Industry Speak

Director - Ad Serving & Analytics
Exponential Inc.

An Online Advertising professional with a B.Tech (Hons) in Electronics Engineering, an MBA from IIM Lucknow, and over 9 years of experience in Advertising & Software Development spanning industries such as Telecom and Network/System Security

Industry in Focus

Online Marketing and Advertising

Online Marketing didn't exist as an industry when I was born, and it is still one that is hard to define, at least for me. The first images that probably come to your mind are those involving crappy banners, annoying pop-ups, worthless content & links and worst of it all, fraudulent Internet transactions. But there is more.

The Internet, having revolutionized the way we communicate, created the new corporate giants of our times, some of the most admired companies to work for. But, it is a little known fact that behind all these seemingly different product lines that Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, AOL and others have, there is a thing that they have in common. They have a stake in Online Marketing and Advertising.

Advertising is all about persuading people to do something that the advertiser wants them to do, and Online Advertising uses the Internet as the medium. If we spend progressively more time online than we used to earlier, it is only natural that advertisers will put their Marketing dollars on this new medium. That mobile devices have taken Internet even closer to people, is another fact fueling the growth of this industry.

So in this virtual world, here is a bit about the ecosystem, and how money is being made. Those who produce content bring in the audience (like the newspapers and magazines of yesteryears), and advertisers pay in order to grab their attention. Then there are intermediaries, who assist with delivering the Marketing offers.

Content Publishers need to market their site to their audience, which then again involves Online Marketing, improving search rankings. For example, through Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing. There is a lot of technology involved too because the Internet offers limitless possibilities when it comes to matching Advertising content with people. One-to-one Marketing and instant feedback, any advertisers dream, come true on the Internet. However, it has its own challenges as well.

Ever heard of the Internet scale - dealing with giga bytes of data and making decisions in real time? This is a reality in this industry.

Career Path

There are several entry level roles here. For one, advertisers and agencies are looking for people who have a good understanding of the Internet and the digital media, can help design the offer (Creative people), can identify the audience/sites and deliver them to the right audience. These are traditional Advertising roles, adapted for the digital world. Then there are website owners and content producers, who produce the content along with which Advertising can be bundled, and they look for people to market their content to advertisers and to people. And, there are technology companies whose job is to match the advertisers with the right audience, which is no easy job given the scale of the Internet. For example, unlike with a magazine, one-to-one personalization is possible here. You and I may visit the same site, and see a totally different offer/ad based on our varied interests, motivations and needs, felt or, latent.

So you can start with a Marketing/Advertising degree, or you can be a techie who wants to start his own website (and make money off advertising), or someone who can work for the tech companies writing the software that delivers the Advertising offers to people consuming online content. We have Engineers, Marketing/Advertising majors and Graphics folks, Copy Writers, Search Engine Optimizers, Analysts, Statisticians, and just about everyone else who is passionate about the Internet, working in this industry.

Beware though, if you are looking for a comfortable job, this is not the place to be in. The industry changes every few months, as new startups come in and displace the existing giants, and the techniques that may have worked six months ago become obsolete. After all, the beauty of the Internet is that there are no entry barriers, so the competition is intense. The ability to change with the rest of the industry is crucial.

Typical career path is

Software Engineer-> Sr. Software Engineer-> Tech Lead-> Engineering Manager/ Architect-> Director-> Sr. Director-> VP/CTO

Job Description

Creative: Writing a copy/ creating ads based on the brief given by the client. Primary difference from print/TV is that banner sizes are smaller and ads are usually required to be non-intrusive. Unlike a TV commercial, you can really skip online ads most of the time, so it's a challenge to catch users' attention. Also, the medium allows for interactivity and people have been experimenting with a lot of things (including augmented reality). Sometimes advertisers may want a microsite to be designed around the offer too.

Account Management: Manage day-to-day agency/advertiser relationships.

Ad Delivery: Ensure a match between supply and demand. So if there is an advertiser asking for a certain demographic, Ad Delivery's job is to ensure that we have enough supply of that demographic or, procure inventory for those users, which may at times mean working with websites which have that kind of an audience. Also, to ensure that performance metrics are met, and campaign targets (e.g. a minimum click through rate or, a certain cost of getting a lead) are achieved.

Engineering: Develop technical solutions for enabling various business functions, e.g. ad serving, optimization, reporting, etc.

Network Development: Manage publisher relationships.

Sales Planning: Develop proposals for ad campaigns that are presented to agencies, media planners, etc. (so kind of pre-sales).

Analytics: Analyze all sort of pre and post campaign data to improve performance.

Essential Qualifications

As mentioned earlier, people from different types of backgrounds can join this industry. The most common ones being MBA, MCA, BE and BA. Statisticians are also in demand.

Good To Have Qualifications

Familiarity with the Internet (more than Facebook/ Twitter) along with a sharp mind.

As with any other job, the key to a fresher's success is in understanding the business and being prepared to wear any hat as needed, not being rigid in the kind of work you have to do.

Solid communication skills. While it is almost a cliche to mention this, if you are into Marketing business, you better know how to communicate well. Also, agility or, being responsive enough is very important. Unlike Print or TV, things really move fast on the Internet.

If you are looking for a technical role, being familiar with web technologies (HTML, Javascript, Flash, Programming) will help.

Good Institutes To Study At

Unfortunately, there are no institutes in India yet that I am aware of, which offer Online Marketing courses although there are several such programs offered by foreign universities, and some of them are offered online too.

However, for those willing to undertake a career in this industry, the best place to learn about Online Marketing is, where else but online. This is the kind of thing you can really learn at home, and I know people who have made money off it while in school. Beware though of the fraud 'make money working part-time on Internet' marketers that abound on the Internet.

As far as the formal education goes, top ten colleges in any of the streams mentioned earlier, are generally in demand.

Average Salary Range

As with any knowledge based sector, it would be difficult to give average salary figures. They are as varied as the definitions of the industry itself and the different kind of backgrounds people come from. However, freshers could start with Rs. 3 to 4 lakhs per annum depending on their qualifications, experience and the role being offered. Thereafter, the figures in mid-level managerial roles could be anywhere between Rs.15-25 lakhs per annum.

Additional Comments

When I graduated, little did I know what career I would end up in. Most freshers don't have the luxury of choice either. My advice is that you don't worry and fret about what is the best career for you. Do what you enjoy doing and make sure you are good at it, and the world would be at your feet.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by the author are personal

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