Google today is synonymous with ‘internet’, a paradigm-shifting power that the world reckons with. The hugely successful ‘Reunion’ video by Google has touched millions of hearts. In conversation with exchange4media, Rajan Anandan, MD, Google India talks about the success of the campaign, the sudden buzz around Google+ and the nuances of digital advertising in its current form in India.
What drives digital advertising in India currently?
First of all, it is important to keep in mind that there is performance advertising and there is brand advertising. Performance advertising is where you are essentially either driving transactions or driving leads. The ROI (Return on Investment) is very clear; there is a reason why an online travel company, an e-commerce company or an online job portal uses digital advertising. Every dollar or rupee that they spend has clear ROI, whether it is search or display. Brand advertising is where you are trying to improve your brand metrics. Either you are trying to improve your reach or you are trying to move brand metrics. Google has been very vocal about the work we have done with Unilever or Sunsilk sub-brands, where well done brand advertising has improved brand metrics in terms of improving awareness providing meaningful, additional reach. All major marketers will agree that online advertising today affects brands’ identity a great deal.
The absolute definition of performance is that it impacts sales. Today, you have the e-commerce industry which stands at $3 billion. If you add travel to it, you have yourselves a $13 billion industry. It is an industry that is entirely driven by online performance advertising. Then there are the large offline brands that are now just beginning to start advertising online and they are looking at reach or brand metrics. It is at a nascent stage where brands have to study the impact of digital advertising. Spending even a minimum threshold amount in digital advertising and structured measurement is showing significant impact.
Do you think there is a need for a standard measurement body in digital advertising like we have IRS for print and TAM for television?
We do have comScore, which provides user data, and there are lots of big brands that run their own ad tracks. Basically, we have 200 million internet users in India. We have an entirely performance driven industry, which is called e-commerce. There’s travel, which is growing at 40 per cent every year. What the ecosystem now needs is more brand-specific measurements that help the brands understand the real impact of the online medium and can address issues such as building brands online and improving brand metrics.
A brand like Google doesn’t need any advertising. So what was the rationale and the target behind the ‘Reunion’ campaign?
There are only 200 million Indians on the internet, and of course we would want 2 billion people to come online. You would see us doing many interesting things for all those who are not yet on the internet. For instance, we first put that film on YouTube because we believe the best way to judge whether a film will be successful is to put it on YouTube. If it goes viral, you have a hit. It had 5 million views within 24 hours without any promotions. It went 100 per cent viral. Then we took it to movie theatres and offline media for a simple reason. We want to expand the 200 million user base to 300, 400, 500 million, and to do that, you have to give users an interesting and a compelling use case. Actually, we thought it would be more relevant for North India, but very quickly we discovered that it had hit the right chords across the world. With our initiative, called ‘Helping Women Get Online’, we are looking to double the number of Indian women on the internet in the next 12 months and we have lined up some exceptional creative too. If you want to reach women who are not online, you have to be where they are.
We see a lot of buzz around Google+. Is it organically picking up or you are repositioning and pushing it?
If you have an interesting product, people start using it, and Google+ is a very good product indeed. In fact, if broadband had wider penetration, Google+ would have been three times bigger, because the Hangout feature would have worked amazingly well. In short, it is a compelling product and people are finding ways to use it.
When do you see digital advertising spends being at par with print and television ad spends?
Digital spends are today at Rs 5,000 crore, which includes search, display and online classifieds, and is growing at 40 per cent. TV is about Rs 18,000 crore and is growing at about 12-13 per cent. Print again is around Rs 18,000 crore and is growing at 8 per cent. Truth is in the numbers.
But India is a very interesting country, where all forms of media are growing significantly. If you look at the entire ecosystem, India has just a $7 billion advertising industry. It is actually among the smaller ad markets in the world. For the ninth largest economy in the world, we should have a much larger advertising industry. It is less about when does digital become bigger than TV or print, it is more about how does the entire advertising industry go from $7 billion, which is Rs 43,000 crore, to Rs 100,000 crore.