As the web goes through a process of evolution, the forces that helped frame Web 2.0 are now facing change. In Delhi to attend Digital 3.0, a digital roundtable conference to discuss the future of advertising in the digital platform, Bill Hunt, author of Search Engine Marketing Inc and CEO of Back Azimuth Consulting, and formerly CEO of Global Strategies for Oglivy, took some time out to talk to exchange4media about the lessons that Indian advertisers and agencies should take from the examples they see in countries where the web is already more entrenched, like the US and the UK.
He said, “One thing that really excites me whenever I visit India or China is the opportunities available here. The companies here are very creative in their approach to marketing and have been willing to experiment with things.”
“At the same time, the old ways of looking at online marketing are not so entrenched here, so now that people are really getting serious about the web, they can adopt new strategies and leverage things like social media properly, without wasting any time,” he added.
The key to growth, he felt, lay in properly understanding the customers and added that one of the impediments to a well implemented online strategy so far had been a lack of integrated effort. According to Hunt, “There are about five paths that we are following to run from point A to point B in our strategy, and they are all running parallel to one another, which is not good from an advertiser’s point of view.”
In Hunt’s vision, different approaches to online marketing have to tie in to each other completely – focussing on just search, or just social or just curated content is obviously a flawed strategy, but according to Hunt, even if one had all these elements in place, unless they worked in sync to complement each other, one was losing out.
He said, “Companies have started giving people links to their Facebook pages instead of the company URL, and if you run a search for the press release of any big company, the first result will not be the company website. The whole of the first page will be links to blogs and other content sites that regularly write about that area. By understanding these things, an advertiser could be much more effective.”
More effective by being able to track, for example, that you searched for a particular car earlier in the day. So that when you’re at your favourite ‘autoblog’ later in the day, you could be reading any story and an interactive video ad for the car you had searched would be playing on the side.
This kind of contextual advertising goes a step beyond what is common now, where the data is directly related to what you’re reading. Hunt added, “As excellent use of contextual ads is by Oracle. They bought space related to their competition – when you went to a site where the text was talking about the competition in a negative fashion, complaints about servers, for example, then right next to that there would be an ad for Oracle, a solution waiting for someone who was angry with the competition.” On the other hand, the next step might feel too intrusive right now, but it does offer the users a certain convenience, and as has long been observed, users are more than willing to handover their data security in exchange for a little convenience, so it’s clearly just a matter of time...”
Hunt felt that while we were in the process of change now, it would take a few years for this to be fully embraced, and said that he saw it as an ongoing process, which would take more than an year or two. He, however, added, “As digital continues to explore intersections and better understand the audience, they are going to get better at proving the value digital has to offer, and as it becomes more mainstream, the ad spends and rates will also rise, but yes, this is a long process, and one that will take some time.”
Asked if there was any advice he wanted to give to Indian advertisers and agencies, Hunt said, “The three key things to keep in mind are to first, know the customer. Understand a day in the activities of your target group. Own as much shelf space as possible by combining the various approaches to digital advertising. Second, find ways to bring keyword data and search data together, explore the overlaps to streamline communication. Third, collaborate between the different approaches to effectively deliver a message, for example, like Oracle did.”