Speakers at the inaugural day of the technology symposium series MERIT, put together by IDG, voiced forceful opinions on advertising in the Niche Media, and the Mass Media. A broken verdict was the end result, with an underscore on the fact that ‘special interest publications’ are here to stay.
Delivering his address, Patrick McGovern, Chairman and Founder, IDG Group, said, “When our company was launched 39 years ago, the product lifecycle in the technology space was around five years. Now it is a very different world. The product lifecycle is only five weeks long, and everything is a matter of negotiation. Choices have broadened dramatically.”
Moderator of the panel, Anurag Batra, Editor-in-Chief of exchange4media, commenced proceedings with statistics, which showed that ad spends, as a percentage of ad sales, were static over the years, but BTL and other promotional routes were growing. He underlined that ROI on marketing spends was being critically viewed by CEOs in the present day.
Admitting that 40 per cent of the total ad spends of Sun Microsystems in India was on mass media, KP Unnikrishnan, Diretcor – Marketing of the company, contended that niche media was the better choice. He said, “Last calendar year, an estimated 17,300 brand launches happened, and there were one million messages sent out – that works out to 3,000 to each consumer. We’ve reached a stage today where one ad is not going to make a difference. The quality of products on offer too is not really different.”
He substantiated the need for a set of niche media in an era of clutter of products and services and communication messages.
Brand-Comm CEO, Sridhar Ramanujam, reiterated the significance of brand building, with data underlining the reputation of brand names playing a significant role in the purchase decision process. He quoted – much to the excitement of the audience – the example of Intel, whose mass media advertising in 1991-92 cost the company a whopping $250 million, and said, “If they had used niche media alone, their campaign would still be running.”
“When you talk about selling a PC or a desktop, it’s both B2B and B2C. When you’re talking technology, it’s not just advertising, it’s PR too. Large technology companies seek write ups not just in the financial dailies and the English dailies, but also in the vernacular dailies. You can’t build a brand on niche media alone,“ he added.
The panelists exchanged views on accountability being a positive factor for the niche media. Malvika Harita, EVP, Saatchi & Saatchi Direct, quoted statistics on the extensive media exposure that consumers were subjected to. The contention was that the 164 minutes in a day that the average Indian male was exposed to media was constant, but the number of media had grown.
“I see niche media also playing an intermediary role between mass media and personal information devices. Today, you’ve got too much to look at, and are distracted. Mass media, too, has recognised this trend. This reflects in the number of supplements we see today. It’s a reflection of the growth of niche media, “ said Harita.
The shift from the traditional advertising model was acknowledged by more than one panelist. The rise of direct contact programs and focused marketing initiatives had a downside, warned Shekhar Deshpande, Strategic Planning Director, JWT. He pointed out that a brand was a noted and recognised symbol not just to users, but also non-users of the brand, and explained that the consumer might not want the marketer to be too familiar with him or her.
Making his point in favour of mass media, Deshpande said, “The very tenet of branding rests on the fact that the awareness of a brand is universal and omnipresent. This is brought about by mass media. In the buying process, the comfort level with a brand gets it into the consideration set.”
Calling the debate a $700 billion question, Mukund Ramaratnam, Director – Marketing of AMD, quizzed the audience on the share of DM (15-20 per cent) and the Internet (5 per cent) of the global advertising spend. Taking examples of Capital Asset, Amway, Eureka Forbes and Amazon.com, he underlined that one needed to look at the company’s business model before getting into debate on niche versus mass.
“As AMD, our competitor has 10X the ad budgets we have. In the last few years, it helped us go to our target audience with a more focused approach. In the US retail market, we closed with a 50 per cent market share against a competitor with massive media budget. Niche media and special interest magazines are going to garner a much bigger share of budgets,” explained Ramaratnam.
The debate is far from over, especially in a country whose mass media is growing with each passing set of circulation audits. But the special interest publications are here to stay. And the next debate on issues of technology marketing is slated to take place in Mumbai on May 24, 2006.