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The rapid growth of programmatic brings challenges and possibilities

Mobile habits, ad blockers require

creative responses from brands


Milind Pathak

Chief Operating Officer




“Elementary, my dear Watson,” said Sherlock Holmes to his partner and friend. It’s a good summary of programmatic or automated advertising buying for brands today, which has quickly become elementary—a basic necessity.


It’s been only two years since the upheaval of programmatic began in India, and programmatic has become so colossal that even traditional businesses like auto, FMCG, and financial services are spending most of their digital marketing budgets on it.


Brands initially moved to programmatic for two primary reasons: to automate buying and make life easier; and to reach the targeted consumer in the appropriate context. Since then, programmatic has rapidly become more sophisticated to keep pace with changing consumer viewing habits.


Mobile has become the second screen, after TV, for daily video viewing, according to the Kantar Millward Brown Ad Reaction Study. With the launch of the telecom Reliance Jio, internet speeds and the number of online data users increased significantly in India. Three other recent video developments factors also influenced the rise of programmatic in India.


1.          Several over-the-top (OTT) players in India launched in India. Netflix, Amazon, and every TV channel (led by Hotstar) made their way to the mobile screens of Indians, and now reach over 100 million users.


2.          Video made in the vertical format made it easier to view content on a phone because it eliminated the need to turn the device sideways.


3.          Native video, content created specifically for social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, increased dramatically.


Video helps us understand content habits, which is a goldmine for any marketer. All these factors have led to a dramatic rise of mobile video ad revenue. Think of a scenario where you have to sell a bar of chocolate with a display ad. Marketers always question the impact of advertising. In the past, it was about the change of share of voice or brand image. However, a part of this is now shifted to sales: is my advertising positively affecting my sales?


Performance-driven platform

With this in mind, many brands, traditional or modern, will be looking at advertising as more of a performance-driven platform. Gone are the days when cost per impression (CPI) and cost per action (CPA) were performance metrics. Cost per lead (CPL) will prevail now. How will I be able to sell my product with every ad impression will be the question on every marketer’s mind. Programmatic provides both answers and challenges.


  • Mobile blockers in India have the second highest penetration in the world after Indonesia; but


  • Marketers should see this as an opportunity to innovate, instead as a threat. No one needs accidental clicks and forced ad viewing from their consumers; and


  • Engagement is not only about reaching right people at the right time, it’s also about reaching them with the right communication that doesn’t disturb their ongoing online activity.


The creative side of media planning will come into play here. Media planners and strategists must now come up with engaging ad spots that will reduce ad blocking. With 80 percent of internet traffic in India coming from mobile, content needs to be created for mobile only. Cutting two-minute TV ads to 30-second slots for mobile will not work. Brands should instead create ads made purposely for mobile. Rich media ideas, games, innovative storytelling using voice and video can impact advertising immensely.


Placement problems

Once brands create compelling ads, they need to avoid potential placement problems. Google was impacted this year when many major brands suspended advertising on YouTube until the channel addressed concerns that ads appeared adjacent to inappropriate or offensive content. Facebook addressed questions about how it measures video views. We should learn from the issues faced by these tech giants and create our own brand safety and measurement guidelines (keeping the structure of global mandates). Work with publishers and create your own measurement guidelines. Create a transparent measurement system that allows you to keep tab on your campaign visibility and performance.


And let’s bring back Watson, but not from Sherlock Holmes, from IBM. Let’s bring artificial intelligence (AI) to advertising. AI will be able to gauge the consumer’s mood and predict our needs and desires. When the viewer sees ads for pizza, AI will anticipate the consumer’s need and place an order. In this future, advertising not only sells products, it makes life easier.