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Public aims to have 1,000+ advertisers on the platform by year-end: Harshil Dhingra

India’s largest location-based social network, Public App, consists of 60 million+ active users and one million videos which get created every month. Within a short span of 6 months since its launch, Public became the No. 1 ranked app on the Play Store in the category and continues to be so. The app is available in all major Indian languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Assamese, Gujarati, and Marathi. Public App is a social network for everything local – from local updates and happenings to local commerce, jobs, classifieds, and more. Recently in March 2021, it also secured Rs 300 crore in funding from A91 Partners with participation from existing investors. The platform lets brands advertise vernacularly in a short video format and helps them to build impactful campaigns and establish a stronger connection with their audience.

In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Harshil Dhingra, Chief Business Officer, Public App, speaks about the rise of consumption in Tier 2 and 3 towns, the diverse brands that Public app is advertising with, projections of ad spends in H2 and much more.

There has been a steady rise in the consumption of snackable content. How are brands availing the opportunity?

Over the past few years, India has witnessed a tremendous shift in the content consumption pattern. Internet penetration, affordable data and pandemic have pushed people to use digital avenues, which have further seen a spike of Internet users in Tier 2 & 3 markets. With so many options and individuals having a fleeting attention span, short video platforms are prospering. Brands have gradually realised this and have increasingly shifted their digital campaigns towards short video advertising.

Leading this shift, we at Public provide brands innovative ad formats, supported by cutting edge technology that enables them to geo-target users through hyper localised regional content. On our platform brands can advertise in all major Indian languages and target over 60 million+ active users. As our platform lets brands advertise in vernacular languages in a short video format, it helps brands build impactful campaigns and establish a stronger connection with their audience.

How are short video applications monetising and helping brands reach their target consumers?

Short video applications are generating a large share of their revenue through impactful brand collaborations and marketing initiatives.

Public App, India’s largest location-based social network, is home to 50,000+ content creators, where over one million videos are created on a monthly basis. Our platform impeccably fulfils the prerequisites of a valuable social media platform as it not only helps brands to reach the masses, but also allows them to target their audience through regional and relatable content. This, in turn, creates a lasting impression on a user’s mind about the brand, which yields great conversion rates for that particular brand.

At Public, we started monetisation in October 2020 through advertisements. We offer our partner brands an ideal platform to advertise in all major Indian languages in a video format. We have also invested heavily in ad tech solutions to ensure creative and novel solutions for brands to leverage. On Public, brands can provide regionalised content to the users through geo-targeting. Moreover, from the first quarter of this year, small businesses can also advertise on our platform and inform local users in their region about the offerings. Given Public’s strong audience base across India, any brand that aims to have a larger outreach can benefit from the platform.

Since the pandemic has struck, local businesses have suffered a lot. How is Public app helping them get back on their feet using geo-targeted hyper-localised advertisements?

Small businesses form the backbone of our society and Public is offering them digital ad space to market on the app and target local customers. Through hyper localisation and geo-targeting, Public is enabling small businesses to reach their desired target audience on a district, city, and state level. For a stronger impact, the ads are delivered either in video or display format. Public allows small businesses to advertise digitally and cater to an expansive digital world. Currently, these small businesses come from varied sectors such as healthcare, daily utilities, education, and others. For example, local coaching centres (below or above K12) use the platform to promote online classes, with the surge of digital learning throughout the pandemic.

We have received a phenomenal response from the advertisers who have benefited from it. At present, we have actively associated with 500+ advertisers in India. By the end of the year, we aim to have at least 1,000+ advertisers on our platform.

Do you think digital ad spends can overtake television ad spends in the coming years?

The pandemic and post-pandemic times have pushed users to consume their content digitally as they were locked in their homes and modes of entertainment were limited. Even brands have realised the power of digital ads, where one doesn’t target the masses, but their desired target audience. According to a Media Partners Asia report, ad spends on digital media will overtake TV by 2024. Media agency GroupM has even estimated that digital ad spends will stand at 35%, which has overtaken print (16%) and is closing the gap with television (45%).

Therefore, we cannot underestimate the power of digital ad spends and the pace at which they are catching up with television ad spends. The competition is fierce yet tough. With a massive spike in digital consumption, digital advertising spends have seen a sharp rise, and this definitely marks a turning point for the industry. Having said that, digital can topple the television ad industry, yet the gap is too wide for this to happen anytime soon.

The importance of vernacular advertising has increased amid the pandemic. Why have audiences started showing this interest? Will this opportunity for vernacular continue further? Are we going to see more such ads during this festive season?

India is known for its sheer diversity, where people belong to different cultures and are comfortable interacting in their local languages. Regional content delivers the real essence of the messaging and creates a deeper impact. Internet penetration, affordable data and pandemic pushing people to use digital avenues has further seen a spike of internet users from rural India.

As per Google India’s report, 88% Indian language internet users are more likely to respond to a digital advertisement in their local language. Thus, the scope of vernacular advertising is huge and it is just going to increase. Keeping these statistics in mind, it can’t be denied that even this festive season would witness more of such localised ads. Brands need to be agile and create marketing strategies keeping the regional markets of India in mind.

Even at Public, brands have started running vernacular campaigns that have helped them to achieve great response. We recently concluded a geo-targeted ad campaign with Vendantu, which involved seven major Indian languages – Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, English and Hindi. The day-long campaign received a great response and generated over 40 lakh views, with an industry best engagement rate of 4.8% and CTR (Click through rate) of 1.32%.

What are your projections on this festive season and what are the expected ad-spend trends for the same?

Advertisers are definitely devoting a larger share of their budgets towards digital advertising for this festive season. Relaxation of lockdown restrictions, combined with increased vaccination numbers has been helping the country’s economy get back its synergy. From consumers to advertisers, everyone seems to be on a revenge spending spree. While the pandemic did cause a slowdown on various advertising media, digital has been an exception with its exponential growth over the past year and a half, and we see the momentum continuing in the festivities.

What various and diverse brands Public is advertising with? With a troika of opportunities seen this festive season along with the second leg of IPL 2021 and T20 World Cup, how did you see brands leverage this opportunity?

We are working with an array of brands who want to reach out and connect with users in the metros as well as the remotest regions of India. Since Public is a video-only platform, it is suitable for all brands willing to advertise products through an interactive and accessible medium. With the shift in content consumption patterns towards videos and decreasing attention spans, the majority of the brands are willing to exploit the potential of new advertising mediums. We have already done multilingual campaigns with leading brands like GSK, Skoda, Amazon Prime Video, HDFC Bank, TVS, Swiggy, Vedantu and many more.

Certainly, brands utilised the opportunity of advertising on the sports league as well as the festive season. These sporting events are watched and enjoyed by the masses, thereby becoming a great platform for brands to associate with. Additionally, as the festive spirits were a bit low last year due to the pandemic, this year seems to have the spirits a bit high. Therefore, to ride on this opportunity, numerous brands pushed a large chunk of their budget towards advertising during IPL and T20.


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