Industry welcomes DAVP plans to embrace digital with cautious optimism

30 Jul,2012

By A Correspondent


Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), the multi-media advertising agency of the Government of India, in its Annual Report 2011-2012 stated that out of the total value of advertisements released by DAVP, 15 per cent goes to small newspapers, 35 per cent to medium newspapers and 50 per cent goes to big category of newspapers. DAVP also has an audio visual wing which undertakes various advertising or publicity campaigns through various other multimedia vehicles like the television, radio, out of home and now even the internet and mobile.


In what could be a shot in the arm for the digital industry, DAVP has been conducting pilot projects on websites and through SMSes. According to DAVP’s Annual Report 2011- 2012, 33 of India’s top websites were empanelled for releasing advertisements. In addition to this, more than 110 advertisements via SMSes were also sent.


Rajan Anandan

According to Mr Rajan Anandan, VP and Managing Director, Google India: “This is a welcome development for the entire digital advertising industry. With over 120 million Internet users in the country, digital is already the third largest advertising medium in terms of revenue in the country. It’s too early to talk about the impact, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction as the overall marketing/advertising approach is making a shift to being more accountable and measurable.”


In fact on July 26, The Sectoral Innovation Council by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting submitted a list of recommendations to the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Ms Ambika Soni. One of these recommendations stated: ‘New Media should be utilised for media campaigns by the government’. In addition to this, it also recommended that ‘E-mode transactions should be a priority for the functions of DAVP, RNI, CBFC and licensing activities of the Government for ensuring transparency’.


Arpan Chatterjee

Mr Arpan Chatterjee, online media professional and consultant with noted: “This is a logical extension by DAVP to focus on digital media, which is generating a critical mass in the country. It is to be noted that DAVP started digitization of its own system of issuing release order and payments to media companies over a year back and the fact that it is now looking at digital media more seriously was only a matter of time. DAVP’s move to enter the digital media will only add to the importance of the digital medium, but how it uses the medium is something one has to wait and watch. DAVP ads can also help create certain guidelines for internet advertising in India, which currently is self-regulated.”


Even before these recommendations were made by the Sectoral Council, the IAMAI (Internet & Mobile Association of India) is said to have lobbied hard to bring a shift in the government’s approach towards digital media. The IAMAI is also said to have played a key role in getting the mobile SMS aggregators empanelled.


Dr Subho Ray

Dr Subho Ray, President – Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) explained: “Today with 100 million internet users and growing every day, digital is the most cost effective way to reach out to youth and, through them, their parents. The engagement with internet and mobile of the youth is very deep and the relevance of the message too gets transmitted on this medium. Young urban voters aged between 18 and 35 are a major constituency today for all political parties. And the internet, whether through mobile or PC, has surfaced as the best medium to reach this group.”


DAVP recently revamped its website with an aim to make it user-friendly, it has also adopted digitization by issuing release orders and payments to media companies online. In fact the Ministry of Tourism is said to have been one of the early adapters and a large advertiser online. While these developments also show the government’s willingness to use digital, nevertheless what remains to be seen is how effectively the medium is used by the government in the long run.


Mr Gyan Gupta, CEO, Dainik Bhaskar Digital Division pointed out that although these are good recommendations and a welcome step, it all depends on how much DAVP is willing to spend on digital. Just like any other medium, digital too needs a sizable ad spend: “DAVP has started this process last year and the trial is still on. Although this is a fantastic move, the question really boils down to how much is the government willing to spend on digital? What will be the ad spend from DAVP on digital? Digital today has become the third largest medium with increasing reach – it has become a medium which cannot be ignored. But, if the government is not willing to spend a sizeable amount or if each publisher does not get a decent money or ad revenue then it is not worth it, it will be irrelevant.”


Mr Gupta too had a set of recommendations for the DAVP, which is said to have had a consensus among the other local language publishers: “First, they have to look at the categorization of the website very clearly and second, DAVP must also ensure that enough volume of advertisement is pumped into digital.”


Now that more and more people are gaining access to the internet and spending more time online, not just in urban but also in rural India, perhaps the government has realized that it is a medium it can no longer ignore. With the 2014 general elections fast approaching, the government is expected to increase its advertising spends in order to showcase its achievements and with the Council’s recommendations to use digital, the government could well use digital extensively to reach out to the youth.


Mr Upen Rai, Director, Times Internet Ltd, observed: “By bringing digital publishers into the DAVP fold, the signals are very clear from I&B ministry that it is digital all the way. With e-filing of taxes and other e-govt frays including Passport Kendras, it was a matter of time! Next stop would ideally be its relevance to general elections, yes this time around social, and digital will play a large part… Watch out for this space…”


The 2009 Lok Sabha elections or general elections saw political parties advertising online and the next general elections could well see political parties further increasing their spends online.


BG Mahesh

Mr BG Mahesh, Founder and MD, said: “Considering the contribution of Government ads in Print and TV channels, if the similar importance is given to the digital medium, it will be a very good sign for the Digital industry. It will not only fuel the higher growth rate for the digital industry, but will also provide the government a better connect with youth of country who spend a lot of time on Internet. Furthermore, if DAVP also extend the digital spends to mobile internet, the reach would be much broader as today phones with internet connections, or smart phone, start from as low as Rs5,000 and their dependence on electricity is very less as compare to desktop/laptops.”


So, how would the youth of today react to government advertisements? Will it have any positive impact on them? Ms Chhaya Balachandran Aiyer, CEO and MD, BCWebWise said: “Awareness will increase, and we can pave the way for a betterIndia. We will see more open forums, debates and discussions. There are perils of uncensored content, at the same time, and this is something India needs today.”


Chhaya Balachandran Aiyer

So, while the industry has welcomed the Sectoral Innovation Council’s recommendation that the Government must utilise the new age media for its media campaigns, there is a cautious optimism among industry players as far as ad spends in the medium is concerned.


Mr Anurag Gupta, MD, DGM India stated: “Government spending should be seen in the same light as spending by any brand. A marketer spends his monies where the users are, and if users are online then the best way to reach them is by advertising online! Any online media consumer whether it is youth or the older people will react to online advertising by the Government in pretty much the same manner as they would seeing the same ad in print or on TV.”


Anurag Gupta

Nonetheless if the government approves of these recommendations and does increase its digital ad spends, it would be a major boost for the entire digital industry particularly for increasing the digital advertising revenue. Currently, DAVP ad spends seem majorly skewed towards print and, to an extent, even television. However as the government increasingly uses the new age medium, what kind of implications digital advertising may have on DAVP ad spends only remains to be seen.


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