While global ad spend forecasts have slipped during 2019, one country is bucking the trend. Far above the 4 per cent estimate for worldwide growth, India’s global adspend has grown by 11 per cent year-on-year – placing it ahead of all 58 other key advertising markets.

Acceleration could be tied to major events that have put India in the spotlight and sparked mass consumer attention, including the Cricket World Cup and Lok Sabha elections. But with greater ad spend increase predicted for next year — at 12 per cent — it seems there is more to this growth story.

The digital age has landed

Studies show India’s digital dexterity is developing faster than any other emerging economy. Not only are 506 million people wired to the net, but access also extends everywhere from cities to rural towns. Regions such as Uttar Pradesh have seen web user numbers soar by 36 million since 2014; largely thanks to rising availability of affordable, connected technology. So, it’s no surprise mobile interaction is high — with monthly data consumption at 8.3 GB per user — and set to increase as smartphone ownership hits 350 million by 2023.

For marketers, there is greater potential to reach audiences at any time via a myriad of channels – food delivery apps, streaming services, video chat tools, ecommerce sites, and especially social media platforms — which keep consumers hooked for 17 hours weekly. Yet harnessing the possibilities digitisation affords aren't necessarily simple.

In order to maintain the digital transformation momentum, Indian advertisers mustn’t forget the importance of high quality content that keeps consumers happy and retains their trust.

Navigating rising online standards

As digital familiarity has grown, consumer expectations have matured. Speed, convenience, and resonance are the standard for online content, marketing included, and tolerance for anything that falls below the accepted bar is limited. A truth evidenced by climbing global ad blocking rates and the reasons users give for shutting off ads – intrusiveness, ad overload, irrelevance, and especially critical for mobile: taking over device screens.

In the wake of several international data laws and India’s own Data Protection bill, digital security is also a core concern. Consumers are more aware of how data is used and determined to ensure their information is managed responsibly –research indicates 48 per cent will abandon companies after a breach. And with the Data Protection Bill promising to be a match for strict counterparts such as the GDPR, it will soon bevital for marketers to use data wiselyand compliantly.

Realising digital potential

Marketers can take the easy route of serving blanket native ads that drive maximum exposure and short-term profitability. But this will ultimately still lead to consumer dissatisfaction manifested in ad blocking, negative brand perception, and loss of business. The better option is the long game, where initial investment in high quality creative fuels a steady tide of engagement.

Although there is no template for generally appealing campaigns, marketers can follow a few key rules of success:

1. Never cause disruption

At a starter level, marketers need to ensure ads are device appropriate, avoiding formats such as interstitials or pop-ups that dominate mobile screens and absorb data allowances. Ads should also match consumer behavior. For example, the preference for social media means quick-fire scrolling is a common habit on mobile — and this calls for messaging that can blend into and move with newsfeeds, such as in-feed ad units or custom native ads.

2. Follow the consumer’s lead

Marketers must take a strategic approach to execution, consistently aligning delivery with individual purchase pathways. For instance, those at the beginning of their buying journey will likely respond well to short-form video that introduces a brand, while consumers nearer the end may be more interested in content that informs their final decision, such as links to reviews of different product variations. By serving the right message at the ideal moment, marketers can both offer genuinely useful assistance and lead consumers along the purchase funnel.

3. Earning the right to trust

In a privacy conscious age, marketers need to prove their brand can be trusted with data. Those who have won consumer permission to access personal details need to illustrate that sharing is worthwhile by persistently servingpersonalized and valuable content. Marketers seeking consent must prove they are worthy by upholding good practice. For example, using contextual targeting linked to the subject matter of surrounding content can help build a reputation for respectful advertising that fuels consumer confidence, and trust.

Maintaining the momentum

India’s digital future is bright. In fact, government plans have recently been unveiled for turning the market into a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025. But meeting this ambitious goal will take work – and from the marketing perspective in particular, a focus on meeting the needs of digitally savvy audiences.

Modern consumers want non-intrusive, appropriate ads that seamlessly fit with their online journey. So, if marketers in India want to remainin leading ad growth position, they need ensure their ads fit the consumer’s device and stage in the purchase journey, as well as proving they can be trusted with their data.