With the rapid rise in the number of diginatives, advertisers have rapidly begun to cash in on boundless marketing opportunities presented by the digital media. Geeta Padmanabhan tracks the trend

It’s a treta.com.br digital ad. The series of scroll-down shots shows Queen Elizabeth-II posing with American Presidents. The first one has Obama, the next Bush, then Clinton, senior Bush and Reagan. A younger queen is seen dancing with Ford, conversing with Nixon, wearing a lovely evening gown with Kennedy, a radiant smile and tiara with Eisenhower. With Truman you see the just-crowned 25-year-old queen. In the last one, a recent picture of the queen forms the backdrop for a collection of batteries, the copy comprising just two but impact-making words. “Simple, yet impressive,” said Gemini Ramamurthy, Chairman, Cyber Security & Privacy Foundation. With his background in Gemini Studios, he looked at ads critically, he said. “Internet advertising is making a creative leap in presentation, this one is sure to get millions of eyefalls at zero cost.” In fact, a GroupM study predicts DA spend will exceed $113bn in 2014, accounting for 19.5 per cent of all global measured advertising expenditure. According to GO-Globe's latest infographic, Chinese marketers are spending 30 per cent of their total advertising budget online. Ramamurthy believes DA might dent print advertisement, a costlier option.

Makes sense. Smartphones and tablets lead the digital access revolution in India. As R. Jagannathan (Firstpost) points out, news will go digital in the future, cheap 4G services will hit cities making the Internet capable of delivering text, voice and video over the same pipe. Readers may prefer to consume news when they are free/on the go. And ads will appear on digital news pages. We've seen political ads on TV in cafes and supermarkets, on IVR calls and SMSes.

Ads on social media sites

Instagram has allowed ads in its U.S. photo-feeds. Reuters reports Facebook's newsfeed ads, inserted in users' stream of news and content, have boosted Facebook's revenue and stock-price. The ads are for the smaller-sized screens of smartphones and other mobile devices, from which nearly half of Facebook's monthly users now access the service. Facebook claims FB users are “engaging” with more than one ad per week. Twitter has reportedly acquired MoPub, an ad network that serves ads within mobile apps. Google's acquisition of DoubleClick helped the search giant improve its ability to place targeted ads on web pages across the Internet.

“Digital ads are everywhere — from large digital billboards on the road to the compact smartphone in your hand,” said Harish Venkataraman, thereforewe.com. “They are cheaper and better-targeted than print ads.” Print ads reach a mass audience, and this is perfect for consumer products like soap or toothpaste. But more than 40 per cent of the world comprises digital natives. With jumping smartphone numbers and increasing FB knowledge, the future of DA looks bright, he said. Reduced spillovers make DA cheaper, and more attractive/creative advertising is possible via DA. “We did a video for an NGO called IYCN. It not only became an Internet hit, but won us gold at Adex-13 Awards for best viral video.” Well, its reach may be limited, audience niche, but ads can only multiply in the DA arena due to their price. Have you counted the online ads for camera items or laptops?

Digital ads come to you on digital pure-play platforms such as websites, mobiles, B2C sites, and digital ad-networks, said Annurag Batra, who co-owns exchange4media group, Businessworld and other publications. “They score with better engagement, better return-on-investment and augmented-reality experience.” In India, print ad markets are still bright, he said, but in the next five years they will have to be print+digital. Going digital is the future of advertising. It is more ROI-led, brand-building-led, and video-enabled, and makes micro/narrow-casting possible. In a digital nation of screenagers, Klout numbers, LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends and Twitter followers are your audience.

Boundless opportunities for advertisers, maybe, but not all digital media users are big fans of ads, however “creative” and “engaging”. Acknowledging that its 150m users might frown at their personal photo-streams being peppered with ads, Instagram has asked for feedback. “Please don't use the ad-blocker,” requests a well-known Tamil daily on its main web page. Will online ad bombardment turn off social-networkers? Will we click “hide” just as we record our favourite soaps to skip those interminable ads? Let's hope ad/social-media companies weigh the value of the ad against their “creepiness factor”.