What lies ahead for advertising as AI and influencer marketing gain more prominence?

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The future of advertising is rapidly changing with newer and more tech-savvy mediums emerging. Experts share their opinions on these newer trends and more.

With new technological advances, consumer behaviour is changing and the advertising industry is paying close attention to Artificial intelligence (AI) and influencer marketing as these mediums are better known for holding attention. 

Today, as consumers become more aware, advertisers are listening to their opinions and shaping their narratives accordingly. There is a need to provide an interactive value to them. 

Dheeraj Sinha, CEO, Leo Burnett, South Asia & Chairman BBH India believes this is the best time to be in the advertising and marketing business. He said that the value chain is moving from advertising talking down to people, to solving business problems. There is an opportunity to move up the value chain, to solve problems for people.

Reflecting back, he remembered how advertisers played jingles and people watched because they didn’t have a choice. Today, that entitlement is gone. 

“I think the whole value chain is now moving from advertising talking down to people to actually solving human problems and solving business problems.” 

Creating value for clients and consumers

With increasing fragmentation, the right to earn a consumer’s time is a challenge today. 

T Gangadhar (Gangs), Co-Founder & Group CEO, Quotient Ventures mentioned how the focus areas in advertising goals have changed over the years. Previously, it was broadly related to entertaining and performing while today, you are either entertaining or inspiring. 

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Citing a few campaigns conceptualized by Leo Burnett for ACKO and Whisper’s ‘The Missing Chapter’, Sinha mentioned how the agency has tried to solve problems and make them interesting for people and that has, in turn, provided value. 

“For ACKO, we built a technology which is strapped on a bike and it sees a submerged pothole and protects and guides you around it. This saves lives. That’s advertising, that’s content and people are interacting with it. For Whisper, to build penetration for sanitary pads, we're not saying, ‘Look we have a package of pads that’s better than cloth.’ We're saying, let's have the chapter on menstrual hygiene in NCERT books.”

Creating value for consumers and clients goes hand-in-hand. Abe Thomas, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network (BIG FM) observes two clear trends that are moving the industry forward in this day. The first one being the solutions clients are looking for in the radio segment.

“Increasingly, more and more clients are giving briefs saying, ‘Western UP is a challenging market for us, how can you fix it?’”

Thomas mentioned that the network has built a specialized creative unit to provide solutions for clients which brings in business outcomes. This big shift of clients searching for business outcomes has proved to become a sizable revenue stream for them. 

The network has also done an event in the metaverse to show their client that they can actually go there and drive outcomes for them. 

Is Influencer marketing just a trend? 

As of 2022, the influencer marketing industry in India was valued at over 12 billion Indian rupees. It is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25% over the next five years with its market value estimated to amount to Rs 28 billion Indian by 2026. In 2022, nearly 55 million urban Indians were direct consumers of influencers of various kinds. 

However, Rana Barua, Group CEO, Havas Group India believes influencer marketing isn’t going to be credible in the long term. He pointed out it works well for experiential marketing, tourism, and food, but it's better to be cautious when it comes to authenticity.

“I think we will still stick to the bigger form of ideas, we will stick to data, technology, and other platforms, I don't see influencer marketing as a very powerful thing.”

At the core, he believes that the whole debate between new and traditional forms of advertising, the way we create and solve problems in advertising remains the same - which is making use of the bigger mediums. 

Adding to this, Sinha believes that India will be a country where influencers will be on television and there will be a mix of all mediums to advertise.

On the other hand, Rohit Gopakumar, COO, Optimal Media Solutions (Times Group) pointed out that with changing times and embracing them, Times Group has set up an influencer marketing team that has grown 300 PC in just three years. he further added by saying, “The more influencer activity happens, we have seen more ad dollars come into the system.”

On similar lines, Saurabh Saksena, CEO, VMLY&R India stated that if influencers are creating credibility and trust in brands, that's very valuable.

“It is a well-documented fact that for consumers to trust brands, they will trust people like themselves. Suppose I want to buy something, and an influencer knows a little bit more than me and endorses this brand, chances are that I am more likely to buy it. I think that’s the power that we want to have.”

He mentioned how harnessing the power of micro-influencers from small towns, might not get many opportunities but their influence can have quite a bit of reach. 

AI and its future

The rapid advancement of AI-generated tools hasn’t just piqued the audience’s interest, but marketers around the globe are curious as well. 

The panel had mixed opinions on the integration of AI and advertising and gave their opinions and standpoints on this emerging trend. 

Gangs T Gangadhar pointed out how the jury is still unconvinced about AI. He further stated, “It will have its uses. I am a big believer in the human mind and it will continue to rule. Creativity and Big ideas will rule.” 

Having a similar opinion on how humans and their potential still have a long way to go in the industry, Saurabh Saksena said, “ChatGPT or the likes cannot replace human intuition. Brilliance cannot be replicated. For brilliance, you need intuition and a deep understanding of people. And that, at least for the time being, is in the domain of humans,” 

Where the other panellists were still uncertain about the new tech in the town, Dheeraj Sinha seemed warm towards it. 

He said that he is open to the idea of AI tools as it will eventually ease the process. Talking about its emergence he added, “Anytime there is a change of platform, there will be resistance. Previously the resistance was seen with the shift from AirBrush to Adobe. But, these are all tools and we will need people to feed these tools. I am open to embracing it. If technology can help me eliminate the long tail and improve accuracy, it frees my people to solve the creativity problems.”

At the FICCI Frames 2023 session – “What is the future of Advertising,” moderated by Vinit Karnik, Business Head - Entertainment, Group M, panellists discussed what lies ahead as the landscape advances.

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