20 February 2019 16:17:51 IST

CSR must start with responsible advertising

Respecting the consumer’s time and freedom of choice will be a big differentiator in the digital age

Irrelevant marketing calls during a work day, un-skippable long-ads on YouTube and mismatched targeting have long been a source of frustration for consumers. Pervasive, obnoxious and intrusive are the adjectives that pretty much sum up our experience of advertising today. While the advertising and marketing fraternity takes two steps forward in terms of innovation, we go ten steps back with irresponsible marketing.

All leading companies have personalisation at the heart of their strategy. Reportedly, more than 30 per cent of Amazon’s revenue is attributed to personal recommendations. Around 75 per cent of Netflix’s viewership is driven by personalised suggestions. Google’s search results are increasingly personalised. Studying these brands closely has helped crystallise the concept of ‘responsible advertising’. Respecting the consumer’s time, experience, and freedom of choice with tech intervention will be a big differentiator for brands in the digital age.

Having said that, as future brand custodians, it is important to understand that there is only a thin line between personalised experiences and intrusion. For marketers, it is definitely a great time to be alive and, as we evolve into a digital economy, responsible digital conduct will trump philanthropy in the context of brand trust.

In this journey, here are a few considerations for the CMOs of the future:

1. Where are the customers?

India’s emergence as a mobile-first economy and the declining cost of internet connectivity has opened a plethora of opportunities to celebrate the consumer at scale. It is anticipated that by 2019, mobile media time (29.6 per cent) will surpass TV activity (30.4 per cent). Similar growth could be extrapolated to mobile apps, which take up about 88 per cent of India’s cumulative mobile time. The interesting nuance here is that consumers spend more time on apps rather than on the mobile web.

Takeaway: With smartphones becoming increasingly affordable, mobile will be the obvious choice of channel when it comes to consumer outreach. Against this backdrop, mobile programmatic advertising is one of the must-haves in your marketing tool-kit if your brand is set on capturing the attention of a new-age audience. While the trend is still in its nascent stage with brands, it has been estimated that the programmatic route has the potential to enable advertisers in India to reach 85 per cent of the estimated 320 million active smartphone users.

2. How attentive is your target?

It has been established that we live very fast lives and are victims of constant tech-based distractions and exposure to multiple screens at once. According to Time magazine, the average human attention span is now just eight seconds, even lower than the nine-second attention span of a goldfish! People want quick information in a short format that doesn’t take much of their time. This means ads need to be absolutely relevant and crisp, with increased preference to personalisation, so as to not take up too much attention or time.

Takeaway: In the future, people will demand undivided attention on the customer experience journey. But avoid overloading your customers with increased personalised texts, messages or ads because you never know if it’s really getting their attention.

3. Reinventing the customer experience

Shorter attention spans have forced brands to resort to ‘snack ads’ in the video format. Even with the humble 6-second ads, it may be worthwhile evaluating if brands should topple the campaign process which usually starts with preparing the ground, moves on to the big reveal and then finishes with sustenance activities.

Takeaway: With increasing competition and an evolved audience, brands must literally ‘cut a long story short’ and begin with the big reveal, strengthening brand resonance with sustenance activities.

4. Are we missing out on the human factor?

While we are allowing emerging technologies, such as neural networks, AI, IoT, chatbots, AR andVR, to understand us and predict what we want to create seamless experiences, the stickiness of a customer ultimately relies on human relationships.

Takeaway: There will arise an urgent need for brands and digital marketing agencies to address the human interaction gap with consumers. While it’s great to acknowledge the digital transformation wave we are cruising on, it would be a disaster to leave behind the anchor of human touch at the shore.

5. Customer data – how personal you can get?

Customer details are crunched bits of data that make marketing more efficient. For personalised ads, companies gather information through customer browsers, and analyse visits over a period of time through special algorithms and across different websites. This helps predict customer preferences and shows customers the kind of ads that are more likely to interest them. This kind of tracking often overwhelms many customers and, sometimes, even ends up creating a negative brand image.

Takeaway: Remember the ground rule always is to let users control how and how much of their information to leverage. Transparency and consent are prerequisites for building brand trust.

(The writer is co-founder and CEO, Logicserve Digital.)