May 12, 2009

INDIA 2009

By Manish Mishra, Country Manager & Executive Producer (India)

Since January, there has been a definite shift – across the board -- in the way Indian companies advertise, a shift with positive implications for mobile and not-so-positive implications for traditional media. Branding campaigns are out. Sales Generation is in.

Overall, most industry watchers expect Indian ad spending to rise this year, albeit at a much slower pace than before. ZenithOptimedia and WPP global media specialist GroupM are both projecting about a six percent increase on the US$ 4.25 billion spent on Indian campaigns in 2008.

Yet all indications are that brands are shying away from traditional campaigns. Forget about publicising a product launch or wooing new customers. Advertisers are insisting on quantifiable – and almost immediate – returns.

Take, for example, a mobile campaign by SriLankan Airlines that ran in December '08 / January '09 and featured the following text banner: “You visit SriLanka. Kids go free!”. Click on the text and users were taken to a landing page to enter personal details so that a representative of the airline could contact them. SriLankan Airlines purchased 20,000 clicks. Initially, the ads attracted 700 – 800 clicks per day and then rose to 1000/day. The campaign experienced a click-through rate of 4.3 percent – more than double the typical Indian CTR. Why? Two reasons: One, the slogan is direct, catchy and offers a good deal. Two, the New Year period is a good time to target travellers.

From our client's perspective, I think the best thing about the “Kids go free” campaign must be the ROI. They spent US$950 on the three-week campaign. A ticket from Mumbai to Colombo costs about US$450 – 500. Sell just a few tickets and you've paid for the entire ad spend. We don't have details about the exact number of leads converted to sales, but the carrier is signing up for another campaign, so they must be happy.

By industry, the largest mobile advertisers are automotive companies and banks. Toyota and Renault have both run campaigns inviting consumers to come out for a test drive.

“New Corolla Altis.Test Drive Now”
“Be Classy Get A”

As in the SriLankan Airlines example, mobile surfers who click on the ad are taken to a landing page where they enter their contact details so that a rep can call them back. The Toyota ad campaign reached into third-tier cities, many of which are new territory for the company, which is considered a premium car-maker in India.

The only negative feedback I've heard about these ad runs is that the Cost per Lead ended up being a bit higher than expected. However I think there's a lesson here. CPL is also an offline function – it depends on the person who is closing the deal. What is the understanding of the person who first clicked the mobile ad? The sales agent needs to understand what's driving the consumer (no pun intended).

For major brands, traditional Media still constitutes the biggest part of the Indian advertising pie. However television and print stand to lose the most in the economic downturn. Internet and mobile ads should rise faster as companies focus on performance-driven ads. Mobile is also becoming a standard component of the advertising mix for many companies, not just something to experiment with.