The next challenge for any brand is an apt mobile app strategy

Written by Anushree Bhattacharyya | Updated: Jul 15 2014, 13:48pm hrs
Norm Johnston, chief digital officer, Mindshare Worldwide is one of the early starters in the digital game. In 1995, he joined the first digital agency in the United States, Modem Media, that revolutionized the advertising industry by placing the first banner ad on the internet. In 2005, Johnston led a merger between Modem Media and Digitas in the UK. He was later part of the management team that sold the agency to Publicis Group. A long-time vocal evangelist of digital industry, Johnston is betting big on online videos and data as the next keys areas of growth. In a conversation with FE BrandWagons Anushree Bhattacharyya, Johnston talks about the rapidly changing digital landscape and how advertisers and media and advertising agencies are adapting to these changes. Edited excerpts:

How has the process of media planning evolved in the last few years

To begin with, media planning has become more integrated than before. As consumers no longer treat media in silos; therefore our clients do not expect us to treat each media differently. Moreover, the process of planning media is more synchronised than ever before. The idea is to now use media in such a manner so as to provide an experience that leads to dialogue between a brand and consumers. Also with media being more dynamic in nature as consumers provide almost instant feedback, clients expect us to be much more quicker in adjusting plans. Advertisers expect us to work with creative agencies in a more profound manner so that we can adopt things easily.

How has the digital landscape changed

The big change that is expected to take the digital world by storm is brands moving beyond the three screens. Around the world, brands and agencies are trying to see and understand the opportunities that lie beyond television, laptop and mobile phones. In markets like the UK or the US the shift is already happening. One of the big changes is marriage of content such as advertisements, branded content, etc, with data for targeted advertising. Moreover, the meaning of the word targeted advertising too has evolved as the game is no longer about catching a consumers attention on a particular device rather its about locations. The other change which has been introduced is octane utility value based approach. People do not want to watch advertisements everywhere but they do want to see useful content and that could be from brands. Therefore, the real shift lies in transforming advertisements into a more native form of content which could be anything ranging from entertainment videos to promotions, etc. Also that content has to be invitation based, it cannot be annoying.

What are the further changes expected Which are the categories that are expected to grow

One of the shifts that you will see in the next 10 years is that people will try to regain control of personal data from public and private companies as in the search for all sorts of data, companies would have also laid their hands on very personal data. The tussle for data is going to be an area to watch out for. Secondly, online videos is going to be the real growth engine as there will be massive migration from television to online. And because it is addressable, highly targeted, it will be one of the most preferred platforms for brands. What we found through our research is that media planning will not be about canceling ones television budget but finding the right equilibrium between television and online videos. Finally mobile advertising is going to be another area of high growth. Our research has shown that people spend a majority of their time on mobile applications. So the next challenge for any brand is that if you want to be part of the mobile game then you have to think of an app strategy. And that can range from creating your own app to joining forces for common apps like Apple and Nike did to launch Nike Plus.

Where does India stand in the digital play

We expect that the country will up its ante as far as digital play is concerned with the rise of mobile, as India is going to be an unique position. The increase in number of smartphone users is going to put India in an important space as far as leading the digital landscape in the advertising industry is concerned.

Has the discussion for brands moved beyond Likes on social media

When Facebook started a few years back, the promise was you spend money and build up your fan base and then woo your fans. One was also allowed to share content as news feed with its followers. At the time a Like was a very valuable thing. However, the present scenario is competently different. Facebook has changed the algorithm and now it is very difficult even if you have a fan to get onto his or her news feed. Moreover, Facebook, like other platforms, talks about reach. So Facebook has become Yahoo with a little bit of extra social benefit. The discussion around Likes or Dislikes has to move on because Facebook to some extend is changing its business model and therefore to use the platform we too also have to evolve. A Like is still a good thing as it indicates that at some level people still like a brand or the content but it may not have the immediate effect that it used to have.

How do you handle digital campaigns at Mindshare

Any digital strategy ponders on two questions. First, what is the brands aim and what is it trying to accomplish. Second, before creating any digital strategy we try to understand what are the needs of a consumer from a particular brand in addition to the customers brand journey. Digital has become very important when it comes to planning media for any campaign. In fact, even for campaigns where we are using more offline media verticals and less of digital, the data that we get within digital really enables us to make the offline aspect work a little more better. Proxy data and result help us form a good media plan.