Mobile advertising should be about 'take permission, don't spy, don't spam': Tomi Ahonen

Tomi Ahonen, who is considered one of the foremost experts in mobile, talks about the future of mobile and whether India is on the right track in the mobile ecosystem

Mobile advertising should be about 'take permission, don't spy, don't spam': Tomi Ahonen

Tomi Ahonen is an Author and Consultant and considered one of the foremost experts in the field of mobile. In February 2012, Forbes magazine listed Ahonen as one of the most influential thought leaders on mobile in the world. Ahonen pens his thoughts on the mobile ecosystem on his blog ‘Communities Dominate Brands’. An ex-Nokia executive, he firmly believes in the idea that mobile advertising should be about “take permission, don’t spy, don’t spam”. He has written 12 books on the mobile ecosystem.

We caught up with him for a brief chat on the ever changing mobile ecosystem. Excerpts.

The mobile has emerged as a powerful marketing tool but we seem to be at a crossroads between traditional ideas being adapted to the mobile and creating new ways to engage with customers. Is the mobile advertising ecosystem heading in the right direction?

We can definitely use mobile as a very powerful media. It is the most creative platform that ever existed, it has the widest reach. It is the only mass media platform that reaches the entire emerging world. Within those opportunities, all traditional marketing and advertising make sense to do on the mobile. I have no problem with that.

However, right from the start of the mobile marketing industry I have been promoting that we should do something magical; something better and more on mobile than what we do on TV, print, internet and radio. I would like to move to an era where people don’t think of the mobile phone as an advertising medium at all. I would like to see as a medium for customer loyalty, cross-selling, up-selling and engagement. It is such a personal medium. No other medium is closer to our heart than the mobile phone. We don’t read the newspaper placing the mobile phone behind the newspaper. We don’t watch TV placing the mobile phone behind the TV. It is always between us and any other medium.

If we take this and build the love and the passion and the ability around it, we can build something; what BJ Yang, CEO of AirCROSS, South Korea’s biggest mobile advertising company, means when he says that mobile is a fun, personal playground. If you do mobile marketing right, the consumer will love it because it is fun. It is personalized so they feel it is relevant and it is a playground; they can manipulate the marketing experience. They can gamify it so it is rewarding to them.

India seems to be at a very interesting point right now in terms of how the mobile ecosystem is taking off here.

‘Advergaming’; the advertising and gaming idea was invented in India; not in Japan, Korea or Finland. The opportunity for doing social media and advertising; to include mobile payments, coupons and loyalty payments for some fulfilment can be all done on the mobile.

I think we are now at the point, India is definitely at the point, where the medium is so well accepted and there are major brands and media houses here that no one doubts the power of mobile. We can move beyond just copying from other media to the mobile.

To answer your question, India is in a very good position right now because no one needs to understand the medium (mobile); now they need to understand how to move to the next level. Of course we can always do the branding but take the example of OMO detergent in South Africa; they started providing talktime to their customers on buying OMO. Now, since they know when you have bought the detergent, they could message the customer telling them that it is time to buy OMO. Sales went up by 60 per cent. The consumer no longer thought of it as marketing or spam. They do not think of as advertising or branding; it now becomes customer service.

As an industry we are slowly moving towards this but, unfortunately, most of the use of mobile is still very basic advertising and I would like for us to move more into the deep engagement, involvement sort of marketing.

This is something that the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) has been teaching right from the start; deliver value to the consumer, don’t spam and don’t spy. Be honest to the customer and ask for their permission. When we take these extra steps, we will get customers who are honest with us and who talk to us. If a consumer hates us, if he is never going to buy my product, why would I speak with him? It is a crazy concept from old media.

Do you think this could, in some part, be a case of mobile being a victim of its own success? The pace of change in digital, especially mobile, not allowing brands to adapt to the medium.

That is a good point. We see this (adaptation) at different speeds in different parts of the world. Take the USA; very advanced in internet and computers but lagging behind in mobile. This is because they have so many options—DVD players, video game consoles, digital television, broadband, tablet, laptop, etc. The mobile industry did not have to grow fast. The consumer had a million choices and it is difficult for the digital strategist to pick the right things to do. We have the same problem in Sweden, Finland, South Korea, etc.

But in India, China, Brazil, Kenya, Nigeria, Indonesia, etc. there is no race; there is no contest. Everyone knows that digital is mobile first. You do the other digital platforms later if you want to but you always do mobile first. In these countries it is easier to understand the future that is coming because you did not have to go through the legacy in the middle, so one can directly leapfrog into mobile.

And mobile is the future. The largest PC company in the world; HP, the largest software company in the world; Microsoft, the largest internet company; Google, the largest social networking company; Facebook, the largest credit card company; Visa, all say that the future is mobile. And if they all say this then it probably is right. If that really is the future, then why bother learning the legacy PC internet which is going to be a minority.

This is a young person’s industry and India is a young country so everyone who comes to digital automatically gets into mobile. This also means that any successes here can be taken to countries like Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Pakistan, etc. If it works here it will work anywhere in the emerging world and it might also work in Europe and North America.

This raises a question, and one that is being debated in India currently, where a number of brands see the mobile app as the way forward, to the exclusion of even the desktop website and mobile website. Do you think this is the right option for the long-term?

I think you touched on one of the critical debates taking place in the tech industry. Some people believe that the primary platform of mobile services will be smartphone apps. Others believe that the primary platform will be the mobile web. There has been a big debate about this for the past 7 years. I am one of those people who believe that the majority of services will be on the mobile web.

Apps are good for games but beyond games, there are very few areas; maybe some business apps, Facebook, some other special instances. But most of the usage has to take place on HTML. If you want to win an award in Cannes or want to build a super, sci-fi, augmented reality thing using the full power of the phone then make an app. It will be wonderful but you will get 6,000 downloads.

There are certain cost functions here. A standard app for a brand in the West costs around $20,000. The same app experience, and most app experiences can also be done on HTML, on HTML will cost $2,000. Updating that HTML site will work across devices but to update an app you will need to do separate updates for all the different OS in the market.

While we now have a nice collection of apps from different brands, many of them are not ready to update their apps when they see that they have only got 8,000-12,000 downloads. We are seeing that kind of economics now coming in. At the same time, the mobile web experts like Google are teaching us that you have to optimize for the mobile and once you are optimized you get 160 per cent better engagement rate. It pays for itself over a weekend. When these kinds of lessons are coming in from someone like Google, everybody should pay attention.

Having said this, every strong brand should be on everything, whether it is SMS, MMS, augmented reality, app, voicemail, etc. to reach out to customers but the major part of customer service in the future, I believe, will be on HTML. But this is still an argument and we have to see where the economics lead us.

You spoke earlier about some predictions you got wrong.
My most famous one was about Location-based Services (LBS). In my first book in 2002 I said the strongest area of growth in the mobile data industry will be LBS. By my next book I had to admit that I was wrong and it would not happen. There have been some of these.

Another example is Nokia. I was promising in 2010 that Nokia and Symbian would be the largest smartphone platform in the world even now (2015). Then in 2011, the new CEO of Nokia went to Microsoft and Windows and Nokia collapsed.

It is interesting that you brought up the Nokia example. One way of looking at their debacle is that they never really concentrated on the application ecosystem.
Yes. They really greatly angered all of their partners with their sudden move from Symbian to Windows. Windows had no developers; it supported no languages, no non-English languages, they did not support any of the carriers. The first version of Nokia Windows smartphone was not even in production when it was announced. They said they will not use the current version but the one later. Their developers were like, “What are you doing? You promised us a beautiful future on Symbian and now you are saying that this is all useless and we have to use a new system that is not even deployed?”

It was really bad management in that transition. In February 2011, when Nokia announced its new Microsoft strategy, I said it was a very dangerous gamble for Nokia to make. It was possible for Nokia to succeed because it was the largest handset maker in the world and Microsoft was the largest software maker. Nokia had tried to make software and had struggled and Microsoft had tried to make handsets and had struggled with it. The partnership did make sense if they both had done what they specialized in but because I had seen how Nokia and Microsoft had been in the past I predicted that this was a divorce waiting to happen.
 

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T-Series ventures into digital space; to produce web-series & web-films

The new venture will be headed by Vinod Bhanushali, who is currently the President- Media, Marketing, Publishing (TV) and Music Acquisitions at T-Series

TSeries

After proving to be the leader of the music industry and establishing themselves a successful film studio, T-Series is all set to enter the digital space with web series and web films. Bhushan Kumar’s T-Series along with producing films and music videos have ventured out into locking scripts for web-shows and web-films. With the growing demand for digital content, the production house has decided to expand their avenues and explore a new, yet familiar territory of digital space. The new venture will be headed by, Vinod Bhanushali, who is currently the President- Media, Marketing, Publishing (TV) and Music Acquisitions at T-Series.

Speaking on the expansion, T-Series head, Bhushan Kumar says, “This is the time to expand into digital space with shows and films. There exists a huge audience across the globe that you reach out to with this medium. Web-shows and web-films have an audience for all kinds of genres of storytelling and different languages as well. Along with producing films, we want to create content for digital space and give a platform for new directors and storytellers.”

Bhanushali, who has worked with T-Series for around two decades, along with his team has already started working on scripts and pre-production of a few series and films. T-Series is already working with digital platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Zee5 and other such platforms for digital distribution of their home productions.

Speaking on his new role, Vinod Bhanushali, says, “Digital viewership is growing at a rapid speed and is a huge platform that needed to be tapped by us. Web shows and films have their own set of audience and are a huge market as everyone – all ages, races, languages, communities across the world are hooked on to it. There are some stories that are not meant for the 70mm screen yet they are needed to be told. They are commercial yet strong content films. With a new space that has evolved, web-shows and web-films have become a huge demand which is tested and proven to be successful. We have a lot of scripts coming to us every day and many of them are a perfect fit for this medium. We want to give a chance to these storytellers to bring forth their stories. T-Series will now become a platform to produce these stories and associate with our existing digital platforms to release our content.”

Music has always been an important aspect of all T-Series films. Even with the new space which will explore fiction, non-fiction stories on a digital platform, music will still be a very integral part.

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Zee5 turns one with 60mn users, announces 72 originals across 6 languages by March 2020

The regional market is where the future of entertainment lies, says Tarun Katial, CEO, Zee5

ZEE5

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited’s OTT platform Zee5 completed one year on Thursday. According to Tarun Katial, CEO at Zee5, it has the right mix of content, technology and brand associations that has kept the digital entertainment platform stay ahead of competition.

 

With a 60 million user base at the moment, Zee5 is targeting to touch 100 million in the new fiscal. Focus on the right kind of the content is the top priority for Zee5 at the moment, Katial said.

 

“We have got everyone from Sunny Leone, to Emraan Hashmi, Kunal Kemmu to now Arjun Rampal and many more debuts on digital with us. Since it is our first year, the star cast has helped us to draw attention. We plan to continue with the trend but build our base strong enough in terms of original content so that star cast is not the only attraction of these productions,” Katial said.

 

On their first anniversary which was also Valentine’s Day, Zee 5 announced the world digital premiere of ‘Kedarnath’. Not just films, there are plans for a host of original content too. To start with, 72 new originals have been planned across six languages, including Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam and all before March 2020.

 

In its anniversary month, Zee5 has also announced ‘The Final Call’ that premiers on February 22 and stars Arjun Rampal, in his digital debut. Based on Priya Kumar’s book, ‘I will go with you’, the thriller also stars Sakshi Tanwar and Jaaved Jaaferi.

 

However, it is not just Hindi that Zee is concentrating on. Katial said, “The regional market is where the future of entertainment lies – our next viewers will come from there. We are cognizant of this and are building an ecosystem to add more value to our stakeholders in these markets.”

 

“We are taking the originals beyond Hindi and this is what sets us apart from others on the segment. We will be launching ‘Sharate Aaj’, a Bengali original that is shot completely in London. Also lined up for February are Tamil originals like ‘D7’ and ‘Kalavu’, Malayalam originals like ‘Mirror' and ‘Aarpoo’ as well as Marathi original ‘Sex, Drugs and Theatre’. ZEE5 Originals, ‘Rangbaaz’ and the Marathi show ‘Date with Saie’ are now also available in Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada, Marathi and Malayalam,’ he added.

 

Kunal Kemmu has also made his digital debut with crime thriller ‘Abhay’ that took off on ZEE5 on February 7.

The platform also has Pakistani, Turkish and Korean content lined up as acquired content. New genres of content are also on the cards for Zee5. Video news section is one new genre that the platform is already working on. A music video section is also on the cards for the new fiscal.

 

Alongside the content line-up, Zee 5 is also looking at maximum technology integration. While 11 navigational languages, content download option and voice search are some of the technology already implemented on the platform, there is more in store for the new fiscal.

 

“We plan to use more of Artificial Intelligence. We have already started AI led auto preview of content on our web platform and soon we’d do that for our app too,” added Katial.

 

To celebrate the anniversary, ZEE5 has also launched a special 30 per cent discount on both annual packs – all access pack would be available at Rs 999 and regional pack at Rs 499. The discounted rates are available between February 14 and March 31.

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Shemaroo launches OTT platform, ShemarooMe

The platform will offer Indian video content across Bollywood, Gujarati, Devotion, Punjabi and Kids genre

SheamrooMe

Shemaroo Entertainment Limited has launched its Over the Top platform ShemarooMe. The platform was launched in Mumbai in the presence of actor Tiger Shroff.

The company in a statement said, “ShemarooMe is a comprehensive app for the Indian market with a diverse and exclusive content offering for an audience looking for Indian video content across Bollywood, Gujarati, Devotion, Punjabi, and Kids genre to cater to the needs of all age groups.”

“ShemarooMe aims to celebrate the fans who cherish the opportunity to watch their favourite content over and over again, relishing every dialogue and memorising every scene till it's etched in their hearts. It aims to address the needs of the everyday Indian from across the country who are comfortable in their native language and connect with their intrinsic taste of masala content that they have built over years,” the statement mentioned.

According to a Google-KPMG 2017 report, 75% of India’s internet user base will consist of Indian language internet users by 2021. It goes on to mention that India which had nearly 300 million smartphone users in 2017 is only going to have larger growth prospect with the number expected to cross 440 million by 2022.

ShemarooMe aims to reach out to these masses even beyond metros whose content preferences are not limited to the niche English speaking consumer. With customised offerings on the slate, ShemarooMe will suit the different content preferences of every Indian. It will have seven distinct categories on offer - Bollywood Classic, Bollywood Plus, Gujarati, Kids, Bhakti, Ibaadat and Punjabi and will give consumers the freedom to pick and choose the categories of content and pay for them separately.

Speaking on the occasion, Hiren Gada, CEO, Shemaroo Entertainment, said, “This is a big leap for Shemaroo. As a company, we have always understood the real pulse of the Indian audience and our history is a testimony to that. While Bollywood - both classic and contemporary - is our core strength, we aim to bring a rich and diverse offering far beyond that for the underserved consumers and definitely do more to sustain the nostalgia economy.”

Tiger Shroff added, “Shemaroo has been an indispensable part of my childhood and growing years. As a child, I remember watching the movies I’ve loved watching over and over again. Today, I am happy that Shemaroo now gives me the opportunity to watch my all-time favourite Bollywood movies. I am a true-blue Bollywood fan and ShemarooMe is a tribute to the asli fan across India. Shemaroo has a grip on the pulse of the Indian consumers and can cater to the demands of every generation with its never-ending list of rich content and I am super excited to be present here.”

Zubin Dubash, COO, Digital, Shemaroo Entertainment Limited, said, “Through ShemarooMe, we wish to pamper Indians with great content that can be watched over and over again. Great content needs greater technology. Our content is offered on a state-of-art, robust platform, with a road map of features to woo our audiences. From live to linear to VOD content, we have all forms of consumption options available for our customers. We will be expanding our OTT distribution through strategic partnerships, to offer exciting content across multiple platforms catering to the target audience and we do hope this is cherished by our audiences who have supported us for over 55 years!”

Consumers have the option to buy individual packs piece meal or the all access pack of ShemarooMe. Introductory pricing Individual category plans cost - Rs. 49/ month or Rs. 499/ year. The All access plans cost Rs. 99/ month or Rs. 999/ year.

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PhonePe now live on Dream11

As part of the partnership, Dream11 users will get a 30% cashback offer from PhonePe

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Payment platform PhonePe has entered into a partnership with Dream11. As part of the association, PhonePe is live and first to offer direct UPI payments solution on the Dream11 platform. The users will also be able to avail a 30% cashback* on 3 transactions up-to INR 75 on using PhonePe as a payment option on the Dream11 app, the company said in a statement.

Commenting on the partnership, Ankit Gaur, Director – Online Business, PhonePe, said, “We are very excited to partner with Dream 11, the country’s biggest sports game. Over the last few years, Dream11 has seen phenomenal growth with a constantly growing user base. The next few months will see some of the biggest cricket tournaments including the much-awaited World Cup 2019 and the Indian Premier League (IPL), among others. There will be huge interest in fantasy cricket on Dream11 during this period and with this association, we are hoping to create a more seamless and hassle-free experience for the users allowing them to pay using their preferred payment solution, PhonePe.”

Commenting on the partnership, Bhavit Sheth, Co-Founder and COO of Dream11, said, “We are happy to partner with PhonePe as it is a rapidly growing payment platform with over 150 million users. This partnership is in line with our commitment to provide trustworthy, hassle-free and multiple payment options, like UPI, for our users along with cashback benefits.” 

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FB ropes in ex-journalist Natasha Jog as election integrity lead for India: Reports

New Delhi-based Jog will report to Katie Harbath, Facebook’s public policy director, global elections, say media reports

Facebookimage

Facebook has reportedly hired former journalist Natasha Jog as its election integrity lead for India. The social media giant is said to have chosen Jog after nearly four months of sarch process.

According to media reports, New Delhi-based Jog will report to Katie Harbath, Facebook’s public policy director, global elections. 

According to her LinkedIn profile, Jog was employed with NDTV for more than 18 years, across various roles. 

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MX Player launches trailer of Original Series ‘Aafat’

The show streams for free starting 20th February only on MX Player

AfatFinal

Five beautiful girls with five unusual eccentricities and one common problem – being stereotyped! That’s what MX Original Series ‘Aafat’ is all about! MX Player brings viewers this web series that is a hilarious yet thought provoking take on arranged marriages and what society perceives to be “perfect bride” material.

The series stars Chitrashi Rawat, Pushtiie Shakti, Nikita Dutta, Anshul Chauhan, Neelam Sivia, Sidharth Bhardwaj and Seema Pahwa in key roles and is directed by Shanhant Shah. The show streams for free starting 20th February only on MX Player.

Aafat is the story of five prospective women who would suit for any man on Earth but each of these firebrands has a unique quirk that many believe to be imperfections. Their lives run parallel to each other with a common thread attached - the boy who they are meeting from a marriage agency. Ayesha (Anshul Chauhan) is a successful voice-over artist but she’s NEVER waxed her body. Anu (Neelam Sivia) is India’s modern young woman who works as a coder in an MNC. But, she’s bald! Faiza (Chitrashri Rawat) has a way with words, she is an aspiring poet but one with really colourful language. Aditi (Shakti) holds an MBA degree and is born with a silverspoon but she is overweight. Titli (Nikita Dutta) is a talented entrepreneur but her scorecard is flawed as she is a divorcee.

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Hike ties up with Gully Boy as exclusive messaging partner

Towards the release of Gully Boy on February 14, Hike will release stickers inspired from the movie

GullyBoyHike

Homegrown instant messaging app Hike has announced its tie-up with Ranveer Singh’s upcoming film Gully Boy as a messaging partner.

Towards the release of Gully Boy on February 14, Hike will release stickers inspired from the movie. The stickers will let users you express in the ‘gully style’, using phrases from popular dialogues and songs from the movie.

  The stickers are available in-app. Hike users can download these packs from the PlayStore and AppStore and take the gully style online.

 The company in a statement said that Stickers are one of the most loved features of Hike and over 300 million stickers are exchanged every day.

Gully Boy is a Hindi-language musical drama film based on an aspiring rapper from a gully in Bombay and his journey from realizing his love for rap to chasing his dream. The movie is inspired by the lives of two Indian rappers aka gully boys— Divine and Naezy. Produced by Zoya Akhtar, Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani, the movie will be released under Excel Entertainment on February 14, 2019.

 

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Aneesh Surender Madani, Head of Sports Partnerships, Asia Pacific, Twitter has quit

Madani was with Twitter for more than five years; he has also been with Neo Sports, Nimbus Communication Limited, and Leo Burnett India

aneesh madani

Aneesh Surender Madani, Head of Sports Partnerships, Asia Pacific at Twitter has put down his papers. He announced his move on Twitter, “It’s time for the next adventure! @Twitter, you will always have my heart. #LoveWhereYouWorked”, he wrote in the post.

Balaji Krish, Interim Country Head, Twitter India, replied on his post, saying “Aneesh, you had an incredibly impactful Dravidesque innings helping make Twitter the go-to platform for sports fans, athletes, teams and broadcasters in India and across APAC. Rest up and load up for your next adventure, all the very best!"

He had spent more than 5 years with Twitter. Prior to this, he was the Senior Manager, Neo Sports Broadcast Pvt. Ltd. He also had stints with Nimbus Communication Limited, and Leo Burnett India.

He is a graduate of MICA, and joined Twitter in 2013.

It’s time for the next adventure! @Twitter, you will always have my heart. #LoveWhereYouWorked pic.twitter.com/3VjaY3f8Yj

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Ahead of polls, Facebook ropes in 5 new fact-checking partners

The social media giant's programme is meant to curb the spread of fake news on its platform

Facebookimage

In the run-up to the general election in the country, Facebook has added five new partners to its third-party fact-checking programme, according to media reports. The social media giant runs the programme to curb the spread of fake news on its platform.

These new partners are India Today Group, Vishvas.news, Factly, Newsmobile and Fact Crescendo. They will review stories on Facebook. BOOM Live and AFP were Facebook’s existing partners

With the addition of new partners, Facebook has also expanded the programme to three languages. The partners will now do fact checking in six languages-- English, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam and Marathi.

After fact-checking, if a story is rated false, the social network shows it lower in news feed, thus reducing its distribution.

Manish Khanduri, News Partnership Head, Facebook India, reportedly said in a statement, "We are excited to announce new partners including some leading traditional media to our fact checking programme in India. We are committed to fighting the spread of false news on Facebook, especially ahead of the 2019 general election campaign season." 

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Pricing drives more than 80% of digital pitches: Gopa Kumar, Isobar India

Gopa Kumar, EVP, Isobar India, speaks about the current status of the digital media industry in India, Isobar’s focus areas for 2019, and more

gopa kumar

Gopa Kumar, Executive Vice President, Isobar, was part of the founding team of the agency in India. For ten years now, Kumar has played a key role in Isobar’s growth and expansion. In a candid interview with exchange4media, Kumar spoke about the current status of the digital media industry in India and Isobar’s focus areas for 2019. 

He said that as clients are increasing their spends on digital, they are more keen on extracting more value for their money over choosing a better strategy. “While the demand is for exclusive resources, the pricing is very clearly not measuring up to the business demands,” he said. Kumar further said that Isobar is going to selective about the pitches it takes part in and will prefer to work with brands that need assistance with business transformation involving digital tools and services. 

Edited Excerpts: 

You lead the Delhi business for Isobar in India. Can you give us an overview of the Delhi operations of Isobar?

From the business perspective, Isobar Delhi doubled its growth in 2018; we exceeded our expectations, so that is a great moment for us currently. We have been able to close clients across categories - that was one target which we were aiming for in 2018 and we are glad to have achieved this objective. In 2019 also we plan to pursue this same objective; to have fewer but clients across a wide spectrum. Last year in the second half we were making a lot of pitches, but this year we will be selective in the pitches we make, ensuring that every pitch is in line with Isobar’s overall objectives and focus on bigger categories. 

It is interesting you mention that. In the last quarter of 2018 agencies were kept busy by around 10-15 digital media pitches...

The focus among marketers is increasingly on digital. There are cases now where clients are looking at integrated agencies and some continue to have their digital initiatives kept separate from the mainline work. So there are a high number of pitches in digital in particular. 

In fact, the digital pitches sometimes are done merely for the heck of it and nothing conclusive comes out of it. It actually takes too much effort to work on those pitches and sometimes when you see that the scale of certain digital businesses is low, it is not viable to put in a big effort behind those pitches. 

Currently, the scale at which Isobar is operating, we would like to work with clients who are able to let us make a meaningful difference to their business. If we are able to do that on a project basis or on a long-term AOR basis, only then will we want to engage with clients. 

Traditional media buying is heavily dependent on clout. How does it work in the digital media space?

Since the digital pie has been increasing over the years and is now a substantial expenditure for marketers, price has become a key criterion for clients. We are now seeing clients and marketers trying to drive the price down and looking at more value for their money they spend. While the demand is for exclusive resources, the pricing is very clearly not measuring up to the business demands. 

Only 15% of digital pitches are based on strategy. Brands that are focussed on driving business results are looking at the strategy aspect more closely and long term-partnerships but these are few and far between. Eventually, price rules because advertising and marketing is an expense for clients. 

Digital has for too long been perceived as a medium for performance campaigns and not so much for brand building. Is this outlook changing now?

Yes, the mindset of marketers towards digital is surely changing. Digital has always been about performance, but as more people come online and spend more time online clients are looking at the various ways in which they can build brands online. We now get a good number of briefs for brand building. 

This mindset shift also needs to come from the agency side also. We (digital agencies) have always been seen as execution agencies; a digital agency enters at the last moment when the brand positioning is done, the creative agency has already come up with the idea, and the media plans have been drawn up. Now that digital has become a central part of a client’s marketing initiatives, we need to think about making strategic contributions to the brand in every aspect. 

The options for digital video ads are now varied, what are marketers most excited about?

Google and Facebook remain the standard destinations for clients. That said, live-event telecast on OTT platforms sees very high interest from advertisers; of the live events, cricket rules. There is also huge interest in big-ticket shows like Big Boss or Koffee with Karan which have huge resonance online and are massively consumed through OTT channels. Advertisers are now also very keen on content integration in original OTT content. This is a long-term process and the opportunities are limited because the script has to align with the brand. 

There is a perception that the lack of uniform measurement is holding back marketers from increasing digital spends. Your thoughts?

Yes, everyone is asking for a uniform video measurement solution. It would be great if the international tech giants and the Indian OTT players could all agree to share data and help the ecosystem. That said, we cannot stop our digital video spends in the meantime. Until we have the solution agencies and clients need, we are looking at third-party measurement - while this is not foolproof, it is one solution. Till the time we don’t have a complete solution we are looking at these platforms at their merits. 
 
Do you trust these walled gardens and their claims? 

On television, for example, the measurement is based on a sample and then extrapolated to the universe of TV viewers in India. That’s an estimate and not an exact figure, but advertisers are investing money in the television medium despite this fact. On digital also we have a ballpark figure that we are able to follow and use as a guideline. 
 

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