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Publishers are turning to data and innovative ads to stay ahead of Google and Facebook in India

Publishers are turning to data and innovative ads to stay ahead of Google and Facebook in India

Publishers are already facing stiff pressure from media giants Facebook and Google in India but they have data and innovative new ad formats to woo brands, say experts.

Facebook recently hit the 2bn mark and India became it's largest market in Asia Pacific by share (32.6%) of users, according to an eMarketer report. According to Cisco, India’s internet users on a whole will rise from 373 million in 2016 to 829 million in 2021 as a result of digital transformation, which will further empower these companies. Publishers quick enough to adapt to digital transformation will be able to attract audiences and brands. This is, however, in the shadow of the omnipresent duopoly, as an IPG Media brands report stated that Facebook and Google are impervious to any advertising recession.

Therefore, to stay relevant, publishers are using technology to get better value for brands for the ads spent online. To find out how, The Drum spoke with Kabir Kochhar, managing partner and business head at The Glitch. He said: “In a mobile-first India, publishers must use two critical tools to gain a competitive edge - data and innovate ad units. Innovative ad units (such as those provided by companies such as m-canvas) help publishers garner branding budgets especially in a time where its tough competing on performance campaigns with the big boys.

Meanwhile, proprietary datasets can be pooled to better define high value cohorts. Combining this with innovative ad units can allow publishers to increase revenues by segmenting their customer base to best match this high-impact inventory with high value audiences. This allows them to better define their sales strategy splitting direct sales vs. programmatic allocation, efficiently to maximise revenues."

The Drum earlier spoke with Times Internet's Gulshan Verma who said that advertising will follow India's shift to digital. However, despite massive digital penetration, print, press and TV have been the mainstay for marketers in India for many years. It is mainly because of the mass reach they offer and the tried and tested effectiveness.

John Thankamony, head of programmatic at Mindshare India, said Indian publishers were using new strategies and technology, including the adoption of header bidding.

"On the end user front, publishers have been working on content personalization to improve and customize user experience and using tools such as AMP to ensure faster page loads.

On the adtech front, many publishers are rolling out header bidding, allowing better price discovery across all their buyers, compared to earlier methods. Using their own audience data collection and segmentation practices has allowed publishers to price existing media in distinctive tiers based on the value of these audiences to advertisers. On the operational end of things, programmatic execution, which is picking up in India, allows for streamlined execution, allowing for more efficiencies.”

Publishers are further using data to enhance the value of their inventory online. In the past, they would price their inventory based on the content section in which the ad is situated, and that section, be it sports, lifestyle or news, would attract a certain demographic of users.

Joe Nguyen, SVP of Asia Pacific at Comscore, said being more sophisticated allowed publishers to build up more valuable ad propositions.

"With technology, publishers can now link the user cookie to other data sources that can inform on other behavioural traits associated with that user cookie. Or they can enrich that ad unit with interest segments derived from the context of the article. These methods help publishers build more scalable, precise and valuable targets, and hence achieve higher cost per mile (CPMs) for their digital inventory. At the same time, advertisers are willing to pay higher CPMs to reach relevant audiences with more relevant messaging in a brand-safe context – to drive a stronger return on investment," he said.

Advertising expenditure in India is expected to grow at 10% to reach INR 61,204 crore in 2017 over 2016, according to a forecast by GroupM in its report 'This Year Next Year (TYNY)'. It further stated a steady 4.5% growth rate for print ad spends in 2017 which highlights its popularity among publishers.

According to Joy Chakraborthy, president of revenue at TV18 & CEO Forbes India, programmatic ads in digital and diversification of solutions, along with targeted ads and content, will lift ad value.

He said: "It’s not just the advertisers who are giving it greater attention, but also media owners and publishers. We can safely say that more variety of advertisers will be testing or diving deeper into digital and all round technological advances are and will continue to be the backbone for this. So a continued engagement with technical advances is the way to move ahead together. In the India context, digital will continue to be used as complement TV and print media, as these continue to dominate.”

While India's publishers share the same concerns as publishers globally; creating better value for its inventory and fighting increased competition, the potential for growth is still sizeable as more Indians go online. The key will be how quickly publishers can adapt to the digital needs of brands and create value from the data it has on its sought-after audiences.

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