Digital spends for marketers: India ad ecosystem still implements basic automation in buying and selling

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Updated: Mar 21, 2017 3:35 AM

Measurement. Metrics. Data. Independent, third-party verification. Viewability. Trust. Transparency.

Digital, which is the fastest growing medium in the country, has seen a tremendous increase in ad spends from brands across categories.


Measurement. Metrics. Data. Independent, third-party verification. Viewability. Trust. Transparency. These keywords will probably determine the future of digital spends for marketers, going forward.One of the biggest advertisers in the world, Procter & Gamble, recently showed its displeasure with ad metrics in the digital space. It ramped up pressure on the most popular and dominant internet platforms to implement independent verification to assure that advertisers get an assurance of their ad dollars being spent well.

Reported by The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer and marketing lead for P&G, had said, “It’s not enough”, even after Google and Facebook had agreed to Media Rating Council (MRC) audits. Unilever too has pushed for greater transparency, improved viewability and metrics that are accepted industry-wide. Criticism led FB to not only agree to the auditing of information but also to adopt new options for marketers buying video ads, this year. The social network had last year come under the scanner for repeated inaccuracies in its tools measuring ads. The West has MRC and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) for cross-platform measurement. However, things are quite different in India; there is no formal agency accrediting audience measurement services for platforms other than TV and print.

Digital, which is the fastest growing medium in the country, has seen a tremendous increase in ad spends from brands across categories. However, the lack of a uniform measuring body makes advertisers question, “What is the RoI?”
Importance of the third party

In 2016, 12% of the total ad spends in the country was on digital (as per an IAMAI-IMRB International report) of which e-commerce was the volume leader, followed by telecom and BFSI.

Paper Boat acknowledges that digital is an important part of any company’s market blueprint. Investing on Facebook and YouTube, and in small quantities on Instagram, the brand agrees that advertising is a two-way communication channel, thanks to social media.

“The fates of campaigns are now decided on how viral they go online. Think about it: every memorable commercial that we have all watched in recent times — we have first caught wind of online,” says Parvesh Debuka, head — marketing, Paper Boat.

As per a report released by Google last year, when it comes to ad viewability, India lags behind countries like Japan, Australia and South Korea. There is a significant gap in measurement systems used in Western markets versus the systems used on the buy and sell sides in India. Ad spends in mature markets have campaign parameters like viewability targets, time spent on site, etc. The Indian ad ecosystem is still implementing basic automation in buying and selling. Emphasising that the viewability debate is not limited to India, Performics.Resultrix MD Mayoori Kango says, “It is a challenge everywhere with each publisher following different norms. Without real third party technology, that comes at a cost and needs the willingness of publishers to allow for it, this really is a non-starter.”

Says Omer Basith, director, Jossbox, “This is further exacerbated by the fact that the Indian market offers some of the lowest CPM (cost per thousand) returns for publishers, giving them very little incentive to invest in the necessary tech/education.”

Though independent digital measuring agencies have been working in the field, as digital ad spends rise at an exponential pace, it is imperative that stakeholders help fulfil the promised advantages that digital has over other channels in terms of RoI and segment identification. This is possible through robust transparent measurement systems that effectively filter fraudulent traffic, but the cost for this currently is rather high for, say,
small advertisers.

Relevance of data

The largest portion of the display media buys in India is performance-based, that is, CPC, CPI, etc. Hence most advertisers see a limited downside. For advertisers executing top of the funnel campaigns, it is critical to purchase ad space with good end user viewability to prevent wastage.

Video is a newer format and measurement systems are not as advanced. However, with the rapid growth of mobile video advertising, advertisers are increasingly asking for more ‘viewability’ related metrics.

InMobi VP and GM Vasuta Agarwal explains, “The desktop allows a user to multitask, have multiple tabs and applications open, and therefore, the chances of complete ad impressions and views reduce significantly. Also, the presence of multiple advertisements, intrusive ads being closed immediately, ads open on other tabs, or ads placed below the viewable part of the page are contributing factors.”

The personalised and highly immersive nature of mobile in contrast leads to better user attention and thus better viewability rates. Also, on mobile, a user’s attention is not diluted as could be the case for desktop, contributing to better viewability.

For instance, when Singapore was hit with the infamous haze in 2015, a tech product company used InMobi’s capabilities to showcase the power of its air purifier product.

Through the available data of mobile users in polluted areas across the city, geo-targeted mobile ads were displayed, informing potential customers of the exact pollution levels at their current location in Singapore. The resultant data collected showed an unprecedented 91% purchase interest rate, signifying the success of the advertising campaign.
“Platforms themselves have realised how important it is for advertisers to utilise digital and with the democracy, we advertisers have access to data and analytics that’s helping us make informed decisions in the way we spend,” says Chaitanya Rele, VP marketing, Havmor Ice Cream.

Media can give reach but ad viewability depends on two things — firstly, how exciting is the content or its creative worth and secondly, how relevant it is to who’s watching. “Data is helping build relevance and achieve better targeting but from a creative point of view, advertising content has remained largely unchanged — it’s still overselling, and still too much like an ad,” observes Rishi Pratim Mukherjee, co-founder and COO, ScoopWhoop Media.

“The fact is that today’s millennials are turned off by advertising because they are cynical about it. Marketers aren’t yet rethinking the creative,” he adds. So in an age when ads can be easily turned off, marketers need to think about what is actually worth watching.

Platforms are, of course, in control of this wealth of data; being transparent about all of this information and collaborating with brands to interpret, understand, and creatively apply this information, is indeed the future of digital advertising.


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