Shreyas Kulkarni

Instagram Reels and Moj have released ads, other apps are on their way; short video apps are the newest advertisers

The short video space is buzzing, as apps aim to build awareness and capture a larger pie of India’s ‘young’ Internet audience.

There are three types of advertisers in India. One, the traditional giants, the likes of Unilever, Britannia, Maruti Suzuki, Nestle, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, etc. We then have the younger brands (startups), such as Zomato, Swiggy, OYO and Paytm that have won a regular slot in our viewing time over the last few years. The third type is, perhaps, the new kid on the advertising block – short video apps.

Moj, the Bengaluru-based short video app, released its first campaign a few days ago. It featured actors Ananya Pandey and Vijay Deverakonda. Chingari, another such app, said it has on-boarded actor Salman Khan as a global brand ambassador and investor.

Trell recently announced that it had brought in Flying Cursor Interactive, a Mumbai-based digital agency, to handle its social media and digital content duties. And, last year (2020), we saw Instagram Reels run its maiden India campaign during the Indian Premier League (IPL).

We call these apps the new kids, not just because their advertising journey is in its infancy, but because most Indian short video apps gained life after the government banned TikTok, the Chinese short video app that was the undisputed leader in the category, in June last year.

As per a December 2020 report by Bengaluru-based consultancy RedSeer, the “short form market is estimated to grow by 4x on total time spent and reach to 400-450 billion minutes a month from the current 110 billion minutes.”

The players in the Indian short video space include Instagram Reels, MX TakaTak, Gaana HotShots, Chingari, Moj, Roposo, Bolo Indya, Trell, Mitron, Josh, etc.

India’s Internet audience is pegged at around 650 million. And, with the users spending more time on short video apps, it makes sense to advertise, because most of them have faced accusations of being a copy of TikTok. Advertising can help them stand apart from each other and come out of the Chinese giant’s shadow.

At a panel discussion on India's short form video space during vdonxt Week, a conference organised by afaqs! in March, Janhavi Parikh, business head, MX TakaTak, said, “Over time, we will start to differentiate… Width is important, provided you can cater the right kind of content to the right kind of people. That’s how you will win the audience and grow.”

The right kind of people is important because not every one of India’s 650 million Internet audience uses short video apps.

Rajeesh Rajagopalan, national business head, Grapes Digital, a digital-first agency, says India’s internet is very active and young. “Over 60 per cent of this active population is under 35.” This age cohort forms the major user base of short video apps.

Rajagopalan says that the short video apps will aim to create awareness with their advertising… “Chingari, or Moj will look to capture the space that, say, Instagram Reel holds.”

Rajeesh Rajagopalan
Rajeesh Rajagopalan

We asked him about the mediums the apps will favour. “TV, because it has mass reach. And, during the consideration phase, when people recognise the apps, they will advertise on digital on a parallel basis.”

Creator benefits

A unique feature of the short video apps is that the content creators also double up as viewers. We wondered if ads will prompt the creators to switch loyalties.

Turns out, it won’t, because the creators are present on multiple platforms at the same time. “For them, it’s not about good or bad, it is about extending reach and money,” says Rajagopalan.

He went on to add that advertising will benefit short video apps, because it will help build a lot of awareness. He also mentions that the market will become segmented, as the target audiences will differ.

While Chingari may be the preferred choice for those living in Tier-II and Tier-III towns, Instagram Reels will become the favoured choice for people residing in metro cities.

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