Digital

Digital Advertising: a class room waiting to be created

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This article of mine appeared in the Brand Wagon supplement of Financial Express, today:

There was a time when the Pakistan cricket team produced a seemingly endless list of fast bowlers. It is said that one man – Imran Khan, inspired a whole generation of fast bowlers. In India, Kapil Dev is credited with inspiring many youngsters to take up fast bowling instead of spin –which was India’s domain as it were. In advertising too, we’ve had our share of superstars who inspired many youngsters. When I joined advertising, there were a bevy of superstars – from agency heads to creative directors who were in the news, held in awe – who were an inspiration. We aspired to emulate them. Today too many youngsters and freshers in the business have a role model. The work emanating from that role model becomes an inspiration and motivation for an individual to do better.

Recently there questions raised in sections of the trade media about why Digital Advertising in India still does not have it’s ‘Volkswagen Lemon’ or a ‘Piyush’. Sure, role models and that one big game-changing idea in the medium spurs the entire industry to think different. A Zoozoos changed expectations of a high impact, surround campaign led by TV. An HBO Voyuer campaign changed the rules about outdoor advertising. A path breaking digital campaign from India can change perceptions across all stakeholders – clients, agencies, media. But beyond just waiting for that magical day to happen, what else can the industry do?

The ‘Slides 74-85’ mindset

It’s been said before but as long as the digital component is seen as an add-on, to be rushed through after the brand essence, the big idea and the TV commercials have been presented we will continue to lament the state of digital advertising in India. Sure, India is predominantly Television led as far as media spends go, but even in categories where digital should be the central component around which other ideas are built, we still see the old media mindset: a microsite featuring the TVC, a Facebook fan page and over & out. We are still talking of formats which can take the TV idea forward.

Talent issue

The ideal digital advertising practitioner is a hybrid animal: Planner, technology enthusiast, creative mind, a businessman and maybe even a coder. We don’t have very many people of that nature or orientation in advertising, maybe not even in specialist digital agencies. Clients on the other hand are still under the ‘digital is cheap’ mindset going purely by the cost estimates they get on web page design. As a result the tremendous interactive potential of the digital medium remains untapped. So where do we go from here?

What comes to mind is this: Digital Education. University of Colorado, Boulder has created a programme called the Boulder Digital Works. It is a 60-week programme designed to reflect the fast-changing digital ecosystem. The areas of study include: Brand, Service Design, Application Development, Gaming, Social Media, Creative Thinking and Emerging Systems. Imagine a course of this nature from a reputed communications institute in India. And the army of creative digital thinkers that is likely to emerge from there. Their approach will definitely be different from the ‘let’s make a viral video’ mindset that is so prevalent now.

Update: among the responses on the article, this was an interesting one:

The current digital guru’s are either trying to own a niche like search or social which is more a fad than giving the complete holistic picture or they are selling performance campaigns which is turning to be a pain because we are being measured by no of leads and not brand imagery. So everyone is playing safe and marketing on metrics rather than opportunity available. Nobody questions a Rs 20 lakh hoarding on Marine Drive by metrics, but when it comes to Rs 2 lakh on digital all the metrics surface.

Any thoughts, dear reader?

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A marketing communications professional with a keen interest in all things advertising. I share creative ads and views on the ad industry here. Views are personal. See Disclaimer for more.

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