Traditional agencies have been slow to embrace digital

Written by Alokananda Chakraborty | Updated: Oct 3 2009, 04:50am hrs
Sapient is a global interactive and professional services company, with a market capitalisation of nearly $1 billion ($944 million). The company operates in two groups Sapient Interactive and Sapient Consulting. Sapient Interactive, which now contributes nearly 50% of its global revenues, was named the leading agency in the digital space by a recently published Forrester Wave report on interactive agencies. In an interview to FEs Alokananda Chakraborty, Freddie Laker, director (digital strategy), Sapient, speaks about the way ahead for digital advertising.

Advertising agencies across the globe have been accused of favouring traditional media (television, print, radio) and ignoring the power of digital. Is that the case

We recognise that traditional media still has an enormous reach within urban areas and even more so within rural areas. Although I do think traditional agencies have been slow to embrace the digital, the real opportunity has been to discover the appropriate media mix for each client that is able to discover and then leverage consumers that make digital (either through web or mobile) a daily part of their lives. We believe there is an opportunity for the right brands to use digital as a means to leapfrog their competition in an ever increasing market. The future will be for those that have courage.

Will web TV replace or converge with conventional broadcast television

There is no question this should be answered in the affirmative, but the opinion on timeframe will vary greatly. It could take 20 years for very high speed wireless internet access (like WiMax) to be ubiquitous across India and for internet friendly devices to be part of everyday life.

Monetising their websites has been the pet peeve of the print media. If the paid-for model is not working, whats the solution for the cash strapped publishing industry

We recognise the world and the sought after consumers have changed. Its imperative that these organisations be forward thinking and take bold steps to re-invent themselves because nothing will reverse this trend. New models for advertising and revenue opportunities must be established and publishers must embrace and endorse their websites as the future of their business to build the maximum amount of market share for what will be their new battleground: online and on-mobile devices. If publishers start to think online first and not only accept but encourage their readership to move to their digital presence they have a great opportunity to survive and flourish.

You referred to what we call social media. Applications like YouTube, Twitter are hugely popular but dont attract much ad revenue. What do you think can be done to resolve this problem

Due to the performance issues inherent to advertising on social media sites were not deeply in favour of advertising on these sites, except in situations that we think these will perform particularly well. The opportunity isnt to sell ads on these sites its to invest in building and leveraging the communities on these for the benefit of brands. Not only do these sites frequently provide opportunities for this kind of community building, but they are one of the top ranked ways to share branded content, far exceeding previous methods like email as a viral communicator.

What is more common today: integrated campaigns that use multiplemedia platforms or standalone digital campaigns

Smart marketers have recognised that consumers dont differentiate the brand experience from the physical to the digital space. That kind of segmentation is only something marketers build in their minds. Brands are typically building common themes that exist across all channels. But truly integrated campaigns are not the norm right now though it will become so in another two years. Allowing consumers to drive cross channel experiences that push deeper and deeper engagement with the brand will drive value far beyond the final sale.