Interview: Vasuta Agarwal, SVP and managing director – Asia Pacific, InMobi

‘Gaming accounts for 20-25% of time spent on mobiles’

India is now the world’s top market for mobile gaming in terms of downloads — almost 4.8 billion games were installed in just the first half of 2021.
India is now the world’s top market for mobile gaming in terms of downloads — almost 4.8 billion games were installed in just the first half of 2021.

Mobile devices emerged as a potent advertising tool as their usage increased considerably during the pandemic. Vasuta Agarwal speaks to Venkata Susmita Biswas about the changes in the digital media buying and planning landscape, what advertising in a cookie-less world would look like, and more. Edited excerpts:

What kind of progress have you seen in the mobile marketing space since March, 2020?

The last 20 odd months have been very disruptive when it comes to the entire mobile app ecosystem and, consequently, the mobile marketing ecosystem. The pandemic has accelerated our move towards a mobile-first economy as a country. The internet user base in India in mid-2021 was about 810 million — this used to be about 720 million around mid-2020. That is almost 11.5% year-over-year growth, which is huge given the pace at which this is moving and how diverse India is across urban and semi-urban and rural areas. There have been more than 21 billion app downloads as of Q3 CY2021. India continues to be the biggest app market after China. Time spent on apps in 2021 was almost 20% higher than in 2020. Marketers have had to shift their media planning strategies increasingly towards mobile, given the pace at which the user is moving.

Where are users spending most of their time?

Gaming, OTT video streaming, and short-format video have seen a huge increase in time spent. Another category where users are spending time are hyperlocal commerce and delivery. But not all these apps monetise through advertising.

India is now the world’s top market for mobile gaming in terms of downloads — almost 4.8 billion games were installed in just the first half of 2021. Gaming now accounts for 20-25% of mobile media time spent by consumers. And this increase in time spent on gaming is not limited to one gender or age group. We are seeing that women are among the most engaged gamers in the country. Because gaming is attracting users across age groups, gender and locations, it has become extremely attractive from an advertising standpoint. We are also pioneering innovations in the gaming space; for instance, billboards within a game that are native to the game.

How soon will digital ad spend overtake ad spend on mass media channels?

Through digital ads, a marketer can target people both from a brand awareness and a bottom of the funnel lens, which one cannot do on mass media, because that’s mainly about creating awareness. Digital ads also offer a lot more targetting and measurement compared to mass media. These aspects could lead to advertisers and marketers understanding the value of the channel, and result in a price increase over a period of time. In a country like India, I see mass media and digital complement each other until we see some changes — like linear TV getting replaced by connected TV — in the years to come, when the lines will start to really blur between television and digital.

Has programmatic ad buying become more streamlined in India?

Programmatic has become a core part of the media buying process. Every organisation which is thinking of visual and mobile marketing now has programmatic specialists. Mobile video, especially, has become extremely important when it comes to programmatic — it has seen almost a 200% year-on-year growth in India in June, 2021. About 42% of all in-app programmatic spending went into video ads. E-commerce, entertainment, and fintech brands have started leveraging this channel. We have entered a global partnership with The Human Collective to keep programmatic ads transparent and fraud free, because we believe that is the future of media buying.

Where will targetted advertising stand in a cookie-less world?

Two substantial changes that will shape the future of advertising are cookie-less targetting and Apple’s app tracking transparency privacy framework. Both indicate a world where everything is user-first, user-compliant and user privacy is prioritised. I do not think the value of targetted advertising will reduce, but new ways of identifying users at an aggregate level without going at an individual user level will emerge, like contextual targetting. This kind of advertising will target users based on the context of the app or the website that the user is on, as it gives the marketer an indication of the user’s intent and preferences.

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