The ad-blocking services for the Safari browser that the iOS 9 comes with makes loading pages faster and rids users of annoying pop-up and banner ads. Ads have, beyond being eyesores that hamper user experience on a website, been the primary source of income for websites both new and established. Advertising is an integral part of marketing a product or a brand, and ads have also been a major revenue stream for Google, Facebook and Twitter among other companies. The mobile space is no longer a minor segment of digital marketing. In fact, it comprises quite a large chunk of the pie now, but ad blockers, which effectively prevent mobile sites from getting their ad money, is affecting that revenue stream.
However, ads that won’t be affected by the rising popularity of ad blockers are in-app ads. Alan D’Souza, CEO, Vavia Technologies (a mobile advertising company), told us that they use all the apps that Vavia works with to advertise each other, using the Software Development Kit (SDK) provided by the company. They monetise their client apps by utilising the data they gather on their users’ preferences and online habits. The data doesn’t pinpoint a specific user but gives a general overview of user habits to help build strategies for marketing the app. For instance, if the app in question is an arcade game, the users most likely to download it will be the ones who already have a similar game on their device. That’s one of the factors that they take into account, besides 600 others that include the time of day when a particular ad is displayed on an app, and their users’ wi-fi status. But, as D’Souza said, when he tells people about his job, the response isn’t very pleasant because advertisements are considered annoying by default; mobile ads automatically induce the image of banners that pop up and interrupt the process of reading, playing games or watching videos. He added,“You can’t sell something by annoying people.” That’s why Vavia is working on over 60 new formats of in-app ads. While video ads show promise, newer formats are capable of integrating a playable trial of the game in the ad itself.
In-app advertisements aren’t the only place where we’re bombarded with marketing tactics. We are under constant fire from brands racing to build awareness among the masses. To The New Digital is a firm that stitches together technology, marketing and analytics to organically (without paid or promoted posts) propel brands and their products. Starting with a brief that gives them an idea of how much reach a client is looking for and what the target audience is, strategies are planned. As Narendra Sannabhadti, their VP of marketing services, explained, “growth hacking” is using technology to figure out what is working with the present user base and how to leverage it for further growth. Ambika Sharma, founder and managing director, Pulp Strategy Communications (an interactive marketing company), agrees that constant optimisation is key to marketing products and services, and to provide direction to strategies. They understand that it’s important to set the right tone for communicating, and to listen carefully to the audience, to figure out what’s working and what isn’t.
The services that digital marketing agencies offer range from creating content, establishing a presence on digital mediums to using technology to create apps or websites, with audience feedback being integrated promptly to add value. They get the most feedback on social media, which also happens to be the place where the backlash happens just as often. If someone is unhappy with a product, they immediately get online and direct their ire at brands. It’s times such as these that require contingency plans. Levels of response tend to range from the agency answering simple queries on behalf of the brand to heavy duty damage control that requires them to inform the brand and draft a strategy to tackle the issue. Not having such a system in place can result in major setbacks to the brand’s digital identity. Digital marketing companies tend to work closely with the brands they represent, actively functioning as a given brand’s “voice”. As Sannabhadti told us, in some cases, To The New Digital’s teams even try out the product before they start working on campaigns. Sharma added, “You can’t market a bad product. No matter how good an ad is, it’s the customer experience that affects the long-term success of a brand.”
This is where reputation management comes in. Companies are becoming more open to consumer feedback. That’s important because when a company hears someone out and responds, it reassures consumers that upcoming products will be of better quality, with all feedback taken into account.
These are just a few of the ways in which customers are enticed into spending on apps or products. “40% off on Bingo Burgers. Call 925 to place order NOW!” is a text message format we’re all familiar with. A company heading this particular format, called re-marketing — where you get updates and offers from a place you order from once — is MyOperator. Providing a cloud-based call management system for Lenskart, Snapdeal, Yebhi, Jabong, RedChief, The Art of Living, Aam Admi Party, the BJP and Mahindra First Choice and Mann Ki Baat allows them to gather a large database of phone numbers whenever a call is made to the numbers they have set up for the client. Setting up accounts on MyOperator is easy and managed through a self-explanatory web interface. Ankit Jain, founder and CEO of MyOperator, told us that having a virtual phone operator enables even the smallest organisations to manage their workforce better. Reports are updated on the website, thus giving the impression of a reliable franchise to the caller. They also increase customer engagement with re-marketing tools.
Virtual phone operators are a way of engaging with the customer, but Sanjay Krishna Goyal, CEO and founder of ACL Mobile (a mobile marketing company that has been around for over a decade), has a different opinion on the role of interacting with customers via SMSes. He recalls how promotional messages formed the majority share of the market, with transactional messages being much smaller. But after most phone subscribers opted for DND activation on their numbers, things have changed. Transaction-related SMSes have already surpassed promotional messages, and they will continue to grow. IP messages, a more interactive and internet-based messaging medium, will become the go-to means of advertising over messages. Conventional SMSes will, however, remain the preferred medium for transactional texts, mostly because of security reasons.
With rapid growth in the number of mobile users in India, whether it’s apps, messages or websites, we are subjected to advertisements and marketing, which is getting more sophisticated by the day, whether by making them more interactive or less annoying. But with ad blockers damaging revenues of websites and contributing to a better user experience, agencies will need to find alternate ways to monetise on mobile devices.