We are moving from generic search to commerce platform searches: Ashwin Padmanabhan
Ashwin Padmanabhan shares his thoughts on digital marketing trends, the past, present and future of Web3 and the metaverse and more.
In conversation with Ashwin Padmanabhan, President of Partnerships and Exchanges at GroupM, we attempt to understand how the regional content space has evolved to become national, the role of technology in marketing and the broader acceptance enjoyed today. influencer marketing today.
What are some of the digital marketing trends seen in 2022?
Digital marketing itself is very large and complicated right now. But if you look at digital marketing sectors, in theory, we can see new trends emerging. Everyone wants to know what we can do around the metaverse and some are doing great work around it. The other trend we’ve seen is in trade. Previously, to buy a product, consumers would go to Google and do a search. But today many of us go to Amazon or Flipkart.
Where and how people discover products and connect with evolving products and services. We move from generic search to searches on commercial platforms.
The third change that has happened is how influencer marketing is used by brands. We’ve seen more and more brands incorporate influencer marketing into their core strategy. Brands were experimenting with it earlier, but during the pandemic they found out that it actually works.
Previously we had around 10 brands working on influencer marketing, now the number has grown to around 150 brands.
The other element of the digital lens is that the technology can be applied across different mediums. The role of technology in how we connect with consumers is becoming very important. The campaign that won the Titanium Lions at Cannes this year was all about technology. Seeing Shahrukh Khan advertise a small store is a very emotional moment for this shopkeeper. It allowed us to do a very personal and emotional communication, which was impossible to do before.
People are opening up to the fact that technology can make a huge difference to the way we do business and a lot of that spills over into the digital space. The technology we are looking at is applied to all multimedia. So it’s not limited to digital. The role of technology in innovations, enabling people and brands to connect with consumers, and even brands to connect with their channel partners and create an emotional connection, is huge. I think that’s the big change we’ve seen.
How has Web3 changed digital marketing?
Web3 hasn’t changed digital marketing yet, but that may change. The idea of web3 is that you own your data. Conceptually, we say that you own your data and no one else has access to it, and even if they have access to it, they do not have it with them.
Second, with web3 you can track your purchase in a digital value chain. You can connect creators and consumers without intermediaries. Previously, we bought or listened to music on a platform. But today, an artist can connect with you directly and license a song to you for a fee or maybe even for free, but you’ll get a license even if it’s free.
I think there are a lot of opportunities out there that we need to explore and find ways to connect with consumers, which keeps these Web3 principles in mind. As more and more applications that are beginning to make sense in the Web3 universe become part of our daily lives, this will surely begin to change.
Also read: The future of advertising will be platform-based and unified with technology-based solutions: Ashish Bhasin
Do you think concepts like the metaverse are here to stay?
The metaverse has always existed. I remember in the early 2000s, I created an account on Second Life. I spent a lot of time on it, trying to create avatars and new worlds. My son was playing Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite. About two years ago there was a Travis Scott concert in Fortnite and millions of people attended. Thus, the metaverse has been around for over 25 years.
Some form of blockchain has been around for many years, but what we’re seeing right now is a recognition that there are tremendously large communities that have existed in these universes and we’ve tried to define them as a metaverse. But they all existed independently like Roblox or like Fortnite or like Minecraft or Second Life. It’s more of an acknowledgment that these worlds exist, and that we can do a lot with these worlds. If we bring them into our consciousness, that is the change that has really happened.
What are some of the content consumption trends seen in the Indian market?
Regional content has always been very important in India, but today, with multiple platforms focused on the region, the consumption quantity and quality of content produced in regional markets is now considerably huge. Consumers are attracted to this content. Both from a broader ecosystem perspective and from an audience ecosystem perspective, regional content is driving a lot of engagement. We’ve seen that in the movies, right? Now we are talking about Indian cinema. We don’t talk about Bollywood anymore.
Much of this change is also due to OTT. The way content is distributed has no boundaries. We watch Korean shows now, which we didn’t before. The kind of stories that are told are also very experimental in nature. We are moving away from fixed formulas of drama or action and there is a lot of real stuff happening in real life. So real-life inspiration to the reel, this content shift is happening all over the world, not just India.
The fact that the market today is global is the biggest trend for content.
Lately, many brands have launched their own influencer awards or influencer programs to build community – what do you think of this strategy?
It’s really good because brands recognize influencers. It is a sign of commitment to influencer marketing. You can’t get more approval that influencer marketing works than brands saying I’m going to curate the list of influencers and train and work with them. It is a commitment.
The second element is that when brands invest in training and grooming, it also allows content creators to improve the type of content they create and thus better connect with their audience.
In fact, we’ve launched a new program around mentorship where we identify budding influencers who we believe are inherently creating great content, but need to polish up in how they create content and market themselves.
A number of campaigns have blatantly flouted basic advertising guidelines and even common sense, even when the line is not so thin. Where do you think brands tend to go wrong when it comes to responsible advertising?
I can be responsible by nature or I can be made responsible because of social norms. We all grew up as kids in school, some of us were irresponsible kids and some of us were very responsible kids. But there is always a border that we would not cross. But who created these borders? Society has created these boundaries. Our parents, the way we were raised, we were told what to do and what not to do. What is good and what is bad. So I believe every organization has a moral compass. The moral compass is set by the people running the business. The moment an organization crosses this moral compass line, situations like these occur. This is where society comes in.
The campaign in question crossed the moral compass and not just them as an organization, everyone who worked on this project crossed their moral compass and no one could really stand up and say let’s not do this. You have such failures but when they happen I would say it would be scary if people ignored them; I’m glad it wasn’t ignored. There was a safety net that kept it from getting bigger. There was a safety net that prevented him from reposting, and there was a safety net that caused the organization to issue an apology.
As long as we as a society have a conscience, we will continue to have instances where people fail the moral compass, but society will correct it. This is the natural way it will happen. I don’t think you can really create rules and say, follow this formula.
Although there is a lot of talk about regional content and marketing, do you think Indian brands and agencies cater to this audience sector appropriately? Any advice on how this can be done?
From a planning perspective in the media agency, one of the questions we constantly ask ourselves is where is the audience? Regional content is going national now. We recognize the fact that India is not a unified market; it’s several markets in one in my opinion. It’s several audiences in one. If we see Tata Tea, they have flavors specific to specific regions and states. They have separate variants for Uttar Pradesh, Andhra, Tamil Nadu etc. They understand that the cup of tea we all cherish every morning is different from region to region. The same with audiences, which means they have to look for regional audiences. I don’t think that’s a challenge here. There is so much regional content, the ability to connect and the depth of connection that we can do now has become much better.