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Digital Is The New Mainstream

As commercial activities rev up, media reports estimate that India will continue to be the fastest-growing advertising market in the world, with digital leading from the front

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If 2021 was a year of resilience, 2022 is expected to be a year of amplification. Evidently, the digital channels helped individuals and industries navigate the two tumultuous years, literally enveloping all -- from the neighbourhood kirana store to the big conglomerates. The majority of them put their faith in the power of digital and sailed through this phase smoothly. Digital media engagement remained strong, evidence that the pandemic has only accelerated pre-existing trends toward the online world.  

Endorsing that the rapid shift of businesses and consumers towards digital media augmented this change, Rajesh Ramakrishnan, Managing Director, Perfetti Van Melle India says he sees consumers expecting more from brands and their increased reliance on the digital medium to learn about brands, in terms of how they can satisfy their unique needs. He also foresees digital to not only become an essential part of multi-media campaigns but also the lead vehicle for certain campaigns. “Brands are now actively leveraging trends like vernacular campaigns, voice, gaming and AR – and with all of these, digital marketing is leading the next phase of transformation in consumer marketing,” he states.  

Prasanth Kumar, CEO, GroupM South Asia adds, “The pandemic has pushed the envelope towards digital and has hence topped the pie, with advertisers keen to explore more of it.” 

While marketers agree that digital’s growth trajectory is a revolutionary tale in itself, there is no dearth of reports that also substantiate its thumping leap in the current year as well. GroupM’s ‘This Year, Next Year (TYNY) 2022’ report touts digital to emerge as the largest medium in 2022, with an estimated share of 45 per cent. This space is estimated to further grow by 33 per cent this year. “While the total ad spend is estimated to reach Rs 107,987 crore in 2022 in India, digital is expected to touch Rs 48,603 crore,” states the report. 

As per the dentsu Digital Report 2021, digital advertising in India is set to equal (if not surpass) the previously-impregnable fortress of TV advertising by 2023, clocking Rs 35,809 crore out of expected total advertising pie of Rs 93,119 crore. The biggest contributors will be FMCG (42 per cent, Rs 8,928 crore), ecommerce (17 per cent, Rs 3,607 crore), consumer durables (6 per cent, Rs 1,368 crore) and pharmaceutical (5 per cent, Rs 1,124 crore), the report estimates. 

Even the Pitch Madison Advertising Report (PMAR) 2022 emphasises digital to take a big leap in 2022, growing by almost Rs 8,000 crore to Rs 33,070 crore and growing its share from 34 per cent to 37 per cent. 

Digital Versus TV Debate  

It is now evident that the open internet offers abundant opportunities for marketers to discover and reach new audiences in a meaningful way. This is primarily driven by the accelerated adoption of OTT, connected TV, audio and in-mobile apps that represent some of the fastest-growing channels on the open internet.  

Stamping its surging adoption by the marketing fraternity, digital ad revenue as per the PMAR 2022 grew 50 per cent y-o-y, 60 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels at Rs 25,500 crore. Digital reported sharp growth from 6 per cent ad share in 2012 to 34 per cent share in CY21. Video accounted for the highest share in digital advertising, followed by social and search. The strongest growth within digital advertising is by e-commerce, the report points out. 

 On this, Ramakrishnan believes marketers will enjoy a strategic competitive advantage as: 

  • Digital marketing generates data points that enable targeted marketing; 

  • It provides an opportunity to experiment with a variety of tactics and then select the most efficient ones; and  

  • It also offers an opportunity of engagement that digital brings along. 

What Does it Mean for Marketers?  

Sam Balsara, Chairman, Madison World, tries to put digital resurgence into perspective. He says, “The top 50 advertisers now spend 58 per cent of their total advertising budget on TV and digital and 30 per cent on digital alone. Globally, out of a total of USD 585 billion spent on advertising, 65 per cent is on Digital. In India, we are under-indexed on digital with a share of 34 per cent.” 

He however adds: “We can expect India to catch up with this global trend, though slowly. TV and print are both giving a tough fight to digital on Adex in India. Globally, TV is 22 per cent and print is mere 5 per cent but in India TV is 38 per cent and print is 22 per cent.”  

For Balsara, what all this means is that those advertisers who don’t have digital in their media mix should consider using it. 

However, the house remains divided when it comes to TV. Some believe that the latter is the only traditional medium that has shown resilience overall. TV ad revenue grew 25 per cent y-o-y in CY21, which was 11 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic levels at Rs 28,500 crore. Q3 was the strongest quarter for TV helped by IPL, festive season and the ICC World Cup. All its genres reported strong growth y-o-y, except the English genre that declined. FMCG remained the largest contributor to TV ad spends. 

Affirming that TV remains at the top of the pecking order for multiple favourable reasons, Megha Tata, Managing Director – South Asia, Discovery Communications India states, “Having established itself as a lead channel for brand building and sustaining reputation for decades, TV is now also being recognised for boosting conversions, for more nuanced customer targeting and engagement, extending reach across regions and so on. The medium is progressively evolving to serve as a sophisticated multi-platform marketing network for brands and advertisers.” 

Tata further adds, “Despite the emergence of SVOD services and social media influencers as content creators, TV consumption remains steadfast across the board. I truly believe 2022 would emerge to be one of the most historic years for TV’s growth and evolution.” 

“Neither clients nor consumers see the difference between digital and mainline. Digital has certainly evolved. At the same time, the consumption is across media,” argues Shamsuddin Jasani, CEO, Wunderman Thompson, South Asia. 

Even Tejinder Gill, General Manager, The Trade Desk India believes that data privacy and transparency have become a topic of concern as marketers and consumers have come out more tech-savvy, increasingly embracing a wide range of these digital channels. 

Digital to Emerge Stronger in 2022? 

The rapid digital transformation of companies, brands and the way they connect with consumers is reflected in the global advertising spends as well as the way even traditional media is expanding with their digital extensions. India, in 2022, will see a rapid manifestation of these global trends, thus fundamentally altering the media industry, giving direction to some new trends, expounds the GroupM report. 

Digital experience to be driven by decentralisation 

Web 3.0, Metaverse and NFTs are all making headlines with pundits and promoters using these terms to communicate visions of a decentralised and virtual-first future. Fundamentally, these emerging technologies are harbingers of a developing cultural shift that may unfold over the next decade as a generation of consumers who live primarily in virtual worlds comes of age. 

Web 3.0 is the next stage of the web evolution that would make the internet more intelligent or process information with near-human-like intelligence. Here, users won’t distinguish between physical and digital experiences. This interconnected, live, persistent virtual world is also popularly known as the Metaverse. 

Brands would start leveraging this virtual world as well as components powering the virtual worlds to build brand experience and assets, drive the consumer to connect, associate with the cause, build loyalty, own a moment or drive real or virtual sales. 

Consumer engagement to be on a roll 

With the world speaking about NFTs, fan tokens and digital collectables passionately, platforms and rights creators will continue testing different ownership models to determine the optimal balance of fuelling consumer demand and maintaining intellectual rights. There will definitely be a lot of moulding and remoulding but it is only going to make it exciting for brands and open newer avenues for consumer engagement. 

Advanced intelligence to counter digital fragmentation 

With the receding impact of cookies and rising data privacy laws, advanced intelligence is the saviour in this digital marketing and advertising data explosion. Also, humans are unable to process the huge amount of marketing and digital data points that are hitting them every second, in volume, variety and velocity. 

The use of AI and ML will lead to advance data processing capabilities bringing excellence in execution by automating, auditing, reporting and analysing digital campaigns. Marketers will accelerate the use of the algorithms to find numerous permutations and combinations to deliver performance/ROAS. 

Digital to percolate down to print media

Print networks will further leverage their core strength – high-quality content – by expanding their digital presence. Moving beyond web editions and apps, more podcasts and usage of AR in delivering immersive content is expected. 

For Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network, the overall Adex appears to be driven by digital itself. Confident that digital will be the core of most brands’ agenda in 2022, he explains, “Online platforms provide a unique opportunity for marketers to connect with consumers in a more personal way. As a result, businesses should consider incorporating digital marketing into their overall marketing strategy.”  

He adds, “It is now up to the advertisers and the broadcasters to take advantage and have a clear mapping of their Digital blueprint in the future by strengthening their digital infrastructure and investing ahead of the market.” 

While only time will unfold if digital will ultimately overtake TV numbers, it is, however, a great time for advertisers to take advantage of the evolved digital infrastructure for distribution and advertising to prepare for future growth and to invest in building their own D2C channels.