Hey Ads, I'm Over Here!

Zohare Haider Regional Head of Digital, Wider South Asia, British Council

Posted on May 2nd 2013

Hey Ads, I'm Over Here!

targeted adsAs of late, there seems to be a lot of noise on my Twitter feed around increases in ad spend across various emerging markets globally. To exemplify, in Middle East and North Africa (MENA), digital advertising budgets are projected to double from 4% to 8% in 2013. Holy shnikes! Chris Farley would shout, but a lot of executives are scratching their heads about whether or not there is any authenticity to this hue and cry of ‘becoming digital’. Don't get me wrong, increased awareness of digital advertising is good, but unless we think it through the results can also be troubling (and wasteful).

I recently started a new role (applause, thank you thank you) and am really enjoying working with a new team from around the world and learning the new environment. While doing so, however, I am also learning about the importance of focused planning and what it all achieves for us, both in the short and long run.

What I find in common between the private corporate and public service sectors, among many other things, is that there is a general gap between what digital means to different generations of professionals. This is not a criticizm, rather an observation about how things get misconstrued because the full facts are either not explored or shared. Ok, let me break it down: When every third or fourth word in a sentence is either ‘Digital’ or ‘Social’ or ‘Online’ or … some of us (guilty few) get caught up without even realizing what it is these words really mean, you get the picture? Why all the hype if we haven’t really, fully understood the context?

My guess is that this has something to do with the pressure mounting as a result of money diverted towards online spend, be it advertising, apps, websites, games, campaigns or something beyond like investing in digital futures. Specifically focusing on advertising though, I am curious about how accurate advertising really is, even though the positive speculation leads to increase in spend. Are execs in companies pumping money in because someone who knows something said to add more towards digital? If so, are they taking away from elsewhere? Maybe, or perhaps the advertising pie just increased.

So, you may be asking where this is all going and how it relates to the very interesting title chosen for this article. Simple, really; with all the spend we are putting in, the hype being created and the future shock being experienced (credit: Alvin Toffler), there is an advertising overload being experienced by consumers (same folks creating those very ads between 9 to whenever) and a desperate need by the companies to increase product promotion, because it appears more success occurs with digital ads.

Sure, there are droves of people coming online every day, most likely a natural result of increasing/improving telecom infrastructure around the world enabling greater access. Then why is it that someone 'apparently' as digitally connected as I am is usually finding out about amazing products such as discovery applications independently of their advertising, when all their advertising is engulfing me? Is it simply because I’m ignoring the ads and finding them through more organic sources like worth of mouth marketing (WOMM) or referrals as traditional marketeers may call it still? Or is it need-driven and whether they advertise or not, I'll still probably find utility in their product or service when I need it?

Either way, even with ads becoming more creative, attracting more ‘clicks’ on them – I wonder whether the data referring to the success/failure of these ads is being consumed properly to make better decisions about how to advertise and more importantly to whom? Mediums are becoming more robust and, as the need arises, technology finds ways to upgrade, redevelop and rediscover what we couldn’t do then we can do now.

There’s no clear end to my question, but certainly something to think about – are your ads reaching the audiences you are targeting or are you convincing yourself (and your execs) that they are? From the example of South Asia, I can say we are a creative bunch and where technology doesn’t exist, we find a way to sell online anyway.

Every year we say it’s the year of digital (while sceptics say the bubble cometh again); I think we are still learning the power of being online. So, perhaps 2013 is yet another year of ‘digital discovery.

Since the cavemen did it, so shall we engage to evolve. 

Photo Credit: http://jamiemulgrewatemynoseandstoleourcup.files.wordpress.com


Zohare Haider

Regional Head of Digital, Wider South Asia, British Council

Zohare is the Regional Head of Digital at British Council. Previously, he was with Ooredoo (formerly Qatar Telecom or Qtel Group), where he was program managing the build-up of a new innovation and advisory unit to support all of Qtel's Big global business throughout Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

A graduate of Bucknell University (USA), Zohare has extensive experience working with global leaders in Telecoms, Venture/Patient Capital and Social Enterprise. His key interests are to build strategic relations and partnerships,  believing strongly in the synergy between digital and offline consumer engagement strategies. He loves to try and demystify digital by making it user-friendly. 

Zohare also played a critical role within the social development community for successfully harnessing the power of digital reach by using his blog to share critical disaster relief information. 

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