With a shift towards mobile and video advertising on the back of increasing mobile users and improved digital infrastructure, an independent and transparent measurement system is the need of the hour to help marketers allocate spends effectively. With BARC India already on the road to achieving that, New York-based analytics company Moat is in talks to partner with the rating agency to establish a digital measurement system in the country. In a chat with BrandWagon’s Chandni Mathur, Moat’s Jonah Goodhart shares more on the subject. Excerpts:
Tell us how the digital advertising landscape is changing globally.
We are changing as a society, globally. Earlier, we would pick out newspapers and magazines physically or watch traditional television, but the younger generation isn’t doing that.
Part of it is simply driven by change in behaviour, and now one is grabbing their phone rather than a newspaper or turning on the TV. Advertising follows what people do. In India, particularly, this is critical because you have a massive number of people on digital. So advertising is what fuels and funds information exchange. Digital advertising can’t be understated; it’s absolutely critical that we figure out the right foundation for it, not just because it is growing and the population is growing, but very soon people in India will consume most of their content on various handheld devices rather than on television. Thus, we have to get everything right including the measurement and the mechanism.
Are the current digital ads making a mark? Could you share some numbers on viewability?
By and large I don’t think ads are presently making a mark. As an industry, we have a long way to go. There are examples of great advertising but there are also many examples where people are just throwing something out. And the challenge in digital is that consumers can install an ad blocker. As people get online in this country in a very big way, we have to give them the opportunity to choose a path that supports advertising but then we have to raise the bar on the advertising we give them. When I log on to some news sites in India, I feel like I’m experiencing ads in a nice integrated way where they are not jarring, but with some sites I feel I am getting attacked by ads and I want to get out of there. I think we have to find a common ground and a better way to approach consumers.
In terms of viewability in India, the averages on desktop are about 50% and mobile is around 40%, based on the bandwidth and the time it takes for a page to load. So there is a consumer experience issue that interplays with bandwidth.
Several companies have their own set of metrics to measure digitally. How does one determine a uniform and authentic result?
Measurement has to be independent and run by a third party. In digital, historically, measurement has been done by companies like Google which also have a presence in the media. And it’s not surprising that companies that own the measurement have all the money. I think we need to ask, if we truly have an independent measurement, then what decisions do we make? Do we change what we buy and how we buy? We will come up with different answers but brand marketers are investing in digital because they are looking at the landscape changing. They are looking at India and saying there is 60% penetration on TV but there are 300 million smartphones. So if I want to reach the young consumer in India, I have to figure out mobile advertising. I don’t have a choice. That has driven advertisers to do things differently.
What is your outlook on setting up a measurement system? Do you think advertisers are shooting in the dark right now?
When we see how advertisers buy digital advertising, it’s often what’s easy. It’s easy to buy one of the big platforms but that doesn’t mean it’s the right decision. I feel there has to be an education process with the marketers but I also think there is an education process that needs to happen with consumers. Internet content is not free and is paid for by advertising and the vast majority of consumers is not paying subscription fees. So we need to have a better approach for consumers, marketers and publishers. The downside to try and simplify it to a metric that does not include viewability is that we are going to end up with the wrong incentives.
Tell us about your plans to join hands with BARC India to set up a digital measurement system.
We need independent measurement in India and one of the reasons we are working here is because we think there should be an independent company that can support this. Because a lot of broadcasters and advertisers are part of large global organisations, we need to look at it not just through the lens of India but globally. We are in talks with BARC India and have had a couple of meetings. I think what it is working on in terms of a digital currency is very exciting.
My opinion is that it should include some component of viewability otherwise it will fail because if you are not transacting on the fact that somebody can actually see your ad, what are we in for? The fact that BARC is already doing TV measurement means that it is one of the companies to bring the two mediums together. One of the problems with measurement is that legacy companies have traditional ways of doing things. I think we should have a system of measurement here that is independent and transparent.
Moat Analytics offers many services to its clients, but how much of their communication planning actually changes based on your inputs?
We see clients changing their creative, the length of their creative and the amount of money they spend on different mediums.
For a long time, people just thought they are buying digital video and it’s the same thing as TV, but it isn’t so. The minute you realise that, you start taking different media decisions.