India: What will 2014 be for Digital Marketers?

Whenever we start to look ahead, it’s always good to look how far we’ve come. This is not to carry baggage into the future, but take the experience forward.

I started to look at the last 3 years’ digital conferences content and the awards that have taken place in the country. They surprisingly look very similar – new shiny digital-object, best practices, an international speaker, and a few dated case studies. The folks who attended might have been the same. And the enthusiasm to grow digital has been quite the same as well. Even Sir Martin Sorrell has sustained his bullish stance about India (2012 and 2013). But the needle hasn’t moved much. And, here’s someone else who also echo’s the thought – Madhumita Dutta.

Bring the thought of digital to our friends who are advertisers and they’re still looking for their big idea on digital. Commonly used words are – innovation, viral, and low (no) budgets. No wonder digital still hovers at less than 10 percent of overall spend. A few of the changes have been social pages with contests, which used to be custom-built dedicated microsites a few years ago.

The most measurable channel, digital, is measured with the most simplistic approach, while the most vague traditional channels are subject to complex media mix modeling. I mean – why!

So I think next year, 2014 will challenge marketers to bring more focus and clarity to their efforts.

The fragmented use of channels is a self-created misery (thoda idhar; thoda udhar daal do – little bit here and little bit there), and hopefully is shown the door. This will be done by measuring the percentage of audience across channels. Insignificant channels should be dropped to bring focus. And if you have no clue what to do on a certain channel, step back. Really spend sometime to find out what really works for your brand/product/category. And, don’t under invest in a channel.

Once you have a few clear sets of touch points to reach out to your audience, this will drive better use of measurement tools. Attribution model and multi channel funnels should see some usage and adoption.

I’m pegging 2014 the year where display advertising will grow faster than search advertising. As it will become evident to advertisers that your customers consume content beyond search and social.

True advertising has always been about multimedia – visual, sound, interaction, etc. This will fuel conversations around data driven marketing as there is focus, clarity, and an ambition to maximize performance of digital campaigns, making CTR (click-through-rate) a metric of the past.

RTB (real time bidding) will simplify digital display buying, which is very complex as of today and keeps advertisers very wary of it. However, audience buying will remain a bit far fetched, if everything is going to sit on social pages or closely guarded websites by your IT Teams. CIO/CTO’s have to start understanding and including “digital marketing” as an important than just creating a website with navigation and content. Data has to be made interoperable between IT and Marketing; making your marketing strategy integrated.

Friends in the agency world will really have to look at different ways of making profits (making ends meet won’t do), this will lead to the emergence of trading desks in India. They will have to start the process of changing the way the agency model works in the digital scenario. Redundant tasks have to be automated, data has to be made more actionable and campaigns have to win more awards – all of this without charging less than the previous year or eating into other margins.

Hopefully, some of the best talent will flow into the agency world. Someone told me back in the 1990’s that the agency world had the best people than on the advertiser side. They were more strategic than operational; the chaps today are the “just do it” types.

The publisher ecosystem will start to become more transparent and will start to add more flavor to their offerings. No longer conversations will be about page views and impressionable inventory – but about audience, profiles and how they are open to collaborate more with the advertisers. RTB and audience will slowly creep into conversations as they invest in technology, change in privacy policy, and data usage.

In essence, 2014 will or should be able to have more clarity, unification, efficiency and doing more than the usual on digital. It will inspire confidence in the medium and put the best foot forward. And it will be the year that can make digital marketing a serious place to be in.

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