Face off: I am not in favour of autoplay ads, says Meera Chopra

By: | Published: October 6, 2015 12:18 AM

Getting people to pay for quality content rather than downloading a pirated version is the big challenge. Recharge value is obviously one of the biggest constraints”

Meera Chopra is vice president and global head – advertising sales at video-on-demand service platform, Vuclip. Her core responsibility is to build new partnerships with brands and advertising agencies alike, as well as strengthening existing relationships. Prior to joining Vuclip, she was the national sales head with Times Internet Ltd, where she had launched Times Audience Network and played a pivotal role in establishing IPL.indiatimes.com. She has over a decade of experience in business development and corporate sales having worked with leading media houses such as Networkplay and Komli Media. In this interview with Anushree Chandran of FE Brandwagon, Chopra talks about striking the perfect balance between the right content and the right pricing and the success of the free-premium model. Edited excerpts:

Could you talk about your play in regional content?

Our content catalogue has videos in more than 34 languages. If you are a Satyajit Ray fan, we have a portfolio of Bengali movies with us. We also have content in languages such as Assamese and Pashto because we saw a demand from our subscribers. Based on our latest quarterly Global Video Insights (GVI) Survey, 78% of Vuclip viewers in India have shown preference for watching content in their native language. Hindi videos constitute over 40% of viewership traffic in India. Videos in languages such as Tamil (8%), Telugu (6%), Bengali (4%) and Marathi (4%) are also seeing increased traction. We believe that personalisation, regionalisation and localisation have to be central to our strategy to win over mobile video viewers across the markets we operate in. Vuclip’s USP is that it enables viewers to access a variety of regional content from one destination.

A lot of OTT applications are launching in India. Most of them are looking at an advertising led model rather than a subscription one, but there is limited advertising…

Four years back, the budget allocated for mobile advertising was that money which was left over from other mediums. Today, things are a lot better, but it’s difficult for OTT Mobile Video On Demand (MVOD) platforms to be solely reliant on ad revenues. We have seen subscription picking up. But subscription needs to be a variant of currency. In India, the re-charge value is anywhere between R50-150. Variable pricing in different markets is what one has to work on. Remember, that an emerging market consumer is different from a developed market consumer.

Here, data is premium. A lot of content is getting downloaded through wifi. Whenever new technology is introduced in the market, people think of it like a line extension.

On new companies coming in on content, competition is always good. So, there will always be new players and fragmentation. I was always told that you will not realise how wonderful your product is until you have competition in the market. Consumers should be at the helm of everything you do. You can spend marketing dollars to get the consumer, but you need to keep him there.

I believe that we have only scratched the surface. There are 900 million subscribers out there. Even with the best of telecom operators in India—not more than 25-30% people are on data. We are talking about very low penetration and therefore that much more potential.

What is the kind of work that Vuclip does with brands?

Our strategy is acquisition, retention and then monetisation. We don’t do the reverse ever. We work with 150-odd brands, across fast moving consumer goods, telecom, etc. We have worked with brands such as Samsung, Microsoft, Lumia and Imperial Blue.

Another aspect in advertising that is gaining prominence is native advertising. Advertising here is not pushed through a banner, but is natively or seamlessly integrated in the content. For instance, work for a beverage brand that resonates itself with adventure. We collated a whole lot of content around adventure and asked them to sponsor it.

Owning a brand centric mobile video channel on our platform is something we offer brands as a unique marketing solution.

I believe that by 2016, most brands will be putting out original content. Every brand will create content. It would take an evolved brand – an innovator if you will, to marry aspects of e-commerce and entertainment but I am sure there is work happening on that as well. As an MVOD platform, we wish to offer brands an end-to-end marketing solution catering to their needs from consumer research to effecting a sale and offering the audience a high engagement value.

Globally, there is a huge debate on autoplay ads. Your views?

I am not in favour of autoplay ads. They don’t make sense – neither from the consumer angle or the brand angle. If you are a brand—you don’t even know whether the ad was watched or not, but you paid for the ad just the same. If you are a consumer—some ad is playing—somewhere on the page. I may not even know where on the page, as I did not action it. It doesn’t hold my attention.

What is the one big challenge you face in India?

Getting people to pay for quality content rather than downloading a pirated version is the big challenge. Recharge value is obviously one of the biggest constraints. Cheaper data packs would also play a facilitative role. In India, a majority of us are still on 2G which is not conducive for videos.

Challenges aside, what works well for us is that the acceptability for mobile videos is fast in both developed and emerging markets, because smartphone proliferation is happening everywhere.

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