DAN-e4m Digital Advertising Conference: Arnab Goswami rolls the dice

Moderated by Ashish Bhasin of DAN the panel discussion also saw Ajoy Roy-Chowdhury of Facebook & Puja Pannum of Blis discussing digital beyond marketing

e4m by Pallavi Borkar
Published: Jan 17, 2019 9:49 AM  | 6 min read
DAN Arnab Goswami

At the DAN exchange4media Digital Advertising Conference held in Mumbai yesterday, the Owners Panel Discussion was on the topic 'Digital Beyond Marketing'. The session was moderated by Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network and the panel members included Ajoy Roy-Chowdhury, Global Agency Lead - EMEA, Facebook; Arnab Goswami - MD & Editor In Chief, Republic TV; and Puja Pannum - Managing Director, MENA – Blis. 

Watch the full video here or read the excerpts below:

The session revolved around how businesses have typically restricted their use of Digital to Marketing Activities. Digital Transformation changes the mix of Digital Technologies thus accelerating its impact across the industry in a strategic and prioritised way with the present and future shifts in mind.

"Digital has significantly impacted our life. All businesses today, be it a television channel, advertising agency or a popcorn seller, have gone digital. It’s a way of doing business. Hence there's a need for digital transformation,” said Bhasin. 

“Arnab has digitally transformed the business of news. I heard his reporters' office was actually their mobile phone. How did this transformation take place?" asked Bhasin.
To which Goswami said, “I did not count digital as a medium that I need to look at. Part of that came from arrogance from television, part of it came from the impact we had on television. In India, television is very new and it will never be edged out. In 2014, when we covered the elections, I asked myself how I should use digital to transform the brand and the marketing perception of the channel I was then working for. We took all the money from the digital marketing budget and invested in one hoarding at Times Square in New York. We spread the message on WhatsApp to relevant groups of students and Indians in NY that a samosa party will take place after the results were announced; and we actually did distribute samosas to people there. That samosa party became a fantastic video on WhatsApp, the element of virality was fantastic and people talked about how the channel had reached NY. The nature of marketing completely changes if you use digital."

"Digital as a medium conveys much more than traditional advertising. For the launch of Republic Bharat, we are doing 95 per cent digital marketing and content creation on our own, focusing on the centrality of the message we want to send on Bharat. So the nature has changed, lines have changed, people are informal. I think this will last for much longer than traditional advertising. I’m a big proponent of it," informed Arnab.

Talking about her views on the context of businesses digitally transforming themselves, Pannum said, “I was impressed with the OTT content produced here locally. I mean Netflix producing 400 pieces of content is fantastic. The market I’m in, the MENA region, we don’t have that much content. We have only 3 per cent of content online in Arabic. There is great a challenge on content production, content creation, and how consumers gain information on the internet. India, on the other hand, has great talent, great opportunities to work with intelligent people coming out of universities, working hard. In MENA, we have a talent deficit. At Blis, we provide brands, companies with audience data, and with that data they understand their target audiences or consumers. India is a huge market opportunity for us, consumers are so connected. You have 400 million devices connected here; we connect to 180 million devices in the MENA market. The opportunity to use GEO location technology to shape businesses and brands working with us is going to be exciting.” 

Speaking of how digital is going to play a significant role in forming governments, Roy-Chowdhury spoke about the Indian General Elections on the digital medium. “We are taking the elections very seriously and have done that for the last couple of years. By the end of this year, we have focused on 50 elections globally. The Indian elections is the big one. India is the largest democracy in the world. There are a number of things we are doing, such as making sure that there is integrity in these elections. We are going to fight fake accounts; every day a million accounts are blocked, sweeped off to ensure security. We are going to combat false and fake news in election after election. We are educating MPs, their staff, the election officers, chief ministers on how their accounts could be hacked; we are giving them cyber guides to look out for signals to ensure integrity of their sites. We are looking at third party fact checking, which is very important. Our relationship with AFP will help. WhatsApp is very important. It has to be safe, secure and reliable, an absolute must for elections. We are learning from traditional media. We are bringing about ad transparency for doing political ads. We are learning and learning fast.”

Goswami spoke about how fake news was a big problem. “The fact is global giants like Facebook are handling it with their backs on the wall. I mean they have to put hoardings in London subways to say that we are against and fighting fake news. Stuff like this has dented the credibility of FB; they have become extremely defensive. It seems like you are cleansing your consciousness. Digital should be an agent of social change and transformation. Defensive digital medium cannot be the source and agent of social change and transformation.” 

Roy-Chowdhury agreed: “It is a valid point, it’s a great responsibility we have. And we take it cautiously, it may seem as we are over-cautious, but we are looking at what we can do to decrease fake news. What we can do to ensure there is free speech on our platform. It is an interesting time but also a great responsibility for us.” 

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