The digital marketing industry has been evolving since 2004-05 in India. Around that time there was no YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or any other social media platform that we see today. There were only Google Search ads and display banners across sites like Yahoo and Rediff. It was really early for digital marketing and many teething mistakes were made, right from using pop-up ads to complete site takeovers, which blocked content viewing.
The medium of digital has always been one with myriad options for the advertiser. As the industry evolved, these options only grew. The last decade has seen this medium go from text-heavy advertising to video-heavy advertising. So, while formats have changed, what remains an unknown and unsolved challenge is the creative messaging.
We have gone from days where we saw print ads being adapted for digital advertising to creation of separate digital banners. A similar fate was seen for video ads wherein TV ads were posted on YouTube and promoted with the expectations of viral results. This, however, does not come as a surprise because initially, TV ads looked more like static print ads on video.
Don’t give digital a bad rep
While TV has had over 35 years of evolution in India, the digital medium is just about entering 15 years of existence. What has led to digital media’s slow growth is not scarcity of options but an abundance of it. Marketers have multiple options of creating campaigns, right from types of banners to types of video formats to types of ads (native versus in-app versus run-of-the-site, etc) which have only added to the confusion for ad creators.
For TV, it was a simple brief to creators — to create an ad of 60 seconds which is adaptable to 30 and 10 as well. For print as well as billboards, the challenge is always to create appealing visuals that can be seen and recalled. While on the other hand, for any digital campaign, a 480 x 60 banner looks very different to a 250 x 250 banner; a YouTube bumper ad is very different from a YouTube pre-roll ad. All these minute details of ad formats and types of ads end up confusing the creators and they end up sticking to key visuals, like in print. No surprise then that digital specialist agencies still rule when it comes to digital and not traditional creative agencies.
Even today, the time given to a mainline agency to craft a 30-second message is more than the time given to a digital agency to craft a month’s content for social media.
This only means that the creative suffers frequently due to lack of time. Digital agencies are usually the last ones to be briefed on any large integrated campaign. Given the lack of time and the last minute changes on digital, what ends up happening is a hashed and rushed job of pushing out the creative posts.
These posts then fail to work on digital and instead of changing the visual or spending more time in creating better visuals which are digital medium friendly, the client ends up blaming the medium as one that doesn’t work for his or her brand.
Missing the woods for the trees
In our fast-paced digital world, both marketers and agencies need to take two steps back and re-evaluate how much of the work done actually creates an impact and how much is done for meeting the deadline. To utilise the digital medium to its maximum, it very important for clients to understand how it should be used. This lack of understanding acts as a barrier, thus leading to clients blaming the medium for the message failure — a classic development that digital has been suffering for many years now.
In the last five years, many brands have posted their TVCs on digital expecting impressive results and views, and have been disappointed. Even when video content has been made for digital, it is so much like a TV ad that it fails to impress and the brand’s expectation of the viral effect is met with disappointment.
Great digital ideas can come in an instant but great digital execution requires strategic pre-planning and meticulous production of the message to ensure it fits the medium.
The next time when a digital campaign does not work, look at the creative and ask whether it is a great creative. Digital is not a lean back medium and ‘skip’ is the natural action here. So, unless your creative is compelling enough, blaming the media will be a futile exercise.
The author is founder and CEO, WATConsult