From revolution to evolution - Digital monetisation & metrics: Ankoor Dasgupta, SHEROES

Guest Column: Dasgupta, VP - Brands, Marketing & Special Projects, SHEROES talks about the need to build trust & spend less time pushing products & experiences via content enabling engagement

e4m by Ankoor Dasguupta
Updated: Mar 6, 2019 9:07 AM
Ankoor Dasgupta

A decade back did anyone of us think that Airbnb’s valuation will be greater than Hyatt and Starwood/Marriott combined? The competitors of Mercedes Benz were BMW & Lexus. Now it is Tesla, Uber and Google as well!  The competitors of Walmart were Target & Costco. Now it is Amazon and Alibaba as well. For Comcast, it was Time Warner & Verizon. Now it is Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon Vs Netflix & YouTube. 

Even threat of entry is now enough. Just few years back, if we recall public company executives talking Amazon on earnings calls where Amazon was rumoured to enter the pharmacy business and in two days the Walgreens stock from $76.95 to $70.87.

Now, before arriving at three key questions that we would want to ask ourselves as stakeholders of this ecosystem, let me set some context by rewinding a bit to 2007-2010. 

I was with Yahoo! that time. Yes, Yahoo with an exclamation mark and purple meant Yahoo. Also, I did a stint with a WPP group agency. Bombarded with learnings of jargons which at times was overwhelming.  That time, media planning was quite a manual task, mostly on excel sheets and if there was ever an advertising & media black book, maybe we would have lookup function on the front page. Booking inventory as Class I and Class II, segmented as premium and remnant inventory respectively, automated media buying, Real Time Bidding (RTB) and ad exchanges were that time what may be 3D printing is to now. And those days these 3 publishers were by-default a part of every media plan – MSN, Yahoo & Rediff (I can see head nodding). And of course, no questions on why they were. At that time, I was positive about one thing in this space – mobile being the screen of choice and evolving to be the most measurable medium for the sheer ability to target precise audiences to become a game changer.
Essentially CPM (cost per mille), CPC (cost per click), CPA (cost per acquisition) and CPS (cost per search or cost per sale) were the key models of planning the inventory where CPM essentially means ‘Brand’ and rest all ‘performance’.  I recall, my then boss and I were having a discussion over some media plan and he suddenly posed ‘Why don’t we just back-calculate and arrive at the desired outcome’. I was like – ‘back calculate?’ Lest did I know that even ‘back-calculate’ had become a jargon. Almost everything started to be back calculated! While I write this, I do ask you to ponder on the answer to the question – do clicks inherently shed the required light on brand building and impact? 

CPI (cost pet install) was a newer trend that time in ‘performance’ driven marketing. It was slightly easy then, combating the media planning game and probably the two technologies that were riding very high were the Ad Serving platforms and the pioneers of the new rock music in town - digital marketplace – Right Media Exchange and Double Click Ad Exchange which revolutionised the way we do digital business. Then a big bang of such marketplaces mushroomed globally. Daily manual optimisations at frequency capping level and creative level make it easier to manage way of Ad Server and Mediation business.

Imagine the Ad Exchange like a stock exchange. Only the largest brokerage houses actually plug into, say, the NYSE. In the Ad Exchange world, those are the large online publishers (sellers) — websites like portals, entertainment sites and news sites. Ad networks and agency holding companies that operated networks (buyers)—companies that connected web sites with advertisers. 

And then, the evolution to screen getting smaller, subscription-based model, Mobile-first approach, Programmatic media buying and selling. According to Criteo, users browse 286 per cent more products in apps than the mobile web. It should also be noted that according to eMarketer, app usage has increased to 86 per cent compared to 14 per cent of time spent on mobile web. 

Additionally, the diversity of the types of apps emerging is a tell-tale sign that apps are becoming just as versatile as the mobile web. One of the key learnings is – if the user has your mobile app installed, always utilise deep links to send them to the app as deep links allow brands to send users to the exact content they clicked on, say in the marketing email. Brands like GOAT, use a Deepview on Twitter to deep link their users out of the Twitter app into their GOAT app where users are logged in, leading to increase in revenue. Today, the scope itself within Earned, Owned & Paid Media has significantly widened. With the growing importance of video in business, quite recently, in later part of 2018, inbound marketing and sales platform HubSpot introduced a native video function to its platform, through integration with business video platform Vidyard. This is a good example of deeper collaborations with user experience at the code.

And just last week, Twitter announced that it would stop reporting Monthly Active Users (MAUs) and switching to a new metric called Monetizable Daily Active Users (mDAUs) so as to reflect its audience going forward. Monetizable DAU are the users who log in and access the platform via web or app on any given day that are able to show ads to. I would call it a big step towards ‘recognising the need’ in terms of focussed user engagement as a foothold.

All this made possible primarily by two things - faster adoption of technology and relooking at the way we look at data across industries and in India the transformational growth is visible. 

What is good – revealing of new markets due to faster innovations and the start-up wave. 

What is required — constant whiteboarding of competitive lines and looking at the Blue Ocean vs Read Ocean element.

What is ‘the Kaizen’ — Decision making which is a combination of empirical insights, instinct and structured look at a data point. Like someone well said ‘In God we trust, all others must bring in data’

Our intent - Targeting consumers better and what I always keep talking about - work towards creating the need and making experiences better. And the ‘better’ part will only be possible via ‘how’ we measure rather. 

Today, the Indian ad industry stands at INR 55,960 Crores (~USD 8.6Bn) and is estimated to grow with a CAGR of 11 per cent (2016 – 2020). Digital advertising, which currently stands at INR 8,202 Crores (~USD 1.3 Bn), could jump 2.3 times to INR 18,986 Crores (~USD 2.9) by 2020, increasing at a compound annual rate of 32 per cent. With social media taking the lion’s share of digital ad spends with 28 per cent of all digital media spends made on social media (INR 2,309 Cr), followed by Search at 26 per cent (INR 2,128 CR) and Display at 21 per cent (INR 1,714 CR). Spends on video stands at 19 per cent (INR 1,598 CR) while that on classifieds stand at 6 per cent (INR 452 CR). These numbers are exciting and proves that we are still in business, big time! However, with this excitement, comes deeper responsibility for us. Responsibility to ask the right questions, figure out the method to find the most appropriate answer with MVPs.

Now, coming to three burgeoning questions that we would want to ask ourselves, which I believe is also important for the digital ecosystem to keep at it consistently —

(a) How do we plan to close the chasm of attribution across channels in terms of ‘what it is to the market’ and ‘what it should be to the market’?

My sense – given the increasing fragmentation of platforms and the types of available media, marketers do face the ongoing challenge of being able to baste all the various touch points available to their customers together for a grand view of attribution. Should industries, product line wise look at a Special Task Force that belts out MVPs (Minimum Viable Product) with a focus on ‘Custom Attribution’ – creating your own attribution models using own set of applicable rules for assigning credit to touch points on the ‘conversion path’ and make it a part of one’s GTM strategy? It is not a very long journey if this is tested across all verticals as an Ecosystem Project with stakeholders from key vertical involved. Say BFSI, FMCG, TELECOM, AIRLINES, CONSUMER DURABLES, ECOMMERCE, AUTOMOBILES, MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT. The need for a Unified Metric System.

(b) Do we need to simply discover (not reinvent) a newer monetization model on Brand monies perspective in the scope of businesses?

My sense — As it is there are several revenue models, the CPM being in the vintage scheme of things. Cost-Per Engagement does not yet seem to be taken that seriously, however, I see this becoming a top trend by 2020 as a metric that is customised to businesses and becomes a non-negotiable as it takes a micro view of how many users engaged with a conversation or messaging. Why the need for CPE? Advertisements that value engagement often translate to valuable placements and interactions, which can emphasise brand lift in ways that CPC and CPM models don’t, and the essence of this deal is – Rich experiences with deeper resonance with users, for advertisers. For instance, all-inclusive view counts include ads seen by that fail to load, ads seen by bots, ads that are not viewable and ads that miss target audiences. These all account for wasted Advertising revenue which is an estimated waste of $16.4 Billion in 2017. (Refer Handley, Lucy. “Businesses Could Lose $16.4 Billion to Online Advertising Fraud in 2017: Report.” CNBC. CNBC, 13 Apr. 2017. Web. 06 Feb. 2018.) A Chartbeat study reviewed 100,000 webpages over a one-week period and determined the more time a user engaged with branded material, the more likely a user was to return. So, we need to devise a way to the method we use to find the answers to some of the existing areas of revenue models and how to better it equally from consumer and brand standpoint.

(c) Building a niche with Trust as the new currency 

My sense  — recognising Brand Safety as a concern. For example, we have SEBI for mutual funds, IRDA for insurance. Brands need to keep working consistently towards protecting brand reputation by avoiding inappropriate content, especially with augment in user generated content being monetized for digital ads. Hence, building Trust as the new currency for marketing is going to be imperative. This means that businesses may need to spend far more time building trust and lesser time just pushing products, services and experiences and higher value via content enabling engagement. Data Science and machine learning will keep playing a pivotal role in understanding user psychographics.
We at SHEROES have built and are strengthening such an empathy and trust led space. SHEROES is a women-only network where you can have conversations with your peers, get support and interact directly with experts via the website and the SHEROES App. A safe space that is shaping up the New Internet for Women. Users comprise a mix of working professionals, homemakers, freelancers and students where SHEROES has engineered a digital version of the friend-circle of our youth which is a completely non - judgemental, supportive space. The app also hosts a dedicated helpline where members can talk to our certified counsellors for in-depth support on crisis situations and general questions around their own journey towards empowerment by identifying the need and bridging the gaps between value and a narrative-rich, diverse opinionated audience of women. To bring in more depth and a User-First approach, SHEREOS has made two acquisitions – Babygogo in the parenting category and Maya in women’s health category. 

(The author is the Vice President -Brands, Marketing & Special Projects, SHEROES)

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

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