'Mobile has come of age as a medium that can deliver on all needs of the Indian marketer'

Vasuta Agarwal, SVP and Managing Director, Asia Pacific at InMobi, talks about the key trends in the mobile-tech industry & more

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: Sep 29, 2021 9:57 AM
Vasuta Agarwal

India has emerged as a mobile-first consumer economy thanks to the massive digitisation underway in the country driven in part due to COVID-19 pandemic. The massive growth in app downloads and average time spent on mobile has given a huge fillip to mobile advertising. Bengaluru-based ad-tech firm InMobi is riding the growth in mobile advertising not just in India but in other parts of the world including countries like Japan, South Korea, South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, Australia, and New Zealand. exchange4media caught up with Vasuta Agarwal, SVP and Managing Director, Asia Pacific at InMobi, to talk about the key trends in the mobile-tech industry.




What progress has InMobi made in the last 18 months?

Since the pandemic, the advertising industry has witnessed a surge in digital adoption, making it the second largest channel by ad spends. And mobile accounts for 60% of this digital ad spend in the country. Be it branding or performance, mobile has come of age as a medium that can deliver on all the needs of the Indian marketer. In this endeavour, InMobi’s programmatic platforms are helping leading brands attain mobile marketing maturity using real-time insights, personalized creative, and automated media buying.

To ensure that leading brands and our partners can maximize impact from the InMobi programmatic platforms, we have introduced several key platform and partner-led initiatives keeping an eye on the growing demands and trends in the ecosystem – be it advertisers or publishers. For instance, we have announced the availability of blended in-game advertising to help brands across the globe drive unintrusive native ads within mobile games and launched our UnifID solution to streamline and simplify identity resolution for publishers. We have also joined the HUMAN Collective, which includes a direct integration with HUMAN’s MediaGuard solution, enforcing both companies’ commitment to building a transparent and fraud-free in-app advertising ecosystem with real-time visibility and active protection against malicious bot activity. And with the increasing focus on digital, we announced the availability of InMobi Pulse’s Brand Lift Solution on The Trade Desk platform. This partnership will help brands deterministically quantify the incremental brand effect of their campaigns across digital media — mobile web, desktop, and in-app.


How are advertisers leveraging ad-tech solutions launched by InMobi?

InMobi’s end-to-end programmatic platforms help brands deliver on their key tasks either independently or together. For instance, a digital-first brand that intends to drive more transactions on its app would primarily use the InMobi DSP. However, often, we see clients benefiting from the unified leverage of all the platforms. The biggest example of the various platforms coming together is how Godrej Consumer Products utilized the end-to-end InMobi solution to deliver personalized video communications at scale. 


Has the expectation of your clients undergone a change in the last few years, and how?

The overall interest and understanding of mobile programmatic has grown manifold over the last year and a half. Programmatic enhances efficiency, efficacy, and transparency for every marketer – be it branding or performance. And with the availability of real-time intelligence and measurability across the board on mobile, brands are investing more in transparent and efficient media buying and to enhance impact from their first-party data.


InMobi is a global tech company with a presence in multiple markets. What are your expansion plans?

InMobi is present across all major markets in Asia Pacific including Japan, South Korea, South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, Australia, and New Zealand. We have enhanced our presence via in-market leadership and teams, strengthened our offerings through strategic regional partnerships such as with WPP in India, Gojek in Southeast Asia and The Trade Desk across APAC, and contributed to shaping the future of the ecosystem by collaborating with industry bodies such as Interactive Advertising Bureau and Asia Video Industry Association. Undoubtedly, programmatic is expected to be the preferred method of media buying across Asia Pacific over the next couple of years and we will continue to double down on our efforts to enable brands with the best-in-class offerings.


What opportunity do you see in India's mobile-first market, and what are your key focus areas in the market?

The tremendous digitalization that India experienced in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it a leading mobile-first consumer economy, according to InMobi's Annual Mobile Marketing Handbook 2021 report. India has had a four-times greater YoY growth rate in app downloads than the global average (7% YoY) in 2020. Mobile and the app economy is not just owning consumer’s share of screen time with 4.5 hours daily but is also the primary screen for learning, exploring, and buying online or offline.

According to a marketers’ survey in the same report, 69% of marketers intended to spend more money on online channels post pandemic, with 87% respondents expected to increase their spends on in-app advertising. However, most brands are still in the nascent and early stages of their mobile marketing maturity and InMobi is keen to guide brands and marketers along this journey.


How big is the programmatic advertising market in India, and where do you see it three years down the line?

Programmatic is growing in popularity among marketers in India and will continue to witness steady growth as transparency, efficiency, and efficacy become primal for all digital marketing efforts.


With platforms like Google and Apple taking/announcing strong measures on user privacy, what impact will this have on the digital advertising market in India?

The industry needs an identity infrastructure to deliver meaningful user experiences while respecting privacy preferences of consumers. While Universal IDs (UIDs) recognize users across different platforms and can help advertisers reach, engage, and connect with them, collaborating with multiple UID partners involves multiple integrations. This means separate legal contracts per each identity partner, along with deployment, activation, and post-activation workflows for each one, which would be time-consuming and operationally challenging for any individual publisher.

To address this challenge, InMobi has launched UnifID, which serves as an all-in-one identity solution for in-app publishers, enabling them to select and integrate seamlessly across multiple leading Universal ID partners, such as Liveramp, ID5, and Birtepool. This solution will help publishers make their audiences accessible to advertisers on any exchange or network while scaling revenues. This one-stop solution means publishers can integrate with multiple identity providers, with minimal legal, integration, and operational work involved. Furthermore, UnifID is an open platform solution that publishers can use to work in conjunction with other external ad tech partners. Advertisers benefit from this integration as they can gain access to a diverse and premium publisher universe, made possible with the flick of a switch. At its heart, UnifID honours privacy regulations across platforms and geographies, allowing advertisers to reach addressable users who have opted in.


What are the emerging trends in the Indian mobile marketing industry, and what will drive future growth for the sector?

To identify the trends in the mobile marketing industry, one needs to be cognizant of key consumer shifts such as:

  1. The app economy has become all pervasive with categories such as groceries, daily essentials, personal care needs etc. all becoming available with a tap on the doorstep. The three biggest gainers in 2020 have been 1. Hyperlocal commerce, 2. Entertainment and 3. Payments. Even your neighborhood cobbler accepts payments via an app today. 
  2. Mobile is the key to learn, explore and buy for most consumers – according to an InMobi survey conducted in Aug 2021, 2 in 3 consumers discover, research, and buy using their mobiles. While India added millions of first-time online shoppers this year, their primary device was the mobile. 
  3. Shifting media consumptions: Entertainment has a new face with OTT, short-form videos, and casual gaming. The time spent on entertainment apps in India grew by 22%, digital subscription of OTT players grew by 47%, and revenues grew by 26% in the last year.

 As a result, we will see that programmatic, video, consumer intelligence, and search on mobile will continue to feature as the biggest trends and gainers in the industry.


The user dependence on the internet for daily needs is growing, do you think search advertising will become even more crucial for brands and marketers going forward due to this trend?

It is most definitely going to see a positive growth trend! Since the outbreak of the pandemic, individuals have spent more time on their smartphones, driving brands to invest in search advertising. As per a report by InMobi, search advertising has grown steadily as a digital medium in India, accounting for about 25% of digital media spending. While some brands leverage this medium to achieve their performance goals, others are leveraging it to create a smarter customer journey and reach the right audience with the right message.


2021 is a sports heavy year, and a lot of chatter on the internet is also around sporting events. What opportunity does this present to brands?

Yes. The connected consumer’s sports research, engagement, consumption, and sharing is all happening on apps as they watch live matches, engage in ball-by-ball updates and commentary, and search and discover the latest content across various apps. This presents brands with a unique opportunity to marry mobile-first consumer intelligence with creative innovation and target audiences intelligently.

Since no other sport captures the attention of readers better than Cricket, I can share an example from IPL 2021. In the first half of this year’s IPL, to reinforce the core brand communication #CLEARHAI and to serve as a chilled-out escapade for its audience, the brand partnered with us to conceptualize and launch the Sprite Cricket Premier League (CPL) - a highly engaging virtual cricket tournament that allowed users to choose and play for a city of their choice.

The brand helped young India hit “Refresh” via the CPL on Glance, the leading lockscreen platform. Smartphone users discovered the game during the natural course of engaging with content on Glance. As the game loaded, a 15-second glimpse of the latest Sprite campaign video delivered the message and captured any intent generated by taking them to the Coke2Home page to purchase the product or leading e-commerce platforms to instantly complete the transaction.

While this is just one example, there are several such brands that are leverage the potential of mobile to its fullest around the sports season.


The gaming segment has emerged as the big winner due to the pandemic. Will gaming sustain its growth, and how can brands leverage gaming as a media vehicle to reach a captive audience?

Gaming will continue to sustain its growth. And therefore, there are 4 key elements to Doing Advertising Right on Mobile Gaming.

  1. Brands new to advertising on gaming need to leverage programmatic to Identify the category of games and genres that their core target audience is most likely to engage with. For instance, an FMCG brand intending to target women can include casual, board, and puzzle games as the best fit in their media planning.  
  2. Gaming is an extremely evolved and advanced arena when it comes to ad experiences. However, brands must be cognizant of the ad formats (vertical/ horizontal/static/ dynamic) and orientation of the game to deliver the most seamless experience and prevent user friction.
  3. Brands must leverage rewarded videos – a placement where players watch the ad in its entirety in exchange for game currency or progress rewards, to maximize exposure and thus drive better CTRs and conversion rates. This type of ad is entirely opt-in and typically generates far higher viewability/ engagement and downstream metrics for brands.
  4. Blended in-game advertising is the latest innovation in the field of gaming advertising and it naturally places ads in the game’s existing environment. For instance, Vodafone branding and advertisements appeared on in-game digital billboards in Trackmania, a mobile racing game, in a way that mimicked real-life advertising on physical racetracks for realism. When combined with programmatic technology, advertisers can further personalise ads to the player without breaking immersion, thereby creating the ideal combination of more effective, less disruptive ads.

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