WPP recently bought US-based independent digital ad measurement and tracking company Medialets. We spoke with Preethy Vaidyanathan, SVP (Product Management) at Medialets and Milind Pathak, COO at Madhouse India, who will be working closely with Medialets to bring their ad efficiency measurement system to Indian clients.
Medialets has only recently been acquired by WPP. Could you tell us how you are fitting into the whole ecosystem?
If you look at what Medialets does, we are not just mobile first, we are mobile-only. We serve mobile ads on any mobile device, publisher, environment or inventory source. We can identify with non-personal information and measure ad effectiveness.
It is very brand-centric interaction of the user. Last year, we were acquired by WPP and the foundation behind this was that it is very important to have a standardised service to measure ad effectiveness, which is why we were acquired by WPP. We are a wholly-owned subsidiary of WPP because we want to be this neutral system that measures and tracks and provides effectiveness for the brand irrespective of the agency. We have both WPP and non-WPP clients and we provide the same service to both set of clients. Data for every client is very important for us and is completely siloed; we do not co-mingle data. So that is the value proposition.
With WPP itself, the thing that is very exciting for us is that we are a small company, about 65 people odd, and we have big competitors. The partnership with Madhouse happened because of the acquisition by WPP. For a 65 person company to look at a 1.2 billion marketplace and expand; I don’t think it would have been in our realm.
Our core philosophy is that brands should be able to drive accountability in the medium. In our TYNY 2016 report, we said that digital is equal to mobile because we sense that in the Indian digital ecosystem, mobile is galloping at rapid pace compared to traditional digital internet. Once the size of the market increases, we will have brands telling us that they want the medium to be accountable. The medium cannot become accountable if there is no measurement. The scenario with mobile is very complex. Cookies do not work; most of the traditional providers of tracking in India are not very strong on mobile, because their origin is on web (traditional), so their products have always delivered on web. Medialets has its origin on mobile so it is a very strong fit. We are going to use them for all our work. Our dream is to have 100 per cent accountability through independent tracking.
The way we look at Medialets is more as an ecosystem evolution than a commercial opportunity. Commercial opportunity is very small from a technology standpoint, but the larger question is how do you build trust in the minds of the advertiser, and how do you make the medium more accountable.
What are the challenges when it actually comes to measurement of mobile effectiveness?
Preethy Vaidyanathan: We kind of categorize them in three buckets from a brand perspective---the first is when they are starting to think about mobile but have not run any campaigns, the second is when they have run one or two tests but haven’t been successful, so it is a learning phase for them, and the third are the mainstream users.
Our goal is to convert Category 1 and 2 to Category 3. For Category 1, we tell them to take a look at their site analytics tool and they can see that year after year, the number of people coming to their site from a mobile device is increasing. For Category 2, we tell them to take a look at their competitors and the apps and products they have. Most of them are moving into the second category. From that perspective, what really resonates is that if you take a look at the US market 2-3 years back it was exactly the same (as in India). This was a very new medium and completely different from traditional digital. There was no effectiveness, no accountability or measurement.
Mobile as an ecosystem is far more complex. You have different devices, even different views for ads. Cookies do not work on Apple. Android and Chrome browsers have different rules for cookies.
The second aspect is that we would track the advertising impressions that are usually attributed to organic causes, where the consumer has seen the ad but has not taken an immediate call-to-action but has taken an action after a period of time. Today it is uncaptured because there is no one who connects an action to a view by a consumer. And there is no way to track, since the consumer has not taken any action. The only mechanism at the publisher’s end is when the consumer actually clicks on an ad, but there is no way to track impressions to call-to-actions. We are going to work on both these fronts and our aim this quarter is to evangelize this thought process along with the Medialets team.
How effective would you consider are the brand campaigns being done on mobile currently?
In the US, even last year, most of the brand we were speaking with were in the test and learn stage. This year it has moved past this phase, by at least 30-40 per cent. The category that did a lot more than test and learn last year is actually significant this year; at least 50 + per cent spending on mobile. If you look at the time spent metric, US consumers are spending more time on mobile devices than any other medium combined, even when they are watching TV. The second thing is to start looking at consumer behaviours; consumers are more used to buy products on their mobile phones. All the platforms now have auto fill features for your payment details. Publishers have various opt-in mechanisms for visitors. All these things show consumers there is an ease-of-use and value exchange by using the device.
The other side is that now the device is so personal that there are so many tools that it makes it easy to do e-commerce while making the user feel more secure while using them. So both these factors have contributed to increase the use of mobile phones and so if a brand is not targeting its audience on the mobile then it is losing out. 10-15 per cent people in the US do not have TV but they are watching videos on the mobile device. 2
It is very similar from an India perspective ---- we call it test and learn and invest and grow. So the long tail is coming into the test and learn phase. Even traditional advertisers are spending a lot of money in learning about this medium. One important parameter is that mobile is taking 40-45 per cent of the time share in India. So it is not a medium that an advertiser should neglect. Till last year people were experimenting but this year people have gone really aggressive with their spends. We expect in the next two years to see a stabilizing and rolling out of the measurement system.
How big a problem is ad fraud?
Preethy Vaidyanathan: We do not want people grading their own homework. We want a third party measurement system which uses the same standard to grade everyone. The second thing is how you can bring outcome or effectiveness based measurement. A bot does not download apps or fill up a forms; it does not do outcome-linked actions. When you can put these foundation pieces in place then you can do measurement from a brand perspective. When you start looking at accountabilities and outcomes it becomes a fairer playing field, especially if there is a third party looking at everything.
From a measurement perspective, what are your views on viewability?
As a measurement service, we want to be neutral. Our stand is that the industry and the consumer should decide what the standard is. Whatever the standard is, we want to measure it in the same across all platforms. We are working with industry boards like IAB, MRC and MMA to see how we can define a standard. Right now, when it comes to mobile, like Milind said, it is very complex. From our perspective, we actually count when the ad is delivered (to the publisher page), so that is the definition that we want the industry to move towards because we think it is a much better definition. It could go even further from a viewability perspective but right now we are working hard with industry boards to push that definition. Mobile standard needs to be a higher standard because people are snacking on data and are constantly on the move.