In a recent interview with Pitch Magazine, Dippak Khurana, our MD & CEO, spoke about how Vserv wants to become the No 1 player in emerging markets, in the next two years. Dippak also shared his thoughts on which way mobile advertising is heading. Excerpts:

Dippak-Khurana-Vserv

What are the trends that you see in the mobile ad network today?
The mobile ecosystem in India, currently, is highly fragmented with app developers and publishers. So the content creation for these millions of users is done by a variety of independent developers – small and media enterprises to large media houses. Because of massive fragmentation of content creation, the role of the ad network in this ecosystem has gained significant importance. As an ad network, I can consolidate an audience, which is spread across multiple apps and multiple publishers. We create various audience profiles and segments and over and above that from a technology point of view, the ad network apart from consolidating this fragmentation, brings in the layer of superior targeting and superior technology.

What is the differentiating factor between feature phones and smartphones when it comes to advertising? Which one has a larger share and why?
India is a free market unlike the developed markets, where people buy devices through a carrier and the carrier subsidizes the cost. Here they want a Samsung or a Nokia and have a brand loyalty towards a specific brand. Of the 120 million mobile internet users in India today, almost 85 percent of the users are browsing the internet using smarter feature-phones. The major focus is around content consumption than the make or model. We just know how to consume the content from any device. Right from a metro like Mumbai to a guy in Bareli, he discovers himself that which device is good for him to browse content.

Do you think the mobile space is underpenetrated in terms of advertising spends?
For the last two years, we have been advocating this to the market and bringing them up to speed. When you reach out to a mobile internet user, you are reaching out to a pan India audience. Traditionally, for them when they were reaching through the digital, through the PC, they knew that 80 per cent of the digital audience of the PC would come from the metros. With mobile that is not the case. Traditional digital advertising on PC is shifting to mobile. As marketers, when they looked at the digital advertising space two years back, they would look at PC users, who came from Tier-I or Tier-II cities.

Today, when you talk about digital advertising on the mobile phone, marketers are getting more aware that only 10 per cent of the users are from the metros and 90 per cent of the users are from the rest of the country. And on mobile, which has a uniform presence, they can get across them too through this platform.

Is there a gap between what marketers understand about this medium and how they use it?
Yes, there is a gap, but I would not at all blame them. First of all, mobile marketing has started gaining traction in the last two years only. A digital marketer has seen the advent of Facebook, the advent of Twitter, and other social media platforms and even videos on Youtube, and all had to learn it all in just little time. They will have to invest in people and get up to speed with this.

Do you think that display ads are the major focus as of now? Why?
Majority of the marketers that are traditional in approach, look at display. Some give equal importance to both search and display. As I said earlier, they have had a lot to learn in the last two years. Whenever there’s a new form of advertising, it takes time for marketers to understand and build capabilities and refine a two to three years period.

From a marketers perspective, what are the advertising needs on the mobile space?
It’s not about what I should do on mobile. It is about what my audience is doing on mobile. “Is my audience browsing heavily on the phone?” is the question marketers look at. If he sees that the audience is active as a mobile internet user and does ‘ABC’ activity, then he has a reason to embrace that medium. Now with most marketers who know clearly that the most important screen today is the mobile screen, as it is in everybody’s hands. It is the biggest real estate and has the maximum share as far as the user is concerned.

People are not spending time in front of the TV as they are on mobile. This screen is there for 7-8 hours in front of you, where users spend on average 30 minutes of active browsing in a day. Marketers are seeing that while television is getting the maximum eyeballs between 6 PM and 9 PM in the evening, a mobile phone is with you throughout the day. During the 12-hour-period, the user engages with the mobile screen during the course of day. Marketers know that people are doing that.

What are the key challenges that you see in this space from your point of view as an ad network?
Whether it is the advertising agency or the marketers, like for any other new medium, they have to learn the possibilities on this medium and understand the ecosystem in a short time. But how fast can they learn and leverage this medium, is the big question.

The second challenge is if they are committed to the medium, how fast they can put dedicated resources who can invest 12 hours a day to deal with opportunities on this medium. In the last six to 12 months, we have met marketers who are focussed and are setting up teams in a dedicated manner dedicated manner who will handle the opportunity on mobile or digital advertising.

They know that the country has a scalable audience in terms of 120 million mobile internet users currently, growing up to 250 million in the next two years. If they don’t invest into the learning today, they will lose out.

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