'Internet Nirvana! AHAA!' – the Internet and Online Association's (IOA) conclave was held at the Hilton Towers in Mumbai on October 1. Rediff.com founder, CEO and Chairman Ajit Balakrishnan in his keynote address, presented, “India is on the cusp of a dramatic online user base growth as there has been a 40 to 50 per cent rise in Internet user base in the last one year.” Citing BSNL’s example, he said, “BSNL has been responsible for the growth of Internet broadband in the last couple of months as in the last three weeks or so, the cost of broadband has decreased to Rs 250 from the earlier Rs 850. This in turn has formed a virtuous cycle as more people are now spending more time online, which in turn makes online access cheaper.”
The panel of speakers comprised names like Santosh Desai, President, McCann Erickson, Ramesh Kannan, Product Director, Double Click International, Murly Tiwari, Director, Real Media UK Technology Solutions, GroupM’s Chairman for South Asia Andre Nair and Intel Technology’s Marketing Director for South Asia Jayant Murty.
Kannan in his presentation on ‘Actionable e-Marketing – Knock…Knock, Who's there?’, said: “The constant worry marketers have is that they feel half of their marketing money is wasted but they can't figure out which half. The basic understanding of the impact of online advertising is a must for any marketer since consumer habits have changed radically in the last 10 years or so. Internet advertising, which is a five-year-old phenomenon, has taken over radio advertising which is almost 50 years old and very soon will also overtake the $ 50-billion television advertising market.”
As he advised, advertisers need to focus on light users rather than heavy users of Internet since minority of users account for almost three-fourth of the total page views. Also, on a single site, the reach builds much more quickly among heavy users than for light and medium users. “The Internet, as a medium allows us to measure performance (ROI) effectively and hence the advantage of Internet advertising is that it allows one to connect and interact with their target audience and also transact with them and this medium is a sure-shot way of optimally measuring the ROI.”
Speaking on advertising on the Internet medium versus the television media in the session titled, 'Mouse Potato or Couch Potato', Desai said, “The increasing number of hours that we Indians are spending online is rewriting the rules of consumer engagement. It is taking communications away from purely being a function of information to a higher ground of brand experience. We tend to overestimate the short-term impact of technology and underestimate the long-term impact of the traditional media and at some level, advertising and Internet are opposites.”
Desai added, "While television tends to breed 'couch potatoes', there is no scope of any such terminology as far as the Internet is concerned. While a person is on the Net, he is surfing and not slouching, as active engagement on the net does not allow such things to happen to you."
On the other hand, Tiwari addressed the technicalities of the Internet medium in his session on whether ad serving was equivalent to web analytics. He said, “Internet has a market share of 2.2 per cent compared to other traditional means of advertising. To raise the baton from 2.2 per cent to 10+, what we need to do is to adopt new ad formats like ad interaction time, ad display time, ad display ratio and interactive impressions. It can also be done by introducing new sales models and by using traditional media terms to sell online ads. Internet advertising agrees and delivers to specific market objectives through the audience (unique users), branding, direct marketing, conversion (click per rate) and revenue (tracking).”
However, the conclave was embraced with two attention-grabbing panel discussions. The first was titled as 'Have your cake and eat it too? Branding versus Direct Response.' Panellists for the session were ICICI Bank Head for NRI Business P Gopakumar, Starcom India MD - West and South Ravi Kiran, Apna Loan CEO Harsh Roongta, Mediaturf Worldwide National Creative Director Raja Ray, Lodestar President Shashi Sinha and Murly Tiwari. The discussion was moderated by Neeraj Roy, MD and CEO, Hungama.com.
The other panel discussion attempted to address the worry of marketers while they put their monies on the medium of Internet for advertising. The panellists were Amitabh Pandey, General Manager – IT Services, IRCTC Group, Bazee.com MD Avnish Bajaj, Citibank Vice President and Head (Internet, mobile and e-commerce) Sriram Jagannathan, Sudhir Nair of Grey Interactive, Ashwini Kakkar, MD and CEO, Thomas Cook India Ramesh Kannan. This time the moderator was none other than IOA chairman and CEO, Mediaturf V Ramani. They spoke on the different ways and means to measure return on investment (ROI) of online advertising.