Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Marketing Communications in the times of the World Wide Web.

Marketing Communications over the last decade has taken a big leap (of faith!) with the advent of interactive, super-fast, inter-connected world wide web and the myriad web technologies. All the critical pillars of communications - message, media, consumers, design tools, skill-sets etc have undergone a change.

Or I should say, the technological advances have brutally demanded a change in the way we think, create and execute brand communications.

The creative process required to roll out a print ad or a TV campaign is very different than the process of creativity required to create a message on the Internet. Building a website, designing a search campaign or executing a social media campaign requires a completely different kind of skill set.

Media, in the good old days was the kingdom of the media planners and the buyers, today the scene is fragmented. Adwords professionals are equally important media buyers and planners. With content aggregation and inbound marketing, the media is not even always a paid commodity. There goes the 15% commission revenue model.

With Internet and technology, the content is no longer uni-directional, aimed at the consumers. User generated content has become a major source of content. Youtube and the whole of social media runs on user generated content. They are interestingly multi-directional. Even TV, Print and Radio have not stayed uni-directional with the advent of tools like Shazam and QR code

Consumers of media have also changed in terms of time spent on each media, attention span and general lifestyle attitude towards brands. Television and Print have lost a good deal of youth in the age group of 15-24 to these new media. Even a cricket match is getting tracked through tweets and Facebook updates.

For the advertisers, it has not been easy. The tools, the terminologies, the knowledge domain is now not with one big agency. There are so many things to know to implement an effective advertising campaign. We need to not only know vector images, illustrator, TRP, Readership and the works, but also know Impressions, PPC deals, HTML5, JAVA, Email, SMS technologies and the whole new media related knowledge.

The client servicing teams and the other creative, studio and production departments of the bigger advertising agencies have not been able to cope up with the digital onslaught. With media and creative separating in around 2003, it only added to their woes.

A marketing company now has to deal with a creative agency, a media agency, a digital agency, a website agency and a technology company for mini interactive applications. At one end, it may be taken as a positive outcome that the industry is moving towards specialized businesses and services, improving the quality of services, helpful to the economy in general.

At the other end, it is diluting the concept of advertising. There is no single brand custodian. The advertising agency used to be brand custodian in the good old days, but the advertising industry has lost its credibility or ability to be the brand custodian. Today, there seems to be no unanimous decision on who is the brand custodian today. The level of confusion in the definition of 'brand custodian' is quite funny (and stupid).

In a 2008 HT article, Madhukar Sabnavis, Country Head – Planning and Discovery, Ogilvy & Mather India, once said, “The marketing director or the marketing head is the brand’s custodian.” MG Parameswaran, Executive Director, Draft-FCB-Ulka, once said, “The CEO of the company that owns the brand, is the brand’s custodian.” Lynn D’Souza, head, Lintas Media Group, says, “The brand manager is the brand’s custodian.”

The brand custodian is the person or team that knows the brand the best. Brand, from a marketing communications perspective, is what the consumers perceive or feel or believe; or what the consumers should perceive or feel or believe. The advertising agencies used to have an Account Planner or an Account Planning team that used to understand this aspect of branding. They used to understand the consumer behavior behind brands.

Understanding consumer behavior, or the interest to seek this understanding makes the basis for effective communication. The effort required to understand consumer behavior in this world of fragmented myriad media scenario is a big challenge. But it is a possible challenge.

The second basic truth about advertising is that it is exponentially effective if there is convergence of media. 360 degree communication in true spirit is the need of the hour (and always been the need)

For an advertiser and a marketing person, it is always easier to have one brand expert managing the whole gamut of communication. There is a need for a consultative cum outsourcing business model to provide an effective 360 degree communications services to advertisers.

We at TSO - The Significant Other, work in the this new media paradigm. We are working hard to make ourselves experts in consumer behaviour in terms of media consumption, branding and purchase cycle behavior so that we can create the most relevant message. We also tried hard to understand all the available media so that we can sent the most relevant message through the most appropriate media, through the model of outsourcing.

Outsourcing is the key to the execution of such a strategy. In effect, appropriate knowledge and experience in liasonning with all the myriad vendors is the key.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Amul Ads - Simple and Consistent Strategy

They are bloody consistent. The fact that I absolutely adore about AMUL.

We all know about their age old topical advertising. They do a great job in selecting a current hot affair and make an ad about it. There were even controversies when AMUL commented on national political events such as 'Emergency in India' in 1976.
AMUL Ad during the Emergency
Click here to see some of their fine ads that TSO - The Significant Other has compiled on their FaceBook page.

The cute utterly butterly 'Amul girl' is an icon of the middle class India right from 1967. Woah! Do we have any other mascot that old?

Aamir Khan's Ghazini Release
When Aamir Khan's Ghazini was released
The Amul girl is a hand-drawn cartoon of a young, chubby Indian girl dressed in a polka dotted frock with blue hair and a half pony tied up. 

The brief was to draw a mascot which is easy to paint in walls and outdoors. Those days didn't have those huge printing machines to print huge outdoor vinyls. The idea was conceived by an agency called ASP (Advertising, Sales and Promotion) headed by Sylvester Da Cunha and his Art Director Eustace Fernandez

Even the media strategy of AMUL was clear, crisp and consistent. Almost all of their print advertisements come in the top corner of the third page in the main newspaper. Earlier it was Times Of India where this media innovation was to be seen, now we can even see it in Hindustan Times.

In communications terminology, we call it a strategy to create expectations of readers to find a particular kind of content in a particular place. Like we always open the supplement of Hindustan Times, Brunch from the last page expecting the fixed format short & interesting interview of a celebrity.

If you refer to image below, this is exactly the spot in the 3rd page of Hindustan Times where you can expect an advertisement from AMUL.
Media Innovation - Amul
AMUL has just been ranked as the No. 1 Indian brand by Campaign magazine in its list of Top 1000 Brands of Asia for three consecutive year. AMUL is one brand which truly deserves this accolade. Although advertising plays a critical role in getting this coveted rank, the product management also has to be hailed and saluted. What would advertising do, if the product does not perform as per the expectation and perception that advertisements create.

There is so much to learn for Mumbaikars and Townies like us from AMUL started 65 years back in a small town in the state of Gujarat called Anand.

A Big Salute.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Google Network Vs Yahoo-Bing Network

Everybody knowing or having interest in search marketing would know that Google dominates search volumes. In the US of A, Google handles two-thirds of all search queries. However, can we ignore the network that accounts for one-thirds of the search queries that consumers type-in in the US?

The truth is that we know very little about the Yahoo-Bing Network (YBN).

This post is about a research done by AdGooRoo which sought to gauge the success of the YBN network in gaining market share against Google. The research report from AdGooRoo compared the performance of Yahoo! Bing against Google in six critical verticals.

Verticals basically referred to those industry segments that account for the majority of the total search traffic and click-throughs in the U.S. Search market. Comparing the paid search spends of these industry segments could give a representative idea of where each of the networks stand in terms of search effectiveness and outcomes.

The industry segments measured were as follows:
  1. Retail (Shopping & Classifieds)
  2. Financial Services
  3. Travel
  4. Education
  5. Computer & Internet
  6. Business to Business
This methodology of dividing the spends into verticals was interesting. It brought up a number of questions, such as
  1. Which are the verticals where Google is dominant, and to what degree?
  2. Is Google dominant in every aspect of paid search - Impressions, Click through efficiency, CPC, CPL etc
  3. Can we compromise on impressions to get lower CPLs in some of the industry verticals? etc.
While the report had the obvious findings, it also had a few surprises. Please read on to get a quick gist of the report.


Google Adwords served more impressions in all the verticals except for 'Financial Services'. Retail as a vertical, is the biggest money-maker for advertisers and Bing was a distant second. The research was done in Q3, 2012 and Google had 7.3 million impressions more than YBN in one quarter alone, for 'Retail'.

Bing Ads performed strongly against AdWords in several other verticals in terms of ad impressions. It outperformed AdWords in the Financial Services vertical with 5.31 million impressions compared to 4.11 million for AdWords. Analysts have credited the popularity of Financial Services on Yahoo! and MSN for pushing Bing Ads into the lead.

Click-Through Rates (CTRs)

In addition to earning more search traffic, advertisers on AdWords experienced higher CTRs on Google network, with AdWords campaigns getting 2.4 to 5.9 times higher CTRs than those on YBN during the same period.

Interestingly, for advertisers who were active on both the engines, quite a few of them got higher CTRs on YBN including Citicards and Fidelity Life. Quite obviously, it was found that among the 39,000 advertisers surveyed, 55% of them were running ad campaigns on both AdWords and YBN.

Otherwise, the competition in terms of CTRs was completely one-sided favoring Google. The biggest discrepancies came in Financial Services (3.53% compared to .81%), Travel (4.14% to 1.27%), and Business to Business (3.12% to .60%).

Cost-per-Click (CPC)

Not surprisingly, CPCs for YBN were invariably lower. There is a price to be paid for Google’s successful track record with AdWords. While CPC data was fairly close in each vertical, the Computer and Internet vertical saw a CPC rate on AdWords that was 117% greater than Bing Ads.

As a result of lower CPCs, impressions were cheaper on the YBN. It varied from 76 to 90 percent cheaper on average. YBN therefore can be taken as a brand awareness medium giving high visibility at a lower cost.

For a lead generation campaign, YBN may not give high volumes, but can bring in leads at a lower cost per lead. It can prove to be very useful for brands who cannot handle high volumes of leads coming into the system.


As an advertiser, I would suggest presence in both the networks. It would only put a multiplier effect on the search outcomes in terms of lowering of cost and increase in volume of leads.