Incorporated in 2012 and with a desire to democratise information related to media options in India, The Media Ant is a young start-up in the media space.
In a conversation with exchange4media, Samir Chaudhary, CEO, The Media Ant, takes stock of the two and a half years of the agency’s journey and the challenges faced. Excerpts.
What are the challenges faced while building the company?
The Media Ant is the only company of its kind in India and from what we know, in the world. Our vision is to map the offline media of the world and create a globally useful product for marketers. Offline media is still 85-90 per cent of the ad spends in India and 75 per cent globally, with a high degree of disaggregation. We started off with mapping the media in India and have till date aggregated 5000 plus media options.
The biggest challenge was to aggregate media en masse and making it available online for free. It’s a very tedious task that needs a lot of patience and perseverance. Initially we had to face rejects and it was demotivating because the media owners took time to warm up to this model. However, over time they were supportive and shared details with us to upload on the site. Once they saw their competitors participate, they were keen to participate too.
Once we started generating revenue for them, they understood that we were like an extended sales team for them. On the advertiser front, we were enabling a large section of advertisers who hitherto had been neglected due to small ticket size. One-stop-shop for all media needs was something they had always desired of and here there was someone who says it will be offered for free.
What are the differentiating features of The Media Ant?
The Media Ant is different from other media agencies in several areas.
With more than 5200 plus media options, every advertiser can make a plan that suits their objective and budget. If you plan to target housewives in a small town or students in a metro, the chances are that you will find the right media options.
The Media Ant has multiple self-help tools that help an advertiser get reach, rates and other details on one screen. These have been launched just a few weeks back and we have got excellent feedback on the value they have added to clients and agencies to create their plans. It has the much-needed information available within a few clicks. These tools have information on radio stations, cinemas, magazines, newspapers, non-traditional media, ambient & transit media, airline, airport and inflight media.
We know that a lot of our visitors and users are new to advertising. All our products are designed keeping that in mind. For example, a first-time user can create a radio or cinema plan with just three clicks.
The reason for our existence is that smaller clients don’t have access to information and their small ticket size doesn’t fit in the economics of media agencies. The beauty about our business model is that it caters to a very large number of SMEs at scale, without any manual intervention. We have a very low opex and that allows us to successfully cater to these SMEs. Having said this, many of our clients are large and mid-sized media agencies and clients as well. We’ve been told that the information on our site helps them save multiple phone calls to gather it from multiple sources.
We are a technology company that uses various algorithms to suggest related media to our advertiser web visitors. This helps in the discovery process – something that’s very difficult when dealing with an individual media owner. For example, if you’re reading about one inflight magazine you’ll notice that we show a whole list of related inflight magazines – a lot of them that may be unheard of to a novice advertiser. This helps the media owners at large. It’s a conflict of interest for media owners to recommend competitor media and hence, places us in an unbiased position to keep in mind the best interests of the advertiser as well as the media owner.
How difficult or easy was it to get marketers to accept your model?
Initially, we were a little sceptical as to how our model would perform. This was because no other company like us exists in the market. During the first few months, we often doubted the viability of our endeavour, as we were unable to generate the desired results. However, we kept at it and it all came together as we patiently built a large inventory. As more and more marketers and media planners got to know about us, they began to utilise our services and information. The community patronized us for one simple reason - we were solving their pain point and adding value.
What is the kind of advertiser profile that you have been able to build over these two years?
During the last two years, we’ve catered to an extensive range of clients coming largely from start-ups and SMEs. We have helped over 5,000 advertisers with information through one-on-one interactions and cater to over 60,000 visitors, and growing, per month. While the biggest chunk of advertisers came from metros, we also have a significant number of advertisers from Tier II cities. But the biggest surprise has been large FMCG, Telecom and Banks and large media agencies that found a lot of new media options at The Media Ant. Everyone want to break through the clutter and the discovery they enjoy on our site is unparalleled.
Will The Media Ant be a threat to media agencies, as the idea of the start-up came from the fact that you were refused to get the facts from agencies while working for redBus?
Not at all. We don’t look at ourselves as a media agency per se. We are more a technology company than a media company. We are creating a discovery platform that works on algorithms and helps clients without any manual intervention. This makes us a good platform to be used by media agencies. A good number of our clients are agencies looking for the benefit of information and aggregation.
In terms of the clients we cater to, we deal with a mutually exclusive segment of clients. Media agencies’ clientele are large spenders whereas, The Media Ant’s core is discovery and clients are predominantly small and mid-sized advertisers.
We are servicing the segment that is economically not viable to be serviced by large agencies. The Media Ant through the use of technology manages to service even an Rs 5000 spender.
What is your growth target for the next couple of years?
We target to cover all media options in India by the end of this year and then test waters internationally. We want to map the offline media globally and make this the discovery platform of choice for marketers globally.
Please talk about your marketing strategies.
We have an extremely minimalistic marketing strategy featuring a strong emphasis on recurring and referral clients. Word of mouth plays a very important role in our marketing. We’ve got a product that solves a real pain point and that helps the word spread. After the launch of our self-help planning tools, traction has substantially increased. We have been written about in various advertising and SME publications and that helped us reach out to our advertiser segments.
You have options for various media options. What are the tie-ups that you have with these platform players?
We have tie-ups with an extensive range of media owners. We are involved in verticals such as Magazine, Cinema, Radio, Outdoor & Hoarding, Newspaper, Inflight & Airport, Transit & Ambient, Database, Non-traditional.
Listing of the media options is free of cost. Depending on the media option, we either connect the advertiser to the media owner or service the clients ourselves. The media owners are very happy with us and treat us like their extended sales team that only brings them additional revenue without any additional cost.
What does your company model look like? Please elaborate.
We are experimenting with various models as of now. Till now, our focus was solely on creating value for the advertisers (discovery) and the media owners (incremental sales). The models we are testing are lead generation, franchising and servicing.
How was the period between enquiry and conversion for The Media Ant Team?
The approximate gestation period is two to three months. That’s the time taken from the time a client takes information till the time they finally execute their campaign.
How best have you leveraged the digital and mobile medium, as digital seems to be the talk of the day.
We leverage it as a business model ourselves. The beauty about the medium is that it allows a company like us to serve clients at scale with minimal manual intervention. A lot of our marketing uses digital media to reach out to prospective clients and educating them about our proposition. Digital is here to stay and will only grow at a rapid pace, thanks to a large adoption on the consumer side. Companies such as Google, Facebook and aggregators such as InMobi, AdMob etc are catering to advertisers on the digital front. We are taking our time to understand the gaps and will evaluate what role we can play in the discovery and creation of digital media. Our immediate priority is the offline media where aggregation of information and intelligence is lacking.