The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pop-up Santa brings ad mail
- Promotionals flood Net as online market doubles its size

Mumbai, Dec. 25: Is it fair that at this age and time Santa Claus should be made to pop-up, pop-down, pop-in-between ads, effect site captures and road blocks ' and even deliver mail offering great holiday packages and personal loans at the lowest interest rates at inboxes ' a trillion times and more'

But it will only get worse for him, for the online ad market, where Santa is so much in demand, is growing by leaps and bounds. It is the trend worldwide, but in India this year the market doubled its size.

According to latest figures released by Internet and Online Association, the new industry body comprising leading portals of the country, the online ad market last year was worth Rs 42 crore. 'But this year it has already crossed Rs 79 crore,' says Preeti Desai, its spokesperson.

It is still minuscule compared to other ad markets ' the total Indian ad market this year, including print and television, adding up to Rs 8,693 crore. Says Shantanu Sirohi, associate vice-president, Mediaturf Worldwide: 'In the US, Internet was approximately 3.15 per cent of a $200-billion market. In India, the Internet is approximately 0.8 per cent of the total ad spend according to various industry estimations.' But, for the Indian online market, it has been a record growth of 87.9 per cent, says the association.

The culprit is the wired Indian, whose profile seems to match exactly that of the ideal consumer. He is young, male, moneyed, educated and makes the purchasing decision ' and is therefore the model of spending power and the new darling of the advertisers. Since he and his peers are hobnobbing in the web, advertisers are casting the Net to catch them there.

Is the wired Indian truly valuable to advertisers, asks a recent IRS survey, and goes on to exclaim: 'Sixty per cent of the wired Indian is between 20 to 40 years of age ' maximum spending power!'

'Marketers seek the educated and affluent male potential buyer. The Net reaches this audience as much as the print media (in) English.'

Since this tribe is only increasing ' there are an estimated 25 million Net users in India ' so is online advertising. To get him, many sectors of industries ' particularly financial services, autos, IT services, consumer durables and travel and tourism companies and now FMCG, too, in a major way, are flocking to the portals.

The results are showing.

'The core Internet user belongs to the age group 19-35. This is the age group that influences all the buying decisions,' says spokesperson for Debashish Ghosh. He says thanks to this perception, Rediff India Online's revenue has touched $ 1.3 million in the quarter ending September 2004, a 70 per cent increase over the same quarter last year. Online advertising has gone up by more than 100 per cent during this period, the rest being contributed by fee-based services.

'We have 96 advertisers, out of whom 26 advertised for the first time during this quarter,' he adds.

'We have registered a 100 per cent growth in revenue,' agrees Neville Taraporewalla, country manager of the portal Yahoo! India.

Tushar Vyas of M Digital, the online department of the media agency Group M, says that certain financial services targeting the NRI consumer, like Citibank and the ICICI NRI services, allocate between 60 per cent to 70 per cent of their ad spends to online advertising.

'There are several reasons behind the growth of online advertising,' says Desai. 'The Net is a research-aided tool. Whether it is a travel offer or a financial service, the consumer can click and look into the offer. It is through the Net that the advertiser can change a 30-second dialogue into a six-minute conversation,' she says.

The Internet and Online Association and the portals claim that the advertisers are getting their money's worth. Yahoo! India cites two case studies.

For the launch of Pepsi Blue, it went for a front page innovation, initiating the user to tear the Yahoo! India front page, unravelling the Pepsi Blue page. The number of exposures ' each appearance of the ad is counted as an exposure ' for the ad was 3,56,000; and the Pepsi Blue page tear was initiated 2,17,000 times by users. 'It generated great awareness,' says Yahoo! India.

For an ad for UK as the preferred destination for studying abroad, it was given a homepage presence on Yahoo! India and a contest was run on Yahoo! promos for 45 days. About 18,000 users entered the contest and became part of the Education ' UK mailing list.

Writes Amitabh Kant, joint secretary, department of tourism and chairman-cum-managing director of ITDC, to his portal: 'The incredible India online campaign ' has taken a complete 360-degree approach considering all possible digital touch points to connect with the user. 'Page views on the website have increased by over 265 per cent, reaching a high of 10 million per month. Visits to the site have also increased by over 350 per cent.'

That too, at a fraction of the cost of ads in the major media. Mailers can be bought from 0.25 paise to Rs 8 per mailer.

The potential seems huge. 'Currently Internet penetration in India is 1.5 per cent versus China's 6 per cent. Mature markets like Japan and Korea have a 40 per cent to 70 per cent Internet penetration. So India has only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of spending on the medium,' says Sirohi.

'There are 5 million connections ' as different from the number of users ' in the country and the number of total users would be several multiples of that number,' says the spokesperson. 'But the potential is huge. It is the English-speaking population of the country, the readership of the English print media. With a friendly government policy, which has cut down the duty on computers and the rapid laying out of communications infrastructure, there is no reason why computers will not become more affordable in future,' he says.

Desai, however, also points out the hurdles with great emphasis, on the way of online advertising growth. She says there is a lack of awareness ' and investment ' among advertisers on going online, as there is a reluctance to make ads separately for the medium. However, several leading media buying and advertising agencies, ready with specialised online departments, are looking at the new area with interest in terms of both marketing and creative inputs.

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