Brands walk the talk on digital

Written by Anushree Chandran | Updated: Dec 3 2013, 15:13pm hrs
TabThe digital medium is destiny's child. A set of unique circumstances have made it the marketer?s priority and the big focus will be in the area of online branded content and social media
A few years back, digital advertising in India was just small potatoes. It was fashionable to talk about the medium, but it mainly served as embellishment around the main course of print and television ad campaigns. However, in 2013, a set of circumstances have collided midway, in order to make this medium a mainstream one. An advertising cap by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has forced television networks to hike ad rates, and advertisers to run for cover. Media buying groups are now directly associated with content online - which means that more advertising will go this way. For instance, WPP Plcs GroupM India, which controls 40% of ad spends in India, has an alliance with 04 Digital Media Pvt Ltd, promoted by television production house Optimystix Entertainment. The alliance is for digital brand solutions firm MashUp. Others such as Omnicom Media Group (OMG) are scouting for similar opportunities in India.

Technologies are converging as never before and high tech gadgets such as the iPhone are a lot more accessible than in the past. Advertisers are now re-structuring themselves in order to make the best of these converging technologies. One of Indias leading fast moving consumer goods companies Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) has set up a digital media lab in Mumbai to train its digital managers better. A big trend in the area of digital advertising is branded content. Whether it is Idea, Cadbury, Surf, theyve all developed short films for the internet. Hindustan Unilever is expected to launch its Be Beautiful project in India where it gets prominent bloggers to do online videos. This will help them leverage their brands in the beauty space, says Atul Hegde, chief executive at digital firm Ignitee. According to him, a lot of multinational companies such as Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever, Dabur, Airtel and Procter & Gamble have incorporated chief digital officers as part of their marketing teams, in order to understand the medium better.

The size of the digital advertising market is estimated at R2260 crore for financial year (FY) 2012-13 by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and is expected to touch R2,938 crore by the end of FY 2013-14. Ad spending on social media went up from R94 crore in FY 2011-12 to R300 crore in FY2012-13; according to IAMAI. Video advertising on the internet has been growing at over 30% in the past one year as per industry estimates. IAMAI, in another report released a month back, says that the number of internet users in India has reached 20.5 crore as of October 2013, registering a year-on-year growth of 40% over last year and by December 2013, it is expected to reach 21.3 crore. What is interesting is that by June 2014, India will have 24.3 crore internet users, at which point of time, it is expected to overtake the US as the second largest internet base in the world.

Snazzier campaigns

A lot of the initiatives for digital are in the area of branded content and social media. In many cases, the two conjoin to offer accelerated results. Fast food company KFC has launched what it calls the first ever user generated graphic novel in India, Krushers Komics, that allowed consumers to input their pictures, names, and a couple of favourite catchphrases into the storyline. This campaign was primarily designed for Facebook and the brand saw more than 17,000 consumers creating their own Krushers Komics within seven days of launching the application. Philips India Lighting Solutions launched an online music video with Ranbir Kapoor, which was a remake of the 1981 classic Bachna Ae Haseeno and the video generated more than 5 million views within a week of its launch. Glaxo SmithKline organised a unique online anthem for its brand Boost. Boost's brand ambassadorcricket star Sachin Tendulkarwas closing in on his hundredth century in international cricket. The brand leveraged its association with Tendulkar by releasing an anthem in partnership with actor Dhanush.

The song honoured Tendulkar and boosted sales for Boost by 45%. Altogether 5.5 million views were achieved in two months and Boosts brand mentions grew 145 times, reports Mindshare. Another initiative by Mindshare was for Axe deodorant called Chickipedia. The campaign was created around the insight that Axes target group (16- to 24-year-old males) spent most of their time online, and devoted a significant part of it to the comedy genre on YouTube. So the brand decided to create funny content (shows) with the theme of the male being able to woo his love interest. The brand created several videos which brought in 24,45,696 minutes of viewing time in six months.

Intel devised a unique Twitter campaign called My PC journey which was designed to elicit nostalgia for the devices owned, such as the personal computer. The campaign was devised in three stages. The first was with the hash tag My first PC and the second was with the hash tag without my PC. The third was about the future My Next PC. The campaign trended amongst the top three nationally for most part of the campaign period and increased the follower base by more 7,500 in the week-long period, reports Intel.

In its latest social media campaign, compact sports utility vehicle Nissan Terrano asked, Who is the one person in your life with the most powerful presence and why. The brand has created a very successful presence on social media and got bookings of more than 6,000 Terranos during the pre-launch phase.

LOral Paris introduced a music video called Jad Se Judein sung by Mohit Chauhan. Satyaki Ghosh, director, consumer products division, LOreal India says that the video has generated more than 3 million views within a few days of its launch. In addition, it began a blog this year called the Garnier Man blog, targeted mainly at males in the younger age groups. The blog is written by an anonymous Garnier Man, who people assume to be John Abraham, The mysterious Garnier man talks about his experiences with people and places, and also doles out information about hair care and product usage. The blog is a success because its interactive. People relate to him and his experiences, says Ghosh, We also do a lot of myth busters and How to do videos on YouTube which people watch inadvertently when they are searching for something. These give valuable information. But we dont want to start an exclusive LOreal channel online because then people will dismiss it as branded entertainment. They will view it in the same way, as they view advertising.

Garnier Men also initiated a corporate social responsibility initiative called PowerLight A Village campaign in collaboration with Project Chirag with an aim to light up hundreds of rural households in India. This was executed by digital agency FoxyMoron. There are over 600 villages in India with no power. We partnered with an NGO to offer solar lamps and panels in some of these villages. Users can pledge their support online, and if they hit Like, it adds to the number of watts, says Ghosh. He adds that the companys efforts online have not sprung from the ad cap that lies in wait. The restrictions on television advertising have not been implemented properly as yet. We are in digital because this is the shape of things to come.

Wasim Basir, director - integrated marketing communications, Coca-Cola India said that beverage brand Sprite launched a nationwide contest driven by social media called Teen Till I Die. This was a digital-experiential campaign targeted at the youth. Participants needed to shoot a video showcasing their skill in one of the four genres - music, comedy, dance or art on a web platform created for this initiative. The campaign targeted 250-plus colleges across 24 cities and was promoted through Facebook and Twitter, he said. Basir added that there is a lot of graphic novels and games uploaded on the Fanta drink website which gets them a lot of online traffic. We have a lot of content in the pipeline that feeds into our digital platforms. One of our biggest online properties continues to be Coke Studio. The property has a dedicated channel on YouTube and sees more than 2,00,000 subscribers. If you have great content out there, it will be shared and people will post about it.

Seismic shifts

There is a fundamental shift in audience behaviour, says Tushar Vyas, managing partner (South Asia), GroupM. Digital is becoming a way of life, and is no longer a novelty. Mobility has fueled the adoption. Among the younger demographics we are now seeing the rise of the Screenagers who spend time across screens and more so, on digital screens. Time spent on digital screens was always high for working demographics, but we are seeing higher adoption from mature audiences also. Today the mobile screen has become one of our most valued companions across age groups. Technology is becoming simpler. Today a 60-year-old is comfortable talking to her daughter in another city on Skype on her mobile.

Vyas believes that digital is finally moving from the side of the plate to the center of the plate. Marketers are becoming digital savvy. They now have realistic expectations and relevant benchmarks and they are asking the right questions to arrive at the best answers on how digital medium can add value to their brands. The brands that have successfully leveraged digital are the ones that have been honest, data driven and open to listening to their audience so that the content is relevant and topical, he says. The future as per Vyas is SoLoMo, or rather, social-local-mobile. Future consumers will consume content, such as movies, music and games from the cloud and pay for it either through subscription on a platform such as Apple or Vodafone, or by giving the content full attention.The latter will be enabled by precise targeted advertising powered by data mining, explains Vyas.

Advertisers are also looking for newer inroads into this dynamic medium. Auto maker Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) has kept up its ante on digital. Earlier in the year, Ford India released a campaign, Urban Discoveries to promote its latest sports utility vehicle (SUV) Ecosport. As part of the campaign, the auto company handed over the car keys of this new model to 31 teams consisting of three people each across 12 cities. The participants could keep the car for three weekstake it to work on weekdays and discover the city they live in on weekends. The participants were the first to drive an Ecosport. In 2011, the company had launched a campaign called The Fiesta Experience, featuring four young individuals from different walks of life. The individuals shared their experiences as they drove the new Fiesta across a 10-day, 1,310 km-drive from Delhi to Diu. The reactions of the individuals were recorded on a camera fixed in the car and were fed into video platforms.

Vivek Nayer, chief marketing officer, automotive division, Mahindra & Mahindra, says that digital works very well for high involvement and passion invoking categories and auto was definitely one of them. We are the largest automobile brand on Facebook and YouTube. We have used each of these channels strategically and gradually to build our brands amongst the youth, fans, prospects and customers. In fact, we now debut all our TV ads on digital and social media first as we can run longer versions of the same out here and amplify the buzz around our brands, he says. XUV500 online film festival was one campaign which took forward our digital marketing. We collaborated with a 48-hour film festival to create multiple films around the XUV500 memorable stories theme using their network of casual and professional filmmakers. We received huge response from the community. The films were high-quality with seamless integration of our brand in it, he adds. Nayer says that M&M has a dedicated digital team which strategizes and implements campaigns by working closely with brand teams. The overall spend on digital has gone up significantly over the last three years, as per him. Look at the trend globallyautomobile companies are one of the highest spenders on digital and it will not be different in India as well.

Prasanth Mohanachandran, founder, AgencyDigi says that the firm is looking to put up an online soap on Youtube, which will integrate five different brands. There will be a lot more things that will release first on the web and these offer great opportunities for brand placements, according to him. A lot of the content will be created at the behest of brands, he says. Globally, the web-first strategy is already gaining traction. For instance, Orange Is the New Black, an American comedy-drama series that first released on Netflix.

Unilever has recently embarked on an ambitious social project called Project Sunlight which drives sustainable living and is targeted around Brazil, India, Indonesia, the UK and the US. Project Sunlight has gone live on an online hub www.projectsunlight.com which brings together the social mission stories of Unilevers brands across the world, and invites consumers to get involved in doing small things which help the planet. Among the brands featured are Lifebuoy soap, which helps protect millions of children in Asia, Africa and Latin America from pneumonia and diarrhoea, which kill 2 million children under five each year; Dove, which helps girls across the world improve their self-esteem; Omo, Persil and Surf, which help families cut their utility bills and CO2 emissions.

Hindustan Unilever is optimistic about its new digital lab in Mumbai and says that the progress has been good. Atit Mehtahead, media, South Asia, Unilever says that the big benefits are that all ad campaigns are now digital lab certified and digital assets can be tested before rolling out the campaign in the market. Work done on digital at Unilever is now available for marketers to take inspiration, he said.

We have called out digital as our key strategic thrust area and have started our journey on digital. We are turbo-charging digital. One example which instantly comes to my mind is the launch of the Toni&Guy hair products brand which delivered more than 1 million views on YouTube. Irrespective of the ad cap regulation, we are investing where the consumers are present, added Mehta.