The first thing that strikes me (more as a consumer of digital media rather than as an ad man) is that there are very few jaw dropping online and non-traditional media ideas for brands coming from this part of the world. This year, ideas like T-Mobile dance, Samsung LED sheep-art, Best Job in the World for Queensland Tourism, Piano Stairs for Funtheory (a Volkswagen initiative) or the Evian dancing babies were ideas that quickly went viral and helped the brands immensely. Were there comparable big bold ideas from India It perhaps stems from an inherent belief that given our low internet penetration numbers, digital is likely to be a niche medium. Of the Rs15,000 crore spent on advertising, less than 3% is spent on digital. Theres hope though. Since youth appeal seems to be the mantra for brands in several categories, they are likely to be more positive and aggressive in the days to come. The signs are already thereAirtels Impatient Ones, Tata Docomos launch of the Samsung Galaxy, Titans Tanishq and Fastrack have all had a significant digital push.
Online property, meet your offline brother
In business circles, Sunsilk Gang of Girls (GoG) is still quoted as a benchmark when it comes to digital campaigns. But its been over three years since that campaign broke. Yes, it was the first and set a trend but part of the reason could be the massive offline support it enjoyed. The visibility generated through TV and outdoor drove traffic to the website. This is in no way discrediting the GoG effort, but simply alluding to the fact that the mass media campaign helped create visibility for the digital property. Vodafones wonderful Zoozoos campaign captured the public imagination, again thanks to the carpet bombing during the Indian Premier League telecast. Quaker Oats Healthy Heart Initiative was launched with a big bang print campaign.
There have been several other brands which embraced the digital and mobile space since then but did not have that kind of offline backing. Nestle India for example, has a downloadable mobile app that provides recipes, wellness tips and so on. It is perhaps not being actively promoted offline, but I am sure the impact would have been greater if there was mass media support. Ditto for Saffolas Healthy Heart Foundation. In the West, most digital campaigns depend solely on that single medium to create buzz and results, for example, Burger Kings Whopper Sacrifice and Philips Versus.
Does it mean that all digital campaigns need an offline push IMHO (in my humble opinion), no. If a significant number of your target audience is living online, engaging them online effectively is possible. Usually these are lifestyle products and special interest categories. For mass products for which TV offers the best possible solution in terms of impact and reach, an online campaign supported by mass media is icing on the cake.
Another trend in the West which hasnt caught on big time in India is the extensive use of non-traditional media. Conforama -- a household furnishing store in Paris -- launched its new range of discount products through an unconventional campaign. They parachute-dropped a whole lot of furniture in Paris! The event was video taped and the video went viral within hours. Several blogs and TV channels covered this unconventional exercise, generating huge buzz and PR. Weve had our Aircel life boat during the Mumbai monsoons, but such ideas are few and far between.
Niche audience, nicely done
Brands that appeal to special interest groupstech, automobilescreated interesting campaigns online. For Indigo Manza, the team at DraftFCB seeded nearly 800 blogs and forums and generated conversations prior to the launch. The online contest generated 20,000 registrations and the brands presence in micro blogging sites generated 400-plus mentions, culminating in 4000-plus bookings for the test drive. Several brands jumped on to the Twitter bandwagonHavells, Virgin Mobile and Tanishq. Brands in the West are using micro blogging with a lot more consistency, scale and with a business objective in mind. Brands like Dell, BestBuy and JetBlue have gone beyond tweeting about their mass media campaigns and use Twitter to sell and solve consumer problems.
The big bet in the coming years is of course, the oft-repeated mobile revolution in India. In the West, it has panned out as the App Store war with iPhone leading the charge. Kraft, Barclays, Fedex, British Airways and several others have benefited from iPhone Apps. The Economists interactive SMS campaign linked to their outdoor campaign is perhaps a sign of things to come. With players like mChek attempting to get the mobile to play the role of fulfillment, it promises to be even more exciting in the years to come.
The author is vice-president,Bangalore at DraftFCB Ulka. The opinions expressed here are personal.