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While one half of the ReadMe team decided to head north for Rio ice cream and Jaffna IT Week, the rest of us stayed on – for Circuit Colombo.

The first speaker of the day was Safwaan Hussein, GroupM Associate Director. His speech was an icebreaker: about the topic of the day: digital media. After Safwaan concluded his speech, the keynote speaker of the day, Nithin Bawankule from Google India took the stage. While we plugged in our Hutch connections, Nithin began his speech.

Nithin’s opened with the words, “For a technology to be successful, it has to reach over a billion people in less than 5 years.” A prime example of successful technology is the mobile – some 65% of internet users access the internet via a mobile device.

Nithin then shared with us a few examples as to how technology and digital media have grown; two years ago the total number of online shoppers in India was 8 million; in another two years it will be more than double that. Following Nithin’s keynote speech, we saw the first panel discussion of the day – titled “Multi-Screen Planning – is it Relevant to Sri Lanka?” Multi-Screen Planning, as the name suggests, is all about planning for consumers to interact with your brand on two or more screens. An example of this would be where fans of a TV show live tweet their reactions as an episode progresses.

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After the panel discussion, Atique Kazi, director of Xaxis India took the stage to speak on Big Data and Programmatic advertising.

Atique opened his speech by defining big data, referring to Dan Ariely infamous quote: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.

Atique concluded his presentation with a few tips on how to start programmatic advertising. They are:

  • Start collecting data on your owned, earned and paid audience
  • Use a technology partner who is 100% data secured
  • Work on third party ad’s that serve all digital campaigns
  • Leverage DSP to access inventory available on Real Time bidding. Encourage publishers to be on SSP’s
  • Learn, analyse and keep always the ball rolling!

Following Atique’s speech we had a short break during which we decided to head over to the interactive ‘Experiential Zone’ by Crossworks Digital Experiential Lab.

Now there were plenty of cool gadgets on display – we, however were interested in only one: the infamous Oculus Rift! Sadly we couldn’t put it to the test.  We did muck around a bit, and found that using your head to look around and navigate a digital world will take some getting used to.

Afterwards we saw a panel discussion focusing on the topic ‘Comparing ROI of Digital Media to Traditional Media’. The purpose behind this was the fact that despite digital media being a buzzword within the industry for a number of years, only a handful of brands have tapped its potential; too often, it is a last minute add-on to a media plan.

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Following the panel discussion we saw Karthik Nagarajan, Social Practice Head from GroupM India take the stage. Karthik’s speech was aimed at answering the question “Can social have a strategy?” He began his answer by saying that a brand should always think large instead of confining yourself to 2 or 3 platforms. – Facebook is a common entry option, but not the be-all and end-all; brands are now using other ways, like long form video content, to start conversations on social media. It’s important to start these conversations. YouTube, Twitter – social media is not just a Facebook page, and there’s no reason why everything can’t tie into one goal.

After Karthik’s presentation we had lunch and then a panel discussion on “The Value of an Online Influencer”. The explored the value of an online influencer to a brand, and how best to leverage a positive review, and manage negative sentiments.

Once the panel discussion concluded we saw Vidyadhar Kale, Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook take the stage. Vidyadhar began his speech by sharing the stats on how many people log into Facebook daily. That number is 1.42 million here in Sri Lanka – and each one of these people is unique (think about that, people. 1.42 million people just cut their productivity in half. Including us.)

He then went onto share a few surprising case studies about Facebook ads. Example one was Gillette India, which reached 60% of its audience on Facebook for only $0.002 per person. The second was Nokia, which saw a whopping 15% increase in the adoption of Lumia’s after investing in Facebook ads. All these cases highlight a fact we know all too well now: investing in online ads is cheap – and when done right, gives massive returns.

Once Vidyadhar concluded his speech we had another panel discussion on “what’s next in digital?”. The event concluded with another panel discussion titled: Marketing in the Digital Age, moderated by GroupM South Asia CEO, C.V.L. Srinivas. The session saw leading marketers across brands in Sri Lanka on their experienced with digital media and advertising.

So there you have it folks. That’s everything we learned at Circuit Colombo. Much thanks to GroupM for organizing this. If there are plans for Circuit Colombo 2015, we’re looking forward to it – dibs on that Occulus!

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