Industry POV

Is media planning being Uber-ised? - Ashish Bhasin


Hiring a media planning and buying agency has been the preserve of large advertisers. A recently launched online tool could change all that

Over the last couple of weeks, the phones have been constantly buzzing at the offices of Amagi, a pioneer of geo-targeted television advertising in India. The seven-year-old organisation, which claims to be India’s largest TV ad network, recently launched Amagi Mix, an e-commerce platform that will allow small and medium companies from primarily the tier-two and tier-three towns to buy television spots at the click of a mouse. For those who do not have a TV commercial, or even an ad agency to go to, Amagi even offers to design a creative for them (at a price as low as ₹20,000 for a 10-second audio-visual ad).

About five years ago, Amagi offered SMEs an opportunity to advertise on national TV channels without wasting their ad budgets in regions where they have little or no presence. Amagi bought inventory in bulk from a select bouquet of TV channels and then sold the spots as geo-targeted advertising solutions to both SMEs and large advertisers. For instance, an SME would often shy away from looking at a channel with a national reach because it wanted to target only a specific region and avoid wastage. But with Amagi’s offering, it could target just the region they wanted and still get the benefit of being seen on a national channel.

In that business Amagi realised that out of the 2,500 advertisers who came on board, more than 70 per cent were SMEs which accounted for about 30 per cent of the overall revenues. Many of these advertisers came from non-metros. As Baskar Subramanian, co-founder, Amagi, points out, the big hurdle that many of these SME brands faced was lack of access to media planning services, as most media planning and buying agencies are located in the large metros. The second was affordability. Most SME brands have a budget ranging from ₹5 lakh to ₹2 crore, while the average spends of clients managed by media agencies would be in the range of ₹5 crore and upwards.

Then as Subramanian adds, in a small town, the local ad agency has no access to all media options. Hence, the opportunity was ripe to create an online portal for creating a media plan. Once an advertiser logs in and enters the brand category, the budget for this campaign, the duration and the regions to be covered, he has a ready media plan in a matter of seconds.

Subramanian says that using algorithms at the back-end, the system builds the whole media plan online based on historical information available on brands that advertised in the last five years using Amagi’s geo-targetting platform. It also throws up data like the cost per impression for the campaign and so on. “Smaller brands can have access to quality data and media planning,” says Subramanian.

The company is still in the process of enrolling channels for Amagi Mix. It had tied up with more than 50 channels for Amagi Mix, while India has more than 800 channels. Also, TV is no longer the only medium that SMEs, or for that matter even larger clients, use for audio-visual advertising. The digital medium provides a huge opportunity for small and medium brands that find television expensive. Acknowledging that fact, over the next three months, Mix will extend its reach to the online video space.

Great idea but how practical?

Senior media professionals agree that the idea has a lot of potential. “It is certainly in the direction towards which the industry is moving,” says Premjeet Sodhi, COO, Initiative Media. However, there will be barriers. According to him, one major barrier to setting up an online do-it-yourself (DIY) tool is the manner in which inventory is bought and sold in India. “There are no real card rates and the inventory is never guaranteed. Unless there is clarity on the inventory bidding model one cannot comment on the viability of the system,” he says.

Is this a completely new idea? “There have been attempts by a media group a few years ago to start a web-based inventory buying model. However, it did not resonate with the ecosystem at that time and soon disappeared,” says Sodhi. As of now, this is the only DIY media planning and buying tool currently. Does Amagi Mix have the power to Uber-ise India’s media services business?

Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO South Asia - Dentsu Aegis Network, and Chairman Posterscope & psLIVE - Asia Pacific, says Amagi Mix surely opens up another avenue. “While it sounds great on paper, it remains to be seen if the initiative will have a large impact on the ground,” he says. Sodhi agrees with that viewpoint. “It’s conceptually great, but we need to evaluate how practical it is. A media planning tool needs to be media neutral and has to offer a large basket of media to enable building practical planning options. With my limited knowledge of the product, the pool of channels and the inventory available with Amagi does not suffice for a total media plan solution. If this is just a destination to plan and buy on the limited Amagi Inventory, then it has limited application,” he says.