Is online a ‘frivolous’ medium for advertising?

Ok. I know it is a very uncomfortable question, especially in emerging markets where Internet advertising is just about finding its place, and is also one of the fastest growing - in terms of advertising revenue growth. It becomes all the more uncomfortable when you are talking about it online :)

Some weeks back, I overheard someone say that compared to other traditional mediums of advertising Online Advertising as a medium need not to be considered seriously (at-least for now). India, for example, still is a market driven by TVC and Print ads.

True? True, but partially

True, because most of the online advertising is limited to online banners (a replication of the mainline creative/message) with a campaign website that is informative in nature. True, because in most ad agencies, the creative think about the message in terms of TVC, Print, Radio, etc…. and then decide to do something ‘cool’ in the online space. “Let’s have something cool on Facebook” is the latest mantra. True again, because agencies/clients use the Internet for uploading and publishing a so called humorous animated movie, a.k.a ‘Viral Movie’ and hope that it is seen by ‘n’ number of people. Sometimes, it just feels like - “if it is online, it needs to be humorous”. I never could understand, why is that clients and agencies are willing to ‘create’ and ‘seed’ a viral movie on the Internet, but usually shy away from promoting the same as a TVC? Is it, that a creative that is only good for the Internet is not good for mainline advertising??

The above ‘truths’ are here to stay for sometime but there are changes happening (and happening real fast)

If I were to analyze these 3 mediums of advertising (Print, TVC, and Online), this is what I see –
- The Constants
- The Channels
- The Creative
- The Consumer
- The Confusion
- The Change
- The Challenge

The Constants:
Whatever be the format of advertisement, the truth is that it is part of the same campaign there are some things which would be constants – the campaign objective, the value proposition, the message, the visuals, etc

The Channels:

Each of the channels has a perception built around it. This perception has a rub-off on the advertisements that it carries.
Print: Most print publications are perceived as – Serious, trustworthy, reliable (esp. Newspaper and most magazines). Thus an advertisement present in such an environment would have some rub-off on to it from the context of the medium itself
Television: Most TV Channels are perceived as a window to the world – real and imaginary. TV Channels are entertainment, information and come with some amount of reliability – A perception built by the channels over the years of broadcasting (BBC, STAR, etc). While the environment at which the TVC plays do not have much impact on the TVC itself since the brand story is capsulated by the entirety of the commercial itself
Internet: Compared to the above two mediums of advertising, Internet is still in its infancy. Internet for a long time was under the control of the academicians, students, and some Government organizations. It is only in the last 2 decades that the people at large had access to Internet through www. While the other traditional forms of media were developed with a business model in mind, Internet was developed more by trial and error. All the major development of Internet – be it web-based email, search engines, SNS sites like Facebook all were developed and popularized by the techno-savvy individuals rather than business entrepreneurs. Also since it was developed by the youth, it was predominantly for the youth destinations that came to populate the www. This early perception of the Net being youth-centric destination, and with no proper business model stuck with the marketers and public…and it stayed on

The Creative

Print: The format is primarily – Static Image, with text.
Television: Moving images, graphics, audio – ability to tell the brand story in the closest format of storytelling – Tone, Emotions, scenarios, plot, characters, etc.
Internet: It encompasses the above formats of Image/Text and also Moving Images, graphics, audio etc…. but it also has another two crucial components that makes it different – Interactivity and Technology. While these are the USP’s of Internet, the creative people who make the ads fail to capitalize on it..since never in the history of advertising did any company needed to think about their message being ‘interactive’ (on a real-time basis) nor the technology having a direct impact on the advertisement/communication itself. Compared to other traditional mediums of advertising Internet is still in its infancy.

The Consumer:
The truth is that as consumers we always have been exposed to unidirectional communication. Whether it be in our homes (Parents to Child), or at School (Teacher to student), or at work (Manager to employees) – the communication is mostly unidirectional. The advertising message format too has so far been unidirectional – Company to Consumer. And since the format of communication (unidirectional) was something we were familiar with, the advertising message as it is was accepted without much bother

The Confusion:
Technology for creators of advertisements had been mostly helping them create ads faster and better. Be it the Photoshop, Illustrator, 3D animation software, or the desktop editing tools or the high processor hardware all these helped the creative team to build ads in the format they are used to. But advertising on the Internet, had technology not as a facilitator of creating ads but an integral part of the creative itself. Suddenly the creative was not about what the story says, but what the story does.

The Change:
Change is something that everyone is uncomfortable with. We all like things to be predictable and hence stick to things that are tried and tested. The same is the case with marketers. Traditional advertising is something that the CMO’s are most comfortable with. They know what works and what doesn’t. So far, Internet advertising was always relegated to the newbie in the department. But the times are changing and the youth of yesterday who have been exposed to Internet from early years are now taking reins of marketing department. They have seen the medium grow and know the potential of this medium. While it would be a fallacy to say that they would replace traditional forms of advertising, digital advertising would soon be the centre of all advertising campaigns.

The Challenge:
The challenge for the creative team and ad agencies is how to think ‘Technology’ when creating ads. It is not about what Technology can do for them, but what they can do with Technology. Internet is about interactivity, and it is about how to create message that just does not say something, but also does something. This would mean that there should be members in the team who can bring the message ‘alive’ – in true sense.

Another challenge is something that time will solve. As more and more people start replacing the traditional forms of media consumption with Internet, the medium itself would start being perceived as an evolved medium. This is already happening with people using Google (or other Search Engines) as the primary source of information seeking. Also it was in news a few days back how the traditional source of English Language (Dictionary) is being replaced by the Wikipedia. Twitter, a micro-blogging platform, is giving the traditional news channels a run for their money by being a popular source for real-time news

I’m sure in the near future today’s CG (Creative Guru) would be replaced by tomorrow’s CG (Creative Geek) :)




Adee said…
please delete the spam comment above :)

yes, i agree with what u said here. unless n until we start creating stuff specifically for the interactive medium that internet is, we will not be able to tap its full potential.

being in the ad industry, especially in a country like India, our thought processes are still dictated by the wisdom of TV or print. for example, even if i get a brief to create an internet specific ad, i'll almost make a TVC out of it!

the biggest difference between old world mediums and this new age medium is the interactivity involved. all these years the consumer has been habituated of commercials that talk to him or her. maybe what the internet age will bring is the commercials in which the consumer does the talking and the brand listens :)
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