Bangalore-based IceCream Labs is among the new generation of start ups which are aggressively eyeing the Indian digital advertising market with a slew of innovative new products.
In the case of IceCream Labs, the focus is very much on the visual web, which includes images as well as videos. Their platform, explains Sanjay Ramakrishnan, CEO and Co-founder, helps to derive context and machine learning from images. “Publishers have so much image inventory but they have not been able to monetize it till now. What we do is help publishers and brands to identify these opportunities,” said Ramakrishnan.
An example he gives is a campaign run for Myntra for the Hrithik Roshan promoted brand HRX. IceCream Labs scanned the internet and inserted a HRX ad/logo at the bottom of every image of Hrithik Roshan on the web. The company has done campaigns for clients like Bharti AXA, Amazon, Myntra, Levis, Wrangler, Pepe, Lee, Carzonrent, etc.
“A large portion of digital spends are on display. The facts that digital ads are not viewable is a big problem but images always drive attention,” says Ramakrishnan. He is referring to a recent Google study which stated that nearly 50 per cent of all online ads were not seen by the audience. In contrast, Ramakrishnan claims, IceCream Labs promise 80+ per cent viewability to their clients on image inventory.
When asked about how metrics on the different parameters compare with other platforms, Ramakrishnan claimed engagement rates are 5-6 times more than basic display while clickthrough rates (CTR) is about 6 times more.
IceCream Labs’ main product right now is InPici, which is an ad platform for image inventory and has been available since January 2015. The company is also developing two new ad platforms—one for video inventory and another focusing on social. The latter, however, is still too early in the development cycle, while the former might be introduced in the market as early as next quarter.
“Our focus is to scale up our India operations. We are also looking at expanding to the US before December and maybe one more large market. But, India and the US, are the main advertising markets for us,” said Ramakrishnan.
A Carat Media report suggests that digital will account for nearly 26 per cent of global ad spends by 2016. In India, the Pitch Madison Advertising Outlook 2015 estimated that digital would account for 12.6 per cent of ad spends in 2015 and reach total spends of Rs 5,135 crore. A 2014 report by ZenithOptimedia predicted that by 2015 display ads would even overtake paid search revenues and ad tech and social media platforms have further accelerated this growth over the last couple of years.
Though Ramakrishnan says it is too early for predictions, with a large percentage of the digital spends expected to be on display advertising, he expects the company to grow rapidly. “Within Indian market, we can get at least 20 per cent of the display spends,” he told us.
However, despite the future interest in digital display, he does not see platforms like his posing a serious challenge to TV in the near future. He insists the focus is on digital; both internet and mobile. “For a conventional FMCG company there are not too many display marketing options available for brand marketing,” he explains, adding that the digital market presents a lot of opportunities with, what he calls, “the current wave being seen on the visual wave”.