOptimedia has predicted in a recent report. Digital advertising currently accounts for a mere 3% of the country’s ad spending.
“TV is a visually literate medium,” says Ajay Kakkar, chief marketing officer, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Co. Ltd. “I can reach out to mass India and I can focus wherever I want.” But when it comes to the Internet, Kakkar evaluates potential based on the volume of the target audience he can reach out to.
“If the medium delivers, people will find a way (to increase spending),” says Sashi Sinha, chief executive officer of Lodestar Universal, a marketing consultancy. “Today, the way advertising decision-making has been fragmented is a concern. It will always be that the heavier media, print or television, will get the bigger weights. The medium has to speak for itself. Television came 20 years back, (but) it spoke for itself.”
Sinha also believes the dependence on print and television will be reduced only if an advertiser is convinced about the effectiveness of new media.
Also, the job of promoting the medium rests largely with the advertising agencies. Kakkar says there is a strong need to sell the concept.
“The agency world has to realize they have a role to play to pitch their great product, have it understood, have it appreciated and thereafter there will be smooth sailing,” he says. “But till then the buyer may not choose to make the first move.”
It is crucial for agencies to take an integrated approach to a brand’s needs and not segregate traditional media from digital, according to Karl Gomes, who has set up the digital function for many agencies including Leo Burnett and Rediffusion Y&R.
“When we get a brief, we are not thinking of random solutions. The specialist who can do that solution well should do it and should be driven by somebody who can think across media,” Gomes says. “I think brands can move from just a positioning to a purpose if they use all mediums of interaction.”
For this to happen, an integrated brief is necessary. Today, digital advertising is almost always an afterthought. Agencies are often given a brief for a print campaign, which they need to convert into a digital campaign at the last minute.
There are, however, some companies that are recognizing the need to include digital in the media mix from day one.
Ankush Arora, marketing head at General Motors India, holds that a large number of people shopping for information online led to the fact that the launch of the Chevrolet SRV in 2006 included a digital campaign from the start.
“It took us about six weeks to get the agency to understand what we wanted to do with the car in the digital space,” Arora says.
“Because when you talk of creative, even when you put down a brief, the first thing that comes to your mind is a TV creative or a print creative, and the same thing is plastered as a banner onto the digital space. We said no, lets change that,” Arora adds.
The result, he says, was an interactive website, which suggested weekend spots for the prospective customer.
General Motors will spend up to 10% of its marketing budget on the digital space by end of 2010, up from 6% this year. The company says the digital plan for the launch of the Beat hatchback car reiterates the point.
Says Karthik Iyer, managing director, Carat Media, “Digital would have come of age when the advertiser doesn’t have to brief the agency about digital. He just briefs the agency for the brand. Today, no one briefs the agency separately for a TV spot or a print ad.”
“I believe 2009-2010 is a huge cusp. That’s the attitudinal shift that’s taking place, and...digital will grow beyond 3%, actually,” says Srikanth Sastri, who heads Digitas in India. Digitas provides technology and marketing services.
The success of some online ads would provide an impetus for others, according to Manish Vij, co-founder and chief business officer at Quasar Media Pvt. Ltd, an online interactive agency. “Brands would like to emulate other brands when successes do happen.”
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First Published: Tue, Dec 29 2009. 12 30 AM IST