Guest Column: The importance of competitor mapping: Vivek Singh, Co-founder, Adby Ventures

Vivek Singh, Co-founder of Adby Ventures, delves into how competitive mapping technologies are enabling marketers to look at all their competition ads and placements in one place

e4m by Vivek Singh
Updated: Sep 4, 2017 7:43 AM

As an intern in a newspaper business a decade back, I have seen countless people-hours being spent every morning with competition newspapers and 12” rulers. People measured each ad that appeared on each page of those newspapers and then tabulated it in the famously called the Missing Reports. Ad sales teams and their bosses would look at these reports (with a bit of resentment, I guess). And they would try to figure out how many of those sq. cms. of advertisements should have or could have come to them.


Through my fresh intern eyes, I was pretty impressed with this systematic approach at competitive intelligence. However, the real actionability from these Missing Reports was low. An ad printed could never be withdrawn and most of those deals lost could not be won in a post-facto effort.


And still, I realized, the newspaper people were the luckier ones! It is only here that the competitor's performance is published every day for everyone to see. Most other businesses have been relying on informal information and conjectures floating in the market. This partial information creates blind spots. And unfortunate marketers sometimes fall into the holes created through this blindness.


Why is Competitor Mapping important

Competition mapping has been an essential part of all plays. Whether it be war, sports or business, it has always provided an offensive and defensive strategic context to the player.


Agassi vs. Becker (1988-1999):


“Becker beat me the first three times we played,” Agassi told in an interview to Uncriptd.


“I watched tape after tape of him and I started to realise he had this weird tick thing with his tongue.”


Agassi explains that just before Becker tossed the ball on his serve he would stick his tongue out. The direction of his tongue would give away the direction of his serve in advance. The discovery led to Agassi's victory in 10 out of 11 meetings which followed.


“The hardest part was not letting him know that I knew this.”


“I told Boris after he retired... He fell off the chair... He said ‘I used to go home and tell my wife — it’s like he reads my mind’. Little did I know you were just reading my tongue.”


Competitive Intelligence Then


The traditional approach to competitive intelligence relies on really tiny tidbits of data. Small pieces of information flow in an ad hoc manner to a manager. Sales teams, marketing teams, vendors and channel partners might choose to part with some understanding that they have on the competition. However, apart from being incomplete, this data is highly biased. Vendors might have a reason to over quote how much they sell to your competitor. Sales teams have a bias to over impress upon competition's strengths as they feel the heat every day. Marketing members might want to over-emphasize the strength of their plans. This type of approach gives you a lens which is not only broken but also wrongly coloured. You never get to see the real target and take a good aim.


Brands and retailers send their researchers in stealth mode to scan for prices across different stores. However, this happens too little and too late. The model is not scalable using humans. Marketers try to keep a repository of campaigns being run by their competitors. However, this too is based highly on chance and the collectors of this information might have internal biases and agendas.


Competitive Intelligence Now


Technology has changed the engineering behind competitive intelligence as well. Tools like Amazon's Alexa are bringing in information about my competitor's traffic trends. Price crawlers are mapping and comparing the entire catalogue of online marketplaces every day. This is important information for a brand who wants to watch their pricing against competition across all marketplaces. 


Competitive mapping technologies are enabling marketers to look at all their competition ads and placements in one place. And the publishers do not need to manually record Missing Reports either.  Innovative and unique tools are scanning and mapping ads running on the internet. In one place, a marketing or sales team can look at the complete advertising and ad-sales strategy of their competitor. Who's running what ads, and when and where, are all available to be retrieved at the click of a button. Publishers like Jagran group, Hindustan Times group, Network 18 Group and Bloomberg group are using these repositories to track new revenue opportunities. Using the tool, marketers like RummyCircle, HDFC Life, JungleeRummy, Vodafone, Birla Sunlife and more are keeping a tab on their competitor's digital strategies.


We've come a long way from the days of the Missing Reports. Technology is making sure that not much is missing when it comes to tracking your competition.


The author is the co-founder of Adby Ventures, which focuses on providing competitive media intelligence. In past, he has led marketing and analytics for after working with HT Media's print and internet divisions.


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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