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Amit Wadhwa, CEO, Dentsu Creative group, India, who moved into the role in June 2021, oversees all the creative agencies under its umbrella—Taproot, Dentsu Impact, Dentsu MB, digital agencies Webchutney, Isobar, WATConsult and even public relations agency Perfect Relations. So, when he talks on the future of advertising in 2022, it is worth taking note.

That digital media will further build on the strides it took in the past two years of covid is a no-brainer, he said. But he doesn’t agree with those who squeeze all digital into one slot.

Digital is vast and varied—from over-the-top (OTT) streaming services to social media to e-commerce. The usage and kind of people on these platforms is very different.

Social media in tier-2 and 3 towns are seeing a significant pick-up. There’s growth in OTT, but commerce is the big deal, he said. While convenience will drive huge growth for commerce, it won’t be just regular commerce. “It’s expanding into social commerce or live-streaming commerce. So, whatever you are watching and you want to buy it, you can buy it. That’s where the whole push will be," he added.

Sam Thomas, senior vice-president, OMD India, concurred. He predicted tremendous increase in video consumption—whether it’s OTT, YouTube or gaming. With everybody shopping online during the pandemic, e-commerce and e-wallets obviously grew, he said.

But it’s the innovations in video marketing he’s betting on—both through short-video apps, such as Roposo, Moj or Chingari, and social commerce apps like Trell. “They allow for a click on products for purchase. Probably, you may end up doing the fulfilment with the video being played on the side," Thomas said, adding that this trend will become a larger opportunity for brands on a host of apps.

And digital agencies are riding on this rising opportunity. “The conventional agency mindset was to play a role only in the topmost funnel earlier, where one is purely concentrating on creating awareness and that’s where it ends. But the new-age agency needs to play a role across the funnel where once we have created awareness, we need to build consideration followed by closing the loop and converting the prospects to consuming the brand," said Wadhwa. Clearly, commerce is a strong part of the digital agency set-up for Dentsu. It involves everything—content, technology and operations, he said.

To be sure, a new study by consulting firm Accenture said that while China will remain the largest social commerce market for the next three years, India and Brazil will see the highest growth rates.

Another big forecast for 2022 by Thomas is on the “influx" of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in advertising. Wadhwa, too, agreed that any digitally active brand needs to be active on the AR-VR front. “But it has to be more integral and relevant to a brand, rather than just being cool," he added.

Of course, television will be resilient despite digital growth. When there’s a need to build mass awareness, nothing works as strong as TV, Wadhwa said. Thomas foresees more content play between TV and streaming to draw viewers and advertisers. In 2021, Viacom18’s marquee show Bigg Boss launched on Voot first and then went on to TV. “I would think brands that could not afford Bigg Boss on TV got an opportunity to latch on to the property on digital. This will be a trend for other shows," he said.

Also, expect big bucks to be spent on advertising by a plethora of startups—especially, the unicorns that India has created. In 2021 alone, at least 44 unicorns were born. Industry estimates suggest that India may be home to nearly 70 startup unicorns. They are splurging on advertising and marketing armed with annual budgets of 100-200 crore to acquire customers and gain market share, Thomas said.

Finally, the stories that brands tell may change slightly given the increasing backlash against ads. “We need to be sensible. Whether it’s brands, people, movies or series, everyone is slightly watchful of what they put out. Yet, you cannot be overcautious, and completely remove the edges as it will become too boring or unrelatable," said Wadhwa.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pre-ssing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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