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Spunky young boutiques thrive in age of digital advertising

business Updated: Nov 09, 2013 00:49 IST
Anita Sharan

In the digital era of advertising, small is beautiful.

The power of ideas gives the edge in a new game in which interactive, real-time communication is key. Blogs and specialised websites, smartphone apps (applications) and social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are increasingly the focus in this industry scape.

Boutique agencies and budding young entrepreneurs are thriving on low-entry barriers and cool, cheap technologies and winning against big agencies even as their revenues are Rs. 10 crore or lower.

The first stirrings of digital boutiques was a decade ago, when Hindustan Unilever launched Sunsilkgangofgirls.com – a networking site for hair-care lovers conceived even as Facebook was still being born.

Behind the site was BCWebwise, which struck gold after a three-year struggle by former business journalist Chaaya Bharadwaaj, who is its CEO now. In her early-40s, her client list includes, in addition to HUL, Hero MotoCorp and ITC Foods. BCWebwise has seen a 300% revenue jump in the past two years.

“Conventional advertising often depicts what the brands want to say, not what consumers want to know. Digital helps deliver that effectively,” she said.

“While cost matters, what is of utmost importance for us is delivery on our expectations,” said V Mohan, spokesperson for Heinz India, which actively uses digital media.

As digital ideas catch on, large conventional advertising agencies have scrambled to build digital expertise by hiring talent, or simply acquiring smart boutiques.

When Deepak Goel founded Drizzlin Media with Robin Abraham in 2008, it was the digital arm of Webchutney, later acquired by Dentsu. But Drizzlin stayed independent to do social media research and develop content.

“Our research is derived from the huge amount of consumer data that is already there on the Internet, to help create the best of targeted communication,” said Goel, whose revenue is still below `10 crore while its clients include the likes of Lenovo, Airtel and Bajaj Allianz.

Mumbai-based Vserv.mobi was co-founded in 2009 by 39-year-old Dippak Khurana with partner Ashay Padwal, 35. It created AppWrapper, which helps build advertising around apps and AudiencePro, which links advertisers to telecom subscriber data, aiding customisation.

Vesrv’s client list includes Google and Nokia. “We have 11 offices globally, and are on track to achieve `600 crore as turnover over the next three years,” Khurana said.

Engineer-turned-adman, 30-year-old Saurabh Parmar’s Brandologist Communications (revenues at `1.4 crore) brought in quizzer Derek O’Brien, Radio Jockey Meera Damji and others to tweet their favourite school memories to build up social media momentum – and increased followers for school products firm Office Yes by 50%, while retweets more than doubled.

“I loved advertising and thought: can I do it differently?” said Parmar, whose clients includes Blackberry Menswear and Amby Valley.

For advertisers, ideas matter most. “While it does cost much more to go for digital communication today, an effective idea is the most important agency selection criterion,” said Sanjeev Shukla, GM-marketing, HeroMotoCorp.