Saumya Tewari

"The highest sharing happens when videos stay true to the brand message": Kirthiga Reddy, Facebook India

With over 125 million users, of which 90 per cent accessing the platform through mobile, Facebook's focus on India continues to remain strong. The social networking platform, which started testing videos in 2013, has been pushing its video capabilities to marketers and advertisers as more and more users consume video content. It claims that not only are people watching videos, but also uploading to Facebook. More than 80,000 videos have been embedded on third party websites.

Kirthiga Reddy, managing director, Facebook India, says that the platform enjoys a mix of smartphones and feature phone users, something brands are leveraging in a big way. We spoke to Reddy about Facebook's video capabilities, SME focus and the larger business strategy around its apps - Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

Edited Excerpts.

Edited Excerpts

Tell us about Facebook's increased focus on video.

The biggest shift that we have noticed in consumer behaviour on Facebook is around visual communication including images, emojis, stickers and video. People's behaviour drives the evolution of our platform and that is why we have been evolving and focussing our marketing solutions to get sight, sound and motion to advertisers. Facebook defines a view as someone watching a video for three seconds or more. We record four billion daily video views (as of April 2015), with more than 75 per cent of those views happening on mobile devices.

Why is video working on Facebook?

It is working because of the reach that our platform provides. Our targetting capabilities make it really unique - the ability to reach the right people with the right message. The filters that our platform offers include all age groups, demographics, education, interests and relationship status, among others.

To exemplify, Nestle, through its campaign 'Theater in a Cup', reached women above 21 years of age in the seven North East states for its Everyday dairy whitener campaign. Being a media-dark region, it was not possible for the brand to reach consumers using other mediums. Utilising Facebook's 'Creative Accelerator' programme, the campaign connected with people across rural and metro areas in India, using photo or video ads, depending on the person's device and connection speed. Compared to similar campaigns in the region, the campaign increased brand awareness by 9 per cent and purchase intent by 5 per cent.

Similarly, Ola Cabs did an awareness video campaign on Facebook and sent app install ads only to consumers who have seen their video. We have also seen video amplifying the ability to drive sales. Therefore, video works across stages in brand cycle, be it seed stage (driving awareness), blast stage (launch) or sustenance.

How have video product solutions evolved?

From the users' side, we have relevant score which lets users see videos that are more relevant to them.

We recently introduced 'Public View Counter' which lets you see what is gaining in popularity, hence leads to discovery. We also have the 'Watch More' option which allows users to watch similar videos.

From the marketers' side, they can track not just the number of views for their videos, but also the unique views. We have metrics to show where the drop-off was. There has been ongoing work on compression of video files, so that their size becomes as small as possible before it goes on the server.

Making video viewing delightful is a big goal of ours and continued investment.

What kind of brands are making use of videos more?

We are seeing videos across verticals and size of business. So, from a startup like Ola Cabs to established FMCG giants like Hindustan Unilever and Nestle are using videos extensively. We also had small and medium businesses (SMBs) upload over a billion videos, and these businesses cannot afford a television commercial. So, Facebook video is providing each advertiser, irrespective of their business size, the power of sight, sound and motion, to reach out to their targetted consumer.

What kind of brands are going "Facebook first" in their advertising? Are they digital players or do you see more mainstream brands taking this route? Can you exemplify?

While digital players are using Facebook first advertising, there are mainstream brands that executed Facebook only campaigns as well. Coca-Cola, for example, did a New Year campaign in December 2014, where they made ten different videos in ten regional languages targetting consumers in different markets. For a marketer, reach is important and regional is even more important. They reached over 17 million people through the campaign.

What kind of videos are being shared on Facebook?

We don't see specific trends in terms of soppy, emotional or funny. The highest number of sharing happens when the videos stay true to the brand message. So, if a brand tries to be something it's not, it usually doesn't fly. Paperboat, OlaCabs' 'Chalo Niklo' and Pepsi's Diwali campaigns are some of the examples of brands that got it right.

In your last conversation with afaqs!, you said the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector has been a big focus area for you. How many SME players are using your platform currently? What kind of money do they spend annually?

We have over 900 thousand SME pages in India. Our success stories come from across the board. We have success stories from SMEs, startups working on concerts and event listings, small eateries and salons.

SMEs can advertise on Facebook with very little budget - anywhere from $1 (Rs. 63). Brands can target the TG on the basis of age, gender, relationship, education, life, interest, behaviour, type of user, data (2G/3G), among several other filters. We provide granularity for the campaign.

What's the biggest challenge while dealing with brands in India, and how are you overcoming it?

The biggest challenge is education. This is a new platform and we are constantly innovating. So, we are working closely with our agency partners - both media and creative. We just rolled out an online education course called 'BluePrint' which has different models for brands, agencies etc. GroupM has made it a standard part of its curriculum.

We conduct forums where we reach out to our clients and inform them about our solutions. We also do 'Brand Hack Sessions' at the clients', to understand their business objectives and how our solutions can help achieve them.

WhatsApp has become the biggest messaging platform in India with lot of brands using it to drive consumer awareness. With its simplicity, is Facebook considering creating it as an ad platform for brands and small businesses?

We have no plans to open up WhatsApp to ads. We have found that communication happens in various ways - one-on-one, one to group and one to all. Communication is also becoming increasingly visual. We are looking at building a family of apps where we are fulfilling our mission to make the world more connected and being at the heart of those connections. There is a distinctive use case for all our platforms, be it Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger. But, all of them are about how people communicate.

There is a lot of recognition from Facebook about how to personalise experiences for India. Creative Accelerator is one such example. We create content for Indian users, keeping in mind type of mobile devices, bandwidth etc. The 'click to miss call' ad unit has been created especially for the country. Garnier was the first to use this ad unit in India and witnessed over 16 times the number of calls from print and digital combined.

We recently introduced Expat targetting as well for the India market.

From a marketer's perspective, WhatsApp and Messenger apps, which have zero distractions, will work really well to reach out to the TG...

We are doing pilots around e-commerce and retail companies, wherein users can track orders and shipment status on Messenger. Instead of going to Yahoo or Gmail, where one has to do search for such updates, we are trying to provide a direct communication.

How big is Instagram in India, and what kind of brands, in your opinion, can best leverage the platform? Are you introducing paid ads there?

Instagram has over 300 million users globally. We do not break out the Instagram numbers country-wise. There is a strong growth recorded on this platform, both globally and in India. While there is a perception that only fashion and beauty brands are leveraging this platform, we have found out brands across verticals finding success with Instagram which includes financial services companies, retail, beauty, health and food, among others.

Instagram ads are available globally, but not in India currently.