New Delhi: The media and advertising market worldwide has seen upheavals due to the onslaught of new media or digital media. With Dotcoms opening up their inventory for advertising sales, online advertising has emerged as the new buzzword amongst marketing fraternity.

Atul Soni, associate strategy manager, Starcom Mediavest

Indian market is no exception to this newly found marketing avenue post the internet bubble bust of the early 90’s, when people had a great idea (in few cases) but did not know how to monetize this newly created virtual baby.

Ever since its inception in the late 90’s, online advertising in India has seen a tremendous YoY up scaling of around 70%, showing a purely organic growth trend.

Marketers are making a beeline to be on the online space to have certain ‘make good’ numbers to show during their quarterly reviews.

Agencies fast expanding their roles

Agencies have had no lesser role in this hype with certain specialized start-ups laying their foundation brick-stones to capitalize on this newly found fad which every marketing manager is currently jostling with.

The mid and late 90’s saw few online advertising hot-shops offering tailor made services like search marketing, online media planning and buying and interactive creative development, to only name a few.

Potential of online ad space

Soon, they discovered their core competencies and developed them. With growing confidence in the medium with increase in marketing spends and better deliveries in terms of numbers of ‘clicks’ achieved, they took on the role of consulting with advise ranging from online media strategy to affiliate marketing, viral marketing and reputation management in the online space.

Everyone seemed to have an opinion on what to do and what not to do in this internet space. Mainstream players were not far behind as they soon leapt on to the bandwagon. Players like Ogilvy, Group M etc. set up specialized units offering integrated services to existing clients, who were now asking questions like “What can we do online?"

These units answered these queries and made sure that the allocated 1-2% online budgets were not lost. These agencies were quick to make a pitch for the online needs of their clients. They also began to seamlessly integrate digital media as part of their annual strategy presentations.

However, what they lacked was a complete turn-key solution in terms of creative development, response tracking mechanisms and a technology platform that could address digital innovation needs. They still had to look for specialized vendors and strategic partners to address these loopholes and deliver a complete solution to the client.

Understanding different interactive media dynamics

Sometimes the creative development was outsourced to the mainstream creative agencies which had little understanding of interactive media dynamics. Many online banners were no different from print ads posted on a different media vehicle. This is where ‘specialized online agencies’ scored over ‘specialized online units’. They promised the client a complete integrated solution under one roof along with greater accountability.

An in-house team offered greater campaign deliveries and optimization. Terms like CPMs, CPCs and CPLs achieved far greater attention due to the hard selling by each agency to prove its worth. If a client did not have much money or had enough of it, the agency had a response metric ready for each. Tall claims were made about how accountable the online advertising model was and how it offered better ROI (return on investment) and ROMI (return on marketing investment) as compared to mainstream and other media.

Undoutedly, the internet covers a wider audience within a particular age group and is a boon for captivating office goers. It offers better targeting (geographic, demographic, behavioural, IP etc.) especially for niche based products and services.

Internet in India, still to optimize efficiencies

But, internet in India still has a long way to go in terms of attaining a critical mass of quality and response oriented audience rather than just youngsters consuming content in bulk but not contributing much in terms of ‘call to action’.

Indian internet, as of now, lags a proper metrics tool which measures the bulk of business coming onto the medium; creating a pool of marketing spends on a quarterly basis, the response of a particular campaign on various portals consolidated at one place for future references and the accurate measurement of traffic on each portal on a unique and monthly basis.

Research tools limited in scope and utility

Available tools like Alexa and Google Analytics help but only up to a certain degree. There are a few independent research agencies which are doing the job but on a smaller basis and not all agencies are still registering for their paid reports.

Research is lagging behind global standards and is not being used smartly enough for marketing.

A third party tracking tool (like TAM in television planning) is missing from the scene. Media owners too currently see a perfect match for almost every TG on their portal and try to sell it under different premises based on often inflated and slightly skewed traffic figures.

The often quoted tool in terms of analytics is their own MIS system which often gives a myopic analysis. Even while suggesting proposals, more effort is concentrated on consuming maximum inventory rather than suggesting innovations and scheduling strategies.

Creating a brand perspective

Brand perspective takes a backseat under pressures of selling the medium first. The Medium is the king rather than the Brand. And as the medium expands, agencies and clients alike are under more pressure than before to deliver responses. CPC (Cost per click) has given way to CPL (Cost per lead) which in turn has given way to CPQL (Cost per qualified lead). In all this, the display and awareness factor of an internet banner ad is often discounted and ignored.

A banner ad on a Yahoo! India homepage displayed on a 100% share of voice offers a brand visibility and recall to approx. 1 million unique users logging on to that site on a particular day! This very fact has to be reinforced and sold to marketers in order to leverage the medium to advantage and for them to have faith in it.

What agencies sell is what will be in demand. The day is not far when the same response models start cannibalizing the way the medium is sold and the medium too even before it grows. A healthy online media plan will need to have an appropriate mix of these metrics based on the campaign requirements along with a proper rationale and insight perspective.

Only then, shall online advertising be able to compare and compete with other media channels while putting forward its’ effectiveness.

Views presented above are the author’s own and bear no direct or indirect reference to any particular media body.