Click2: the region's first ad agency?

Internet veteran Sharad Agarwal turns his hand to advertising. He thinks local dot.coms are ready to spend big on marketing.

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By  David Ingham Published  September 10, 2000

Sharad Agarwal doesn’t look like a revolutionary, but his latest business venture has the potential to shake up the region’s advertising landscape. He’s a partner in Click2 Advertising, a brand new agency that aims to be a one stop shop for dot.coms planning integrated advertising campaigns that utilise both online and offline channels.

Agarwal brings an understanding of the Web to the Click2 mix, thanks to his ownership of Cyber Gear, a company that runs a number of Net-related businesses. Complementing this is The Big Idea, an offline advertising firm that counts Etisalat amongst its major accounts. “We thought it made sense for us to combine so that [] customers can meet all their marketing and promotional needs under one roof,” says Agarwal.

Click2 Advertising’s major selling point will be what’s called the Click2 Advertising Network. This will involve regional Web sites allowing their site traffic to be closely tracked by DoubleClick technology.

The benefit? Click2 Advertising can closely monitor a site to see who’s accessing it and where from, and use this information to put together online advertising plans for clients. This requires the co-operation of the site operators; will they want to be exposed in such a way?

Agarwal insists that Web sites will sign up to the Click2 Advertising Network for one simple reason. They need advertising in order to generate revenues and without reliable traffic information, potential clients aren’t going to allocate budget to online advertising. “[Advertisers] want to know how well their dollars are being spent and the only way of knowing is by giving them statistics,” says Agarwal.

Rather than exposing Web sites, he insists that those with decent traffic profiles could really benefit. “We’re giving them an opportunity to generate revenue through banner ads,” he says. “I believe only a handful of them currently make money out of banners.”
Web sites that sign up to the network will pay a nominal fee and display a logo on their site advertising the fact that they are a member. Agarwal aims for one thousand members within a year and hopes to immediately sign up most of the 100 clients whose Web sites Cyber Gear has helped to design.

The first to sign up to the Click2 Advertising Network is AME Info, which is also enthusiastic about Click2’s wider goal of being a one stop agency for integrated online and offline campaigns. “It will be a first in the Middle East and will give a huge wake up call to all the agencies,” says Lars Nielsen, AME Info’s sales director.

The offline part of Click2 Advertising will focus on designing print, TV and billboard advertising for dot.coms. Agarwal says his typical customer will be a company moving into Dubai Internet City in November with a limited knowledge of the regional marketplace. “Click2 Advertising will be their agency,” says Agarwal.

Any agency targeting regional dot.coms does face challenges. Foremost is a lack of reliable data on potential audience size, its demographics and which media are the most popular. This makes it doubly hard for agencies to place ads in the right places.

The Click2 Advertising Network will go some way towards solving the problem of a lack of data on site traffic. To solve the problem of a lack of facts & figures on such things as user numbers, online spending and projected growth, Click2 will be looking to set up a market research arm. Agarwal has no illusions that this is going to be an uphill job — no-one else has yet pulled it off — but he’s optimistic that he can do it over the longer term. “We want to be the Forrester Research of the region,” he says. “In six months, we aim to be able to provide large multi-nationals with their online information requirements.”

Click2 Advertising’s success really depends on a couple of things: dot.coms coming forward with decent marketing budgets and established corporations allocating portions of their advertising spend to online media. Neither of those conditions currently exists in the region.

On both counts, Agarwal insists it’s a time factor. Increasing user numbers and competition will make it necessary for dot.coms to start promoting themselves, he argues. There’s been little advertising on local Web sites, he reckons, because there have been no users for advertisers to reach.

With Internet user growth surging in the region, he reckons the situation will change in the near term. “I think in another six months to a year, all major multi-nationals and large local companies will be more savvy and will put at least 10-25% of their marketing and promotional budgets online.” More than a few dot.coms will be hoping so.

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