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Amagi's Mix challenge

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MUMBAI: "Small and medium enterprises that participate in TV advertising, can help broadcasters expand their revenues. While the combined media spends of 100 such SMEs would equate to the TV spends of one of heavyweights in the brand world, SMEs can contribute around 15 per cent of total advertising dollars in India, if trends in other markets are to be believed," Amagi Media Labs co-founder Baskar Subramanian said.

Giving a fresh new twist to the line ‘anything can be bought online these days,’ Amagi recently launched the much-talked-about online media buying and planning platform Amagi Mix that aims to make media buying more inclusive for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the ever-growing start-up companies in India. While the service is currently available for only television buying, Amagi intends to expand it for other media as well.

A senior broadcasting professional and advertising industry expert, however, was skeptical of Amagi Mix calling it an "evaluation biz" that does not focus on profit-making. He did not think Amagi's geo-targeting model was very successful either. He also doubted the broadcasters on board had a bulk inventory on sale on the platform.

But, Amagi Mix, as per Subramanian, is win-win initiative for both broadcasters and brands. On the one hand it allows brands with limited budget to access a national television broadcaster’s reach and customise it to reach its target audience. This is enabled by Amagi's existing geo-targeting technology that allows a single ten second slot to be multiplied according to different regions, so that different advertisement plays on the same spot in different locations.

“TV goes national with the help of satellite signals - which could be DTH or cable - and these then come down to different headends in the country, which pipe the content to your homes. We intercept these signals in each of these headends in thousands of locations in the country. It allows us to change the content only for 10 or 30 secs of the ad slot. We buy one spot which then gets spliffed to different content at the headends,” Subramanian explained, adding that the broadcasters install it on Amagi’s behalf as part of their deal. Some of the networks that Amagi has partnered with for its geo-targeting service are ZEEL, Viacom18 group and Times Network.

“Since we are not competing with the big agencies, we are actually adding or expanding the advertising pie rather than eating away from it,” Subramanian added. It is good for broadcasters to have a variety of advertisers rather than few spenders, because if there is a cost cut in one, it adds more burden to the broadcaster.

Since going online, the platform has already attracted 5500 visitors, some even resulting in buys starting as Rs 25,000 to tens of lakhs. As per Subramanium, the ideal budget for an average SMEs should start at at least Rs 1 lakh to see the effectiveness of a campaign on Amagi Mix.

Given the restricted budget of the said advertisers, Amagi is also offering to create creative content for the ad spots in a cost-effective way. “We also create advertisements for those who don't want to spend a bomb on making ads via big name creative agencies, some of them for as low as Rs 20,000. It is an add-on to our services that ties up well with the rest,” Subramanian informed.

As to how SMEs would embrace being hands-on with the complex work of buying the right TV media mix for themselves, Subramanian clarified that they have deliberately kept the website simple and easy to use. So far, Subramanian observed that Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Delhi have emerged as strong markets where SMEs are interested in buying media online.

The idea was to leave the complex knowledge of media buying at the backend, while brands can concentrate on their simple marketing needs.

“The challenge,” Subramanian said, “is to grow the breadth of media options the SMEs have now. We want to ensure that Amagi Mix is the most trusted platform available to them so that these advertisers, who used to shy away from buying national TV ads thinking it's too expensive, feel comfortable buying online. It's not easy to spend lakhs of rupees on a faceless online transaction. Therefore, making ourselves the most trusted brand is very critical.”

To address this, Amagi has also launched a television commercial, titled ‘Yaari Yaari’ which has gone on-air across Amagi’s vast channel bouquet to educate TV audiences about the viability of the tool. The entire TVC has been scripted, conceptualized, financed, shot, produced and edited in-house at Amagi.

Amagi Mix works on an algorithm that extrapolates and processes historical data of successful campaigns from around 4000 brands to learn and take intelligent decisions for an advertiser using the service.

Currently the service offers an ad inventory of 70 national and regional channels, who are already partners with Amagi for its other services. “It's at a nascent stage now so we don’t have clear figures but channels have come on board with some thousands of 10 seconders for now. We are aiming to broaden the width of channels as well to be more relevant to regional SMEs."

About the kind of commissions Amagi expects from transactions online, Subramanian made it clear that currently they aren’t looking at making money right now. “We haven't really planned the commissions yet. Our primary focus is to make Agami Mix the best place for SMEs to trade in media by making it really user friendly. We will figure out the economics of it once we have established Amagi Mix as the most trusted brand for being media online for SMEs.

He however affirmed that the company expects the platform to reach maturity in 18 months, post which it is expected to contribute 20 per cent of the agency’s overall business.

“We had to wait till online buying became more commonplace in the county. It took us two to three years to be ready with everything, in our wish to give a quality service. Especially for brands in the tier II and tier III cities who often complained about the lack of skills or access to the right media inventory for their campaign needs. Either relevant media agencies didn’t exist there or they didn't have the heavy budget to deal with the media behemoths of the country,” Subramanium shared.

While media reports suggest that the company is looking to raise series D funding of $25 million, Subramanian stated that the company is adequately funded for the time being and looking to execute in three areas -- smooth sailing of Amagi Mix in India expanding into online video business by providing targeted advertising solutions to broadcasters for streaming videos online, and growing its international base.

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