Growth in digital advertising will be led by consumer adoption of mobile phones, increased Internet usage and falling data prices With the announcement of the phased launch of digital measurement services by Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) India, the spotlight is back on digital media. Will the tug of war between digital firms and television broadcasters end or accelerate once Barc starts rolling out its digital measurement metrics? To be sure, Barc?s launch plan for digital measurement? announced on 10 April?assumes significance in the light of the fact that digital advertising is set to explode in 2020. At least four reports on media in as many months have indicated robust growth for digital advertising by 2020. The GroupM media report ?This Year Next Year? estimates digital media to grow at 30% year-on-year. In 2016 it was pegged at Rs7,300 crore. The Pitch Madison report on advertising, meanwhile, fixes the current digital media share at 15% with revenue of Rs7,315 crore. It grew 43% in 2016 over 2015. A report from advertising agency Dentsu Aegis Network? sharply focused on digital?says that the medium in India, which currently stand at 12%, is expected to touch 24% of the total advertising pie by the end of 2020. The digital advertising industry, the report says, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37% to reach Rs23,795 crore by 2020. This growth will be led by consumer adoption of mobile phones, increased Internet usage and falling data prices. ?Everybody is bullish on digital. It will grow on the back of social media, mobile and video,? says Rajiv Dingra, chief executive, WATConsult, a social and digital media agency. E-commerce is also driving the adoption of digital with digital payment systems being in place thanks to demonetisation. ?Free data offers in the market also made its growth easier creating deeper internet penetration?which, in turn, will help expand digital. Better digital penetration excites advertising,? he says. In India, though, the lion?s share of advertising will continue to be with TV for some time unlike in the UK where digital has surpassed television advertising. ?The challenge here will be how fast the medium grows and not whether it grows or not,? adds Dingra. Rajesh Bhatia, president and country head at digital agency Neo@Ogilvy, agrees: ?The digital market has been seeing robust growth over the last few years and that is likely to continue, albeit at a faster pace. As data and technology take centre stage, digital will become increasingly relevant. Better infrastructure will also enable this growth. With government acting as the catalyst for digital adoption, the growth will only go up further.? Clearly, there?s a lot at stake with digital media taking centre stage. To be sure, although Barc started work on the digital ratings in December 2015, last week it said that it will take another 18 to 24 months for a complete roll-out of digital services. Interestingly, a few media buyers hint that initially television broadcasters were not too keen to see Barc?s digital ratings take off. They were worried that if digital data is launched?given the strides the medium is taking?it may erode television revenue. Partho Dasgupta, chief executive of Barc, however, dismisses such insinuations. He says Barc is taking time to launch the measurement services as digital has never been attempted before. ?In fact, some of the products we are launching are a global first. Also, we are a joint industry company (JIC), which takes 360 degree feedback from all its stakeholders. We had to first understand the industry needs and then design services according to that.? That apart, the media consumption pattern in India is very different from what exists globally. ?This only makes the task more challenging. We wanted to come out with a product which is robust and meets everyone?s needs,? he says. His contention is that nowhere in the world have such products been launched in less than four-five years. ?We are being extremely ambitious when we say 18-24 months roll-out of all products which will start in phased manner from 2017 onwards. There is no pressure to delay the roll-out whatsoever,? he adds. Media agency GroupM?s chief executive C.V.L Srinivas says the industry is in fact looking forward to digital measurement data which is independent. ?There are no worries on the digital front as most broadcasters also have digital platforms. Digital is neither anti-TV nor anti-print. All media will have some form of digital now.? Given the growth in digital media, even the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), the non-profit body for measuring and auditing newspaper and magazine circulation in the country, had announced its plan to start measuring digital audiences in September 2015. ?The ABC measurement is in a testing phase and the data should be released in the later part of the year,? says Srinivas, who is a member of the ABC Council. Although broadcasters agree that digital is a big piece today, it is fragmented, they say. ?80% of the total ad revenue in digital goes to Google and Facebook. The remaining is shared among all others. So it is extremely fragmented,? says a top broadcast executive who declined to be named. Television in India currently reaches 183 million homes, according to Barc. Clearly, there is headroom for growth. ?Yes digital will expand but it will not happen at the cost of TV,? the executive says, adding that Barc?s digital measurement service is likely to ensure transparency, fair play and accountability. However, how robust the data is, remains to be seen. Shuchi Bansal is Mint?s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.