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In-depth: How brands can seamlessly place ads on OTTs without disrupting viewer experience

As viewers become intolerant towards ads, seamlessly weaving ads into content is important for brands and OTT players. talks to industry experts to learn how much and in which format OTT platforms should carry advertising without hampering the user experience and compromising brand value

By 2020, the over-the-top (OTT) media service market in India is expected to be among the global top 10, touching approximately Rs 5,363 crore, according to reports.

So while brands and advertisers do leverage the platform’s advertising potential, one cannot ignore the fact that as more content is being churned out, advertising inventory is becoming infinite on video OTT platforms unlike the traditional television.

Increasingly, OTT is cutting out a bigger slice of the advertising pie for itself. The growing acceptance for the medium, its ever-increasing viewer base and the fact that brands can target minute details, are some of the reasons why marketers are willing to spend and depend on the platform.

But it is rather obvious that viewers pay to OTT platforms to watch content and not ads. And in the race to make their own experience seamless while watching content, they prefer to ignore and close ads irrespective of the brand.

In such a scenario, OTT players need to ensure that their, as well as the brand/advertiser’s, message reaches the right customer at the right time without being disruptive in nature.

As OTT platforms and advertisers learn when exactly not to interrupt the viewing experience of users, talks to stakeholders to understand why brands choose the platform for ad placements. They discuss how seamlessly they can put forward their messaging without compromising on user experience.

Akash Banerji

Akash Banerji, Business Head, Voot, said the beauty of the platform is that it has all the information about consumption behaviour of the audiences and so brands can actually personalise ads for every single consumer.

Second, brands can know the exact ROI of their campaigns. For every different objective and for different goals, by spending money on OTT platforms, brands can know what they have helped to achieve.

However, it is essential for brands to look at the subscriber demography while selecting any of these platforms for communication. While a handful of OTT platforms today have a certain kind of following, some of them cater to diverse audiences. Some are strong in regional languages while others are strong with millennials. With AVOD platforms particularly, brands can look at integrating with content in a smart manner.

For instance, with TVF’s Tripling, the car becomes part of the storyline. The brand has spontaneously used content for better involvement, which is very seamlessly integrated into the show and the storyline.

Rahul Sarangi

If not done seamlessly, the viewer experience stops. In short, brands should target OTT platforms when content and brand values are similar, said Rahul Sarangi, Global Head, Content and Business, The Viral Fever.

Karan Bedi

One must understand that branding is much more than a cool logo or a well-placed advertisement; it’s a process, said Karan Bedi, CEO of MX Player.

There is no set rule as to how one should choose a platform, as it largely depends on the audience segmentation for a brand’s offering. Knowing the pulse of its audience is key and then the sky and budget, of course, is the limit. 

Discussing how well brands and platforms have understood the concept of user experience, he said, “Without understanding this, at best you create an ‘all-in-one’ experience that reaches everyone but talks to no one. And that is the crux of the OTT segment — personalisation.”

OTT is made for personal viewing, and requires an individual to take time out of their busy schedule to consume content. Keeping this in mind, user experience has to be top priority for any brand and platform.

But how much and in which format should OTT platforms carry advertising that doesn’t hamper the user experience and also doesn’t compromise on giving maximum value to the brands?

Brands and OTT players have learned the importance of user experience in an obvious manner. Stickiness and engagement is key to any kind of content to retain a viewer’s experience.

 “The thumb rule comprises two kinds of integration — passive and active in the same half hour slot. Else the brand call out is extremely literal and the user experience gets harmed. With seamless integration, the audience remains engrossed to the storyline rather than being disrupted by the brand values of the displayed product. The logic or ethos of the brand and the story has to be told in similar lines,” said Sarangi.

One format is in-content or native advertising. It gives far more value and credibility. Branded content done right is beneficial to both the brand and the platform. Not all ads affect UI/ UX, said Bedi, especially when the ad is talking to the right TG. More so, when it is placed at the right time, it is in fact quite unobtrusive. Native advertising is being accepted in a big way, it simply depends on the treatment and innovation that brands offer, he said.

Bikram Basu

Bikram Basu, Chief Operating Officer, Allied Blenders Distillers, said, “If you are reaching out to an evolved audience, then the smarter way to do it is to integrate yourself in their existing content and not standout separately as a very obvious branding. However, a lot of the smaller platforms are now actually monetising watching ads. So they are actually encouraging their free users to watch the ads, playing this slightly differently so that viewers also don’t get irritated watching the ads and earn from it.”

How does one measure the experience of any user in terms of whether an ad actually was disruptive or not?

Recall for the brand or the content showcased is the yardstick here, Sarangi said.

“Taking example of TVF’s Pitchers, the storyline has seamlessly integrated the ethos of the brand Kingfisher to stay synonymous with its sub-culture and simultaneously, measures the experience of any user in terms of whether the brand was disruptive or not. Any platform properly integrated with larger reach benefits the platform players to reap any brand on board,” he said.

Bedi added, “To measure the experience of any user in terms of whether an ad actually was disruptive or not, different platforms have varied means of measurement but the watch time trends as well as the completion rates on the platform are a good indication of whether an ad has served its purpose or not.”

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