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Guest Column: India poised for programmatic growth: Banisha Singh Anand, Zeotap

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Guest Column: India poised for programmatic growth: Banisha Singh Anand, Zeotap

Programmatic was everywhere in 2017 and it was the buzzword at nearly every industry event. It was all over the office hallways. And for good reason. Programmatic has taken the global advertising market by storm. By that I mean the majority of it. Large parts of Europe are running the lion-share of their digital activities programmatically and the US and the UK are nearing 90 per cent. In India we might not feel the same urgency to adopt programmatic buying because smartphone numbers are skyrocketing and even traditional media like print are still growing.

But programmatic has proven to be superior to former media buying practices simply because it allows us to bring media inventory together with data and buy much more efficiently. Everything is becoming digital and everything is becoming programmatic. There is now programmatic TV and even programmatic out-of-home offerings. Yes, anything new is complex at first, demands attention to be understood, determination to be executed successfully and the perception of programmatic still differs widely. And that is exactly why we should all pack our bags, take a compass and start moving together. 2018 is the perfect year to do just that and here are some things that will be critical when we are on our way-

From Tactical to Strategic
Programmatic demands a strategic approach and focused execution so that knowledge can effectively be built upon and consumer touch points can be better understood. That is difficult in the current market setup because most brands have their media budgets orchestrated by numerous agencies and large parts of the digital budgets are distributed in a tactical manner.

To launch successfully into the programmatic era, any company should assign dedicated resources to the topic. That is why the major agencies have established their trading desks. In the US today after years of programmatic experience it is only natural that these expert resources move from a separate entity at group level into the different agency brands because the knowledge has been centrally built and is now being spread.

Grow Digital Spend, Assign Ample Budgets to Experiment

The good news is that India is a mobile first country from the start. Mobile media timeshare is amongst the highest of all the countries in the world. Yet, as of now only 14 per cent of the total advertising budgets have flown into digital according to the IAMAI and IMRB Kantar in 2016. To come out as an innovator and use all the advantages of programmatic, we all need to learn how to ride this new bike. We need to invest the time and money to use it, we need to have the courage to mount it and we need to experiment and train until we master it and be okay to fall once or twice on the way.

Know Your Audience

It is easy to assign media budgets to others, let them run the campaigns and tick a box at the end of the month according to the relevant KPIs. But it is also dangerous because it comes with the risk of not understanding your consumers and not adapting to their individual journey which can be very different on digital channels compared to the ones we've used for many years. Programmatic truly allows you to understand your audience over time and hence is the best basis for both continuously optimizing strategy and executing successfully. It has long been proven for instance by ComScore that the sales success of a campaign is not related to the click-through rate of a campaign. This is a call for us to go beyond simple KPIs and use programmatic as a tool to establish a more in-depth view of our audience.

De-mystifying Programmatic

Programmatic did not leave the best first impression in India because publishers would first experiment with their remaining inventory and there was hardly any good data available. Hence, setting up the necessary technology to go programmatic was, at first, a frustrating experience and programmatic earned itself a reputation of being expensive because the value in it at the beginning didn't meet the necessary investments. Today, the situation has completely changed and programmatic offers not only the full range of inventory but also powerful audience data. The recent evolution and transparency improvement of the available technology has also shed light on topics such as brand safety, viewability and ad fraud. While those topics could be easily ignored before programmatic took the stage, they can now be tackled and the necessary controls are in place.

Learn and Evangelize Together

Programmatic city does have many districts and streets and it needs some time to know your way around. But the best thing with any new adventure is that nobody expects you to do it alone. In Spain, last year a small group of people started coming together led by the few programmatic experts that existed at that point in time from across the different players in the market. They met in the basement of a digital school in Madrid and discussed their learnings and challenges over a shared beer. Today the Cookie Afterwork is far from being an underground movement and attracts over 100 people every month and has expanded to Barcelona. Programmatic has become a mature and very sizeable discipline and the focus of every organisation involved in digital advertising. Every movement that ever existed has started small and if we just get started here in India, we can build ourselves a playground of possibilities that will keep our companies healthy, us challenged, fulfilled and our clients happy.

(The author is the Head of Business Development at zeotap)

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

Tags ComScore IAMAI IMRB Kantar World Panel programmatic Zeotap Cookie Afterwork

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