Shreyas Kulkarni
Media

Is India and its gigantic internet audience the pollen for the bourgeoning video bee?

And should we be gender brave or gender blind? Ashwini Gangal, executive editor, afaqs!, quizzes four female leaders for an AVIA session on ‘Future of Video India’.

On Thursday (April 29), Ashwini Gangal, executive editor, afaqs!, spoke to four women thought leaders about the future of video in India, and whether we should be gender blind or gender brave. The panel was part of Asia Video Industry Association’s (AVIA) ‘Future of Video India’ event. The panellists were:

Is India and its gigantic internet audience the pollen for the bourgeoning video bee?

· Sapna Chadha, Google's senior director of marketing, Southeast Asia and India

· Rubeena Singh, iProspect India’s CEO

· Dolly Jha, Nielsen Media India’s country head

· Archana Anand, ZEE5 Global’s chief business officer

Gangal kicked off the session by asking Chadha about the “next billion” cohort. “We keep talking about them. So, what will the next billion consumers of video watch? Who are they? What do we know about them?” Many of them will enter the Internet world for the first time through video. “So, what kind of video content will that be, and what do today's trends suggest?”

Google’s Chadha: India is where the next billion cohort will come from. We’ve now reached over 550 million users, and that will accelerate faster. What is really telling is that rural India is going to drive Internet adoption in India. It is expected to witness double-digit growth.

As per the data we have seen, the number of Internet users in rural areas will exceed those in urban areas this year (2021). Also, people in Tier 2, 3 and 4 cities are consuming OTT content faster than those in the metros.

We’re seeing thousands of creators on YouTube. These aren’t just millennials. We’re seeing teachers, farmers and tax professionals teaching others because mobile has made it easy. We’re democratising creativity.

In terms of trends, four out of five users watch a video to learn something new. Today, 95 per cent of the content consumed is in local languages. We’re seeing engagement in categories around learning and buying decisions, starting from research to recommendations to purchase. Entertainment is big, and the growth in education and learning is going to be the future.

Gangal then asked Singh if the clients still view videos, in terms of offline and online, or has the conversation become more textured or nuanced. Singh was also asked about the trends she thinks will dominate agency-client conversations around video content as well as advertising in the next 2-3 years?

iProspect’s Singh: There needs to be an integrated plan for offline and online. Why? Because the clients have traditional agencies to manage traditional budgets. Then they have digital agencies managing their digital budgets. Clients today have resorted to being present on all the channels.

What the consumers need today is communication that is specific to their needs. They need more seamless and integrated experiences. To do this, you need to leverage data.

Leverage it on macro levels to understand trends like seasonality, triggers and events that will help the marketers gain that overall insight. On a specific level, you need to understand the psychological barriers of potential customers. Their triggers, what appeals to them, and how and when do they engage with the content you’re creating for them.

We’ve not been able to integrate online and offline due to the lack of a common measurement system. The industry needs a uniform data measurement system. The third one will be around smart TV, which is gaining momentum. In some time, a lot of TV advertising will be programmatic.

Moving on to Jha, Gangal asked her about the best way to classify video content, how the advertisers can leverage different types of video content, and what’s the right way for them to measure the value of a video.

Neilsen Media’s Jha: What’s important to understand is how the audience is engaging with the video. Then we need to have a way to measure videos across all formats.

The other thing we need to understand is that the videos are not just about advertisements, but a lot about brand integrations. Now, reach and frequency is important, but the next step is to understand how the audience is getting impacted by the video.

Gangal then asked Anand about the key video trends across Asia and India...

ZEE5 Global’s Anand: India is going to be the day, the month, the year, and the decade of video. 5G is being rolled out and by 2023, 1.7 billion smartphones will be 5G-enabled. Video viewing, especially long-form, has gone through the roof. We found the content was blurring across boundaries. People sitting across our homes were watching Spanish content, Dark from Germany, and Fauda from Israel.

Then, TikTok took the world by storm. Youngsters spend hours watching these silly videos. We’ve seen that people are willing to pay and watch entertainment. Most of us in the OTT space have seen subscriptions growing by 80-90 per cent and people have renewed their annual packs. Whether it’s on long-form or short-form, mobile or large device, the name of the game is video.

Gender brave or gender blind?

Gangal began the second part of the session by recalling a TED Talk she watched, in which a woman said it’s not the time yet to be completely colour-blind. Now is the time to be colour brave.

She then went on to ask the panellists, “should we be gender brave or gender blind when we’re making executive decisions and selecting people?”

Do we have some way to go before “we can stop this deliberate inclusion of women into certain panels, leadership roles…?” In some way, in an effort to level the playing field, we are widening the gender gap. “We want to make the gender discussion redundant, but not yet. We still have to address it.”

Chadha: We need to be gender brave. I think we’ve to start with data. India online has one of the biggest gender gaps in existence. In 2005, only one out of 10 Internet users was a woman. Now, we’ve made huge progress and the number is around four out of 10. We discovered that when the advertisers included as many women as men in their videos, more people watched and engaged.

There was a study we did with Regina Davis Institute on media research. We found that in India specifically, male characters received twice as much screen time when compared to the female characters. We also saw that male characters were seen one-and-a-half times more than the female characters. We’re still so far away.

Anand: We definitely need to be gender brave. This whole thing about gender is a global problem. It’s very much a personal problem too. In the corporate hiring scenario, I’d like to see a 50:50 split…

In certain countries, the support system for women isn’t that conducive. Mentors with the gender brave concept at the back of their mind, will help... there are miles to go in India.

Jha: I think we have to be gender brave. It’s important to bring out stories in terms of protagonists, characters and the way women are being shown. (We lost Jha for a while due to connectivity issues.)

Singh: We have to be gender brave. Workplaces have turned in 2020. We’re always on. There is no line between work and home. Burnout has become a real issue. Women were always doing a double shift, working as well as nurturing families.

One in four women are contemplating leaving their work. This is an emergency. We’re losing future leaders and upending the painstaking progress we’ve made. There’s also an opportunity for companies to build flexible and empathetic workplaces, in which women can have equal opportunity to achieve their potential.