India is at par with other countries in quality & delivery in the digital space: Martin Shaw

The Digital Head (APAC), Maxus speaks about the changing digital ecosystem and the importance of a holistic approach towards marketing

e4m by Abhinna Shreshtha
Updated: Mar 19, 2014 9:31 AM
India is at par with other countries in quality & delivery in the digital space: Martin Shaw

Martin Shaw is Digital Head (APAC) at Maxus. Starting his career in 1995 with a TV buying agency in London, Shaw moved to O&M’s media department in 1998. Subsequently, he held a number of high profile digital roles in the UK and European business on both the agency network and independent start-up sides, and became Head of Digital of OMD, UK. In 2008, he moved to OMD, Beijing and spent three years in China before moving to Hong Kong to accept the role of Head of Digital, North Asia at Maxus.

In conversation with exchange4media, Shaw talks about the changing digital ecosystem and the importance of a holistic approach towards marketing.

What do you think about the digital scenario in India?
We have a very mature team here. Ad spends might not be as high as they are in other places but in terms of quality of work and delivery, India is at par with other countries. Some of the work happening here, especially in the social media space is more advanced than what we have seen in other countries. It is definitely a place for us to come and learn from.

You have spent quite some time in China. What are your thoughts about the amazing progress being made in the digital space there, especially companies like Tencent?
The speed of innovation in China is amazing. The time when Chinese companies were just copying what digital companies were doing elsewhere is long gone. To say that WeChat is like WhatsApp doesn’t really sum up what it really is. The initial model may have been based on it but the speed of change shown by them is just incredible. The only potential danger that they might have is over-commercializing things too fast.

Do you think the Chinese modelof having social, commerce, gaming, etc., on one platform the future of the digital space?
It could be. The challenge isthere are a lot of different things to get right. The companies who can do it they will end up ruling the space but you get one component wrong and you will have people draining out of the particular business.

How do you foresee the digital space evolving?
Marketing needs to become more of a holistic approach, where you understand all the levers. Smart clients will work with agencies that cover all the areas. The digital space has fragmented into areas and specialist companies have tended to do better in some areas, but traditional agencies are moving very quickly into these areas.

We have acquired a lot of valuable intelligence on how these areas work. We have the technical knowledge and the ability to plug it back into everything else we are doing to deliver a holistic solution. Agencies that work in silos are not able to do that and that makes it harder for them to deliver the type of solutions we do.

I see a huge rise in programmatic buying. It is not about low-quality, relevant inventory bought off exchanges, but high-quality inventory after applying interesting data sets and RTB (Real-Time Bidding) techniques so we can deliver hyper-targeted audiences that are right for the clients. This is new for India but that’s something we have seen great success with in the US and Europe and we are gradually seeing it roll out in APAC.

It is a continuously evolving product as every day, we get better data which helps us better evaluate audiences. I see that making a huge difference and development especially this year in India.

Facebook is an important component of social media strategy but with its organic reach diminishing what challenges does that throw up for marketers?
Ad buying is a good aspect of Facebookbut content and community management, essential elements that drive better reach,have to be right. It’s what we are expecting, rather than looking at it as a pure paid media channel.

Social media has become more platform manipulation rather than something that genuinely contributes to a client’s business. It is definitely on the radar this year across APAC.

The digital space in India is still developing, any particular learnings that we can adopt from other regions?
My philosophy is having a strong network of local agencies rather than achieving conformity. We spread ideas is by getting our digital heads together every year to discuss the best ideas and initiatives they undertake in their respective countries.

How does technology evolution affect marketers? Is technology only an enabler or can it be more central to marketing strategies?
Technologycan be effectively used to replicate the way a consumer feels through functionality, which is as important as content these days. If you are delivering great content through an app that does not work very well, user experience is going to be damaged.

Inevitably, many technologies are becoming more mobile. Commerce is moving tomobile. Penetration of digital will continue and we are seeing a blurring of lines between traditional and digital mediums. Consuming video content is changing from a pure TV model to a blended model and where mobile devices are becoming important in the mix. A social media strand runs through every technological innovation that is coming through.

What is Maxus’ philosophy when it comes to mobile as a medium?
Depending on which country you are in, 10 per cent to 50 per cent of people are accessing the internet through their mobiles. The first thing is ensuring you are ‘visible’ and ‘findable’. The question brands should ask is whether they have a mobile site or is it atleast optimised? I read recently that 85 per cent clients that run mobile campaigns don’t have a mobile optimised site to drive traffic to, which sounds horrific to me. Just getting the basics right is the first step. Beyond that, the consumers (on mobile) are slightly different in terms of expectations and we need to find ways to meet them. This is going to be very different for different products. The medium has to be integrated with everything else you are doing.

There is no point having a completely different mobile strategy because consumers don’t view mobile as a separate channel. Content experience must remain the same.

Advertisers have been using a number of different models like CPC, CPL, CPI, etc. for display advertising. How relevant are these models today?
It comes back to the objectives of your campaign. While buying on search engines, CPC is the preferred methodology. Will you evaluate a campaign purely on cost per click? Not entirely.

I personally am not a big fan of CPC as a measure of success because I feel it is a shallow measure. We should be looking at deeper metrics depending on what the campaign is driving. For example, if it is a more commerce-based campaign then you could look at cost per sale or cost per acquisition. If you are looking at something more brand-based, you can look at survey-based metrics or the buzz or various, other social-based metrics. We have to very carefully and clearly define what the right measure of engagement is, for example, you could probably look at time spent as a true measure of a campaign’s success.

What are your thoughts on traditional display advertising, as opposed to creating something that adds value to the consumer and is more engaging?
Display advertising will still remain the workhorse. But it is undergoing a big change with programmatic buying. Many people are put off by display advertising, because it isn’t well targetedor useful to the consumer and doesn’t have great content. If display advertising can deliver the right content to the right person at the right time with technologies that provide a richer experience, then it will stop being the ugly duckling and become a swan.

Video is a content delivery platform that is getting a lot of weightage. What are your plans on this front?
Burberry giving online viewers of their fashion shows a click-to-buy option was very innovative. Online videos will be an extension of TV but with a whole set of other advantages. We are increasingly video as a whole or as screen media.

In China we have been building a system to view the net coverage across all possible screens. Rather than asking clients to spend only on TV, we suggest that the spending be distributed across all possible screens, whether online or mobile. This way, we can still meet the client’s expected coverage but at a lesser price and even stand the chance of reaching more viewers.

So, do you see digital videos cannibalising TV ad spends?
TV is still a very important medium and will grow in volume. But I do see a share of that money coming into digital. TV will always have the ability to build very large reach, especially for live events. In terms of content, not every TV station has reached the stage where they will release everything across all platforms. In many countries we are seeing a lot of delayed viewing like Sky Plus in the UK. Netflix is developing a very interesting model where content is going online first. In the end, it will always be about looking holistically across the mix.

Do you see the disparity of ad rates for video content on digital and TV ever changing?
Price will always be demand-led and the early investors in online video will reap the benefits. Currently it is less in demand than TV. Over time this gap will level out, though there will always be a little divide. It might then become more important to get interactivity, the ability to click and do other things. The demand for TV will always being more than that for online video in some countries. However, in China, online TV is extremely popular and there a lot of advertisers interested in online videos.


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