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Guest Column: Why 2016 will be remembered as the year when digital media entered the big boys' club: Vivek Bhargava, DAN

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Guest Column: Why 2016 will be remembered as the year when digital media entered the big boys' club: Vivek Bhargava, DAN

Early last year, I recall meeting a promoter of a firm to discuss their digital strategy. He appeared interested but wanted the CEO to take the call, who, in turn, went on to pass on the buck to the CMO as he was perhaps too mired in ‘mainstream’ strategy. Cut to last week, I spent hours with six promoters who sought me to chart a path for their respective companies, a path that could make the most of digital media.

What changed in 2016? If I go by such interactions with a cross-section of Indian entrepreneurs, it is that starting this year, the big boys who ran businesses began viewing digital media as an integral part of their business model, as critical as conventional media if not more. Going digital to them wasn't an alternate universe any longer, it was one in which they wanted to take decisions, not their subordinates.

The ripples of this wave actually began from the turn of this century, when GoogleAdWords turned media spends on its head. Suddenly, there was no clout over prime space as every spender got a fair chance through auctions. Brand communication began hitting the nail on head, by tracking users who had shown intent in searches and targeting them. The X-factor on the digital platforms, however, was measurability. With every player getting to calculate the bangs behind each buck, high-performance became the new normal.

The reach of conventional media in India is a mammoth to catch up with, especially with FM radio’s spectrum expansion and TV’s digitisation. But thanks to the telecom boom and an insatiable appetite among smartphone owners to get online, digital media has not only matched conventional media in many aspects, it has also one-upped it. It offers frequency, detailed targeting and ad units that are multi-faceted – from visuals and links to videos and GIFs. This year was when big brands began debating about Facebook’s reach over primetime TV’s reach.

This said, I’m not just talking to marketers and advertisers here, but businesspersons across sectors, as it’s difficult to think of a life outside the digital world now. The medium has become an effective catalyst for many functions of a company – be it information dissemination, hiring talent and retaining it, undertaking product and market research, tapping into consumer trends et al. Why, there are even brand managers who look at a celebrity’s social presence and influence before getting them on board as endorsers. I won’t say the medium has become the message itself, but it has become a multiplier like none other.

Digital has captured less than 15 per cent of the total advertising pie based on performance spends, now as Digital is becoming a more effective medium for brand spends, I believe digital grow exponentially the next few years. The digital wave only promises to get bigger for markets such as ours, where niche audiences control most of the disposable income of the country, digital allow us to reach niche audiences without any wastages. Those who will get a surfboard will ride the wave while others shall sink sooner or later. Like I say, there will be two kinds of CEOs in the future – those who have gone digital and those who will be unemployed.

(The author is CEO, DAN Performance Group)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of


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