India has an enormous digital audience that can often be viewed as too overwhelming for domestic advertisers, much less international advertisers.
To quantify the size of the opportunity, consider that India is estimated to have more than 450 million Internet users, second only to China (nearly 700 million), and well ahead of USA in third, which notches up 240 million people on the Internet.
This size brings complexity, whether it's rural-urban consumption differences, ethnic and cultural nuances, or fast changing consumer preferences, underpinned by 22 different languages and six distinct metropolitan areas. A cookie cutter mass advertising approach simply does not work for brand advertisers.
Furthermore, India has a multitude of different advertising and consumer experience touch-points, and the opportunity to connect with consumers across many channels is significant and growing.
However, print and TV advertising sits at the top of the media mix, as advertisers look to capture as many eyeballs and impressions as they can. In addition, with some businesses adopting long tail approaches, ad experiences have also sometimes been compromised.
Indian advertisers are also more reluctant to adopt certain ad technologies from overseas companies because these companies’ services are deemed to be more expensive. With a mindset of output being more important than outcome, there are still a lot of advertisers who do not view a marginal incremental ad spend as an investment in return for performance.
The truth is that digital, especially mobile, represents a huge opportunity for brand advertisers committed to understanding India, and all of its colour and vibrancy. The fusion of data and algorithms will enable advertisers to better reach the right target audiences on the right medium, including the largest middle class in the world, which now numbers more than 200 million people.
New solutions for a new era
We expect more sophisticated digital advertising to emerge in the next few years, as brands understand they must adopt a more targeted approach. New technology in digital advertising is being adopted quickly, but there is still hesitancy towards investing in tools that can improve the performance of digital media campaigns.
Those advertising technology solutions include a move to audience-based buying, software algorithms that analyse context and behaviour online, and artificial intelligence tools that optimise the digital media buying process.
Even though programmatic spend is still in the single digits, it is gaining serious headway due to the fact that telecom data charges are also becoming cheaper. This also means an increase in digital consumption and access.
This definitely resonates for a mobile-centric nation that has affordable bandwidth to serve all types of brand ads and digital content. With traditional TV still going strong and mobile usage and connectivity picking up, cross screen/device advertising is another treasure box waiting to be unlocked.
In addition, with an increasing number of people watching videos on platforms such as YouTube, Google and Facebook, and with these platforms becoming the extended platforms of big TV networks, new opportunities are present for digital marketers to be more creative with their ads and content, especially in the area of short-form videos.
Onwards and upwards
The Indian market is definitely not turning a blind eye to the advancement of digital advertising and the results it can bring, even if complexity brings a need to be smart with your investments.
The only way to efficiently reach digital audiences at scale across the vast Indian population is to deploy programmatic media buying, enabling specific ad campaigns to reach the right prospects. As media moves towards being digital, digital moves towards being programmatic. We can see this happening in the world of video, which is becoming increasingly scalable and measurable.
This will solve a lot of challenges as measurement metrics will be able to convey a higher degree of certainty regarding how brand videos drive sales, underpinned by better attribution tools which, in short, deliver on outcomes.
My belief is that when campaigns are measured well, outcomes will naturally become the focus. The measured results will speak for themselves and justify the investment in digital. This can turn the focus from the output equation, to achieving positive business for a brand.
Want to advertise to one billion people? You're going to need good data and technology to achieve the feat.
Atique Kazi is managing director, India at Xaxis
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