Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Thinking digitally big

Published in Sep-Oct 2015

Why clients need to go beyond mere posts and boldly embrace a bigger digital world.
Photo: The Social 360.
Photo: The Social 360.

What do you mean we should do more on digital? We post on Facebook every single day.”

Another day. Another meeting. Another client sitting across the table whose understanding of digital began and ended with Facebook and Twitter. Being fairly new to the digital arena myself, I couldn’t blame him. I worked abroad for six years and was a happy camper in my perfect little ATL world when digital campaigns became the rage. TVC briefs turned into YouTube campaign briefs. Banner ads replaced press ads. Microsites kicked brochures to the kerb. And as my vocabulary increased dramatically with the addition of rather scientific sounding jargon like CPA, CPC, CTR** and PTAT, so did my wonder at the possibilities this medium opened up. I was madly in love all over again, and the Effies and Lynx recognitions only deepened that love.

Come 2014 and I was back in Pakistan with the same enthusiasm for digital as ever. It didn’t take long to realise that my excitement was hardly shared. As luck would have it though, I was hired by one of Pakistan’s foremost digital agencies as creative director and tasked with setting up a creative division from scratch. I could now build a team that would not only understand the platform but make our reluctant clients sit up and take note. For all of us, it was tantamount to going back to school and relearning our craft. We read a lot about social media metrics, about Google Analytics, about industry best practices and omni-channel marketing. Every week, we would get together, share award-winning work from across the globe and leave pumped and ready to take on the myriad projects and pitches that came our way. We were all now heavily invested.

Real time advertising is a game of placing the right message at the right time in front of the right people. The trouble is there are too many players in the market and very little knowledge of how to incorporate real-time capabilities into campaigns and media plans in order to drastically improve engagement metrics. Just think: we now have the power to track what our target audiences are doing online, their interests, their concerns, their aspirations and more. Social listening tools enable us to pinpoint what our customers read, watch, post and share so we can mimic all of it in our content. It’s scary how much we know, and for marketers and clients there really isn’t a more exciting time. Which brings us back to companies which equate digital media with posts punting their products on social media day after day, and the reasons why this approach is wrong.

Yes, the point of advertising is to sell products and services – and this is where the fun begins, because now businesses have this incredible two-way communication going with their audience. Unlike an impersonal press ad people may read and toss aside, they can engage with posted content. If it appeals to them, they will like, comment on and share it, promoting the brand and becoming staunch advocates. See how brands like Starbucks interact on Twitter, seldom posting about themselves, choosing instead to retweet comments and pictures shared by their customers.

They also go a step further and connect with every follower on a personal level rather than spamming them with advertising messages. I would always take the word of a happy customer posing with their iced latte telling me how divine it is, rather than have Starbucks tell me the same thing, which would end up sounding rather presumptuous anyway.

So yes, when we tell our clients to do more on digital, we don’t mean they should increase their social media posts from two a day to 20. We mean they should spend time creating an online personality that fans want to engage with.

We want them to realise there is much more out there to explore, from augmented reality to in-store experiences to vending machines to literally anything that the human mind can think of. Possibly one of my most exciting days was when a client showed us the Fallen Angels augmented reality show staged by AXE and expressed a desire to do something similar. I recall doing a happy dance, until we were told the budget was Rs 50,000. This, by far, is the biggest challenge us digital kith and kin face; we are able to expand our clients’ imagination but not their purse strings. It’s possibly why our market has not gone far beyond the trodden path of posts, tweets and web banners.

I am extremely hopeful that the tide will soon turn. Already, brands are becoming more interactive on social platforms, K-Electric warranting a special mention in this regard. No query or comment goes unanswered, although there are over a thousand every day. Customers can turn to K-Electric online 24/7 and because of this, I often hear people praising a company that is generally not spoken of in a good light (excuse the pun). Espresso’s Cookie Check-In took our Facebook newsfeeds by storm and was recognised at the PAS Awards. Dove’s global campaign, Patches, bagged a Cannes Lion for its use of social platforms and Pakistan contributed majorly to the win with 5.7 million Twitter impressions and over a million video views, despite the YouTube ban. If all this doesn’t prove that our market is ready to embrace digital, I don’t know what will.

Photo: Muhammad Ali Jafri
Photo: Muhammad Ali Jafri

If you are a marketer or client and are reading this, please give digital a chance. Be brave. Take risks. Know that big ideas will die a certain death on a small budget. Understand that social media sites are businesses and will not show fans your updates for free. Tweet and post, but don’t spam your consumers. Facebook videos achieve a much higher engagement rate than static content; use them to your advantage. Aspire for award winning work.

Digital comrades, keep fighting the good fight. I know only too well how it feels to go into presentations with groundbreaking ideas you know will take everyone by storm, only to have them shot down. It’s the worst kind of feeling, but don’t let that hold you back. Leverage owned, earned and shared media to get your clients more bang for their buck. Before posting anything, ask yourself about the likelihood that you would interact with it. If it doesn’t tempt you, it will be lost on your audience too. Stay abreast of all things digital. Attend webinars. Read. Draw inspiration from industry awards to find out what works and what doesn’t.

Aspiring digital marketers hoping to break into this industry, this is an exhilarating time to do so. Get hands-on experience from an internship or a project to add to your résumé. Make the effort to learn the lingo so that when someone questions you about terminology, such as impressions or SEO, you are ready. Boost your Klout score by posting quality content on your social profiles that will engage people. Bookmark websites like Mashable, AdAge and eMarketer to keep up with the latest trends. Stay curious.

In the words of marketing guru Jim Stengel, “brands that rely too heavily on mainstream media and which are not exploring new technologies and connection points, will lose touch.”

It’s time to move forward and embrace new media. I am glad I did, and I don’t see myself turning back.

Maheen Meenai Rizavi is an award-winning creative with over seven years of local and international experience.