'Tis the season for alliances and tie-ups. The Hotstar-Flipkart Shopper Audience Network announcement being a case in point.
Quick recap: Last week, e-comm player Flipkart and streaming platform Hotstar announced the launch of their Shopper Audience Network. It's Flipkart's new ad platform that will help brands connect with customers through 'personalised TrueIntent video ads' on Hotstar. It will help serve personalised advertising to more than 150 million users and help marketers measure the impact of their digital ad spends.
So, how should we view this development? As a marriage of convenience or a reaction to larger Amazonian market forces? The truth lies somewhere in-between.
The stated intent is to potentially create India's third largest digital advertising platform after the Google and Facebook networks... with ambitions to maybe even become the largest. I believe that there are further motivations for both players to make this association work.
For Flipkart it's an opportunity to create new revenue streams, to make its shopping data assets sweat, to disrupt Indian online retail and to reward its shoppers with a holistic experience. And for Hotstar it will add texture to its consumer understanding by superimposing 'buying habits' over 'viewing habits' and give the platform potential to value-add and up-sell through customised discounts and offers.
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At the centre of all this is a four letter word called data. No thanks to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, we realised that we the consumers are the commodity. We are the golden goose and our data, the golden eggs. A hypothetical World War III could be fought over the ownership of intelligent, intuitive and cross-referenced data pools. This imaginary war will be fought not by countries but by behemoths like Alphabet, Facebook, Accenture, Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe and the like.
Shopping and entertainment are incestuous bedfellows with very similar core psychological benefits... and it will always do well to create consumer synergies, as demonstrated globally by the successful launch of the Amazon Prime entertainment streaming service and the subsequent buying of media libraries like Lovefilm, and the creation of Amazon Studios.
An online shopping network offering a bundled streaming entertainment service for the consumer, and a programmatic self-serve automation service for the marketer, was definitely a disruptive innovation by Amazon for that time. But today it's become par for the course with competition from Netflix and other streaming players.
But in the long run this, the Hotstar-Flipkart association, is a loyalty and retention game for both brands in question. How can we retain customers? How can we maximise interaction and revenue? How can we get them to return? And reward them for their loyalty?
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But the ultimate win for this association will be the quality, texture and depth of actionable data that will be produced through this association of a shopping and an entertainment platform. The convenience for marketers to place their ads. And the sheer Indian-ness of the data that can potentially give Indian brand marketers a very visceral 'here and now' consumer targeting opportunity, that will have them rubbing their hands in glee.
All in all, it looks like globally Amazon Advertising is turning their screws on Google and Facebook, while in India the Flipkart-Hotstar combine is planning to stick it into all of the above.
Only time will tell who will win. Until then... watch, shop and enjoy.
(The author is CEO and managing partner, Digital L&K Saatchi & Saatchi)
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