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Will Kolkata go the Mumbai way?

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KOLKATA: Digital marketing may have caught on in a big way in metros like Mumbai and Delhi but in Kolkata, it is struggling to play catch-up, largely due to skepticism around its success as a promotional strategy.

This, despite the recent example of Bengali film Aborto garnering over 30,000 Facebook likes, not to mention huge pre-release awareness simply by paying Facebook Rs 832 per day for a period of 25 days before the movie hit theatres.

City-based digital advertising agencies are positive that all businesses stand to benefit by deploying new methods of advertising, moreso those related to travel, real estate and e-commerce.

In fact, with the number of internet users having multiplied, most businesses that have been following traditional advertising methods (TV, radio and newspaper ads) are expected to divert some portion of their ad budget to digital platforms.

And yet, there’s agreement on the fact that it would take some more convincing before the City of Joy gets into serious digital space.

In a bid to understand the situation at ground zero, this correspondent spoke to a cross-section of industry.

Inter Action owner Prantar Chaudhuri said: “Apart from Facebook and Twitter, the next most used digital platforms are Instagram and LinkedIn. But FB and Twitter are priority.” However, he did say they had done a short-term Facebook plan for a client called Call Buddy, which is into customised gifts and novelties.

While Let’s Assist Digital Services CEO Prasit Bhattacharya opined that digital marketing is being adopted by both small and medium sized businesses. “The growth rate of digital advertising is almost 50 per cent and it will keep growing as the number of internet users increases. While social media marketing (SMM) finds a niche market here, we are seeing more activity in this space than before,” he said.

Bhattacharya said that with people searching for more and more information online, sites such as Tumblr and SlideShare were now featuring in people’s priority lists and companies were targeting applications advertising to reach out to more clients on their phones and tablets. “We are also developing a website with iOS and Android Apps, where people can create landing pages and websites by themselves, do A/B spilt testing and get detailed analytics reports on their digital marketing efforts in real time,” he added.

However, The Webspidy MD Avishek Tarafdar said that around 80 per cent of the people in Kolkata use facebook and the remaining 20 per cent use Google ppc. Going by 2013-14 social media trends, mobile/video ads on YouTube/Vimeo were the main platforms. The size of the advertising industry is $7.3 billion in India, of which, digital ad spend is only around six per cent, Tarafdar pointed out.

Even Bhattacharya was quick to point out the challenges associated with digital advertising. “Making clients understand the lifespan and reach of each campaign and ad can be challenging. While newspaper ads have a lifespan of one day, online ads can be strictly ROI focused if measured properly,” he said.

A media planner said: “Clients only want to spend on print media now. They like TT (The Telegraph) for space in Sunday magazine and pay for three months. But they are not sure what they want to put in that space.”

Another player said on condition of anonymity: “In Kolkata, mid-segment clients do not differentiate between advertising, brand building and propaganda. What most clients do is propaganda and not brand building.”

A third player rued: “To the Kolkata client, it will start only when some Mumbai agency comes and tells them.” A Delhi-based agency felt most Kolkata brands go digital because everyone else is going that way. Yet another source opined that Kolkata clients do not want to take a risk with new methodology until and unless they’re sure about its acceptability even among competitors.

The source added: “Moreover, ad budgets in east Indian cities like Kolkata are less than in Mumbai or Delhi. Besides, Kolkata-based clients are not very clear about SMM marketing. They think they can simply open a FB page and voila... they are doing SMM.”

Worth mentioning here is the initiative by Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) chairman Partha Rakshit, who is working to liaison with Google and Twitter for a tighter monitoring of digital ads. Ads that are in serious breach of the ASCI’s code, and that includes digital ads, will be withdrawn immediately.

So, given this scenario, will digital advertising take flight in Kolkata? It’s something only time will tell...

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