2018 – The year that was
2018 has been a year of many things for digital marketers. Facebook has been jumping from one scandal to the next, starting with the Cambridge Analytica saga. YouTube came under the scanner for showing ads alongside objectionable content. GDPR came into effect in Europe and the implications are yet to be appreciated by consumers & brands alike. The ad fraud menace got bigger, with the risk ranging from $16 billion or $66 billion depending on the report you read. Online video viewing has reached a new height, Netflix betting over $8 billion dollars. On the other side of the story is Amazon, which is eating into the duopoly of Google & Facebook ads. Unilever has given a clarion call to stop the spends on influencer marketing which is rift with bots & click farms. A lot has happened in 2018 and a lot more is expected to happen in the coming days.
Many changes are also being witnessed in India. Digital videos have become mainstream, brands & content creators are both rushing to the hinterlands with regional content, few of the biggies are betting big on voice. On the other side, Indian publishers have formed Digital News Publishers Association, with focus on measurement & quality of traffic. WhatsApp, the largest IM service in India had to fight fake news and information, for which they are still running ads.
Somewhere behind the glitz, glamour and the scandals, there are some real changes that are happening among India’s digital marketers. They have started asking the right questions, they have started thinking about the power of digital, they have started bringing accountability to digital investments.
For us, this was the key takeaway for the year.
Some of the other observations that we have had for the year are –
It is true that digital is fragmented beyond imagination. There is a specialist for everything, right from running Facebook Ads to Google Search, Google display, Programmatic, SEO, Performance, Affiliate, Analytics and so on. The fragmentation leads to a situation where nobody owns data, and yet everyone owns data. We are seeing, among a lot of brands, a push towards automation & reporting dashboards. Brands are trying to understand the complexity involved in data & trying to create a central warehouse for all the data. Thus make it faster and easier for further analysis.
While data ownership or the lack of, was a result of fragmentation, not having measurement, analytics or attribution model was the long end of this. Brands today, are trying to make digital investments more accountable and are looking towards partners & companies who can help them create analytics suits. If data warehousing or democratisation is the beginning of the journey, analytics or more robust measurement is the end destination.
For a medium that is so complex & intertwined, such as digital, the lack of process & guidelines has made it chaotic for brand marketers. Briefs are given & sent in the eleventh hour, technology development is taken up at the last minute, plans are drawn up without deliveries or KPIs, and so on. Over the past year, we have seen a clear shift in the way marketers are thinking. They are insisting on the process for everything on digital today, right from web development, reporting, ad tech, media planning, security, etc. The end objective of the process is to ensure operational efficiency among the stakeholders.
Just like the way CFO and financial auditors serve a purpose, marketers are looking towards external parties to drive up the efficiencies of the investment, monitor the campaigns & plans, validate the execution, etc. After all, it becomes difficult to have expertise in-house.
The biggest change that we have witnessed over the last one year was the willingness by many marketers to let go of the baggage that they have had over the years when it comes to digital marketing. They are now asking questions, even the smallest ones and with that, they are learning.
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