Benita Chacko

Measurement remains key factor to drive big shift in Indian CTV Space: Finecast's Kristian Claxton

The addressable TV service has onboarded over 60 brands in India in the last six months. The managing partner - Global Innovation speaks about its Indian services and the growth of CTV in the country.

In April 2022, WPP’s media investment arm GroupM launched Finecast in India. An addressable TV service, it provides a single point of access to the whole addressable TV ecosystem, managing distribution and frequency holistically across broadcasters and screens to deliver relevant ads wherever they are viewing content. 

In the last six months, it has onboarded over 60 brands in India, spanning various categories such as CPG, telco, handsets, auto, home appliances, and jewellery. 

In an interview with afaqs!, Kristian Claxton, managing partner - Global Innovation at GroupM’s Finecast, says, this wide adoption is driven by the clear benefits it offers to advertisers.

It enables advertisers to do total TV planning, by offering access to valuable audiences on connected TV and OTT. It achieves cost efficient incremental reach across both linear TV and connected TV. 

Finecast goes beyond city, metro, and national planning, to enable hyperlocal targeting. It allows advertisers to target specific pincodes with enriched third-party data. It offers the opportunity to align addressable media with tailored creative messaging. Further, it provides access to brand lift measurement services powered by Kantar, allowing advertisers to assess the impact and effectiveness of their campaigns accurately.

In the interview, he also speaks about the CTV market in India as compared to the global market and how he sees it evolving.

Edited excerpts:

It's been a year since Finecast's entry in India. How has Finecast adapted its services for the Indian market?

Finecast has maintained its core philosophy, which is to enable a single point of access to Addressable TV, connected TV, and OTT marketplace. However, some adjustments were necessary to cater to the unique characteristics of the Indian market.

In other global markets, Finecast typically assesses opportunities for advertisers through two main perspectives: Reach and Segmentation. However, in India, the company quickly realised the significance of high-impact content, such as live sports and major entertainment programs. Consequently, we had to recalibrate our approach and place more emphasis on Reach rather than Segmentation. In comparison, our capabilities in Australia are about 40% Reach and 60% Segmentation, while in the UK, it's 20% Reach and 80% Segmentation. For India, they have balanced it to around 50% Reach and 50% Segmentation to incorporate significant events like the IPL.

Additionally, the Indian market's multilingual nature demanded that advertisers adapt their content to be relevant to various languages. Finecast collaborated closely with their creative partners to develop language-specific creative, tailored to different language-speaking cohorts.

Moreover, India's vast and diverse consumer base required Finecast to find effective ways to reach specific target audiences. To achieve this, they followed a strategy employed in other global markets, wherein they divided the country into smaller geographic areas called "Geo keys." This breakdown allowed them to create cohorts and reach out to a diverse and broad marketplace effectively.

In India mobile-first consumption drives the OTT market. So what makes Finecast confident that both audiences and advertisers will move to CTV? Why is Finecast betting on India for the uptake of CTVs?

Yes we recognise that India is a mobile-first market. But we also need to take into account that the Indian market showcases a dual-speed acceleration in both linear TV and OTT, with linear TV and CTV growing simultaneously. According to our 'This Year Next Year' publication, India's connected TV advertising spends are forecasted to grow at a CAGR rate of 47% by 2027, indicating substantial accelerated growth in advertising spend.The ownership and household penetration of CTV have tripled in the last 18 months, reaching around 35 million connected TV households. This number is expected to reach 60 million by 2025, mainly due to three factors.

One, broadband penetration has reached 32 million, with steady growth since early March 2022, when it was at 27 million, further accelerating connected TV penetration. Two, smart TV penetration is already above 90% and expected to reach 100%, leading to more households adopting connected TV. Lastly, local broadcasters and global streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon are continuously investing in digital platforms and content, further driving the growth of CTV.Despite India being a mobile-first marketplace, the combination of growing middle-income households, GDP growth, and the factors mentioned above leads us to believe that connected TV will capture a significant share of overall viewing in the country. Therefore, we are optimistic about the prospects of connected TV in India.

Cross platform measurement has divided folks in the world of media. How are you rationalising metrics for different platforms, devices, service providers and linear TV all in one go? 

Our aim at Finecast is to simplify the complex marketplace characterised by fragmentation of viewing technology and data, making it stress-free for agencies and advertisers. We provide a single point of access, harmonising data and reporting to bring consistent audiences to the fragmented marketplace and deliver scalable results for our clients.

While measurement remains complex, promising technologies like Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) offer hope for better understanding ad visibility and effectiveness. While reach and frequency metrics are crucial today, there is a shift towards focusing on effectiveness, especially for new-to-TV brands seeking tangible outcomes like increased sales and brand awareness. The market will bifurcate, and it's crucial to establish a framework for attributing reach and frequency from the linear world to new digital platforms like OTT and connected TV.

As the market evolves, currencies for viewership may be developed, but we also recognise the need to cater to the new species of performance-focused advertisers. Our goal is to provide solutions that demonstrate the true impact of investment in Finecast on driving product sales, in-store visits, and brand awareness. Despite the complexities, the talent, creativity, and strategic thinking in this market instill confidence that we will find solutions soon.

Your global presence gives you the advantage of an overall perspective. How different is the Indian CTV market as compared to the other parts of the world?

One standout aspect is the exceptional talent in the Indian market, marked by high levels of entrepreneurialism, strategic thinking, and creativity. The focus on client success is unparalleled within agencies at WPP and Group M.

Addressability in India is still in its early stages, with a need to strike a balance between reach and segmentation compared to more mature markets. While the programmatic pipes on the supply side are in their infancy, they are moving in the right direction.

India's standout qualities include its vast scale and size, diverse consumer base, and regional nuances, demanding the need for multilingual creative. It creates a lot of opportunity for growth, and the ambition of the marketplace will lead to capitalising on the abundant opportunities.

CTV is now moving beyond urban areas to tier 2 cities. Advertisers here generally choose traditional forms of advertising. Has Finecast seen an increased interest from these advertisers?

Connected TV is experiencing significant growth beyond the metros, with 43-45% of audiences coming from outside the top 8 metros, a number that continues to increase. This trend has opened up opportunities for hyperlocal campaigns, supported by Finecast's product development, including the granularity Geo project, which enables precise Geo-based targeting beyond pincodes. As a result, advertisers, including CPG brands and QSRs, are embracing this planning approach to reach specific households near their store locations, driving footfall and creating new demand sources for Finecast and broadcasters. That is a new use case that hasn't existed in the broadcast world. Businesses that initially thrived in the digital realm are now recognising the effectiveness and measurability of connected TV and OTT, further fuelling the shift in advertiser thinking.

While the audiences and platforms are ready for the CTV growth, advertisers are yet to fully place their trust in the medium. What is Finecast doing to encourage advertisers to jump on the CTV bandwagon?

There are three things- simplicity, derisking investment, and demonstrating value.

Finecast provides a single platform of access to the addressable TV ecosystem, seamlessly integrating it into existing agency planning tools for an end-to-end experience. Our planning tools further simplify CTV budget allocation and data-driven planning.

We encourage a test-and-learn approach, allowing advertisers to explore the potential of connected TV without heavy upfront investment. This empowers brands to develop their own planning strategies for the future of TV.

Third, we have to demonstrate value. We have partnered with Kantar to offer brand lift studies from the outset, enabling advertisers to gauge the effectiveness of their investments. The company conducts local and global research, such as the recent "Addressable Advantage," to provide proof points and insights. Additionally, we constantly innovate to capture new use cases and addresses advertisers' evolving needs, be it through technologies like ACR or data clean rooms.

By adhering to these principles and fostering strong partnerships with agencies and brands, Finecast aims to build trust and elevate the entire marketplace's success.

What, according to you, will bring that big shift for the CTV space in India?

The big shift for advertisers to embrace the Indian CTV space hinges on one key factor: measurement. Transparent and reliable measurement will instill confidence in advertisers and drive continued growth and scale in the CTV market. As viewers increasingly migrate from linear TV to CTV, measurement will be the critical ingredient that accelerates and enables the shift in revenue towards the CTV space.

And when do you see that happening?

The evolution of measurement in the Indian CTV space will take various forms, with multiple iterations of viewership, reach, frequency, and campaign performance measurement. More collaboration between agencies, broadcasters, technology, and data partners will drive innovation in this area. Performance is expected to progress faster, while achieving a gold standard currency like BARC for measurement might take longer due to the involvement of multiple stakeholders. However, there are promising interim solutions on the horizon that offer hope until the industry establishes a definitive gold standard.

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