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Vikas Chawla, Co-Founder, and Director of Social Beat explains how more and more funded start ups which were otherwise known to spend on performance marketing have shifted towards brand building efforts

Q] Brand versus performance marketing is an old debate, where do your clients’ preferences lie?
In the early days, digital was predominantly about performance and that is why until about 2-3 years ago, most of the brands focused a lot on performance. Now, we have started to see a more blended approach where brands are willing to invest in brand building. Even if it’s just 5%, 7%, or 10% of the marketing budget, they want to put it on top of the marketing funnel. Brands need a new audience to keep coming in, to know who they are and what they stand for. It is still something that we have to tell clients and CXOs to invest in, but it is definitely getting better.

Q] Which are the brands that are naturally moving towards branding and which are the ones you still have to convince?
We work a lot in the funded startup space where branding is a no-brainer. Those who have raised funds, especially in the direct-to-consumer space, have a lot more at stake, they want the brand to grow faster and with agility. These startups invest a lot on the brand front, on content, and on creating campaigns to engage with audiences. Even retailers who till about a year and a half ago didn’t seem to want to switch to branding have understood that they have to invest in building their brand.
There is a difference in the approach towards branding among the old school companies vis-à-vis new-age companies. Old school brands still believe in doing that one-off big brand campaign once or twice in a year. Actually, the better approach is to always have a top-of-the-funnel campaign to figure out where those bursts in users are coming from.

Q] When you recommend branding to your clients, what are the platforms that you ask them to look at?
We start by figuring out what is the goal that is to be achieved, followed by who the audiences are and lastly the platform. Assuming that the goal is to build awareness and get eyeballs, based on that we decide who the audiences are and on which platform they spend their time. Today people typically spend their time across 4-5 large buckets- OTT entertainment bucket, music, gaming, short form video content and, the last could be reading stuff online. So we would figure out which of these buckets will make sense to you, and if the audience is spread out across all these buckets then depending on the objective we figure out what percentage of spends works best for each platform.

Q] How has OTT specifically helped in building brands?
OTT across the board has picked up a lot in the last two years. One key difference that we have seen between OTT and other platforms is that the attention span of viewers is very high on OTT, a viewer stays glued to the app for a long-duration ranging from 30 minutes to a few hours and that works really well for brands. The viewability rate is high, and thus a high percentage of viewers will actually see your communication. Also the ability to go after a live audience basis your target segment and the location is really powerful, and something that no other platform provides today and this holds true specifically in the case of Disney+ Hotstar.

Q] How do clients measure ROAS (Return on Ad Spends), ROI as far as brand-building efforts are concerned?
Measuring ROI is probably the biggest challenge for brand building efforts. One tangible way of doing it is to undertake brand lift studies though not all brands can afford it. The second is to look at the audience’s journey over the next 30 or 60 days after they have watched your content. Some of them may check out your app or website, a few may actually convert. The last is to isolate some of these large brand campaigns to figure out what has been the difference after the campaign was over-- higher average orders, higher average number of inquiries once the campaign is paused etc. That gives you a good sense of what really is the impact of the campaign. Of course not all brands believe that they are the true metrics to track.

Q] Can you give us examples of big or small branding campaigns that have successfully run on OTT?
We have worked with brands that heavily leveraged OTT, like Khatabook which got Dhoni on board as the brand ambassador and then used the entire cricketing season to build visibility and awareness on Disney+ Hotstar. We looked at what is the delta of average users, coming to the app pre-campaign and post-campaign during IPL. The idea wasn’t really to drive response today, but to make Khatabook a brand that people, shop owners and retail stores owners across the country know. Similarly we have worked with clients in the real-money gaming industry, in finance, and BFSI space.
During the IPL and cricketing period we were not just looking at audience on Disney+ Hotstar, but were also tracking the audiences further to bring them back through retargeting across other channels even after the match. The beauty of OTT is that you don’t need to have large budgets, three to four lakhs are enough to start within your own city, if required- in your own location, and then you can scale it up from there.

Q] Most brands have an audience-driven or a content-driven approach for branding campaigns on OTTs?
For most of our clients, we do prefer an audience-first approach, in some cases; we also look at the content-first approach. Also, we often come across a question: Should I leverage IPL at all or should I leverage entertainment. It’s true that IPL is more expensive, but it gives you a much higher brand recall, and a much higher brand lift because of its large viewership, whereas the audience is fragmented in entertainment. No one’s watching the same show at the same time, so your ability to build that virality is harder during the entertainment shows.

Q] And within OTT platforms which are the most popular ones amongst brands?
Disney+ Hotstar has a significantly higher market share compared to other players, it is also more popular from an advertiser’s perspective because of live cricket combined with great shows and content across genres. Other OTT channels are still trying to catch up with Disney+ Hotstar. It is also about getting more of a premium audience, which many brands and advertisers are looking for. So Disney+ Hotstar has the best content out there, and brings the right audience. But it’s not to say that we don’t use other OTTs. We do leverage other OTT platforms for branding, but it gets the lion’s share of the campaign spends.

Q] What would be your advice to the brand that is evaluating branding as the next step?
Do a pilot and see if you want to scale it up. There are so many opportunities emerging in the OTT space. You can even tie up directly with creators of shows, also with actors on the shows to have a more integrated approach towards OTT. It’s not just about showing an ad before as a pre-roll but how you actually integrate with the content of the series.

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Tags : marketing OTT Neeta Nair start-ups Vikas Chawla Social Beat Disney+Hotstar