Digital work in India is not done with a creative bent of mind: Rajiv Dingra, WATConsult

Dingra's WATConsult celebrates its 12th anniversary today

Venkata Susmita Biswas 1 week ago

rajiv dingra

For Rajiv Dingra, who is celebrating the 12th anniversary of his agency WAT Consult, 2018 could not have been better. Dingra gushes as the list of awards that his agency has won roll off his tongue. In 2018 alone, WAT Consult won awards at multiple international award festivals, including the Lisbon International Advertising Festival, CLIO Awards 2018, Prague International Awards Festival, Tangrams Effectiveness, and Shorty Social Good Award 2018.  

It’s not just the wins that have made him ecstatic, even bagging a nomination at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity has made him proud. That’s primarily because although Indian creative agencies have been winning Lions and typically have a respectable show at the award festival, Indian digital agencies have failed to make a mark. 

Pointing out why India has not been able to make any headway in the digital space at international award festivals, he said, “Digital work is not done in India (and I’m generalising here) with a creative bent of mind. The reason for that is digital, for the longest time has borne the burden of being an ROI medium, so creativity usually takes a back-seat to results, hence these challenges.” 

Dingra is not just content with the agency’s performance at the award festivals but also business-wise. He told exchange4media that over the past year WAT Consult has grown close to 30-35% YoY on revenue and bottom line. He said that WAT Consult will strive for creative excellence in everything it does while using technology to escalate the impact of the idea. 

Further, Dingra, Founder and CEO, of WATConsult, spoke to exchange4media at length about his learnings from winning at international award shows and what he thinks will shape the industry in the coming years. Edited excerpts: 

What has the journey been like these 12 years? What were some high points?
I think last year has been quite a significant high for us. Over these 12 years there have been a lot of highs and lows, but last year, it’s a dream for any Indian agency, digital or non-digital, to win at Spikes, to be nominated at Cannes Lion, winning a Grand Prix in Prague, and to win 2 bronze medals in the digital category at the London International awards (LIA). We also won a bronze in Lisbon. 

So last year has been a high point on a whole. It’s a great feeling because we’re the first digital agency to even be nominated at Cannes. TBWA, BBDO, and the Ogilvy’s of the world get a lot of nominations, and a lot of their nominations are for non-digital work. So, to actually put a pure-play digital entry and be nominated for that as a digital agency is a great feeling. Even though we are now part of Dentsu Aegis Network, our DNA still remains as pure-play digital. 

As you said, India is not known for digital work. Where are Indian digital agencies or agencies as a whole lacking in this digital or tech thought process?
I think the reasons for this are diverse. It’s not that we don’t do good digital work, but I think in India, in general, we are bad at packaging our work for global awards and that goes for all agencies. The ones that do it really well are obviously the agencies that are great at storytelling, which are the creative agencies. This is why at global awards we see agencies such as BBDO, TBWA, Cheil and Ogilvy actually win. They are great at packaging a case film that will move, engage and make sense to the jury. 

Secondly, these agencies also come from a mainline bent of mind, so a lot of work which is submitted and packaged well, is mainline work. Digital agencies have little or no experience in submitting, let alone winning global awards. 

The other fact is cost. It is extremely costly to submit work for global awards. You need to be a very good agency, revenue-wise and profitability-wise, to be able to submit work for global awards. Each entry is between $300-$500, which in the Indian context is between Rs 30,000- 60,000 per entry. So first you must have confidence in your entry, to be able to spend that much money on one entry in one category, and then you need to have the money to submit to global awards. Half of the entries don’t get to the global awards because digital agencies usually cannot afford to submit their work. 

The next point is that digital work is not done in India (and I’m generalising here) with a creative bent of mind. The reason for that is that digital, for the longest time, has borne the burden of being an ROI medium, so creativity usually takes a back seat to results, hence these challenges.

The reason we were successful, is because we actually invested in upping the creative acumen of our team. Over the last three years, we’ve actually an international creativity trainer (Yonathan Dominitz, Founder of Mindscapes) who trains at Cannes Lions, and who for the first time came to India to conduct an exclusive training for WatConsult. We’ve had training sessions in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The training involved the basic tools of creative thinking and getting our team to go beyond just people in a room brainstorming, and making it more professional from a creative thinking standpoint. 

You spoke about how one of the reasons why digital work is not usually creative because digital seems to be an ROI performance-driven platform. The work that has won significantly has also been for an NGO, so do you see brands changing their attitudes towards digital and using it for brand building, where maybe there is scope for creative digital work? 
Definitely, and I think we at WatConsult are best positioned for that because our positioning in the market is not performance-driven. We are a full-service digital agency that is known for doing creative, content, social, video, tech, etc. Now we are focusing on creative excellence as the value we bring to the market as a digital agency. For example, if we look at our campaign for SBI, again, it is creative, there is storytelling, of unique stories across India. Or even our Raksha Bandhan film for Dominos, “The Letter”, if you see that you would not be able to tell that this was done by a mainline creative agency or a digital agency. 

If you see today, creative agencies are trying to go more digital, but digital agencies, because some of them are very performance-driven, they are not able to make the leap into becoming more creative. We have made that leap and we continue to push the bar into creative excellence as we go along. 

Last year, our entry and win at multiple awards was a step in that direction to stamp our authority as a digital agency that can compete with the best in the global awards on creativity and we hope to continue raising that benchmark each year. Now with our complete video and tech prowess, as well as our ability to come up with a creative campaign, we are positioning ourselves as a creative/brand digital agency. 

I am seeing clients clearly wanting to do work that has meaning and purpose beyond just their brand attributes or product attributes. We are doing a lot of work where brands are looking at a purpose, positioning and meaning with what their communication is with engagement.

Because of the lack of diversity on international award festival juries, do you think that the burden of being from India and sending entries that feed into the White Man’s Burden is impacting India’s performance in the digital space?
It is helping India’s performance as well. I don’t think this is a hindrance, I think this is a learning experience, to ask how you can use a local insight and cultural nuance to leverage it in digital. And digital is not always AR, AI or the extreme end of innovation. But sometimes in trying to do all of that we forget what the real message is. We have to stick to what the creative idea is and then see an execution which applies to it. But I think the cultural insight is important. 

From an awards standpoint, it has been a great year. What has business been like this past year?
It’s been a very good year. Just from the like-to-like perspective, we’ve grown close to 30-35% YoY on revenue and bottom line. It’s been a year where we’ve won some really large brands, Dominos and Tata Motors are such brands. So it’s been a good year in terms of wins and also in terms of diversity of business. We have produced at least 120 digital films throughout the year. And if you look at the amount of content we produced on platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, etc, that goes into thousands. So from our creative perspective, there has been a lot of work. From a media buys standpoint, we’ve done about Rs 200 crore worth of media buying on various platforms. It’s been a good year overall for business.

In terms of the number of people, we are now the largest digital agency within the Dentsu Aegis Network with an employee strength of nearly 400 people.

Is AR and VR still something people want to experiment with in India or was it a fad that lasted a short while?
Yes, it still is. In India, brands and clients still look at it as a one-off investment and not as a way to build a brand. Brand managers, up to the CMO, look at films as the ‘holy grail’ of creative and messaging communication. It is for a good reason because they’ve done that for TV for many years, and also because currently in digital, video is the most important currency in communication. Across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, video is the No. 1 inventory. So I am not surprised that brands invest most of their time looking at what kind of video content they can create. That is why AR and VR are secondary because it’s the same amount of money and energy which will go into creating new-age content that would be consumed by only a fraction of the overall audience.

And where does Voice fall in all of this?
Voice is definitely growing. Voice today is at the stage where social media was around 10 years ago. The only difference between voice and social media is—social media was a digital platform-led revolution, whereas voice is a device-led revolution. There are two kinds of devices which are going across; one is the mobile phone, which is now voice-enabled, and the second is a home device. I think both of these will drive the adoption of voice, but unlike social media 10 years ago which had a community and interaction angle to it, voice, for now, has a service angle. From the usability perspective, voice is more of search than social. Will it replace social? I don’t think so. Will it replace Search? The statistics on how many people are using voice for search is huge. I think the next question would be- since voice replaces Search, and Search Ads which is a huge business for everyone- how does Search business transcend into voice? But with Google and Amazon going after it, I think voice will probably be one of the topmost priorities in digital marketing. 

Given all these technological advancements we’re speaking about - voice, AR and VR - in addition to what you mentioned earlier about WATConsult’s focus on creative excellence, what are the capabilities you want to focus on going forward?
Technologically, we’ve always been on the forefront. In 2016, we had all the VR devices, and we had complete AR capability. In 2016, we made one of the first AR apps for Apollo Tyres. We have been working on AR and VR from way before. It’s not something new to us, it’s been there for a very long time. Also, we do have voice capability in-house as well. 

That being said, I don’t think technology in itself is a solution for clients’ briefs. Technology is an enabler to deliver the communication. You can deliver communication through AR, VR, or voice, you can even use AI to make the communication look more intelligent or to process data in a way so when it is showcased to the consumer it is impactful. 

When you want to use technology for a campaign, how do you differentiate between a gimmick and something that will genuinely move the dial for the business?
The first thing is, the idea has to be great. Secondly, the technology should escalate the impact of the idea. If the technology makes it a problem to experience the idea then you are just using technology for the sake of it. For example, a couple of years ago, we did a campaign for Bajaj Allianz called “Mobile Aasana” where we used 360-degree video on Facebook to get millennials and desk workers to use the phone to do various yoga poses. At that time it was new because 360-degree videos on Facebook were very new. So the use of 360-degree video technology to make people do yoga escalated the impact of the idea. 

So what are going to be the focus areas for you in 2019?
It will be a mix of technology and creativity. Creativity will be the No. 1 priority, but we are a full-service digital agency. Campaigns are successful when they meet the client’s objectives, and to do so in a creative manner makes audiences very happy. Customers and users feel connected to a campaign to a level where they want to endorse it organically. For that, the campaign has to be creative. This is why I emphasise that creative excellence will be our focus. 

What are your thoughts on the in-housing of digital media buying?
I think in-house is great for brands if they can manage it. The problems I see with brands is they have a core business, so if they take this aspect in-house, they will have employees who, beyond keeping their jobs, wouldn’t have a larger incentive to upgrade, update and scale.  Let me define what I mean by this: upgrade means to basically update themselves so that they can do better, update themselves so that they can do newer and more interesting things, and scale means they can do bigger things around it. All these three things happen in agencies by default. Which is why when you look at in-house agencies, how many of them do you really see doing path-breaking work? And in spite of having these in-house agencies, a lot of these brands go out and give projects to various other agencies. In my view, I think having in-house programmatic and buying becomes substandard after a point because employees are trying to save their jobs, not trying to excel. Agencies are trying to excel in programmatic because each of them wants to be a step ahead of the others in programmatic. But when you are doing it in-house, you will not invest in building the next architecture of programmatic for your business. Unless and until there is effort and investment from the top level of management, who is the CEO. But if it is coming from the middle level or lower than that, then I don’t see it delivering the kind of excellence that brands actually ask from agencies. 

Lastly, what are the three main areas that will be significant in 2019?
Over the last 2 to 3 years, there has been a wave of video content in digital and I don’t think in 2019 there will be a single campaign from a significant brand which does not have a video.  In my view video is going to be the primary digital asset that brands leverage for their marketing campaigns. 
Second, I think we will be seeing a lot of interesting experiments with voice. It’s not going to be mainstream, but it is going to be interesting. 
Thirdly, our media perspective: there is going to be a programmatic wave across digital, where a lot of brands will shift their spends to programmatic advertising.

Transcription Credit: Sudha Joshi

Susmita is a digital marketing reporter at exchange4media. She writes on latest developments in the ever-changing world of digital media and in-depth stories on all things advertising.

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Facebook faces record penalty over ‘privacy violations’

US Federal Trade Commission says it is still investigating the charges

exchange4media Staff 1 hour ago

FB

In another blow to Facebook, the social networking giant is facing a record fine from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with regard to alleged mishandling of user data and privacy violations. 

According to media reports, the US commission is still investigating the charges about Facebook violating privacy rules. FTC is most likely to levy a huge penalty from the social media firm. 

So far, FTC’s highest penalty has been $22.5 million on Google in 2012, again for privacy violations. However, Facbook is expected to be imposed a higher fine, media reports said. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked to testify before the Congress in April 2018. This came after Cambridge Analytica got access to data of about 87 million users without permission. 

Facebook has refuted another report that said it had allowed technology companies and apps like Netflix or Spotify access to its users personal details. 

Another report has claimed that several Facebook content moderators depend on inaccurate information to zero in on the content that can be published on its platform. 

What Facebook has admitted to is a security breach that affected nearly 50 million users. 

The FTC and Facebook are have not released any comments about the media reports.

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Digital trends of 2019 you need to look out for: Manika Juneja, WATConsult

Guest Column: Juneja, AVP (Operations), WATConsult says 2019 will be a boon for the businesses who will be agile enough to adapt the digital transformation model

Manika Juneja 1 hour ago

Manika Juneja

Yes folks, it’s that time of the year when as a digital consultant, I often get asked by clients, marketers and industry colleagues; what are the trends that you foresee for the year? But before we proceed let’s take a glance at the fact that digital medium has witnessed a lot of churn in 2018 right from data piracy with biggies like Facebook and Google to the #MeToo movement which resulted in changing the dynamic of the industry. Moreover 2018 has been the stepping stone for digital marketing to be an integral part of the marketing mix. In my view, 2019 will prove the real worth of digital marketing with KPIs aligned to brand building and sales rather than the medium which gives you mere likes, comments and shares as ROI.

Let’s take a look at some trends which will dominate the digital marketing in 2019:

Digital – Impacting the Business
The current business landscape is more dynamic than ever. Today’s customers look out for connected experience across channels and verticals at various touchpoints. Right from staying on top of the consumer mindset in the marketing funnel to providing them personalisation in the offerings, after sales support, customers are expecting brands to deliver information that is accessible anytime, anywhere, on the channel of their choice (mobile, online or any other POS). Meeting these customer expectations in the cutting-edge competitive scenario are forcing organisations to evolve their systems and processes for better understanding of the customer and offering personalisation at scale. Digital Transformation, data driven decisions, digital commerce, AI & Machine Learning are no longer the buzz words but the essential components of business transformation model for brands seeking effective ROI. India is still catching up with the trend with ecommerce giants like Amazon, Flipkart etc, being the early adapters, however 2019 will be a boon for the businesses who will be agile enough to adapt the digital transformation model.

Cause-vertising
After the wave of moment marketing, cause-vertising will be the next big trend with respect to content marketing. Cause-vertising will lead the brands to focus on their proposition and connect with the consumer using this purpose-led message into a beautiful storytelling. The key here is to stay true to the brand and find the sweet spot to convert the customers using this new approach of content marketing. We have seen several campaigns like #ShareTheLoad, #ToughMoms using this form of messaging but what was missing was the impact or result in the true form leading into a behavioral change. In the cluttered advertising space, consumption patterns are mostly consistent; there are high chances of consumers getting more attracted towards brands that align with the emotion of the cause and showcase the real contribution as the outcome in the form of a tangible or more noticeable change. 

Programmatic
The rise in the programmatic advertising is no surprise to digital marketing experts, however comparing the sheer size of the digital advertising industry, in the era of data and technology the growth is still at a nascent stage in India with close to 20-22 per cent of ad budgets going to this form of advertising. With Bharat getting access to smartphone and Internet penetration, the rise of digitization, the increase in awareness about the offerings like unique targeting capability and transparency, the ability to gather valuable insights to save ad wastage and better ROI are some of the reasons for the trend to catch up faster in India. In 2019, programmatic will be the go-to strategy for digital marketing and change the face of it.

Voice
“Hey Google, what is VOICE SEARCH?”
“Alexa, what are the digital trends of 2019?”

The increasing use of voice search, penetration of voice assistants and smart speakers have empowered users to access information like never before. Fifty per cent of all searches are predicted to be voice searches by 2020. This has also led a way for the non-English speaking audience use Internet with ease.

However, in order to lead the pack in the era of Voice Search, content optimisation needs to take the front seat in the gambit of marketing. Voice-search-friendly content will fall under hygiene which brands will not be able to ignore for a long time.  

Video On-Demand / OTT
With the rise of personalised screen being the preferred entertainment enabler, OTT media players are exhibiting a strong growth. As per the recent BCG report, India’s OTT market has potential to reach $5bn by 2023. The number of players has seen a spike in the last few years with Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon prime topping the chart. The penetration in various parts of India has forced the OTT players to produce local and regional content for the Indian consumers. High profiling sports event, original content series, syndication of international content will witness the maximum advertising opportunities. 

All in all, as a marketer here’s a quick check list you can use to ensure you achieve your short term and long term goals in 2019.
Ensure you have a better understanding of the customer, personalisation is the key, ask yourself if your campaigns have real-world impact, ROI through digital is a possibility do not be afraid to take it head-on, regional video content could be your best friend when speaking to consumers and finally, it’s not too late to VOICE out your message!

(The author is the Assistant Vice President (Operations), WATConsult)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com

The author is the AVP – Operations at WATConsult.

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Hungama aims to increase regional user base by 30% with Audio Originals: Siddhartha Roy

Hungama Digital Media CCO says there’s an increase in demand today for local, differentiated and exclusive content

exchange4media Staff 2 hours ago

hungama

Hungama has launched a new digital content vertical - Audio Originals. Listeners will now be able to access curated music content hosted by a radio jockey. With audio originals, Hungama aims to increase its regional user base by 30 per cent. 

The first show will be in Tamil and will be hosted by RJ Sindhu. Over the course of the year, Hungama plans to launch 5 to 6 new audio originals in different languages. 

Hungama Digital Media CCO,  Siddhartha Roy, spoke to exchange4media about the highlights of Audio Originals and the way forward. Edited excerpts: 

What's the idea behind launching Hungama Audio Originals? 
Hungama audio originals are a different, engaging and interactive way for users to connect with their favourite music. All audio originals that we intend to create will have music at their core. The idea comes from the fact that there is an increase in demand today for local, differentiated and exclusive content. This is true for both, video and audio formats. In fact, over 48 per cent of our audience consumes content in languages besides Hindi. Offering a multi-lingual and multi-genre library is one way to improve the listener experience on music streaming platforms. 

However, listeners are also seeking content that is unique and engaging too. This is where our audio originals play an important role. Our intent is to create shows that offer our users content that is exclusive, enhances their listening experience and also enriches our library further. For instance, our first audio original in Tamil, ‘Endredndrum Punnagai’, will focus on musicians from Tamil Nadu and their contribution to the world of music. It will be hosted by RJ Sindhu, who is a well-known name in the local market and will offer her insights into the works of renowned musicians from the state. This is interspersed with music that represents the artiste being spoken about, giving the listeners a localised experience in a setting made highly engaging by the host.  With our audio originals, we aim to increase our regional user base by 30 per cent. 

How is it different from podcasts? 
A podcast is an audio series that is available to Internet users to listen. Within that technical format, there are different categories available to users. With Hungama Audio Originals, we are exploring shows that remain true to music and offer Hungama Music users an experience that is different, interactive and engaging. 

Your first show is in Tamil. Which other languages will you be delving into? 
We intend to launch 5 to 6 audio originals in the next 12 months in other key Indian languages, including Hindi, Telugu, Punjabi, Bengali and Marathi, among others. 

Everyone is trying to cash in on video advertising. Why the focus on audio? 

We have two distinct platforms for video and music streaming—Hungama Play and Hungama Music. Even on Hungama Music, our users have the option to watch music videos. In fact, we were the first in the country to offer this option. Our focus is not on only video or only audio, it is on both. We believe that it is important for platforms to offer multiple advertising formats and innovations to help advertisers amplify their message. By leveraging the insights available to us through our data, we are able to provide marketers with audience segmentations and format customizations that help them drive more premium and relevant brand interactions. 

How many hours of original audio content do you intend to create? What would be the content type and genres that you would explore? Long or short format? 
We have not set a limit to the number of hours or restricted ourselves to a few genres. Similarly, the length of a show is determined by its content. For instance, in case of our first show, ‘Endredndrum Punnagai’, the first two episodes have a length of about 35 minutes, while the next two are a little above 40 minutes. We have not set a time limit for the forthcoming episodes as well and will let the content, its entertainment and engagement value determine the episode’s length. 

How will it give Hungama Music an edge over others? 
‘Endredndrum Punnagai’ is a personality driven show. Episodes are dedicated to the legends of the Tamil music industry and it features RJ Sindhu talk about these personalities and their contribution to the industry in a warm, interactive and engaging manner. This gives the listeners a chance to get to know their favourites and music icons in a more personal way, in a language that they prefer. The first few episodes of the show have been dedicated to A R Rahman and the following episodes will talk about other musicians from Tamil Nadu. 

The show will also benefit from Hungama Music’s wide availability and multiple customer touchpoints, and reach over 30 million listeners. Consumers can access Hungama Music through Android and iOs apps, on smart devices, web interface and AI-enabled assistants like Alexa. Besides, our strategic association with Xiaomi also gives users the option to enjoy the show and all upcoming audio original shows through Hungama Music on Mi Music.

 

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Remind me again, who are these people?

Things young India loved in 2018 and what they say about them

Meghana Bhat 2 hours ago

MeghanaBhat

A year ends and the saga of the lists begins. Heck, we’ve done quite a few of our own. Entertaining as they all are, for this piece, we’re going for insightful.

Content on ScoopWhoop’s social platforms & website is consumed by millions of young Indians every day. We create and curate the stuff that people love or should love (high-five to our editorial team of 20-somethings that seems to know exactly what will trend before it even begins). And of course, we’ve built the tools to track how well this content performs across all our platforms so we keep doing better.

For this issue of ScoopWhoop that explains the youth culture, we’ve taken all of this delicious data of what’s worked in 2018 – which includes content created by us and the content we have curated (trending ideas & stories that we feel our audience would love) – and used it to discover what young India is like, what they love and what moves them.

Here are five things that we know about Indian youth, basis their content consumption trends in 2018.

1. Humor is a weapon
Millennials have been deeply engaged with public issues, politics and social causes, and are known for using collective internet ‘outrage’ as a form of protest.  But in 2018, we saw Gen Z weaponising humour and doing it so effectively that becoming a national joke is probably more scary than (gasp!) being unknown. Everyday millions of Davids take on (and often take down) the mis-stepping, mis-speaking Goliaths of the public sphere, armed with nothing but killer jokes and a Jio connection. How do we know? On ScoopWhoop’s Instagram channel, which is mainly frequented by the 18-20 somethings, this category of content has seen the most love.


2. Information is love
An ongoing trend that continued in 2018 is the love we’ve seen on our ScoopWhoop Hindi Facebook page around informative content such as household hacks, science behind engineering marvels etc. Now we know the internet has grown a lot in the last few years in India and almost all of the new users are mobile-first users. Which means their introduction to the internet almost always begins with social media and NOT search. An interesting by-product of this is that using the internet to find information is not native behaviour for a lot of these users. So information, especially stuff that’s relatable/relevant, new, useful, is incredibly sexy. Except now the fun is not in Googling something, but in stumbling upon eye-opening facts on social media (WhatsApp mainly) and easily sharing them with the world causing awe and wonder everywhere.

 

3. Misogyny isn’t cool (one more step forward in 2018)
Sure, many young people create seriously problematic content on tik-tok, and Simbaa with its pseudo-feminism still makes Rs 200 crores, but every year since the MeToo movement, the awareness around misogyny increases and people move a step forward. There is a curiosity to learn more and an openness to understand what equality means in different ways.

 

4. Gritty Reality- Escapist Fantasy   
When the Khans take a beating at the box office, you know something’s up, something is shifting. Sacred Games and Mirzapur were the biggest shows this year. Movies such as Andhadun and actors who took risks (Ayushmann Khurana, Vicky Kaushal, Radhika Apte) were the real hits. Escapist candy-coloured fantasy has given way to gritty real-life/ true events inspired storytelling. Even the stars, the ones who get the most fan love, are not the protagonists but villains. The era of the all conquering macho hero (unless of course it’s the cartoonish unreal persona of the Rohit Shetty films) is waning. In fact, some of the stories and memes that became the most viral in 2018 on the ScoopWhoop platform were those that highlighted the sensationalist moments, characters and actors in some of this content.

 

5. And finally, relatable continues to rule
Relatable content continued to captivate youth in 2018 because it’s a truly social content product that’s made for sharing and tagging. When the on-screen mom was unshackled from her Bollywood-given emo chains and represented in all her savage glory, everyone and their moms could finally relate. We’ve all been that girl sitting through all those terrible dates. And we’ve all struggled to translate things between our mother tongue and English. Getting fooled by stupidly simple stuff happens to us all. And so it goes on. The joy of finding a piece of your identity on the giant internet is irresistible and must be shared.

Content, identity and culture have always fed off each other. But now, in the age of high speed internet, these three things have almost become indistinguishable. Young India is constantly showing itself and its culture through its content choices. And at ScoopWhoop we’re always listening and learning.  

The author is the Chief Strategy Officer of ScoopWhoop

(Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com)

Chief Strategy Officer of ScoopWhoop

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Hotstar to add layer of social interactions to IPL 2019

Cricket enthusiasts will now have the option of posting comments, interacting with experts who will also comment on Hotstar, take part in polls, and invite friends to join the fun

Venkata Susmita Biswas 2 hours ago

Hotstar

Star India’s streaming portal Hotstar will introduce a layer of social interactions to the live stream of IPL 2019 matches. The addition of social to gaming, which was introduced in 2018 with Watch’ N Play, is expected to take the engagement on the platform a notch higher. 

A highly placed industry source confirmed Hotstar’s plans to integrate social on the platform. However, an email to Star India seeking a confirmation and comment went unanswered until the time of filing this report. 

The social layer may roughly resemble how YouTube users can comment on videos. Cricket enthusiasts will now have the option of posting comments, interacting with experts who will also be commenting on Hotstar, taking part in polls, and inviting friends to join the fun. As a precursor to this social layer, Hotstar had introduced a special feed that allowed viewers to post emojis while they watched the match in 2018.  

SonyLiv, which also streams matches live, does not have a similar feature yet. It is only social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Twitch that have the live streaming feature, allowing for live social interactions. 

Last year, IPL registered 16.7 million conversations across several social media platforms, according to a report published by media agency Wavemaker. As per a Facebook 2016 study, live content receives 10 times more comments than regular videos. A senior digital media buyer, who did not want to be named, said that the move to integrate social into the Hotstar environment is intended to increase the time users spend on the platform and retain users.

What’s in it for brands?

This feature presents brands with a number of ways to integrate advertisements with social. "The social layer is beneficial for brands because the more time users spend on the platform, the greater the chances of them watching ads," said the senior digital media buyer.  

Brands can opt for a simple display format ad. A carousel can lead users to the brand’s digital assets, and contextual messaging. Brands can also place ads on specific moments in the game, and at the end of overs. Hotstar also plans to introduce mini branded games within the social environment. Within the social environment, brands can now get to know the user better by asking them questions.  

Apart from six different types of branded cards that marketers can use, there are options of showing ads at the end of overs and gratifying users who Watch’N Play with points and rewards. Users will be able to share their rewards with friends who will also get the same rewards. 

Hotstar will continue to have typical performance-driven ad formats like mid-rolls and pre-rolls. 

Susmita is a digital marketing reporter at exchange4media. She writes on latest developments in the ever-changing world of digital media and in-depth stories on all things advertising.

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Netflix fourth quarter results show boost in subscribers but misses on revenue

Netflix posted mixed fourth-quarter earnings results sending shares down roughly 4 per cent in extended trading; it earned 30 cents a share on revenue of $4.19 billion during the period

exchange4media Staff 2 days ago

Netflix

Leading internet entertainment service, Netflix Inc., showed a rise in new subscribers but reported a shortfall in quarterly sales, sending the stock lower and disappointing investors. 

Netflix ended the year 2018 with more than 139 million paid subscribers, adding 8.8 million members in the last three months. The streaming giant said the growth reflected the success of its original programmes, such as ‘Bird Box’ and ‘Roma’.

The streaming giant earned 30 cents a share on revenue of $4.19 billion during the period, in the 2017 quarter, Netflix earned 41 cents a share on sales of $3.29 billion. 

For the current quarter, Netflix expects to add 8.9 million paying subscribers. It forecast earnings per share of 56 cents on sales of $4.49 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected Netflix earnings of 83 cents a share and $4.61 billion in revenue.

The quarter was expected to cap an expensive year for Netflix, as the company ramps up content spend and original programming. Reported EPS represents a 66 per cent markdown from the third quarter of 2018, and a 27 percent downside from the 2017 quarter.

Revenue for the quarter fell right in line with recent trends, though hinting at higher expenditures. Fourth-quarter revenue totals mark a 28 percent year-over-year jump.

The company is guiding toward lower-than-expected results for the first quarter of 2019. Netflix expects earnings per share of 56 cents on revenue of $4.49 billion, compared with Wall Street consensus estimates of 82 cents and $4.61 billion.

The streaming giant previously warned content costs are more heavily weighted in the second half of the year. The newly appointed Chief Financial Officer, Spence Neumann, said during the company's earnings statement that a move toward owned content has "put pressure on the cash flows of the business and the cash needs of the business over the past few years," but that the company is confident in its investment.

Netflix reported free cash flow for the quarter of negative $1.3 billion. The company expects its cash burn, which totalled negative $3 billion for the year, to hold consistent in 2019. After that, the company said, free cash flow will improve.

Subscriber additions for the quarter came in just above Wall Street estimates and the company's own projections. Netflix added 8.8 million global paid memberships during the fourth quarter. The company posted 1.5 million new subscribers in the U.S. and 7.3 million new subscribers internationally.

Netflix added 29 million paid subscribers for the full year of 2018, 33 percent higher than the 22 million paid subscribers it added in 2017.

The company's executives indicated last quarter it would be de-emphasising 30-day free trial memberships and focusing more heavily on paid memberships. Free trials accounted for 9 million global memberships during the fourth quarter. The service has seen considerable growth in emerging international markets like India and Mexico, exposing the company to certain foreign exchange headwinds.

Shareholders have rewarded the company for its aggressive content strategy, sending the stock up about 30 percent in the first few weeks of 2019. Shares gained 7 percent during a single session earlier this week, after Netflix announced it was raising rates across its streaming plans.

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772 million email addresses and 21 million passwords exposed in major data breach

It is believed that this could be the biggest data breach in recent times

exchange4media Staff 2 days ago

DataBreach

It has been reported that data stored on the cloud storage service MEGA, has been compromised, thus resulting in the leak of more than 87 GB of passwords and email addresses. It is believed that this could be the biggest data breach in recent times.

According to media reports, the leaked data, containing 22 million unique passwords and over 772 million email addresses, had been distributed in a folder called ‘Collection # 1’ by hackers who posted the link to the folder on a hacking forum.

The breach was first reported by Troy Hunt, a security researcher who runs the site Have I Been Pwned (HIBP), where people can check if their email has been compromised in a data breach.

In Hunt's blog, it is said that a large file of 12,000 separate files and 87GB of data from a combination of 2,000 databases had been uploaded to MEGA and then shared on a popular hacking forum.

The cache of emails and passwords seems to have been collected from several data breaches dating back to 2008. 

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Netflix, Hotstar, SonyLIV, ALT Balaji and other OTT platforms say yes to self-regulation

Online Curated Content Providers say no to censorship, and have voluntarily signed a self-regulatory Code of Best Practices under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India

exchange4media Staff 2 days ago

netflix

Online Curated Content Providers (OCCPs) including Netflix, Hotstar, Voot, Arre, SonyLIV and ALT Balaji have come together with a self-regulatory code to regulate video streaming content, according to media reports. 

They have voluntarily signed a self-regulatory Code of Best Practices under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). The code establishes guiding principles for Online Curated Content (OCC) Providers to conduct themselves in a responsible and transparent manner and at the same time ensures that consumer interests are protected.

This code will ensure that the creative freedom is protected and outside regulation is avoided. The content providers will classify their content into separate and distinct categories according to the age groups. 

According to the code, the following content will be self-regulated by the streaming service providers

  • Content which deliberately and maliciously disrespects the national emblem or national flag
  • Content which represents a child engaged in real or simulated sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes1
  • Content which deliberately and maliciously intends to outrage religious sentiments of any class, section or community
  • Content which deliberately and maliciously promotes or encourages terrorism and other forms of violence against the State (of India) or its institutions
  • Content that has been banned for exhibition or distribution by online video service under applicable laws or by any court with competent jurisdiction

The code will also provide a mechanism for complaints redressal in relation to content made available by respective content provider. A separate complaint redressal department will be established by each service provider and it would be mandatory for the department to acknowledge a complaint in three working days. If any content is found violating the code, the same department will inform the complainant within 30 days about the steps being taken to redress the issue.

According to a statement released by the service providers, objectives of this code are to "empower consumers to make informed choices on age-appropriate content and protect the interests of consumers in choosing and accessing the content they want to watch, at their own time and convenience". The code also promises to "safeguard and respect creative freedom of content creators and artists and Nurture creativity, create an ecosystem fostering innovation and abide by an individual's freedom of speech and expression".

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Facebook India overhauls organisational structure with new appointments

Archana Vohra appointed as Director of Small and Medium Business, and Manish Chopra hired as Director & Head of Partnership among others

exchange4media Staff 3 days ago

Facebookimage

According to media reports, Facebook has appointed Archana Vohra as Director of Small and Medium Business, and for the newly created roles Manish Chopra has been hired as Director & Head of Partnership and Prashanth Aluru has been appointed as Director of Strategy and Operations. 

Sandeep Bhushan has been appointed as Director of Global Marketing Solutions whereas Public Policy will be headed by Ankhi Das. Siddharth Banerjee has been appointed as the Director of Global Sales Organisation (customer partnerships and agencies) and will report to Bhushan.

The social media giant for its India division has created a new organisational structure wherein the functional heads will report to the country managing director. The move is in line with Facebook’s plan of delinking its India operations from the Asia-Pacific region. 

Facebook said that the functional heads for public policy, global marketing solutions, communications, and the newly formed verticals of partnership, and strategy and operations will report to Facebook’s India Managing Director, Ajit Mohan, and not to their respective regional heads in Asia Pacific.

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Further regulations will hit OTT services: Major broadcasters tell TRAI

OTTs should not be seen as a substitute for TSPs: Star India, SPN, Times Network say in feedback given to TRAI 

exchange4media Staff 3 days ago

TRAI

The feedback comments on the TRAI consultation paper have revealed that major broadcasters of the country like Star India, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) and Times Network are not in favour of further regulations on over-the-top (OTT) communication services. 

They have said OTTs should not be seen as a substitute for Telecom Service Providers (TSPs). The broadcasters have said that although some OTT services may seem similar to TSPs they are different in many ways like in matters of technology and revenue model. 

Star India has said that OTTs have been licensed under Section 4 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and so the regulator does not have the authority to regulate them. 

The broadcaster said since provisions under Information Technology Act, 2000, are already in place there was no need for further regulation. 

The Justice B N Srikrishna committee has been also working towards reinforcing provisions under Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018. 

Sony Pictures Networks India has said any more regulations could hit the growth of internet applications and platforms.
“We believe no regulatory intervention is required since it could stifle innovation and straitjacket technological innovation and the development of this sunrise sector. A policy of forbearance on regulation (as has been the case so far) should be continued in order to avoid hampering growth in the sector,” SPN said in the submission. 

The broadcaster said telcos must be allowed to avail fair market pricing. 

Times Network also highlighted the differences between OTTs and TSPs and that the services cannot be classed as “similar services” from a licensing perspective. 

“Further, TSPs as ISPs are access providers who control the underlying broadband access infrastructure, with few market players due to high barriers to market entry. By contrast, OTTs do not control the underlying broadband access point, have significantly lower barriers to market entry and are faced with many competing services, unlike TSPs. Consumers can add or stop using OTTs at will whereas switching between TSPs involves incurring the cost for the consumer and generally involves a longer relationship,” the broadcaster added in the submission. 

ZEEL too submitted its response to TRAI on behalf of its digital arm ZEE5. It has said that there is no issue of a non-level playing field between OTT service providers and TSPs, providing similar services as both OTT providers and TSPs complement each other. 

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