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May 05 2011

The Hindu Business Line- The digital takeover


The future is around the corner. How digital is set to swamp the advertising world was brought home sharply at AdTech, the premier global technology and advertising event which made its India debut last week in Gurgaon.

No longer is digital marketing just about online or mobile. This message came through when global marketing experts talked about tech innovations that have allowed them to engage with customers through hoardings and signage, interactive video-within-video in television programmes and even through mediums such as vending machines.

A walk through the event's expo area which showcased an array of ingenious mobile applications, video solutions, analytics tools and touchscreen innovations showed the number of ways in which today's marketer can make their brands emotively connect with consumers.

Take, for instance, Sapient Nitro's solution for the retail industry – a touchscreen stand placed near, say, the garden implements section of a large retail store. A curious customer who clicks on it can learn how to make a herb garden and which implements could come in handy. It could, thus, subtly influence sales of more gardening tools from the shelves.

Or take Bangalore-based start-up LukUp's interactive television ad solution – call it a video within a video – on the DTH platform. As the ad scrolls through your screen – maybe a pizza parlour ad – a viewer can, with the click of a button on the remote, access info on where it is located, how to order and so on. On the Internet Protocol TV, LukUp offers another solution for advertisers – an interactive icon that allows TV viewers to “Like” a progamme and share their Like with their friends through email.

A booth that made you stop and blink at the sheer simplicity of the idea was Clinck India's, a cyber café-based advertising network. Here, one learnt from Priyanka Pathania, Senior Manager (Sales), how marketers could connect with the millions who frequent cyber cafés. Clinck claimed to have installed its default desktop portal on 56,887 live terminals across 13,667 outlets (India has an estimated one lakh cyber cafes). Advertisers can display their ads on Clinck's portal installed in these Internet cafes - reaching out to an estimated 17 million users.

As Babs Rangaiah, Vice-President, Global Communications Planning of Unilever, put it, “Digital is teaching us to re-engage, reframe and re-imagine.” He described the way Unilever's smile-activated vending machine for its Wall's ice-cream brand, created by Sapient Nitro, proved to be really engaging stuff. “We got people smiling,” he said. In this Cannes award-winning Campaign, Unilever drew passersby to its vending machines with an entertaining ‘attractor screen'. Once they reached the machine, they were hooked by the concept of a smile getting them a free ice-cream. Using facial recognition software, the machine measured their smile, clicked their picture, uploaded it to Facebook and dispensed a free ice-cream.

Here are some other takeaways from the action at the two-day event:

Start-ups galore:

At AdTech, one noticeable thing was the number of start-ups participating – among the 1,000-odd participants at the venue, every third or fourth person one met was wearing a name tag that proclaimed him or her to be founder or co-founder of a digital marketing start-up. Scores of young 20- or 30-somethings who had either started a blogging outfit, a social media ad solutions venture, a digital ad network or a mobile advertising apps venture were seen networking with the big agencies and brands also present here. There were entrepreneurs such as Kallol Baruah, director, LukUp Media; Naren Nachiappan, co-founder and MD of Jivox India, a venture- funded online video advertising company;and Vinay Kumar, CEO of StratosHear, a mobile innovations firm.

Commenting on the trend, Sapient Nitro's Country Manager (India), Ramswaroop Gopalan, said: “The old order doesn't change so quickly. There's demand in the market for all these digital solutions and that's how these start-ups spring up.” As he pointed out, right now digital is small so it makes sense for ad agencies to outsource to start-ups which are nimble and can deliver quickly. “But what will happen is that as digital acquires scale, size, the old players will move in the space, either through acquisition or talent hires. That shift will happen,” he says.

The Outsourcing Opportunity


When Elise Steel, chief marketing officer of Yahoo! finished her presentation, a gentleman in the audience rose to ask: Is marketing outsourcing going to be as big a business opportunity for India as IT outsourcing? “My answer is an enthusiastic yes,” she responded.

Web analytics, search engine optimisation, Web designing – the small pieces have already migrated to Indian vendors. But the high-value business - digital creatives – is still not here. “As a trend, I would say we have got less than one per cent of the digital marketing outsourcing at the moment,” said Sapient Nitro's Gopalan. But, as he pointed out, as globally more marketing content goes digital, it could be the next wave for India. “The trick lies in picking up the right business – the easily doable bits – rather than the complex pieces,” he felt.

Social chatter


“Marketers do not need to market their products any more – people will market it for them,” said David Fischer, Vice-President (Advertising and Global Operations), Facebook, at his sell-out session, where it was difficult to find even standing room.

The statistics that Fischer reeled out on the results of campaigns done by Nike, Amex and Pepsi showed that social media is emerging as a very strong marketing platform for companies.

Fischer said the current trend of agencies treating social media as the salt on top – “Okay, we have done TV, print, radio, now let's sprinkle a bit of social strategy on top” – will no longer work.

The presence of standalone agencies such as Bloggers' Mind, which does social media activities for companies, and social media intelligence agencies such as ThoughtBuzz, which track public content on social media networks showed how much business there is in this space. Talking to the participants, the sense one got was that agencies would soon need to set up a social media division within.

A day later, at Nasscom's Social Media Summit 2011, social media got another evangelist in Scott Stratten, President, Un-Marketing, who talked about Twitter's role for marketers to have great conversations with their customers. “Push and pray was the classical marketing model – today it is pull and stay,” said the American who has, as an experiment, got over 76,000 people follow his daily tweets – and actually reply back.

Mobile Mania, tablet talk


Mobile remains the most exciting space in digital space. “No mobile, no marketing,” said Joshua Maa, CEO, Madhouse Inc, China. “No wireless, no marketing,” reiterated Takayuki Hoshuyama, CEO of D2 Communications, Inc, who showed videos of some groundbreaking mobile advertising campaigns the company has done in Japan.

Take, for instance, the ‘pair movie' it created for Sony. This was a mobile music video (singer JuJu's song) that can be seen only when two mobile phones are placed next to each other. Half of the movie is shown on one screen and half on the other screen. How it works is two people visit a mobile site and download one half of the movie (either the left of the right), then must sit together to watch the movie. “The music video was downloaded 200,000 times in just one week,” said Hoshuyama.

Going forward, the betting appeared to be that tablets would change the advertising landscape further. “The iPad is the most transformational product for the ad industry – it's so immersive an experience,” said Elise Steel of Yahoo!.

to change the way agencies function


“The greatest ads we will see will no longer feel like an ad but feel like a great content experience,” said Elise Steel. That's what digital is going to do.

According to Sapient Nitro's Gopalan, the digital onslaught would change the way advertising agencies function. “No longer can the creative person go alone for client meetings – the tech guy has to be taken along,” he said.

For Rabe Iyer, Business Head of Big Street (the outdoor arm of Reliance Broadcast Network ), which now offers digital pods – self-contained multi-screen units – for use in malls, airports, high customer footfall areas, “Digital will go beyond engagement – there will be enrichment,” he says. “As a marketer, I can have access to what people think about my product, their opinions and feedback instantly,” he says.

The evangelists have spoken. Although digital is still a fraction of an ad agency's spends – barely 5 per cent in India and around 10-12 per cent in developed markets – given the fast clip at which it is growing, the onslaught is imminent.


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