Social distancing places unique spotlight on our industry: Sonia Singh, Collectcent

Sonia Singh, Co-founder & Director for Business strategy, Collectcent, shares with exchange4media the data-driven performance advertising company’s offerings, growth strategies & more

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Jun 15, 2020 8:43 AM
Sonia Singh

The lockdown and resultant slowdown has put a spoke in the wheels of many businesses. But for Sonia Singh, Co-founder & Director for Business strategy at Collectcent, which is one of the top data-driven performance advertising companies in India, it is more about using the opportunity to be great at what they were otherwise just good at.

In a conversation with exchange4media, Singh spoke in detail about the ad tech space, Collectcent’s offerings, growth strategies and more.


A lot of marketers are changing the way they advertised courtesy the lockdown, what kind of trends do you see in the ad tech space?
The pandemic might have thrown many economies into uncertainty but the whirlwind of challenges has not dimmed marketers’ confidence in spending on advertising specially the one in performance side in our partnership. The underlying logic is simple - the type of content users watch will certainly change as a result of social distancing, but the rate at which they consume media will likely hold steady, or even increase. Having said that, the last three months we have witnessed & worked with our advertisers modifying strategies at various levels of pricing, promotion and packaging. The objectives of campaigns are now more performance-centric adding to layers of parameters to measure engagement and retention of acquired users. We were early in the race to notice and adapt to the change this crisis was bringing along and will continue to evolve. This realization, and a willingness from partners to invest in the User Acquisition advertising, dovetails with rising adoption of newer campaigns in different sectors and GEOs. We know that the tunnel may be long, but there is definitely light at the end of it – because we see it.

Do you see more and more advertisers who were more mass media led earlier focusing on digital advertising in a big way now? What kinds of sectors are advertising more?
Social distancing, while being the new norm, also places a unique spotlight on our industry. The more society leans into social distancing, the more each of us will rely on digital media, to keep us informed, working, learning and entertained. Knowing the fact that internet consumption has gone up between 50 to 70% and there are more users available at digital ads spots, I am sure everyone is thinking of ways to cater to this new outgrown audience. So yes - nearly all advertisers are adjusting their media plans and taking a turn from more traditional to digital advertising. Each brand is adapting differently to consumer needs and sentiments. In India, whilst e-commerce, travel, and food delivery advertising spends saw downturns, we are witnessing a huge surge in demand for verticals like OTP, gaming, entertainment, fitness and utility that stand to benefit from this differential consumer mindset.

Tell us about the unique offerings you have for your clients.
Our unique offering is layered in different aspects. On one end of the spectrum are our people and we take pride in the fact that we have 95% of retention rate in an industry known for high turnovers. These are the resources who have been a part of the organisation for the last 5-6 years – they have seen the performance industry evolve and have grown with it – they are invested and own subject matter expertise in their respective domains. On the other end of the spectrum is our technology that differentiates us in the programmatic and performance industry we are in. Our proprietary technology, though at a cost to us, is our base. We are constantly evolving our supply, demand side platforms and optimisation platform and offer walls which is all in-house and gives us stronger control in delivery of campaigns and optimising to achieve the desired goals of all our advertisers. Our 24/7 operations support is our magic sauce that binds these two ingredients in a delicious recipe. Our team of 200+ members cater to demand and supply needs ensuring business-as-usual irrespective of geography and time zones.

What kind of growth has Collectcent seen in India in the past one year and at a time when the market is witnessing a slowdown what steps are you taking to keep up the growth momentum?
We are witnessing a dramatic disruption to work and daily lives as a result of the pandemic. But nothing sparks innovation like a crisis. This is a time we don’t talk of survival alone. We can’t just think about ourselves but also about the impact we have on our ecosystem, our partners and society as a whole. Change is inevitable – Collectcent’s revenues on the performance side of the business had almost doubled last year when the global pandemic hit us in the last quarter. It was not about how we do what we are do but rather about how we’ll do what we are doing in the new world. This is a time when as an organization we are asking ourselves – what are we good at that we can be great at. Our partners have stood by us and have watched us reinvent industry outlooks, and have allowed us to consult them on how they can shift from the survival to the reinvention mode themselves. This is a strongly optimistic and symbiotic relationship that we will cherish now and later. Our diverse portfolio of clients have made an impact on how we re-strategized our internal synergies and adapted to this new constant.

What are the biggest challenges you are facing right now? Are you looking at the Covid-19 crisis as an adversity or an opportunity?
According to a media buyer survey lead by Forbes, 25% of 400 respondents across the globe have paused all advertising for the first and second quarters, and another 46% have adjusted, or plan to adjust, their spending during the first half of the year. So if I say this pandemic has not affected us would be like frying ice on a hot pan. We took very early measure especially because we also extend accommodation to over 50% of our employees. And we had to ensure many were back in their homes before the lockdown in the safest way possible. And the ones who stayed back had everything to make through the Lockdown. Our daily lives are influenced in more ways than expected. Retail operations have closed their doors, remote work has increased exponentially, digital and search ad budgets are taking a hit, and uncertainty abound. But it is definitely a glass half filled - an adversity that brought opportunities along for both the industry and us, as an organization. As an organization, we are building an existential reflex and a powerful positive attitude – an attitude to adapt to what we are facing, to be and to feel to be in control, to have an infinite mindset, and to go back to work every day knowing that this, just like everything else, will pass.

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