Nitin Mathur, senior director, marketing, Yahoo! says it is clients who are shaking things up when it comes to looking at the digital landscape in a completely new way.
“At agencies, there is a thoroughbred layer that really understands television communication. Today, when we have been brought to the table, it is almost always because the client has wanted to shake things up. That’s because they are seeing the shift taking place; they are in touch with market research related to media consumption habits. The results are driving them nuts. If you were to take figures according to IMRB, the time spent on the Internet grew by 50% between 2008 and 2009. People are spending upwards of 15 to 17 hours a week on the Internet and that’s massive,” he says.
Mathur joined the Internet giant in October 2007 with the mandate of growing the consumer brand and audience in India as well as strengthening Yahoo!’s position in India as a leading advertising platform. He says the journey has been good.
“The key challenge was to grow our audience, both on PC and mobile, and establish the Yahoo! brand within the advertiser ecosystem as one of the preferred destinations for Internet advertising. We’ve seen tremendous growth in audience numbers. We currently reach about 73% of the Internet market in India and we’ve seen double digit growth year on year.”
Mathur says they are bullish on mobile as far as growth is concerned. “Right now, the numbers are close to 18 to 20 million WAP users but we believe that we will see a lot of mobile sports Internet users. Given the dynamics on the pricing, with the advent of 3G and cheaper smart phones, that’s going to become a reality. We have been gearing up for that opportunity by creating applications across multiple platforms.”
Mathur says current trends suggest that the top eight cities in India are contributing to the bulk of the traffic in the country.
“It’s a matter of time before growth rates from smaller cities outgrow that of the main metros with the growth in mobile and the advent of 3G. Beyond the top eight, the next 12 to 15 cities will start contributing tremendously on the Internet traffic front.”
Mathur says part of the problem with the slow pace of growth in digital spends comes from a traditional mindset.
“Today, when people look at the Internet, they still look at it as a medium to experiment. There are some hard facts that suggest otherwise. Look at Dove as an example. As a brand, if Dove wants to target women aged between 25 to 33, primarily in SECA, living in the top eight cities, Internet is the best medium to create the level of engagement that the brand is looking for. Dove and their agencies worked with us for their Real Beauty platform, which offers conversations on beauty and real people. So, suddenly one finds that under Dove’s Real Beauty umbrella, one is likely to have much more significant interactions than potentially what a TVC could achieve; or for that matter what sampling or POS could.”
Mathur lists what he believes are factors unique to the Indian context.
“In India, technology adoption rates are very high, compared to other more developed markets. India is a multi-lingual market. So languages on the web, which are very under-developed at this point of time, will assume dramatic significance. That’s unique to this market and will have huge implications on the kind of products that will be created. Cost of access will continue to drive the issues around usage. We are hoping that the same forces that came into effect for the mobile space will come together for Internet on mobile. ”
Educating their key constituents like clients and agencies about the potential that digital has to offer is always work in progress. “We work closely with FMCG marketers to break some of those traditional media measurement models and say why don’t you look at a different model of engagement? It’s a bit of an uphill battle but it is a battle we want to fight. The good news is that there is a tremendous amount of traction in this space right now.”
“When we think about Internet, we have to figure out a way to talk to clients about measurement that they understand. Marketers care about brand metrics, purchase intent, top of the mind recall and preference, while media people talk about reach and frequency.”
That’s why Mathur says they work closely with IMRB, Nielsen etc. “When you do a campaign on digital and you are able to talk about brand metrics, you have got your story right. At Yahoo! , we deploy research methodologies like Nielsen Ad Effectiveness to demonstrate how brand metrics have moved and we are able to show traditional reach metrics alongside.”
He adds, “If you are trying to sell keywords to FMCG guys, you aren’t going anywhere. We try to sell them video ads, rich media formats, branded content etc, these are our strengths that can benefit a brand enormously.”
The third issue, according to Mathur, is more of an industry thing. “Digital has a lot of measurability but we have to find a common denominator across media types for media planning communities to be able to make wise choices. What is interesting is that today, people want to look at the lowest common denominator —which is cost per thousand. Large media agencies and research agencies can come together and create this common denominator; a web rating point. Digital, then, is likely to become central to marketing strategy. If you are targeting a certain audience, it would make sense to have digital at the center of the strategy.”
2007 Senior Director, Marketing, Yahoo India
2003 Director, Marketing at Sapient
December, 2000 Product Manager at Times Internet Limited
April, 2000 Business Manager, Alliances at Indiainfo.com Ltd
1997 Senior Executive, Chairman’s Office at Sahara India