Not so long ago, the industry would raise eyebrows if someone mentioned a ‘social media pitch’. But before we knew it, large advertisers, including the likes of Dominos and Pizza Hut, already began inviting social media pitches, and if sources are to be believed, a few more FMCGs too have made the pitch call. Digital experts in India would never undermine the importance of social media but they are also quick to point out that ad spends in India for social media is a small portion of the digital pie, which hovers only between 2-3 per cent of the advertising industry.
For a domain that is yet not seeing any spends, social media sure has garnered significant industry conversations. Where on the one hand, some client are inviting social media pitches, on the other hand, some are still figuring out what it means. What experts say is that a social-media-only pitch is an invitation for the digital agencies (independent or integrated) to present how they would handle the brand’s presence online with the help of various social media tools which primarily consist of Social Media Marketing (SMM), Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Online Reputation Management (ORM).
The pitch, usually, is called independently and the invitation may or may not be a part of brand’s overall creative strategy. The agency appointed could be an arm of the existing creative agency already on the roster of the advertiser or an independent digital shop.
Now that we know what a social media pitch entails, let’s find out what advertisers and agencies think of the concept...
The Advertiser’s Take
Rajdeep Chatterjee, General Manager, Marketing, McDonalds India, North-East, is of the opinion that the pitch is important for the brand to indentify the right partner for this particular activity, as most mainstream agencies aren’t ‘skilled enough’. He said, “Social media optimisation is a new form of conversation that a brand has with its market. It is specialised skill and most communication agencies do not have the exposure or the skill-set to handle this new medium. Hence, a need for a conversation with a new breed of creative and media agencies arises.”
But does it make sense to break the overall advertising budget and in a sense, disconnect the communication activities? Chatterjee replied, “The budget required for SMM is not as high as traditional media budgets, so the reduction does not really hurt in immediate terms. However what also happens is that over a period, SMM expenditure starts to increase exponentially and that is when one starts to feel the pinch. That said, until such time that traditional AOR does not develop SMM capabilities, it would keep losing business opportunities to the SMM specialists.”
Chatterjee also felt that the subject is in itself at a very early stage as the brands are still coming to terms with it. “SMM is a nascent conversation opportunity. Brands are still grappling with the reasons and means to engage the market place. As is with most sunrise categories, only a few brands are able to go beyond skin depth. The others simply follow sans thought or rationale. It becomes a ‘good to do’ rather than a ‘must do’ high achieving point for the brand.”
He also said the trend is picking up pace. “The way it is going, in the initial euphoria there will be a lot of brands trying out SMM, everyone will follow the successful brand’s activation and fail miserably, there will be a major back lash and a vast majority will condemn SMM. However eventually sanity will prevail, a specialised amalgamation of SMM science and art will evolve for brands to utilise. SMM is a great tool to hold long term conversations in the market place, the tipping point however for this is still on the horizon,” Chatterjee concluded.
Agencies -- the digital arm of a mainline agency or a digital independent - have a different take on the subject.
Social Media Pitch Rare: Digital Arm of a Mainstream Agency
Sanjeev Jasani, Vice President, OgilvyOne Worldwide, New Delhi, stated, “It's very rare that a client calls for a social media pitch alone. They would rather ask their existing digital agency to do it unless they are unable to do so. It's then that the client looks at inviting other agencies for the pitch. Increasingly we have seen that clients want a single digital agency to advise them on all aspects of the digital landscape. Today, most clients have seen the importance of social media and want a part of it. As an agency, we never look at social media in isolation and always advise our clients on the bigger picture. Social media to us is an entry ticket to wowing our clients, and prospects, on the potential of the digital medium and handholding them through an exciting journey that's measurable and effective for their brands.”
Are mainline agencies serious on this component of the communication mix? Jasani replied, “It is taken quite seriously, as it’s an entry point into the clients’ business. Also it a comparatively inexpensive medium, so the client can test waters and get comfortable with the medium and the agency, without having to worry much.”
Jasani pointed out that more advertisers are jumping on the social media bandwagon. He observed, “Clients are willing to experiment and jump right in. But most of them are doing pretty basic stuff around social media. But times are changing fast and it's not long before we start seeing some exciting stuff here.”
He explained that today more than 50 per cent of clients want to be present on social media platforms because their closest competitor is already doing it. In some cases, it’s almost herd mentality and very few advertisers, or agencies, actually have a clear and focused objective. Most don't even go deep into the subject.
Finally, Social Media is Serious: Digital Independent
Bringing the viewpoint of digital independents, Shankar B, COO, Ignitee Digital Solutions, said, “Social media pitches are equally important for digital agencies, since a pitch call like this from the client gives implies that finally there are advertisers who are extremely serious about social media as a medium and are keenly looking at professional agencies to hire only for ‘Social Media’.”
He commented, “Social media is the new zing thing in the market today, and both clients and agencies would want to take complete benefit of this, as globally the way a consumer thinks has changed considerably. In the last couple of years, a young consumer, (India has close to 33 per cent of its population less than 30 years of age) who used to consume hours on television, spends his time between television, Facebook, YouTube and the likes. Social media domain has changed the way a brand needs to be looked at, and clients are now waking up to it.”
Shankar however is quick to point out that client are still not comfortable or serious about a social media pitch, as the pie is very small compared to traditional medium. Some categories such as automobile, sporting apparels, aviation and so on get deep into the subject and want to know ways to connect with the consumer but other categories are taking baby steps by starting with a page and populating it slowly.