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Experts discuss future of digital advertising in India @DAN exchange4media Digital Report launch

02-March-2017
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Experts discuss future of digital advertising in India @DAN exchange4media Digital Report launch

The launch of the first Dentsu Aegis Network exchange4media Digital Report took place earlier this week in Mumbai. The report looks at the growth of digital advertising, the factors responsible for the growth, and the future of the digital medium and digital advertising.

On the occasion of the launch, a panel discussion was held on the topic “Digital is Now and Here to Stay”. The session was moderated by Sunny Nagpal, MD of Httpool India and was joined by Aditya Save, Sr. VP & CMO of People Interactive, Pankaj Parihar, Associate VP & Head Digital Marketing, Transformation, Ecommerce and Programmatic at Godrej Consumer Products, Godrej Group, Shamsuddin Jasani, MD of, Isobar India, Vivek Bhargava, CEO of DAN Performance Group and Sankalp Mehrotra, Sales Head - Commerce, Media & Monetization, Flipkart.

“Digital gives you both the width of inventory as well as the depth of data that helps you make sense of your spending,” said Jasani.

Parihar said that as an advertiser he only has one priority, which is to connect and engage with his consumers. “As an advertiser, I will go where my audience is rather than me choosing which platform I want to advertise on,” he said.

One of the questions Nagpal asked the panel was how important regional content would become, especially with Indian consumers going mobile first or mobile only. Bhargava agreed that traditional content would be very important going forward. “We have done tests on regional language content in the best but unfortunately it did not work out but I think it is a mistake to be under the assumption that what did not work in the past will also not work in the future,” he said, pointing out that in the past consumers were moving from desktop to mobile but in the future we will see mobile-only consumers and that is where regional language content will see explosive growth.

Save also agreed that regional language content would help target the next set of customers. “But we also have to realize that there is a counter trend where a lot of these small town customers are also adopting English as their first language,” he said.

Parihar further stated that access to better data service would be one of the key factors that would drive digital content consumption and hence digital advertising.  Nagpal further queried why search is expected to lose market share in India. According to the DAN-exchange4media report, spends on search advertising, which currently stand at 27 per cent of the digital pie, are expected to be just 19 per cent in 2020.


Bhargava explained that in absolute volume terms even though search would continue to show healthy growth, other formats like video, display and social media would see much more aggressive growth.

“The first thing is that the transition from desktop to mobile has reduced search inventory available to advertisers. The second thing is because of the new wave of search that has come in like chatbots; searches have become much more specific. So the growth that search saw in the past decade will slow down while other formats grow faster,” he said.

The conversation then turned to programmatic advertising with Nagpal asking the panel why programmatic is still struggling to establish a foothold in India. According to Save, the one thing any marketer wants is efficiency so sooner or later they will have to adopt programmatic advertising. However, he suggested that perhaps the term ‘programmatic’ turns off some marketers, while the other half who embrace it are seen to be geeks. “It is just a tool that helps you plan and execute your digital campaigns better so you can spend your time on finding ways to spend your money more efficiently,” he said.


Jasani stated that the strength of programmatic has still to be realized in India. According to him, it comes down to setting better KPIs, something that is not being done when it comes to programmatic. “It is all about business and brand KPIs. If something is meeting KPIs then why would a brand have a problem with it?” he asked.

Parihar also pointed out that one of the major challenges that marketers have is the baggage that programmatic comes with, referring to cases early on in the evolution of programmatic advertising.  The panellists also agreed that programmatic advertising also gets impacted because of the gross mismatch between supply and demand of inventory seen in the country.

“Programmatic is a challenge because it is not pitched right to marketers. There are probably not enough practitioners in agencies to work with clients. Another problem could be because there are pockets of supply, some of which might be really good for marketing activities but these get bundled along with the rest. So I think it maybe depends on both the publisher’s part; to provide the right data sets to agencies and marketers, and the agencies should use these data sets to then decide where to spend the money,” said Mehrotra.

Jasani further added that there is a misunderstanding about what programmatic stands for. The fact that people still think that programmatic is about inventory available or remnant inventory or the impressions that are available is the biggest myth that needs to be broken. “It is about getting the right audience; it is about reaching the relevant people,” he said.

Nagpal also asked the panellists whether fears that programmatic advertising would make certain jobs in agencies obsolete are true. Jasani replied to this by saying that planners would need to upgrade their skills and that the future would belong to “hybrid” planners who understand the client requirements.

On being asked whether brands are now looking to create digital only content rather than adapting content from other mediums to digital, Parihar said that this has already started even though 80-90 per cent of content is still being adapted. He further said that a lot of brands have started investing in creating original content. He also added that ad tech has a huge role to play in helping this content reach the right audiences, even though this might not be in the form of immediate results, ad tech would help provide value insights.

Bhargava also pointed out that most brands just see content from an engagement point of view but miss out on all the other benefits that content can provide. He advised the audience that marketers should start viewing digital content as something that can pay for itself through earned media.

Save stated that he sees an inflection point for digital marketing in 2017-2018. He said that digital advertising post this would see incredible growth, however, he cautioned that it was important to bring the conversation to how can technology help brands achieve their business objectives.

“The generation that was born after 1995, for them, digital is a way of life. We, as marketers and agencies, try to figure out how to reach out to them on digital platform but they live that life. The future belongs to them. One thing that will happen is that language barriers will break down, especially with voice and video due to coming of 4G. The next wave of growth is going to come from rural areas who are going to come on the mobile and we will need to create content that caters to them,” said Mehrotra.

Speaking about the need for a common measurement currency, Bhargava opined that because of the lack of know-how in marketing community about digital, people think there is a need to “dumb down” digital medium so that the marketers can better understand it.  He spoke about some of the inherent problems faced by traditional mediums like TV and print when it comes to measurement, basically data is extrapolated to predict consumer behaviour. According to him, such extrapolation causes the data to lose relevance. “Every single currency that digital medium uses is actual currency and real data. It is not extrapolation,” he said.

However, Parihar raised the point that some marketers are still wary about investing large amounts in digital because they doubt whether they will be able to see any direct impact on sales figures. To this, Bhargava countered that marketers need to invest proportionate amounts on digital medium and they would see better results than traditional platforms.

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