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Consumers dictate tonality of brand communication in digital age

MUMBAI: Time was when traditional media was the only advertising and marketing vehicle. If consumers did not like an ad, the ad would be modified. In today’s digital world, consumers dictate the tonality of brand communication. The gap for making mistakes has reduced.

These points were made at a session on ‘Brand building and engagement in a digital world’ at the media trade event FICCI Frames 2015.

Ashish Bhasin  YParticipating in the discussion, Dentsu Aegis CEO Ashish Bhasin made the point that in a digital world, consumers dictate the tonality of a brand’s communication. There has to be an emotional engagement and narrative. This is something that companies in categories like e-commerce are forgetting, he added.

He also noted that the speed of a brand’s response is key in the digital world. A wrong step by a brand can get magnified in milliseconds. At the same time, the right move can have a positive impact.

GroupM CEO South Asia CVL Srinivas mentioned that things have moved from a slow-moving market approach to a first-moving one. “While need for speed is important in digital, you also need to have the right rhythm with speed. Sometimes companies do too much of digital. Digital has to work in sync with other marketing vehicles.”
He also noted that getting insights and using data to give inputs to marketers and product managers is crucial.CVL Srinivas

Trend spotting is another theme. “You have to harness data. Then there is programmatic advertising and buying. Here the process is automated, hence the importance of technology.”

When asked about how ad budgets are split considering the multifariousness of the digital world, he said that in the digital world agencies have moved from measuring outputs to measuring outcomes. Earlier it was about how many TVRs a TV show got. Now it is more about brand likeability, brand awareness and sales.

Another trend is that now the lines are blurring between media and creative agencies. “We produce almost all content in digital campaigns. In digital, there is no time to brief someone else. Clients want agencies to work in an open-source model,” he said.

Bhasin added that there is no going back to a full-service agency model. Clients like super specialists, but the media and creative agencies need to work together.

Aditya SwamyMTV India executive VP, business head Aditya Swamy noted that the traditional advertising approach used to revolve around three campaigns in a year. “Today, brand management is a year-round activity. You have to navigate conversations. Everybody is messing with the format. Brands are publishers. Users are content creators. Today doors are windows.”

Srinivas noted that in a digital world agencies have to be storytellers. “You create stories and make brands a part of those stories.”

Giving the example of a Honda vehicle launch last year, he added, “A digital-only campaign was done and it told a story in three parts. The campaign ran for 60–90 days. We did not spend a rupee on traditional media. The digital campaign cost 1/10th of what it would have on traditional media.”

He also noted that in a digital world it is important to see what a consumer wants. “Digital platforms are not a silo. They can complement other touch points. Digital consumers provide useful data. When activation programmes are done on the mobile, ample data can be gathered. The aim should be to tell stories holistically rather than simply focus on digital as a medium.”

John HeinsenProducers Guild of America VP of new media, Bunnygraph CEO John Heinsen noted that the digital world has resulted in a convergence of traditional media, brands, advertising and technology. With social media, one now has the notion of community. A brand’s identity is tied to this community.

Swamy noted that earlier when television was the only medium, the focus was on creating content for the lowest common denominator. Now with digital, one can create niche content. The younger demographic comprises screenagers and the challenge is to migrate them from one screen to another.

It was also noted that sometimes ads appear on torrent sites that host pirated content. This happens because marketers now focus on reach. Brands can be distant from places where their ads appear and the context in which they appear.

Facebook and Twitter now offer videos. Communities are active on different platforms. If one is targeting influencers in a subculture, then Twitter might be a suitable platform.

According to Srinivas, the next big phase for digital campaigns will be in vernacular languages. He said that in the South digital stars have emerged who will attract brands to tie up with them.