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Mobile advertising’s future is about precision and engagement: Vikas Gulati

Mobile advertising may have become quite the buzzword amongst marketers and other stakeholders but despite the interest, marketers still invest low single digits of their overall budgets in the channel. Of the various reasons that hold marketers back from changing this, some that are more prevalent are the fragmented mobile ecosystem, the lack of options in advertising formats, questionable precision in targeting and measurement. For companies such as Vserv.mobi, these gaps have served as the opportunities to create a place for their service.

Vserv.mobi, that had begun its operations in India, soon branched out to the faster growing mobile markets of the Southeast Asia region in an attempt to be global network. The company also covers markets such as Africa, LatAm, Europe and US, servicing almost 30 billion mobile ad requests per month in over 160 countries.

In the Southeast Asia region, the company has four offices already – Singapore, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Vietnam. While it operates in Thailand and Philippines as well, it is now in the process of setting up offices in these markets. “Southeast Asia has been one of our biggest contributors after India,” stated Vikas Gulati, VP, Southeast Asia, Vserv.mobi, and added, “And we target for the region to be at par with India revenues, if not more, by 2014.”

The ambitious roadmap
Mr Gulati’s confidence stems from the fact that the region exhibits the right mindset towards mobile, both from a consumer and a marketer viewpoint. Vserv.mobi saw an increase of over six times in its ad requests in the Southeast Asia region in comparison to last year. At present the majority of the company’s clientele includes global names but the target ahead for Mr Gulati is to increase the number of local advertisers in the region.

“We want local players of the region to comprise nearly 60-70 per cent of our work. Most Southeast Asia markets right now look to be on track to deliver on these targets,” Mr Gulati informed.

While a company such as Vserv.mobi is positive on the future of mobile advertising, Mr Gulati admits that in the current situation, the sector, at best, is modest. Despite two years of significant mobile activity, marketers on an average, spend only 1 per cent of their overall ad budgets on mobile in the Southeast Asia region.

“Mobile is at a very early stage but marketers realise that it is indispensable. It is an integral part of a consumer’s journey that opens up a plethora of opportunities for brands to create experiences. Once the critical mass of content and consumers is in place, the ad budget will reflect it. The way we see it, is that we have a role to play in this too and some of our efforts are in that direction,” Mr Gulati explained.

Of formats, precision and metrics
Vserv.mobi has developed ad formats that do not intrude in the user’s space. AppWrapper for instance, serves full screen interstitials on the launch and exit of apps that users can choose to engage with or skip with an attempt to keep the user’s experience with the app itself, clutter free. The company has also invested in leveraging Rich Media for its ad serving. “We look to raise the bar of mobile advertising, which is why we are listening to consumers and factoring in that feedback in our service. Our experience with AppWrapper has been overwhelming. The industry average of in-app advertising is 0.5 to 1 per cent of CTR (click through rate). For us, that number is at 8 per cent,” Mr Gulati pointed out.

While CTR is a simple metric for the medium right now, Vserv.mobi’s experience has been that mobile as a platform allows various filters that can demonstrate returns on investment to advertisers.

Another step from the company, to give further comfort to marketers, is in the direction of serving relevant ads. Mr Gulati explained that to address lack of user information, Vserv.mobi launched AudiencePro earlier this year. The service began with India to then expand to the Southeast Asia region. He said, “We have created a technology that matches data available with telcos to the information coming through our ad networks to allow precision in ad targeting. We have partnered with telcos for this. With AudiencePro, before we serve an ad, we make a real time integration that understands a consumer’s demographic and then serves a relevant ad.”

Connecting the dots
For Mr Gulati, the mobile ecosystem is evolving and all its components ranging from content, publishers and developers to technology that connect advertisers to consumers, are coming in place now. In addition to the global inventory that mobile has seen develop naturally over the years, there is also the emergence of local players now. “The game has become more interesting. The future of mobile advertising will be a lot more precise and engaging. If that was not the case, you would not see so many advertisers talking about the importance of mobile. For the industry and for us at Vserv.mobi, this is only the beginning of a long journey,” summed up Mr Gulati.