Face off: Lines between content and ads are blurring, says Anuj Khanna Sohum

The nature of the content within the ad is changing — VALUE ADDED CONTENT AND STORYTELLING FORMATS are now popular. also, the placement of an ad within content in the mobile space is now gaining momentum, said Anuj Khanna Sohum, Founder, chairman & CEO, Affle

With huge growth in the mobile app economy, marketers are increasingly adopting self serve platforms to take full control of their campaigns. Mobile platform company Affle is offering its Mobile Audience as a Service (MAAS) Xtend platform to cater to this market, giving advertisers complete automation and optimisation controls to maximise ROI on their mobile spends. In an interview with BrandWagon’s Ankita Rai, Anuj Khanna Sohum, founder, chairman & CEO, Affle, says an integrated end-to-end platform is the way to go for the mobile ad industry. Excerpts:

How does Affle differentiate itself from other mobile ad networks?

At Affle, we are not only trying to bring a differentiated proposition to the industry but create an industry segment in itself. This is the idea behind MAAS. An end-to-end integrated platform is the only way the mobile ad industry can survive. MAAS enables customers to build mobile apps and mobile ad assets. This is step number one. Step number two is marketing, which has to address three core areas: social, search and display. The third is optimisation.
Optimise the app user experience from the art and science of advertising.

Today, there are many piecemeal solution providers, so you have to work with a dozen different companies. The data also resides with different companies and you cannot leverage it fully for optimisation. The idea behind MAAS Xtend is to optimise user experience. We are disrupting a fragmented industry and an integrated end-to-end platform is the only solution.

With the shift of digital dollars from desktops to mobile, which ad format is likely to witness growth?

Native ad formats and rich media ads will see the fastest growth. Increasingly, the line between content and ads is blurring. This is taking place in two ways. One is the ad format — how the user experiences it and here, native and rich media ad formats are coming in. Two, the nature of content within the ad is changing — value added content and storytelling formats are becoming popular. This is happening across mediums. Also, placement of an ad within content in the mobile space is increasing.

Given the growth of mobile-first users, many people are experiencing internet on mobile for the first time. Is there a disparity between time spent on smartphones/tablets and advertising monies spent on the medium?

This is a clear business case that advertising on smartphones needs to grow because of where the audience is spending more time. There are two types of audiences who are mobile-first in India, the first being youth. The youth prefers handheld devices for everything, such as listening to music, watching movies and television, games, social interaction, banking, commerce etc. The second category demographic is rural. That’s because of connectivity, entertainment and affordability. Over 70% of our country is both youth and rural. So we are a very unique country when it comes to demographics. The next billion smartphone users are in India.

How are programmatic ad-buying tools, including real-time bidding, reshaping mobile advertising? What is the potential of mobile programmatic in India? What are the factors limiting its growth?

Real-time decision making is the key. By real time, I mean real-time optimisation of where you are putting your ad, which creative to show to which user, how do you optimise your ad, how do you optimise it for the network operator etc. You cannot achieve real-time manually; you can only do it programatically.

The programmatic share in mobile display advertising is currently around 30%. In fact, more than 75% should be programmatic. Currently, social and search are all programmatic and have real-time optimisation. The rest of the industry needs to follow suit. Increasingly, people are putting automated trading desks for media procurement. Even the creative optimisation is happening real-time. Advertising on mobile is set to grow not just by cannibalising traditional media but also because it is a novel format of advertising.

Do you believe app users are more evolved than WAP users? Do advertisers prefer app users for better targeting?

The difference between a mobile app and a browser is that in the latter, you can move from one website to another. If there could be a mechanism in a mobile app where there are shortcut links to switch apps, there won’t be much difference between an app and a browser. Going forward, the difference between the two will blur. The browser experience will become app-like and the app will provide the convenience of a browser. For an advertiser, what is more important is the end audience. How you reach the end audience whether through an app or web, social, search, or display, doesn’t matter, as long as you can convert them. You can measure what works best for the target segment and then define your strategy. Sometimes, marketers make the medium more important than the consumer. This shouldn’t be the case. When we started, we focussed on native apps because then, browsers were very slow. But now browsers are more powerful.

In a world led by the cost per installation (CPI) model, does Affle have a differentiated product to offer?

CPI is getting outdated. CPI worked in the initial phase when companies were looking for funding. But just having users is not enough. What is important is cost per event/transaction. It doesn’t matter if somebody has installed the app or not; what matters is the post-install events. How actively are they using it? Have they done any further transaction/engagement? Eventually, advertisers and marketers will move to the cost per event model. Our MAAS platform allows such tracking post installation.

ankita.rai@expressindia.com, Twitter: @rankita

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