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Despite maximum internet shutdowns, digital advertising enjoyed heyday throughout 2019

Industry expecting even better ad spends on digital in 2020

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MUMBAI: Year 2019 was a tough slide for the advertising industry in India. The traditional model suffered because of the ambiguity over new tariff orders and the sector jumped into a reeling spiral because of the economic crunch. But there were not many hurdles to stop the magnificent growth of digital advertising. Despite 95 internet shutdowns, digital advertising in India reportedly grew 30 per cent during the year. Elections and World Cup were added bonuses. Obviously, digital marketers have their year closing on brighter notes.

“2019 has been an interesting year for digital marketers. From the rise of augmented reality and video content to voice search and influencer marketing, this year the trajectory of digital industry has only gone up,” says White Rivers Media CEO and Co-founder Shrenik Gandhi.

Madison Digital chief digital officer Vishal Chinchankar is pompous as he announces the fantastic year his firm had, “If I look back, Madison Digital had a fantastic year. We grew more than the industry average. After winning more than 10 digital businesses, we launched “DATASK”, our propriety consumer-based targeted marketing and insights platform, designed to identity and define personalised experiences at scale. Along with this, we also launched a suite of performance marketing tools based on algorithmic machine learning. TV Plus planning process was successfully implemented with many clients. We also saw muted spends from categories like BFSI & Auto. It’s been a year of product launches leading to more wins!”

Logicserve Digital founder and CEO Prasad Shejale tells us that the year was all about positive transformation for his business as they unveiled a new identity for themselves. He adds, “We defined and integrated our core capability areas. This was also the year when we started experimenting much more on integrating data, media, creative, tools & technologies, etc. to provide a holistic approach to our clients’ digital strategy. There was a good addition of leadership talent in our team and we have been focusing on the consulting business as well.”

However, Mirum India general manager – sales Srikant Subramanian feels that there were some brands who faced some hiccups in taking off, despite the stellar opportunities that digital ecosystem had to offer. He quips, “It seemed like a year where there were several companies who wanted to take the leap and do something different and challenging in a cluttered world, and others who decided to play it safe and stick to the devil they knew.”

From the perspective of trends and technology, the year saw lots of experimentation. Social commerce gained a lot of popularity. Facebook announced newer algorithms and also came up with a new 10-second ad format called Thumbstoppers, Instagram was equipped with its own business tool , Whatsapp ads were announced, TikTok garnered massive attention with its reach multiplying in the Indian heartland, and regional content took centre-stage. E-tailers like Myntra, Flipkart, and Zomato forayed into the world of video hosting to achieve their targets of becoming integrated experience portals.

Shejale notes that all of this eventually helped businesses get more gains out of their marketing efforts while also being able to tap the right audiences, through the right channels with the right approach of platform-specific formats.

Commenting on these trends, Subramanian says, “Instagram for business has had an impact on small digital-first businesses in India and has helped them a lot. In many of our clients that we work with it hasn’t had too much impact. 10-sec ads of course have had a positive impact on spending on FB as they now compete with YouTube and offer the marketer a new option to play with aside from the 3-sec option from earlier.”

He mentions another interesting trend that gained popularity within the year, which is of marketers looking at behind the scenes tools for data modelling and checking behaviour of their audiences before they launch campaigns.

Grapes Digital COO Shradha Agarwal sharing her thoughts on the popularity of influencer marketing elaborates, “Influencer marketing became an indispensable part of the marketing plan for every brand. It was one of the most visible easily paid word-of-mouth and a tool to create new content every year. The biggest trend this year was the selection of influencers via various influencers' tools based on Engagement Rate and a mere follower base. The second was the movement from Instagram to Tiktok; a lot of brands saw a shift in their choice of influencer strategy. Tiktok is going to be the biggest social platform in 2020 too. With the rise of TikTok, brands found the way to interact with the next million internet users and NCCS B, C, and D.”

The industry is well-positioned for an even better 2020. With Gen-Z taking centre-stage in most industries, digital consumption is expected to multiply and thus there is huge scope for digital agencies to perform.

Gandhi is positive that 2020 is going to be a game changer for digital marketers. “With a plethora of new trends and challenges on the way, the coming year will help businesses in gaining a competitive edge, generate leads and improve the relationship with their existing customers,” he says.

Subramanian believes that restricted budgets and a mixed economy feeling will lead clients to focus on business outcomes on digital. He adds, “We will see more integration between traditional mediums and the use of geo-targeting for those campaigns to deliver maximum impact.”

Zirca CEO & director Neena Dasgupta quips, “Digital advertising, in the coming decade, is going to be filled with challenges as well as opportunities. For instance, the last few years have seen video consumption grown tremendously. But with shorter ad formats in the video space, brands have been challenged creatively requiring them to be very dynamic while showcasing their creative brilliance. I also see AI playing a greater role. Whoever manages to balance the aspects of efficiency with creativity will rule the roost.”

Shejale mentions, “Looking forward to seeing increased spends on digital marketing. Focus on data-backed and insight-led solutions that are more likely to perform well and provide improved results. Amplification of technologies like AR, VR, Voice, etc and integration of these for offering unique experiences to consumers.”

Chichankar adds that the internet population is expected to cross 750 million mark in 2020. Speaking about trends, he says, “Video, voice should continue the growth story. I am personally very bullish about the content consumption and share of advertising growth on OTTs. While Madison has already put the protocols to mitigate ad frauds and viewability, the industry needs to be more cognizant about it.”

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