The sophomore edition of Adclub’s digital review brought together some top industry names to talk about the medium. We were there.

Digital marketing events in India have become frequent,  as the advertising industry tried to get a grasp on a medium that is getting increasingly vast and complex. Much like brands, these events need to differentiate to stand out – and this is why we were intrigued by the format of D-Code , The AdClubs’ Annual Digital Review. 13 industry stalwarts were given ten minutes each to present:

  • Digital work they’re proud of
  • Digital work they found inspiring
  • 3 takeaways or tips

Of course, marketing folks are not famed for brevity and the stated time limit was transgressed like a political party flouting EC norms.

What worked was the variety: There was a healthy mix of agency people, clients, entrepreneurs and content creators; and representation from several industries. While there was good work showcased all around, Webchutney’s work for Swiggy (using sound wave-forms on Instagram to represent various food items) came up several times. There were no ‘awards’ for the night, but if there were, we think Sidharth Rao would have another piece of metal in his burgeoning cabinet.

It’s all here

We’ve put together all the examples and tips for you in one handy presentation.

Common themes

An emphasis on results: It’s a sign of maturity success shifts from ‘vanity’ metrics (First 5 million likes in the BFSI industry!) and flag-planting (First to use <feature> on Instagram!) to things that actually mean something for businesses – sales, loyalty and even the often-vague ‘brand salience’. This was a sentiment shared by several speakers – most memorably by Partha Sinha who said, “outcome is more important than output”.

The blurring line between online and offline: Several speakers spoke about how there are ‘analog insights’ that can be solved either online or offline. The key takeaway here was not to think of platforms as silos – it’s all one brand, one campaign, one consumer. This means digital agency folks will need to hobnob with their mainline counterparts more often.

Relevance > Entertainment: It only took us about ten years to say it! A few years ago, we were besieged by long-form brand videos that often had a tenuous connection to the product or category. Several lakhs blown on production and media later, it looks like we’ve finally come to terms with the fact that just because you slap your logo onto a comedy video, doesn’t make your brand automatically hip. Many speakers spoke about relevance to the customer, and how context plays a big role. Whether this means less 3-minute attempted tearjerkers during Diwali is yet to be seen.

Leverage the uniqueness of each platform: The features, context of use and format of Instagram Stories is substantially different from say, LinkedIn. Many espoused creating content specifically for use on one platform rather than adapting a billboard for use everywhere.

The growing importance of vernacular: India’s elite English-speaking crowd has been saturated, and the next phase of growth for brands will come to those who are more comfortable in one of India’s myriad languages. This will, no doubt, be a technology and content challenge – but it looks like brands increasingly have the appetite and inclination to speak in multiple languages.

And finally – video. Preferably, vertical: Video was on everyone’s minds. The major shift seemed to be moving from long-form, production-heavy films to short-form, engaging content – here’s looking at you, Instagram Stories and TikTok Ads (the title sponsor of the evening). Brands should feel increasingly comfortable letting people take an idea of theirs and running with it – something Pepsi did well.

While several of these takeaways seemed obvious, it hammered home their importance and urgency of adoption if the industry is to grow to client needs and consumer changes. In that sense, the session was encouraging as it showed that digital marketing is moving in the right direction.

It was probably best summed up by comedian Kenny Sebastian, who was closing the night. After promptly roasting the industry for its reliance on numbers and propensity to overshoot time limits (an observation not lost on a hungry audience at 10 PM), he declared “platforms change, people don’t” and that there was a tendency by marketers to overcomplicate things.

Clearly, if there would be a plea to the digital advertising industry, it would be just that: Uncomplicate.

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