Digital Advertising in 4G-enabled India: Interview with Neena Dasgupta, CEO ZIRCA Digital Solutions

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Smartphone invasion in India continues to rise as consumers shift from feature phones to 4G-enabled devices. With the huge growth in the number of mobile internet users in India, the advertising companies have also overhauled their techniques to woo Indian consumers.

To know more about the shift of advertising strategies for India and what brands need to know about digital advertising in India, we interviewed Neena Dasgupta, CEO and Director, ZIRCA Digital Solutions Pvt. Ltd. - a leading media and brand solutions company that helps brand custodians achieve digital excellence via custom advertising and content solutions. ZIRCA handled advertising for MSN, Skype, Outlook, Bing, The Economist Group, Outbrain, Fast Company, MediaMath, Adform, and We asked Neena about various factors that affect advertising and news consumption for regions like India. We would like to thank Neena for taking out time and sharing her useful insights.

How does native advertising work for countries like India? How do you plan strategies for services like MSN and Skype?

The idea behind native advertising was to break the barriers set by advertising agencies. With native advertising, the focus shifted more on content and how the audience perceives it. Every marketer is keen to use content as an effective means of communication with the public. When a reader clicks on an article, he/she wants to gather information while advertising, on the other hand, is dominating and is often not appreciated by the audience. As a digital solution provider, ZIRCA helps advertisers build their brands and place their products within the fast-moving business sector and to find fitting advertising solutions to compliment local markets.

Talking about MSN and Skype, we focus more on the content; and to enlighten our audience about the services through blogs and news. We see a lot of growth in the field of content marketing as it serves as a better medium to transfer the right information to the consumer. We create user engagement that is relative and not forced. Especially for brands like Skype, it is highly based on telling the users about the performance and the benefits that the product brings. Skype is a part of Microsoft’s unique and relevant ecosystem that facilitates brands to create better advertising experiences across devices and services. Through Skype, advertisers in India can reach larger audiences at the right time.

With the advent of Reliance Jio, we now have our rural population browsing at an internet speed of up to 20 Mbps. How does this development affect brand advertising?

The face of digital advertising in going to change in India and the consumers will get more relevant information. For rural areas, we are yet to see how advertisers are going to change their game plans as now the information will be a tap away from the rural consumers and they will not just go for a product because of a famous brand ambassador, not anymore. Brands are now reaching out to remote areas of India, thanks to the better internet connectivity - one can buy a designer outfit sitting in a village.

Nowadays, smartphones are coming with pre-loaded apps, which is part of content-focused advertising. Jio also launched a set of applications that are spread across segments such as entertainment, news, and much more. In this way, brands are collecting more information about consumer behaviour. If we see markets like UP and Bihar, we can see a roadside vendor using a smartphone with microSD card slot that is filled with videos and music. Most of the consumers prefer a high storage smartphone for media consumption. Probably one of the reasons why Reliance also launched “LYF” smartphones to target such audience by providing device and services hand-in-hand.

About online advertising, Microsoft is already testing a new mechanism that will select audience as per their interest. On most of the shopping websites, we get a chat bot that comes up automatically to help users with their queries. It is another form of advertising that is user oriented.

How do you see India as a market for Digital Advertising?

India has got 277 million active Internet users, which means that it has got more digitally connected population than the US, and is second only to China. Indian market represents a significant opportunity for the advertising industry. Thanks to the growing Mobile Internet adoption, national and global advertisers now have better ways of contacting and retaining Indian consumers. Being a developing nation, India also has a robust culture of entrepreneurship, which will add to the growth of the digital advertising ecosystem. For India, content based advertising is on a rise and in the future we will see effective brand communication through quality content to provide desired information to the consumers.

Lastly, What could be the future of advertising in India?

Advertising is going to become much more personal. We are already seeing clients that look for creating broader audience for their products and they want to connect with the users on a better level. We won't see a big shift of brands from Television advertising to Mobile advertising in India as we still don't get full page ad space on websites and apps. It is different from European markets where one gets beautifully designed full page advertisements that provide quality information to users. For India, we will see a gradual shift that will also include new tools to target the rural population which is now a part of digital revolution. So, yeah, the future looks more digitally inclined, but now brands would require to provide quality information and not just get away with a famous brand face.

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