We are spending around 8% on digital currently: Bishwajeet Samal

Contrary to industry perception, Bishwajeet Samal, Head of Marketing Communications, Volkswagen Group Sales, believes that digital does bring the desired ROI if utilised properly

e4m by Sonam Gulati
Updated: Mar 26, 2014 7:46 AM
We are spending around 8% on digital currently: Bishwajeet Samal

Bishwajeet Samal has been with the automobile giant Volkswagen for about five years. Prior to that, he was associated with brands like Tata Teleservices, STAR India and Interface Communications. Being part of a sector that sells high-involvement product like cars, using the right communicationthat translates into leads, is more or less a challenge. As opposed to other categories, buying a car is long process that involves hand holding the customer every step of the way, using various means and approaches. In an exclusive interaction with exchange4media, Samal talks about how the digital medium works for a price-conscious advertiser and how Volkswagen is leveraging it to engage in effective andwell-targeted campaigns.

How does digital work for a category like yours?
We are not big advertisers. We plan 360 degree campaigns that can be executed digitally. We opt for digital as primary to directly target our TG which is mostly on the internet. The idea is to leverage an opportunity where you don’t need to talk to masses and have to reach a specific and defined audience; hence we don’t need to invest extensively in TV. The beauty of digital is that you can target the customer well with less investment and wastage.There will be some interesting campaigns from us in the middle of the year.

What about ROI?
The debate is that there is no metrics. There is no data to prove that someone bought the car because you did a particular digital campaign. But for instance, you send an e-mailer with a link that takes the viewer to a form that asks for basic details like name, contact number, etc., with which we can further target the consumer with other information. In this sense, digital doesn’t give ROI since we can calculate the number of responses to that form. And since it’s a long lead industry, it takes a couple of months for those leads to transform into actual purchases. But digital did help that consumer to convert. At every step, we track the status of the customer through our CRM. That is how you keep track and calculate ROI. It’s different with video advertising. Video as a medium needs to engage, inform or fulfill a specific objective. It has still not been used successfully to generate leads or sales; hence there is no ROI calculation. But digital as a medium pays off and can definitely be measured.

What are some of the challenges that you face specifically in digital?
At a broad level, creating relevant content that appeals to the audience is a big challenge. Content that strikes a chord emotionally and increases shares is very important and challenging. Secondly, getting the right expertise for creating this kind of content is also a challenge, to opt for the agency or a third party content creator.Most challenges are around content. TVCs can’t be directlytaken to digital medium since the audience and the consumption patternsare different.

Currently what percentage of your marketing spends goes to digital?
We are spending around 8 per cent right now but it’s only going to go higher.

You focus on digital and yet the spends are so less on the medium. Why?
The car industry as of now is a huge print advertiser.This is from an industry point of view and not necessarily only for our company. Approximately, 50 per cent of our budget goes to print, 35-40 per cent on TV, 8 per cent on digital and the rest is for outdoor and other media.

Is e-commerce progressing in the automobile sector?
Maruti does it very effectively for NRIs. But since it’s a high involvement product, it’s not pervasive currently in the industry at a large scale. People don’t buy cars online, but accessories and related paraphernalia business is looking up.

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