As martech keeps gaining prominence in the Indian marketing world, IAS’s VP of customer success explains the intricacies of optimal media measurement.
With how the digital revolution has ushered in a new era of marketing, digital platforms have become the primary battleground for brands to capture the attention of their target audience. In doing so, the significance of a well-structured media buying system cannot be overstated.
For brands striving to make a lasting impact in the digital sphere, the efficient allocation of ad budgets and the selection of appropriate advertising channels have become imperative. This pursuit, however, is fraught with challenges, from the risk of ad fraud to the necessity for brand safety and the complexities of programmatic advertising.
As a result, a robust media buying methodology serves not only as a strategic advantage but also as a safeguard for brands striving to optimise their advertising expenditure. This ensures that their messaging reaches genuine, engaged audiences while mitigating potential risks.
In a recent conversation with afaqs! Rob Kay, vice president of Customer Success - APAC at Integral Ad Science (IAS), the global media measurement optimisation company, provided insights into the firm's journey, its commitment to addressing the media quality conundrum, and its growing role in the martech (marketing technology) landscape.
A Legacy of media quality solutions
Since its inception in 2009, IAS has prioritised media quality, addressing the challenges of ad placement on suitable platforms and protecting advertisers from unwittingly associating with harmful or unsuitable content. Originating in mature markets like the United States and the United Kingdom, IAS has since worked towards assisting brands in steering clear of this mishap.
The company was acquired by Vista Equity Partners, an American equity firm that deals in financing software, data, and technology-enabled businesses. IAS also went public in 2021.
"IAS exists to solve the problem of media quality in the industry," says Kay. "Our future lies in helping brands, advertisers, and agencies optimise the way they buy media, creating safer and more suitable environments while driving business outcomes."
In January 2022, IAS acquired Context, a Paris-based digital content classification company that provides image and video classification across various digital media including social media platforms and connected TV (CTV).
Expanding horizons in India
Despite its long-standing global presence, IAS entered the Indian market only about four years ago. However, the company is making significant strides in India, a market that is currently experiencing explosive growth. A recent Dentsu Report projected India's ad market to grow by a remarkable 14.5%, reaching a staggering $12 billion in the current year.
This surge in the Indian advertising sector has not gone unnoticed, with brands, agencies, and tech companies expressing increasing interest in the country's burgeoning martech landscape.
Kay highlights this growth, stating, "Even in India, our team has grown exponentially, and our business has seen substantial growth. We see significant interest from brands and agencies in what we do, as well as in the overall ad tech and martech space."
I always like to think that the Indian ad market is sort of five years behind somewhere like the UK. A lot of the challenges that we saw in 2019 still exist today.
IAS established its Indian operations in 2019 and has now set up two strategically located offices in Gurgaon and Pune. While the company saw a rush of brands from all categories jump to digital during the pandemic, there is still a long way to go, as per Kay.
He opines that the brands aren’t fully adept with martech proficiency in India. “I always like to think that the Indian ad market is sort of five years behind somewhere like the UK. A lot of the challenges that we saw in 2019 still exist today.”
Kay points out that in addition to proper education, there is also a need for marketers to recognise the impact of overlooking where a brand places itself. He says, “As marketers, we spend a lot of time thinking about where to advertise in the right place at the right time, but we don't necessarily think about the consequences of appearing at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The growth catalyst
The COVID-19 pandemic acted as a profound catalyst for the digital transformation of traditional businesses. Companies that once relied heavily on brick-and-mortar stores made a swift shift to digital platforms, often establishing entirely new digital departments in a mere six-month timeframe.
This rapid metamorphosis significantly contributed to martech, and IAS's growth, as brands sought to optimise their ad spending and safeguard their digital reputation in the swiftly changing online landscape.
“That definitely had a big part to play in our growth story. We were already growing but there were a lot of businesses then spending more money online, assessing our services.”
Fighting Ad Fraud
The rise and prevalence of ad fraud have cast a significant shadow over the digital advertising landscape, which is something IAS cognisantly tackles. In recent years, ad fraud has developed into a global concern, with its impact reverberating across industries. Unscrupulous actors employ increasingly sophisticated tactics, from click farms and bot-generated traffic to spoofed websites and ad injection, siphoning billions of advertising dollars away from brands.
As marketers, we spend a lot of time thinking about where to advertise in the right place at the right time, but we don't necessarily think about the consequences of appearing at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Kay underlines IAS's commitment to combating ad fraud, a pervasive and costly issue in the advertising world. He says, "Ad fraud is a substantial problem, with the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) estimating it to be a $50 billion global issue by 2025. Companies like ours have a crucial role to play in educating the market about this problem and providing effective solutions."
IAS employs various methods to detect ad fraud, one of which involves tracking and analysing advertisers' tags when displaying their ads online.
Kay delved into the technical details, explaining, "Our technology understands and validates the environments to ensure our ads appear only on environments that are fraud free, brand safe, viewable and in-geo — we call these 'Quality Impressions'. Thus, protecting the advertiser's budget and ensuring ads are seen by real human users."
He further elaborated on another approach, a product called “pre-bid”, which collaborates with programmatic partners to preemptively identify and prevent programmatic ads from being served to fraudulent users. This not only safeguards advertisers' investments but also redirects funds to more effective placements.
All about privacy
In light of the recent news of The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill being passed, Kay highlighted the pivotal role that ad tech companies play in safeguarding user privacy. Recent privacy concerns have prompted a shift away from traditional data points, such as cookies, which were once extensively used to power digital advertising strategies.
There's definitely a positive part to play for ad tech and martech companies because they can help brands move and advertise safely in the future as well.
He explains, "There's the privacy side of things, which has led to a lot of the data points that maybe traditional ad tech and martech companies would have used to synthesise and power their advertising like cookies." This acknowledgement underscores the changing dynamics in the ad tech industry, where companies are adapting to privacy-centric trends.
IAS has embraced this shift towards greater privacy protection. Kay highlights, "A company like ours, specifically in the ad tech space, exists to solve problems around privacy because our products are completely privacy-safe. We don't rely on any third-party cookies. There's definitely a positive part to play for ad tech and martech companies because they can help brands move and advertise safely in the future as well.”