Anirban Roy Choudhury

"Sirius will enable advertisers to reach viewers where they are, rather than where they might be": Nitin Bawankule

The head of ad sales at Star & Disney India talks about the intention behind rolling out the new suite, and how it might benefit advertisers.

Leading media conglomerate Star & Disney India has announced the launch of 'Sirius', an end-to-end suite of advertising solutions for marketers, media planners and creative agencies. 

According to the network, with Sirius, advertisers can access most of the content portfolio of Star India network and Disney+ Hotstar, "optimised to get the most out of their advertisement investment."

Star & Disney India has joined forces with Mediaocean, Kantar, TVision Insights and Ipsos to add "impact evaluation" to advertising spend on television and OTT. As shared by Star & Disney India, Sirius intends to offer better solutions when it comes to cross-screen measurement and planning, sharper targeting on TV, next-gen campaign evaluation, and creative ad solutions. 

The suite was introduced by Nitin Bawankule, head, ad sales, Star & Disney India. Bawankule joined Star in October 2019 from Google India, where he was country director, Google Cloud. 

In an interview with afaqs!, he explains the intention behind rolling out the new suite and how it might benefit advertisers.

Edited Excerpts:

Why did you decide to roll out Sirius now? What triggered its launch?

There is a huge transformation in the way content is consumed across both linear and OTT mediums today. Businesses are steering towards more customised ways to reach their audiences through technological solutions that target their viewers more effectively.

Sirius, a powerful end-to-end-suite of advanced cross-screen advertising solutions for advertisers, was conceptualised 18 months ago to help advertisers transform their outreach across linear and digital platform audiences efficiently. Star India has always believed in leveraging technology.

Sirius brings in proprietary tech capabilities through multiple associations. This will also solve the need for actionable measurement solutions that enable advertisers to swiftly course-correct and then evaluate the impact of the campaigns.

You said, "Sirius's aim is to act as a bridge for brands to strengthen their relationship with consumers." Do you see a gap between the brands and the customers they target through TV and digital? Was there any research done that pointed out the gap?

Sirius was developed after meeting multiple decision-makers (advertisers) and agencies, and discussing their evolving media needs as well as gaps in current solutions. Audiences surf effortlessly across linear and digital screens. Sirius has been designed to enable advertisers to reach viewers where they are, rather than where they might be.

Through Sirius, we offer audience targeting capability to advertisers on TV, similar to digital, whereby they can reach audiences based on their life stage, behaviour and interests. Through our advanced cross-screen targeting solutions, brands can reach audiences who matter the most for their business, thus enhancing the RoI for their media investments.

We also provide solutions to measure the impact of advertising through attribution solutions for brands as well as business measures.

What makes cross-screen media planning and measurement critical at this stage? Do you see more brands buying TV+digital going forward, and is that why guaranteeing no overlap becomes important?

The rapid advent of technology in the last decade in the country (India) has led to a monumental shift in consumers' lives, including their consumption patterns and fluid viewing behaviour across screens. It is believed that the shift of consumers watching content on their personalised devices, as well as them being connected with the habit of watching TV, is not an act of cutting the cord, but adding a screen.

The additional screen has led brands to invest their money in both television and digital mediums. We believe there is a significant opportunity in enhancing the current efficiency as well as the effectiveness of cross-screen media plans.

… To give you a perspective, we believe overlap by itself is not bad (to have) between linear and digital screen exposure. It helps to reinforce the message and also aids storytelling, especially sequential storytelling, effectively and efficiently.

Sirius solutions are designed with a flexible approach in mind to help advertisers make informed media choices with the option to choose specific cohorts or go wide, add supplemental frequency or enhance the reach of the campaign.

Marketers in various forums said that they buy TV for its humongous reach and also because it's cheap. Digital offers them the opportunity to target specific cohorts. Do you think there is a craving for segmented targeting through TV among brands? Especially when TV is already segmented into many genres and, further into, languages?

One of the unique benefits of Sirius is targeted audience reach, thereby giving advertisers the ability to reach those who matter the most, their current source of business or their source of growth. The unique proposition of audience cohort targeting on TV allows for sharper focus that reduces peripheral wastage commonly associated with demographic-based targeting. 

While TV is segmented into genres and languages, media plans for different product categories that target the same demographic audience seem fairly alike. If you remove the brand name from the media schedule, one can't identify which sort of audience is the plan aimed toward. This is the limitation of demographic targeting. 

By taking into account the distinctive media viewing behaviour of the representative audience cohort through our proprietary technology, we are ensuring that each media plan is unique and carries the nuanced viewing behaviour of its audience, their preferred genres, day-parts, etc.

Over and above the identified genres, shows, etc., the media planner can include any other content if the product category requires amorphous, and not targeted, reach.

Thus, our solution is relevant in the case of categories targeting sharply focused audience sets, as well as categories that may be relevant to multiple audiences. The platform also allows advertisers to retarget the users on Disney+ Hotstar, who have viewed certain advertising on the Star India network, allowing more powerful storytelling

With edutech, fintech, foodtech... brands emerging as large advertisers, has the way marketers look at TV changed? Do you see them wanting more data, which is more specific than what is available at this stage?

The advertisers are increasingly using technology to course-correct their campaigns and evaluate the (campaign) performance on digital. This expectation now extends to other media platforms too.

We are pleased to be amongst the first broadcasters (that is willing) to bring in greater transparency. (How?) By providing measurement that allows planning as well as course-correction during the campaign through our attention insights. And also, by providing impact evaluation on mind metrics and business outcomes through our panels with Ipsos and Kantar respectively.

Who do you think will benefit the most from Sirius?

Our end-to-end suite of solutions will benefit all businesses which advertise, including the clients, marketers, media practitioners, media planners, creative agencies, among others.

How big a role do you think Sirius will play when it comes to planning on Star and Disney India channels, and Disney+ Hotstar?

Almost three decades into its existence, Star India has come to be known to challenge the status quo and, in turn, redefine the Indian media landscape. Now with Sirius, we are offering a breakthrough solution in the field of advertising. We intend Sirius to help brands plan, take mid-course corrections and be able to measure the impact of their advertising using proprietary technology in each phase.  

We are confident that advertisers will value the solutions, find them relevant and, over time, scale their campaigns across our network using these solutions and derive immense value (from them).