Retargeted ads need to be device agnostic: Marino Gualano, General Manager and Co-founder, MainAd

MainAd’s Marino Gualano talks about the company’s association with India’s ProfiliAd, problems with the attribution model and minimising ad fraud.

Marino Gualano, general manager & co-founder, MainAd
Marino Gualano, general manager & co-founder, MainAd at Ad:tech, New Delhi.

Italy-headquartered display and retargeting expert MainAd aims to take an agency approach to become a full service provider for clients by incorporating services like TV, print and social in its portfolio. It is looking at both organic growth and inorganic growth to build expertise in areas such as second screen and social. In an interview with BrandWagon’s Ankita Rai, MainAd’s Marino Gualano talks about the company’s association with India’s ProfiliAd, problems with the attribution model and minimising ad fraud. Excerpts:

What is the reason behind MainAd’s association with ProfiliAd? What differentiation does it bring to the table in the affiliate marketing space?

So far, India has been our technology hub, with an office in Kerala. We have been in India for 10 years now. ProfiliAd is our first venture in the affiliate marketing space and the focus here is to bring in new-age technological solutions along with strategic consultancy in the affiliate industry and empower marketers and agencies to track and optimise partnerships. ProfiliAd is also in the process of developing a bidding platform to facilitate advertiser and publisher collaborations. The focus will be on both web and mobile performance.

A key focus of ProfiliAd in India is to curb fraudulent activities in the industry. For this, it is important to build the right tracking mechanism and better targeting capabilities. For example, getting genuine leads about customers is a problem in the BFSI sector; a common fraudulent activity is leads coming from the same IPs and a large percentage of non-contactable numbers.

In case of the e-commerce industry, which mostly works on the CPA model, the problem is that some publishers are doing cookie stuffing. This is a major issue in the affiliate marketing space. Emailing is another major fraudulent activity. At ProfiliAd, we are building a platform to identify fraudulent activities and raise a flag. We are working with clients in the e-commerce, BFSI, entertainment, health and travel sectors.

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Advertisers are increasingly demanding more control over where their ads are placed. However, in the real-time bidding (RTB) model, transparency can be limited. Do you think so?

Usually publishers rely on RTB. Those platforms deliver whatever traffic is coming. While they do have some antifraud mechanisms, RTB is just a marketplace; transparency can be limited in a marketplace as it allows placements to be purchased at a cheaper price.

Advertisers are also becoming aware of the changing dynamics. As per their requirement, we train them, sometimes we give them access to buy traffic and we only provide categories and audience. Sometimes they only buy audience. It depends case to case. We know and understand the audience. In some countries we know 60% of the audience, making it easy to target.

To give advertisers more transparency, we are working on our own bidding platform. ProfiliAd will benefit in India by integrating with our bidding platform. We have also built our own ad audience and there are many layers of filtration.

Globally, attribution fraud is fast becoming the ad industry’s next big headache, especially in the retargeting space…

In the advance programmatic markets like the US, it is difficult to identify who produces the traffic, who sells the traffic and who uses the traffic. It is more like retargeting companies are going directly to the source.

In the attribution model, there is some misunderstanding in terms of how Google plays it role. In addition to advertisers’ internal KPIs, we also provide KPIs. But at the end of the day, they want to really compare how much to pay for sales and for leads. Google Analytics is taking out a lot of real sales coming from different players. For example, if you are a retargeter, you are proposing the same item to the same consumer who is about to buy. But when she finally decides to make a purchase, she searches the item on Google and buys it. That sale is Google’s. But 90% of the effort was done by different players. It is a big issue. We, as a member of IAB, have proposed putting forward a fair funnel for the attribution model, where everyone has their own piece of commission paid by the client.

Google’s supremacy is such that it doesn’t allow transparency.

How has the shift to mobile impacted the display and retargeting space? With consumers spending a majority of time on mobile, does it make sense to spend on programmatic display designed for the desktop world?

That’s not true. Mobile is a natural evolution. Globally, for us, the share of mobile is 40% and desktop/laptop is 60%. In fact, for fast emerging countries such as in Africa, it is only mobile. In India, mobile is a majority.

In the last 18 months, app has been the game changer. For us in-app advertising is much more effective. When doing display, one has to be consistent and cap the frequency. For example, you cannot deliver a car advertisement to a teenage-oriented gaming app and hope it works.

Our data shows that most of the purchases for top clients are performed during work hours on laptop. It doesn’t matter anymore if a consumer is on mobile or desktop. Whether it is a shift from desktop to mobile or IOT, the focus is now on the audience. Retargeting strategies are becoming user centric and device agnostic.

Retargeted ads could be annoying for audiences, if overdone. Is that a problem for retargeters?

Ads are the soul of commerce. There is a shift towards non-intrusive ad formats. Also, in-app advertising is less intrusive. When done right, retargeting ads act as subtle reminders and help consumers make the right choice.

If your frequency is right, it is a great marketing tactic. Being retargeters, we cannot choose any website. We really need to choose either a relevant website, or one where audiences will go. This mindset will also be transferred to ProfiliAd. We plan for the solution to be launched in India later this year.

How important is native advertising as a part of the digital marketing mix?

We have been using native in the US and European markets. It doesn’t work in all contexts. There is certain degree of context which needs to be built-in.

You can never have a 100% native advertising strategy.

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