Home / Opinion / Columns /  Geo-targeting: The way forward for TV advertising

A television viewer in Meerut and another in Mumbai may be watching a cricket match on the same sports channel, but the two may not necessarily see the same television commercial when the channel takes an ad break. For the detergent brand that appears on the channel in Meerut does not have a market in Mumbai and wants to restrict its promotion to Uttar Pradesh.

Some years ago, this kind of a split in advertising messages may not have been possible. But today geo-targeting of ads is growing rapidly enough for the KPMG-Ficci report on the media and advertising industry to take note of it. The report, titled The Future: now streaming, was released last month.

“Advertisers can choose to air different ads on the same channel in different regions to maximise the impact and reduce costs…Geo-targeting can help attract new advertisers, especially small businesses and regional players…to launch advertisements exclusively in their concerned region of operation," the report said.

“Currently, geo-targeting contributes to a very small portion of the TV advertising pie but industry participants expect its share to increase significantly," it added.

Media other than television is already sharply targeted. Newspapers have local editions, FM radio stations are city-specific while billboards are area-specific. Even the consumption of media on Internet-enabled devices is personalized. Now, backed by technology, the television business—which did not have options for targeted advertising earlier—is undergoing a transformation. Internet devices and IP (Internet Protocol)-connected set-top boxes are enabling targeted advertising on TV. And at least two companies are working on promoting geo-targeting.

While AdSharp was launched by Star India in 2014 for its own network of channels, Amagi Media Labs was founded by three engineer-entrepreneurs in 2008.

Business for the company picked up in the last three years, says Amagi co-founder Baskar Subramanian. Currently, the company works with 25 channels including Times Now, ET Now, Romedy Now and Zoom in the Times Network as well as those in the Zee Entertainment network. The media-tech company also works with Colors, the Hindi general entertainment channel of Viacom18.

Ad spots are replaced in different markets with the help of Amagi’s unique patented watermarking technology. The process takes place after the channel signal is received at the cable operators’ headends.

On the one hand, this provides a platform to small brands to advertise on national TV channels. On the other, it helps large advertisers to optimize media spends and increase their share of voice in priority markets. Over 2,500 advertisers including small and medium regional advertisers have successfully used the Amagi platform, says Subramanian.

In Bangladesh, for instance, Amagi inserts local ads in Zee Bangla, the regional language entertainment channel from the Zee Entertainment network. Similarly, a national sports channel could, perhaps, carry a 7Up Nimbooz Masala Soda ad just in Punjab or a Santoor soap commercial in all of Maharashtra except Mumbai. Such targeted insertions prevent spillage and the advertising reaches the relevant audience in the desired territory. Clearly, geo-targeting minimizes wastage as it enables segmented marketing. It not only helps advertisers to target special geographies, it also saves brands money as it results in efficient buying of commercial airtime.

Earlier this month, Amagi also launched a similar product for over-the-top content or video-on-demand services. For example, if two people are watching, say, VOOT, on their mobiles, they may see different ads during the ad breaks. VOOT is the video-on-demand brand from Viacom18 Digital Ventures.

The ads served to different people will depend on their individual online interests, which are aggregated by data management platforms. Video is the next big frontier in geo-targeting, Subramanian says he believes. He adds that there has been a dramatic change in geo-targeting of ads on TV as well. In the next three years, he expects 15% of all TV spend to become targeted.

Last but not the least, this technology could be used for splitting programming on TV as well, based on different geographies. To be sure, Amagi is already offering the facility in other countries where it inserts different shows in a channel for different regions. For two-three hours in a day, the programming on Sundance TV in Brazil is different from the shows that are telecast on the channel for the rest of Latin America, says Subramanian.

This could be the future in India as well, especially with the growth in rural audiences that are now being recorded by the viewership monitoring agency. Channels could soon have different prime-time shows for rural and urban India or the big metros and small towns. For now, however, there is no clarity on whether Indian regulations allow such programming splits on the same TV channel. But the possibility of such programming segmentation, given the increasing fragmentation of audiences, could be an immensely exciting proposition for broadcasters.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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