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Digital suffers due to lack of common metric system: Ashish Bhasin

DAN South Asia chairman, CEO speaks at the launch of its digital report.

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MUMBAI: Dentsu Aegis Network, one of the biggest marketing agencies in India, released the third edition of its annual Digital Report recently predicting a wholesome 31.96 per cent CAGR growth of digital advertising in India. An exhausting and thoroughly researched report, this initiative by DAN is probably the singular attempt being made by any agency in India. Therefore, it was definitely a proud moment for Ashish Bhasin, the chairman and chief executive officer for DAN South Asia. In an exclusive conversation with Indiantelevision.com, Bhasin reveals how working on this report serves the larger goal of maintaining a leading position in the market and how other marketers can learn from the insights revealed.

Talking about the launch, Ashish Bhasin proudly says, "We are very excited and very happy with the way the whole report has come out. What's very clear to us at DAN is that there is no business that is not going to be affected by digital. And as leaders of digital communication and advertising in India, we see it as our responsibility to make sure that authentic research on that is available, which, unfortunately, has not been revealed in India so far."

Bhasin is of the view that creating such reports serve the dual purpose of driving the cumulative growth of the digital ecosphere as well as preparing the team within the agency for opportunities and challenges forward. He notes, "We forecast the trends and lead the markets towards those trends. Now, that we know what the market is thinking and what our clients are aspiring, we have already started building capabilities in those areas which other agencies haven't even thought of."

The report reveals a number of key marketing trends that will rule the digital industry in the coming years. Most important of them being the three Vs - voice, vernacular, and video. As far as the voice part is concerned, DAN made a fine move by launching the report on Google's voice assistant Alexa. Video is already a stronghold for the agency as many of its campaigns have already been bringing national and international honours.

Asserting on the need for viable vernacular content, Bhasin shares, "In the next few years, around 200 to 300 million more people are going to be on the internet. Now, from these, very few will be coming from the metropolitan cities as the penetration there is very good. The people will be joining from tier 2 and tier 3 cities, all the way down from rural areas."

But not many agencies are creating vernacular advertisements. "At best, they take a Hindi or English ad and translate it into other languages. That might be better than putting an English ad into a vernacular setting but it is not good enough. You have to start building the ability to create advertisements in local languages because that's where your audiences are."

Bhasin also lauds the effort of the Indian government in starting initiatives that are augmenting this influx of larger population on digital platforms. He says, "I think digital is going to be key to governance, forget anything else and thus, the infrastructure for digital needs to be created and administered by the government. At the moment, there are between 400 and 450 million Indians who are on the internet. This is a large number but the more exciting part to me is that in the next two to three years we are probably going to see something like 200 to 300 million more people coming on to the internet. And that can be possible only if the government helps put up the right infrastructure, which they have been very good at so far."

While the pouring in of new online customers is a positive sign, the digital ecosphere still faces the absence of a unified metric system to measure and evaluate the impact of online content. Sharing his thoughts, Bhasin elaborates, "I think that is the single biggest problem that digital advertising in India faces today. For a medium that is so measurable, we don't have an agreed common metric like Broadcast Audience Research Council is for television. The medium suffers because of that. If we are to get that right, I think that will make a huge difference."

However, he is optimistic that this challenge will eventually be solved. He says, "We need to have common industry-accepted viewership parameters and I am hopeful that these metrics in the next couple of years will be in place. I believe that in the next two years, as an industry, we collectively will evolve a common metric system as not having that is a big disadvantage."

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