Are we Duhs in Digital Media?

22 Jun,2012


By Tuhina Anand and Shruti Pushkarna


India has once again drawn a blank in the Cyber Lions category at Cannes 2012. From the 27 entries from India in this category, none made it to the shortlist. Considering that digital is the talk at all industry forum and the future, or is it actually the present, of advertising, its dismal performance at Cannes makes one realize that India is still miles behind on this medium.


Nagesh Alai

Nagesh Alai, Executive Director – India Operations at DraftFCB Group, pointed out: “It is not surprising not seeing a shortlist in the Cyber Lions from our shores. Most in our industry continue to see and use Digital as a ‘medium of messaging’ instead of seeing and using Digital as a ‘medium to engage with and start a conversation about the brand’. It is a classic case of getting stuck in hoary mindsets of a 30-second TV commercial. The day our digital specialists get out of this mindset, I reckon one will see a sea change in the digital executions and becoming award worthy. I am sure we will see that happen in the not too distant a future.”


Talking about the digital in India, Carlton D’Silva, Chief Creative Officer, Hungama Digital Services Pvt. Ltd, said: “As I have mentioned in the past, the standard of good digital work in India to compete at the Cannes can only be made possible if the playing fields are even.”


He listed the factors that go against good digital creative work, which remain remains the same – the inability to acquire the requisite budget for a digital campaign, the lack of time and the lack of risk taking (both from the client as well as agency side) the digital medium is still used more for its effectiveness than creativity.


A senior mobility and digital media executive with a leading media agency felt that India’s performance in Cannes Digital categories should at least have some positive side-effects. “Why this happened? If I have to sum up in short, it is because of lack of respect for the Digital medium, which comes from ignorance about the medium and its possibilities; lack of budgets, which comes from lack of respect for the medium; lack of creative talent, which stems from lack of budgets,” she added.


The executive explained that there is a need for a reality check on how evolved the consumers, marketers and agencies are, as compared to Cannes shortlisted entries or winners. “Look at the short-listed entries for Cyber Lions, they come from countries which have more than 75% internet penetration, while we are celebrating our 10% mark. Of course, one can argue that the population of these countries is lesser than some of our states but one also needs to understand that their consumers are also much more evolved. Again, take a look at the Mobile Lions winners, what do you see? Smart phones and Tablets! In our country Voice is the most penetrated medium on Mobile and we have 21 million smartphones in a mobile subscriber base of 900 million plus. If rich media creatives are the tickets to Lions, I would rather design mobile campaigns that work in Indian eco-system and bring value to advertisers in terms of media effectiveness,” she said.


Vikas Tandon

Giving his take on India’s performance in this category, Vikas Tandon, Founder and Managing Director, Indigo Consulting said: “To start with, I think we should recognise that Cannes is as big as it gets, the competition is really tough with hundreds of entries from all over the world, so there is no shame in not winning. We must keep learning from the experiences and pegging away at it. Let’s not write off the Indian team because we lost one tournament. But, definitely it must serve as a reminder that we need to commit ourselves a lot more to Digital than we are now. Among Indian marketers, it is still not as important/critical a piece in the marketing game plan as it is in many other countries and hence, while it seems to get some attention, it just does not get the time or budgets. One of the most frustrating challenges that digital agency invariably have to encounter in India is lack of execution time. Once you have an idea/construct, and even detailing it takes time. Execution is, of course, equally critical for success, and the time constraints often do not allow an idea to reach its full potential.


So one thing has clearly come out from this, is that for Indian marketers, digital is an after-thought and not still a critical medium.


Naresh Gupta

Naresh Gupta, Managing Partner, Bang in the Middle when asked on what ails Indian digital advertising said that he would rather look from the perspective of why the Indian digital advertising is not growing up. Giving his take, he pointed out four aspects: “The digital advertising in India is stuck in a time wrap. The traditional method of advertising is about creating awareness, to generate Interest that creates desires that leads to action. More often than not, digital campaigns are built around the same parameter. Digital behaviour is really about search and share, and that is a paradigm that marketers haven’t been able to factor in. This is part of the reason why campaigns neither aid search, nor motivate share.”


Mr Gupta also mentioned that Digital engagement has been reduced to a Facebook page and a Twitter handle: “I am not saying they are not important, they are, but they are just the tools. For a lot of brands getting the followers or number of likes becomes the strategy. Now that’s not really smart. The brands have to have a strategy for social media.”


His third points is that the TV-led thinking for brands where an idea is crafted for TV and then adapted to digital is actually the biggest problem. Consider this, all marketing theories were written before the advent of Internet. The need to position, the need to leverage a singular attribute and build on one are all fine with TV-centric thinking, but not so for ‘word of mouse’-centric thinking. The digital medium has its own dynamics and needs a different take. The strategic thinking that leads to ATL idea needs to be interpreted keeping digital dynamics in mind.


And lastly: “Most importantly, the brand owners need to recognize the importance of digital and craft the entire strategy accordingly. The brand owners too fret to get their TV brief right, but rarely debate to get their digital idea right.”


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3 responses to “Are we Duhs in Digital Media?”

  1. Robin Abraham says:

    I think as agencies, it is easy to pass the buck onto clients but where digital is a budding proposition it also becomes every agency’s onus to educate responsibly and demonstrate value. While winning awards is not the only benchmark, i do feel that agencies fuel the ignorance to the medium by promising fans/views/likes & conversations and focusing on the measurement of impact of an activity rather than focusing on the activity itself.

  2. Hhimanshu Johi says:

    nice, insightful

  3. IndoIndie says:

    Does winning awards qualify as the only yardstick to measure quality of work? Despite being from a digital set up myself, find this article too negative. India is producing some excellent digital work – it might not win global awards but it sure is effective and reaches more people that campaigns done across continents in other let’s stop feeling sorry for ourselves and keep pegging away..