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Hemant Kumar

Founder & CEO | 30 Oct 2012

Technology changes fast. Online fads are moving even faster. Established digital marketing channels are in a continual process of improvement. New platforms with new capabilities are germinated to fill up the loopholes and gaps in the existing ecosystem, but the biggest challenge is human acceptance or ‘change’. People seem to automatically scan a new situation in their minds and perceive the negative factors.

Founder & CEO of Marmalade Digital, Hemant Kumar, is a seasoned media executive with years of experience in building successful digital businesses. In December 2011, he led the launch of their newly-focused DSP platform in India and the UAE. He was also Co-Founder of iAvatarZ Digital, an advertising and network company, where he guided the company through consecutive years of growth and global expansion of their core offerings.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Shree Lahiri, Kumar speaks at length about Marmalade Digital’s progress in the first year of operations, benefits of Demand Side Platform and more...

Q. How has the journey been for Marmalade Digital since its inception a year ago?

It’s been an exciting journey for us, a journey full of challenges. It all began with a question – ‘how digital media can be made to serve as an attractive advertising vehicle for marketers in India’. When we started off a year ago, we identified a clear need-gap of ‘control & transparency’ amongst advertisers, which none of the existing business partners was satisfying. This apparent need led to the genesis of Marmalade Digital.

Marmalade Digital envisaged a neutral platform, where we can invite the most valuable players in the ecosystem – the advertiser and the publisher – to interact with each other and facilitate ‘smart’ media buying by enabling effective media targeting capabilities.

We nurtured this idea that transformed into a totally differentiated and unique product, called Marmalade DSP. It is designed to eliminate many of the existing inefficiencies and promote trust, transparency and discipline in the digital media industry. Our focus on quality of service from day one has been giving us overwhelming results. This experience will help us continue to grow and do well. The journey so far has been very good, basically because of the fact that we have an excellent product, but more so because we have been able to meet advertisers’ expectations from day one.

Q. What was the vision that you started with and how has it been translated?

Marmalade’s vision is to excite our clients, partners and other stakeholders by continuously striving for quality services at competitive rates. We wish to establish a successful partnership with our clients/ stakeholders/ staff members by respecting the interests and goals of each party. We have benchmarked our success as a measure in our ability to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations on price, service and expertise.

The experience we have gathered in our first quarter of business in India has been stunning and memorable. We got opportunity to work with some big brands.

Q. How can an advertiser can shift from traditional media to Demand Side Platform (DSP), and what are the benefits that he gets?

Technology changes fast. Online fads are moving even faster. Established digital marketing channels are in a continual process of improvement. New platforms with new capabilities are germinated to fill up the loopholes and gaps in the existing ecosystem, but the biggest challenge is human acceptance or ‘change’. Accepting change in our daily work routine is difficult, people’s initial reaction to change is negative. People seem to automatically scan a new situation in their minds and perceive the negative factors. We are trying to understand what would make a marketer resist this change called ‘DSP’ and only then we can introduce the change.

Traditional media is bought according to the ‘assumed audience’ of the seller. For example, an advertiser wanting to market to young males would purchase ad space during a football game. DSP allows much more sophisticated and precise targeting. Advertisers will benefit from price transparency/ control/ granularity and above all, the insights or the learnings of the campaign. This will empower advertisers with the knowledge and the resources to take a better decision moving forward.

Q. What online campaigns have you been doing for your clients?

We have been executing display, mobile and video campaigns for our existing clients and intend to broaden the base by introducing social media and search in near future.

Q. How have media planners benefited from DSP?

Media planners know their job best and DSP is just an enabler or a tool to action their plans to meet campaign objectives. Programmatic buying is the future and those media planners and buyers who start engaging in programmatic buying will benefit by minimising wastage and increasing ROI for their advertisers. Planning and buying as we have known it – decision-making based on understanding media properties and the targeted audiences they attract – will be replaced by quant-based (and cookie-reliant) technologies that, among other aspects of automation, will emphasise much on consumer behaviour and users’ response to campaign objectives to define where to serve ads. This form of buying will improve operational efficiencies and reduce waste commonly caused by multi-network buys, which tend to deliver overlapping impressions.

Deploying programmatic buying will help planners to incorporate price transparency and deeper insights into their campaigns for knowledge needed for progressive decisions.

One of the robust propositions of DSP that media planners are surely going to consider is that it also provides functional capabilities to target/ re-target consumers based on their actions, which can have a net effect of reducing costs (eCPA) by anywhere from 2-10 times.

Q. Why should an advertiser use a DSP over other forms of media buying?

Advertiser has the best knowledge of his potential customers and a good judgement of how to reach them across various media. Digital is one medium where buying gets difficult for advertisers as the audiences are highly scattered. By using all prevailing forms of media buying, the advertiser loses control either to the publisher or to other intermediaries like ad networks, and experiences disconnect from its audience. Marmalade DSP involves advertisers throughout the campaign cycle and also shares the key learnings such as audience response. In fact, advertiser has full control to execute the campaign himself.

Q. What major shift/ changes will the market see with successful adoption of DSPs in India?

It’s a little early to comment, but based on the accrued benefits that we have had working with few advertisers, we definitely find great opportunity in buying every impression (eyeball hit) based on its likelihood of targeting desired audience. Transforming industry mindset from fixed/ placement level buying to a bid based buying will take time and is unlikely to happen in the short term.

Real Time Bidding (RTB) gives advertisers the ability and scope to sample small pieces of decent inventory from thousands of sites quickly and easily. Advertisers who are well informed have started using it and know the difference. DSP adoption will streamline the whole digital ecosystem and will attract more advertising spends as marketers will feel confident investing in digital media.

Q. What are the future plans for Marmalade Digital?

We have taken gradual steps and have assured that we achieve our first few milestones emphatically. We have planned realistic steps to reach attainable goals in intervals or phases. We want to raise the bar in meeting performance standards and expectations in line with the best in the industry.

Marmalade’s future plans involve – our management’s current expectations and beliefs, as well as a number of assumptions regarding future events and business performance as of the time the statements are made. Our investors are bullish about taking the right first steps and now we have to cascade the ideas into action.

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