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Opera Mediaworks scales up Asia play; ambitious 2015 ahead

It is going to be a very busy year for Opera Mediaworks in Asia Pacific. The appointment of a regional lead to increase revenue, strengthening teams, foraying into new markets and bringing its global marquee capabilities to Asia – Opera Mediaworks has some ambitious plans set for 2015.

Leading the helm of the business is the company’s newly appointed Managing Director for the region, Vikas Gulati. A veteran in the mobile advertising domain, Mr Gulati has chalked out a multi-pillared strategy for the company to achieve its business objectives that begin with establishing Opera Mediaworks as a market leader in Asia, on similar lines that it is seen as in other markets.

Asia – the gap and the opportunity
Opera is amongst the few names that had jumped on the mobile bandwagon a long time before any conversation of the ‘year of mobile’ had begun. Kicking off as a player in the browser space for a significant time, the company was the preferred browser on handheld devices. In its current avatar, Opera Mediaworks, the mobile advertising subsidiary of Opera Software, added the mobile ad platform capabilities to its customer ownership business, making the only platform that has its own access to not just first party data but also direct consumer insights on mobile behaviour. The technology powers the biggest mobile publishers in the world, enabling marketers to deliver the highest quality ad experiences on mobile. In the western world, this has kept Opera a key name in the mobile space, but in Asia, there is some distance to cover.

Globally Opera Mediaworks is known for its scale. Touching close to a billion consumers, Opera works with large marketers including global top spenders. While mobile ad spend in Asia has lagged other regions, Mr Gulati believes that the time is right to increase activity in this market now as it goes mobile first, with 60 per cent consumers being on smartphones. The contribution of share of impressions from Asia in the last three years for Opera Mediaworks has grown from 10 per cent to 26 per cent, making the region second only to the US, and spelling tremendous opportunities.

In a conversation with DMA, Mr Gulati divulged that Opera Mediaworks has already converted some of its global relationships in the region across advertisers, publishers, developers and other strategic partnerships. The multi-tiered strategy that would pan out in 2015 builds on this.

Of market & product
At present, Opera Mediaworks has steady operations in India and Indonesia. In addition to creating more depth in these markets, the company will penetrate further into the Southeast Asia markets establishing Singapore as its regional hub. Opera looks to also expand its network into advanced markets such as Korea and Australia.

The geographical ambition will be layered with initiatives to make the offer more potent for advertisers. Mr Gulati informed that Opera Mediaworks is introducing Opera Studio to bring best in class capabilities on rich media experience and other creative solutions, to the region. Opera’s 12-member Innovation Lab will become active in the region to be able to do more work in order to offer solutions that go beyond banners on mobile.

Last but not the least, the focus on mobile video in Asia. Mobile video consumption is growing exponentially and advertisers love the idea of bringing the power of sight, sound & motion on the personal screen. “Instant-Play HD Video is one of kind product with no buffering and streaming, the video plays in less than one-second every single time, is one such massive opportunity,” Mr Gulati added.

Monetisation & measurement
The monetisation piece is critical for Opera’s future strategy, and the offer to advertisers and publishers is an area that Opera has invested time on. The company’s mantra is to create a combination of scale, consumer insights and the apt tech solutions.

“The scale at which Opera operates is one of our biggest differentiators. Of the Opera Mediaworks’ platform reach of a billion users, a significant part comes from Asia Pacific. The Opera browser itself has 350 million active users mostly coming from emerging markets and through smartphones. At the same time, we are also directly connected (with our SDKs) to the largest mobile publishers and developers. We are not only connecting brands to publishers but also bring consumer insights along with real time audience targeting capabilities. No one comes close to the scale that Opera brings to the table,” Mr Gulati said.

Mr. Gulati reiterates that Opera’s tech capabilities allow it to create engaging ad experiences that mix rich media, video and native keeping device capabilities in mind.

The final piece of the plan is performance. From a brand perspective, brands still don’t know what they get from their mobile ad spend. “We are bridging that gap. We are working with brands to bring accountability, partner with them on research initiatives to measure the impact of mobile on key brand attributes like TOM recall, message recall, role of mobile in path to purchase and so on that will help brands in leveraging mobile up to its true potential,” Mr Gulati stated.

Vikas Gulati, Opera Mediaworks

Vikas Gulati, Opera Mediaworks

Vikas Gulati on three challenges facing the mobile marketing business
On the need to simplify the mobile marketing ecosystem as the number of players increase, creating more confusion than solution for marketers…
As the industry matures, it will see consolidation. While there are quite a few players, from a marketer’s viewpoint it is not just about simplifying the space but also about who from these understand, address and can engage their consumer base. In our case, we own the consumer base. Every single consumer is uniquely identified on Opera Mediaworks. Our industry initiatives such as the State of Mobile Advertising report are based on this. Most others are just networks serving ads.

On the gap between consumer behaviour and marketing ad spends, when marketers who are willing to spend also fall short of ad formats to do so…
In Asia, the market is ready. Not only are consumer habits shifting rapidly but the limitations of static banners are finding new solutions. The opportunities in the ecosystem are high quality as the right set of technologies comes in the picture. We are seeing significant revenue shifting towards mobile, and marketers are taking the right calls in spending budgets on the right opportunities and channels such as video, rich media and native formats. In the last 12-18 months, solutions that are aligned to what marketers want to use, have come in play.

On whether mobile can be an attractive medium for brand building…
I believe it can be, though there is a wider challenge here. Marketers have been conditioned to replicate their TV ad messaging to mobile. There is a content problem. I don’t think enough efforts have been made to customise ad messages to mobile. If you think about it, the very premise is that this is a personalised screen. If we serve ad messaging in the formats that people consume, like video or gaming even, they would love it. People may be living with short attention spans on TV but not on mobile. I am very excited about what is coming for brands on mobile devices but it is only possible if you are working on the right set of platforms with the right partners.

Noor Fathima Warsia

A veteran journalist in the Indian marketing, media and advertising fraternity, Noor Fathima Warsia took on the role of Group Editor -– APAC for Digital Market Asia in May 2013. Noor has focussed on tracking trends and developments in the Indian media industry.