Blending in is the new standing-out in online advertising: Gurmit Singh, Yahoo India

In an email interview with exchange4media, Gurmit Singh, VP and MD of Yahoo India to learn more about the company’s plans going forward

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Oct 17, 2016 8:16 AM
Blending in is the new standing-out in online advertising: Gurmit Singh, Yahoo India

Yahoo’s acquisition by Verizon is still pending as the former internet goliath looks to bring about a change in fortunes. Though the likes of Facebook and Google might have established themselves as the new powerhouses on the digital medium, Yahoo still has much to offer advertisers and partners. In an email interview with exchange4media, Gurmit Singh, VP and MD of Yahoo India to learn more about the company’s plans going forward…

In terms of digital advertising, where does Yahoo see itself down the road?
This year we’re playing more to our strengths. Search, Mail, and Tumblr serve as global platforms to our worldwide audience. And, our core verticals of News, Sports, Finance, and Lifestyle will be more focused in our priority growth markets. With these seven products, Yahoo will better guide discovery for consumers going forward. These products drive the most substantial portion of our users, revenue and market opportunity today and we’re emphasizing these areas because we believe we can win there in the future.  Our strategy is built around four key segments that we call Mavens – Mobile, Video, Native and Social. It is a dynamic and fast-evolving space, with new advances in technology and experimentations in creativity leading the change.

In India too, we're really in that spirit of simplification and focusing on fewer priorities, and making sure we're really good at those priorities right now. We're focused on ensuring our platforms are delivering a seamless experience, both for our users and our advertisers. And, we're making sure we're making the most relevant connections to our marketers and consumers.

What are the business objectives and core focus areas for the company going forward?

Given the way online content consumption is headed in India, native advertising has huge potential as of now, and in the future. We have seen a strong growth curve on this already, with growing interest from advertisers and brands to leverage native on the Yahoo network.  Since we launched in-stream ads on the Yahoo network in India, we have seen over 300 brands come on board for this offering. The success of native clearly shows that ‘blending in’ is the new standing-out in online advertising.

Social is another platform that’s seeing a strong uptake from brands. Today, more than 360 of the world's top brands not only blog on Tumblr, but also advertise and spend on the platform. In India, we delivered a Tumblr powered solution to a premium HUL brand Tresemme, which saw not just huge engagement from the audience, but also went on to win an industry advertising award for design.

Advertisers are gradually recognizing that the dominance of mobile is demanding a new approach when it comes to reaching consumers on their personal devices. To that end, we have recently introduced Yahoo Tiles in India, a new mobile ad format that brands can leverage to reach consumers through engaging, interactive content. Yahoo Tiles enables brands to tell visually compelling and immersive stories on mobile devices in a post-tap environment.

Could you tell us about the plans around Gemini and BrightRoll? What can we expect for these platforms?

Yahoo’s advertising offerings are powered by two key platforms -- Yahoo Gemini and BrightRoll -- which continue to support the growth of our Mavens business.

BrightRoll is Yahoo's unified brand for programmatic advertising technology, offering a suite of media-agnostic tools to help advertisers, publishers and partners connect with consumers across ad formats and devices. Yahoo Gemini, is the company's proprietary marketplace for search and native advertising across devices. By bringing search and native ads together, Yahoo Gemini lets advertisers manage and optimize their ads in one place. They can drive greater performance through powerful reports and insights.

We’ve been very clear that we are committed to our advertising technology and platforms, and it will be an area of continued focus and investment for Yahoo.

Gartner says that native advertising, along with in-app advertising, content marketing and social marketing are sliding into the “Trough of Disillusionment” on the Gartner Hype Cycle. What are your thoughts on this?

With perpetually plugged-in audiences, whose attention brands are vying for and with experiences being built for cross-device usage – native advertising is fast becoming more effective than traditional display ads. According to a Yahoo Ipsos study, more than 60 percent of consumers view native ads favorably. Non-intrusive and contextually relevant, native ads fit seamlessly into the user’s content experience. They offer a great opportunity for brands to break through the online clutter and engage with users more effectively, irrespective of screen size or device type. 

Having said that, native ads will only be effective if they deliver on the promise of being contextually relevant and non-interruptive in format, leading to a more effective way of engaging with the user. Brands need to ask themselves if their native ads are as compelling as the day’s top news stories?

What according to you are some of the things that marketers need to change as they approach these new age advertising techniques?
While native advertising takes on many shapes and forms, there are some best practices for brands to keep in mind as they work to reach the right audiences and drive ROI.

·  Clearly communicate your product or service: Are you offering high-fashion clothes, but have copy that emphasizes price? If your ad creative has an identity crisis, your creative won’t resonate with the right audience. Additionally, generic ads typically fail to help your brand stand out. Your ads are your chance to catch people’s attention, so be sure to demonstrate why they should be interested - Describe benefits, not features. Emphasize a unique benefit to stand out in the stream. Accurately describe the product or service being promoted. Engage people by asking a question, solving a problem, or describing a list with your creative.

·  Cater to your target audience: Are your ads created for a general audience, but targeted to a specific gender or age? Is your campaign geo-targeted but doesn’t call out that city in the copy? In these cases you’re not taking full advantage of native ad performance. And the creative canvas isn’t limited to copy. With the use of large and small images, you can take advantage of a quick way to engage potential customers. According to our “Creative Best Practices: Native Ads” study, users fixate more on an ad image if it includes a person. By using images with people that relate to your target audience, your chances for strong performance skyrocket.

·        Be transparent: Native ads are not about ads masquerading as editorial content. Since native ads are mapped to the context, being transparent is important to retaining the user’s trust and engagement. At Yahoo, we make sure that all native ads are clearly marked as ‘sponsored’ and we have found that transparency in native campaigns enhances users’ perception of a campaign.

What are the native advertising trends that you are seeing in India and globally?
One of the benefits of Yahoo’s size is our ability to examine trends at huge scales—we can look at the shifting digital advertising landscape and offer insights about worldwide behaviours that brands can use to optimize their strategies and campaigns. Our data scientists recently examined global data about the state of native advertising in the first half of 2016. We found that native ads have shown explosive global growth. For instance, we extended and launched native advertising to third-party publishers in January 2015 and continue to see significant global growth. In US, total ad requests saw YoY growth of 498 per cent from 39.4 billion in the first half of 2015 to 236.1 billion in first half of 2016. The rest of the world has seen YoY growth of 2,548 per cent from 76.1 billion in the first half of 2015 to 2.02 trillion in the first half of 2016.

Native advertising is contextually relevant, non-interruptive and works across devices, making it a very effective way of engaging with the user. We find that native advertising is fast gaining ground with publishers and brands - as it is a more natural way of marketing to predominantly mobile users.

Native advertising is seeing rapid adoption in India, as brands from diverse industries discover how native delivers on relevance, cutting through the clutter and leading to higher engagement. 

According to recent Industry reports, 52 per cent of mobile consumers engage more with native ads as compared to regular banner ads. Native advertising continues to prove itself as an effective publisher solution to drive monetization. We have seen a strong growth curve and sustained interest from advertisers and brands to leverage native on the Yahoo network.

How do you see the future of display advertising evolving? Do you feel native advertising can overtake display advertising as a preferred choice for advertisers?

Traditional display advertising such as banners and pop-ups are seeing declining traction with users. One of the big reasons for this is the Internet user's move to the mobile device. By nature, mobile devices are more personal, with smaller screens than the average PC or laptop. This impacts both aspects - content that users want to see, and the format of the ads.

Users prefer more personalized ads on the mobile – the message needs to be of interest or value to them, and the format of the ad needs to fit into the overall design of the content they are consuming. This is opening up opportunities for personalized advertising with creativity leading the charge, but with a huge focus on using ads that are seamless and contextual - in other words, Native Advertising.

The advantage of native is that it lends itself to many different forms - depending on the content in which it is immersed. It could be text or video or image, ranging from in-stream advertising to in-game native formats, and it continues to be effective as long as it adds value to the content experience, and doesn’t disrupt it.

For display ads to be effective, it will need to evolve to accommodate changing consumer interests, enhance their overall experience on their devices as well as increase interactivity.  For instance, Virtual Reality (VR) is being seen as the future of display ads and advertisers have started to adopt 360 degree images and videos. The potential of 360-degree images and VR is immense as it lets viewers be active participants and makes the experience more engaging for them. 

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