Adoption of programmatic in India is in a very select circle: Pranjal Desai

With government-led initiatives such as Digital India, along with the rapid adoption of digital media – India is poised to become the ‘Next Big Frontier’ of the digital advertising world. In fact, the digital advertising market is expected to expand to Rs 24,920 crore ($3.52 billion) by 2021. As marketers in India are looking to deliver more customer-centric, relevant and meaningful advertisements, programmatic powered data-driven marketing has risen in prominence. Brands can now leverage data to understand what their customers are interested in, when they are most willing to buy, the likelihood of a purchase decision and the right time and place to deliver an ad. 

Adoption of programmatic technology is poised to pick up in 2019, with 52 per cent of marketers in India either planning to adopt or currently evaluating whether to adopt programmatic buying. However, such growth does not come without challenges, such as a lack of programmatic-trained marketers and understanding towards how programmatic can fit within the marketing strategy. 

WPP’s Mindshare recently stated that in its tests run in March 2019 in the Asia Pacific showed up to 28 per cent increased efficiency for client PepsiCo in terms of costs for viewable impressions, in running the campaign through smart contracts, versus one without. This was achieved through Mindshare providing seamless end-to- end reconciliation of the programmatic supply chain using blockchain for PepsiCo in partnership with Zilliqa Research, Rubicon Project, MediaMath and Integral Ad Science. Speaking on the development, Erich Wasserman, Co-founder and Head of Strategic Business Development at MediaMath, had said, “We look forward to growing the addressable data and media supply chain that that can take full advantage of the powerful optimisation tools that buy-side platforms afford advertisers.” 

MediaMath, a leading programmatic advertising company, has been helping brands and agencies deliver relevant advertisements across multiple platforms. Since 2007, when the company created the first software for real-time media buying, MediaMath’s global infrastructure, vast partner network and quantitative approach have delivered transformative results. MediaMath is working to accelerate India’s digital ad spend growth by way of cultivating a healthy programmatic environment that will empower brands to realise the full potential of the technology and industry. 

MediaMath builds on the leading edge of technology and innovates at scale. It combines an open platform – purpose-built for enterprise marketers and powered by machine learning – with scaled, privileged inventory, exclusive data and industry-leading training and support. 

Leading MediaMath’s operations in India is Country Manager Pranjal Desai, who came on board in July 2017. She was previously an Associate Director for the ad sales team at Flipkart. Prior to Flipkart, Desai was managing Oomph Australia’s top key accounts, including Australia’s largest publishing houses and media agencies. 

In conversation with Adgully, Pranjal Desai, India Country Manager, MediaMath, speaks about MediaMath’s journey and growth in India, the rise of programmatic in the country, the digital landscape and more. Excerpts: 

How has MediaMath’s journey and growth been in India and globally?
Globally, MediaMath was the first DSP (Demand Site Platform). We started back in 2007, when our founder wrote the first code of the DSP. We have been the leader in this particular space since then. We are headquartered in New York and have 17 offices across the globe. In India, we have an office in Bangalore, we began operations in the country 5-6 years back. I joined MediaMath in July 2017 and that is when we began India operations from the ground. In the 2 years since I have held the business for MediaMath in India, we have seen a very good growth in this space. 

We work with a varied range of clients in India and have 2-3 different models. We work with agencies directly as well. MediaMath is a programmatic platform that helps advertisers filter out the users and reach them in the right context, with the right message and at the right time. Our platform sifts through all the impressions at any given point in time and ensures that whatever is the particular target audience and message for the advertiser, it is delivered in the right context. 

This is the core of what Programmatic means and what our platforms delivers in the market. 

How are you educating and training people to use these programmatic platforms?
Programmatic is a young industry in India. Although the adoption has been quite good, it is in a very select circle – primarily comprising the ad agencies and new age brands that are mainly targeting the young audience who are taking up programmatic. 

The main challenge to the adoption of programmatic is the lack of education or knowledge in the market. MediaMath has globally taken up the mantle to educate brands and agencies. MediaMath has an educational arm called New Marketing Institute (NMI), where we have trainers both on ground and online who train brands on the use of programmatic. We have 15 different courses on programmatic out of which only two are MediaMath related. 

The courses are broken down to the basic level so that brands can see how programmatic can bring value to their marketing plan, which eventually will give them the business RoI required from marketing. 

What are the benefits of programmatic? How can brands drive successful campaigns and plan omni-channel marketing strategies?
Right now marketers are making their buys in various media in a siloed fashion. In that scenario, you understand how a campaign has performed for a particular publisher. However, from an umbrella perspective on the overall performance of the campaign, you might not be able to get those insights. By omni-channel, we mean that we are connected to all different media channels and tying them together to ensure that you are getting a view of the consumer wherever the consumer is rather than hoping that your consumer is with a particular publisher. 

I believe programmatic drives this omni-channel view, where you know where all the consumer has gone, where all you have got the impressions of the ad and how the consumer has reacted. Once you have that information with you, then you can picture the whole story. 

How do you view India’s digital landscape?
In the last 3-4 years, India’s digital spends have really gone up. Advertisers understand the importance of digital marketing. The digital advertising market in India is poised to be around $ 3.5 billion by 2021. 

If you look at it from a brand perspective, 2-3 years back digital was commanding anywhere around 5-10 per cent of a brand’s total marketing spends. I have now seen that grow up to 20-25 per cent among the traditional brands. If you look at the new age brands, their digital spends are much higher. There a big shift in ad dollars being spent from traditional media to digital. Programmatic accounts for 2-3 per cent of the digital spends, which is very small. However, in the last couple of years I have seen that grow a lot as the ecosystem is evolving in India. Compared to the rate at which the western markets are growing, India is leapfrogging ahead and in a couple of years we may see India reach the same place as the western markets. We have seen a massive uptake and growth in both programmatic and digital. 

How has the expansion of the digital market in India been?
In India, we have seen the OTT market expand a lot. That is coming from the fact that the consumer usage patterns are changing. The younger generations have stopped their Tata Sky subscription and have moved on to OTT platforms such as Netflix, Hotstar and Voot. That strategy has led to brands rethinking their digital strategies, where they are moving their TV budgets to digital, especially OTT players. That is going to give a massive push in terms of pushing the growth numbers. 

How can programmatic help give Indian users a richer experience?
A simple example is that on a webpage you can see 3-4 ads by the same brand. That is a very bad user experience and wastage of ad spends on behalf of the brand. That is where programmatic platforms can help. Another example is where you can achieve a targeted sequencing of ads. Therefore, if a user is interested in a teaser ad, then you can follow up with other ads to keep the consumer interested. 

With programmatic you no longer need to create several ad units. There are technologies such as dynamic creative optimisation, where you can feed the message, image and TG and the tech spits out different permutations and combinations of the creative that can be used with a programmatic platform. This leads to a huge impact. 

Programmatic allows you to see everything because of the data available and then make optimised decisions. 

Indians still like to touch and feel before they buy. Will programmatic help them achieve this experience?
There is a massive young population that is okay with not having the touch and buy experience. The e-commerce sites, food delivery start-ups and cab start-ups are all examples that Indians are expanding their horizons and are okay with not to touch, feel and buy. It also depends on which industry you are talking about; for instance, the automobile industry, where consumers would want to physically test drive a vehicle before buying. However, programmatic can still help drive many aspects of the consumer-buying journey. 

As per a report, 52 per cent of marketers in India are planning to adopt programmatic buying. What are the need gaps for agencies and brands to shift to programmatic?
There are three factors keeping brands and agencies from shifting to programmatic. One is the knowledge about what programmatic can do. Secondly, in the industry there is a lack of programmatically trained marketers. A very selective group really knows programmatic. The third is that programmatic as an entire ecosystem goes through many changes globally, but being in India it is still evolving. Our platform, which is a DSP, is connected to a supply site platform, a data provider platform and a brand safety services platform. All of these players have to come together to service brands as a community and we see that it will give a big push to the ecosystem.


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