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Vidnet 2021: Advertisers leveraging OTT platform more than ever

From data-based strategies to finding the right formula to maximise reach and revenue.


NEW DELHI: Advertisers are constantly on the lookout and devising ways to target and engage with consumers. With the world increasingly moving online, digital marketing – and more specifically advertising on OTTs – is becoming a significant part of brands’ media mix. After a stellar run in 2020, where Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, SonyLIV, Disney+ Hotstar and others became household names and saw unprecedented traffic and subscriber gains in the wake of the pandemic, more and more brands are considering going the streaming route to boost their reach and revenue streams.

The subject was discussed at length on the second day of Indiantelevision.com’s flagship event Vidnet 2021, organised in association with Tallycon, Bitmovin, Contiloe, Miptv, and Mipcom. The session titled ‘Advertising on OTT’ saw multiple advertisers such as ITC COO – dairy and beverages Sanjay Singhal, HDFC Bank VP and head digital content Jahid Ahmed, Volkswagen Passenger Cars head-digital marketing & CRM Bhavin Desai, WinZO Games co-founder Saumya Singh Rathore share their thoughts on leveraging the budding medium, with Zee5 chief revenue officer Rajeev Dhal acting as moderator.

Dhal started the discussion by underscoring the growth of streaming services, and how, according to a recent report, two out of three millennials prefer to consume content online. He went on to mention that there will always be a debate on linear TV versus OTT but in his personal view, the two mediums will co-exist as the market is very large for both. He then opened the floor for the brand participants to elaborate how they are looking at these platforms to connect with audiences.


Multiple brands within the ITC portfolio are using the OTT platform for multiple purposes, remarked Singhal, such as building reach and frequency, creating content to develop or change the habit of consumers and implementing brand integrations to generate loyalty.

He illustrated with examples how brands like ITC hotels, Bingo and Aashirvad Aata have leveraged OTT platforms over the last few years. For instance, the FMCG major produced video content around Aashirvad Aata to establish it as an alternative staple diet for the people of south India, who prefer rice over chapatti or parantha. Similarly, during the pandemic, ITC hotels put out digital ad films of its chefs sharing cooking videos for people to show them how great food cooked in hotel kitchens can also be prepared at home. This generated a lot of TOMA for the brand.

Coming from a banking sector, Ahmed stated that his team uses OTTs for multiple campaigns for several new age products. They use OTT for reach, scale, brand safety, programmatic, tracking, and contextual. During IPL 2020, HDFC Bank partnered with Hotstar to push its festive treats campaign to establish the financial platform as a go to place for festive discounts and offers. The choice of OTT worked for the brand because it helped them get traffic, engagement and attention of the audiences even during match time. In fact, the campaign resulted in one billion impressions and a lift of nearly 33 per cent in brand consideration. “This was probably the first time in the world when an OTT could help us identify the first party audiences with a decent match rate,” added Ahmed.

Streaming platforms are also a great way to communicate brand and product awareness, according to insights Desai gained from experience over the past year. He shared that Volkswagen uses OTT from a top funnel perspective, where it aims to build awareness for launches and relaunches. It also partnered with Hotstar for IPL 2020 and got great results. The campaign brought audiences to the website, generated qualified leads too that generated encouraging signs for the brand to continually bet on the platform. They look at OTT from a content perspective, where an in-film placement as a subtle integration adds a lot of aspirational value to the product. They are in conversation with several production houses. They only aim to reach the tier-1 consumers.

On the other hand, Rathore pointed out that one thing that brands do not get on Indian OTT platforms are the limitations to cohort targeting. “While we can define cohorts, it’s not to the extent of what you can do on Facebook and Google and because of that the cost will not be efficient all the time. One must be careful, what time, which inventory and how you would really advertise on these platforms,” she advised.

Sharing a similar sentiment, Ahmed quipped: “The advantage of digital is its disadvantage too. When you say an ad will come on TV at 6 pm, it will come on, the bosses will watch it and be happy. But when you start doing too much cohort targeting, nobody sees the ad.”

Up next, Dhal called on the panellists to offer insights on measuring the impact of advertising and if they believed that TV planning guidelines can be extended to OTT and what are their metrics of success.

Singhal immediately clarified that TV metrics cannot be applied to the medium of OTT. When ITC created a show called Five Star Kitchens, which is now a digital and OTT property, they do not quantify the success on reach but engagement, and the value it creates for the brand.

Furthermore, one has to be very sure of the campaign objectives and plan accordingly, shared Ahmed. If they say that a campaign needs to drive transactions that can be attributed, then it will definitely be a flop. The end measurement for thesuccess of an OTT campaign definitely happens on the back of business growth but direct attribution may not be established at this point of time. However, brand lift study and traffic is what they are looking at.

Bhavin pointed out that one thing OTT platforms can get better at is allowing skippable ads. “It is a medium of choice and as advertisers we only want people who are interested in seeing our ads. It helps us in measurement and retargeting,” he said.

And finally, Rathore concluded by saying that they are a digital first brand and are even able to attribute a source to organic traffic. It is on the back of this attribution that they are able to scale, understand and create a distribution strategy. However, choosing a medium for distribution and advertising is still a function of LTV and CAC.

It is interesting to see that the advertisers are now more open to experiment on the OTT platform and are beginning to see merit in it. 

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