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Guest Article: Unified digital industry body needed to define rules: Sanjay Trehan

18-July-2011
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Guest Article: Unified digital industry body needed to define rules: Sanjay Trehan

With over 100+ million users in the digital space and the number growing at about 23-25 per cent, digital media is redefining communication and consumer behaviour. It is a fact that no company can afford to ignore the power of this medium. The marketing strategy of any organisation these days is considered incomplete without the inclusion of digital media.

In order to get the best out of their campaigns, it is imperative for brands to understand the surfing habits and patterns of their target audience, and realise where, how and when is the ideal time to best engage with them. The success of a campaign in such cases depends a lot on credible, transparent and standard metrics available for the web.

No single, credible source of data
Web measurement metrics has been a topic of great debate for some time now. Digital is a highly accountable medium, unlike its broadcast or print counterparts, because it allows marketers to know and record every bit of its usage. But this is more from an individual standpoint. As a mass medium, there is a need for credible sources of data that can help measure and analyse the web and its consumers.

Lack of measurement metrics hindering industry growth
While there are many private firms that provide both qualitative and quantitative data on web usage, the lack of a single, credible industry-led set of statistics has deterred many advertisers and marketers from exploring the online medium to its fullest and hindering the growth of this industry. Which is why despite its innumerable advantages, digital advertising market gets only 2 per cent of the Rs 22,000 crore ad market in India.

Having said this, the web is not a linear medium like TV or print and hence, readership-based metrics like TAM and IRS will work not here. What it needs is a multi-linear approach that will not just look at the numbers of hit and pages viewed, but also the level of engagement with consumers.

Need for consumers to share personal details voluntarily
Getting accurate data is most often a major hurdle. While technology has made data collection and analysis simpler, the increasing demands for user privacy prevents companies from capturing customer activities and later use it for commercial needs. The best way to tackle this is by devising an approach where consumers are incentivised to divulge personal details on a voluntary basis. Though there are some private firms taking such initiatives now, a project of this kind will truly work only when it is conducted by an industry-led body.

Given the dynamic nature of the medium, it is inevitable that we will continue to need more definitive, one-on-one digital measurement metrics to allow a brand to engage with its target audience more effectively. Some of the private players are doing a great job in providing specific numbers, but for the medium to gain strength as a valuable mass media, an industry body would need to set basic parameters in place for others to follow.

The industry needs to come together
As practitioners of this media, it is for us to define the rules of this game. And in doing so, we must also remember that the medium is still in its infancy. There is a need for more refinement and granularity, but it is something that will evolve only with time. Even a developed market like the US is still struggling to find a more acceptable and standard measurement for digital media. It is only recently that various advertising bodies in the US got together to release the Guiding Principles of Digital Measurement. These principles aim to define transparent, standardised metrics and measurement systems, and bring an industry consensus on the subject.

The Indian advertising market needs to take a leaf out of the US experience. Given that the need for a standard metrics is in everyone’s interest, it is only a matter of time before we hit the winning formula!

(Sanjay Trehan is Head of MSN India Head at Microsoft. He is an experienced Internet professional with over 20 years of work experience. Before joining MSN India, he was CEO of NDTV Convergence, the digital arm of the NDTV Group. He has also worked as VP, Broadband and Web 2.0 at Indiatimes and as Chief of Internet with HT Media.)

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