Young ad-tech firms track media habits
New ad-tech companies are coming up with smart technologies to track the media consumption habits of viewers
Television broadcasters are in constant search to find out what kind of content works. They are perennially looking for data to understand viewer preferences and habits. Even advertisers are keen to know how their advertising is performing, including its impact on sales. For the most part, broadcasting companies fall back on viewership measurement data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India. However, increasingly, new ad-tech companies are coming up with smart technologies to track the media consumption habits of viewers.
One such company, Zapr, was set up in 2012 by three engineering graduates and former batchmates from the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad—Deepak Baid, Sajo Mathews and Sandipan Mondal. Zapr is backed by companies such as Flipkart, Saavn and Micromax as well as a clutch of well-known entrepreneurs.
Although the company initially began by tracking television commercials only, it now reads all content on TV and monitors nearly 300 channels. Its technology can, for example, figure out what an individual is watching. If he/she has seen 25 TV shows in a month, it can track all of those and build a media profile of the person.
Even though the back-end must be complex, the concept is simple: it enables the entire television content to talk—minute by minute—to a mobile phone.
Zapr’s co-founder and chief executive Mondal is quick to dismiss any hint of competition with BARC. The company does not provide TV ratings. Instead, it’s a pure-bred Big Data and audience engagement company, he says. Its interest does not lie in aggregate viewership, but in trying to understand the media consumption behaviour of the individual. Its goal is not to compare channel performances but to understand each and every piece of media content consumed by a viewer.
What Zapr does is akin to what cookies do. They analyse your browsing behaviour, understand your interests and preferences, and recommend content accordingly. Zapr is doing the same for the media industry. It is attempting to connect content creators with content consumers at a large scale. Currently, it monitors 20 million mobile devices.
Mondal claims that the company has built an extraordinarily optimized fingerprinting algorithm from scratch. At its Bengaluru centre, it is fingerprinting over 300 TV channels down to a millisecond. The Zapr data platform helps brands, broadcasters and research agencies understand content consumption trends across the country.
What it can provide are viewing patterns by locality, say, Saket versus Connaught Place versus Gurgaon. What it can also do, is identify audiences who watch superhero movies on HBO or Star Movies and then serve the trailer of the forthcoming action film on their mobiles. For a broadcaster, the company can identify people who missed a particular episode of a serial. These viewers can then be invited to watch the episode online. For a brand, it could identify people watching its competitors’ commercials, and then engage with them and win back share of mind.
Currently the technology is targeting TV audiences. But in the future it can track other platforms. For instance, it can identify if someone is watching Baahubali or Bajrangi Bhaijaan in theatre and target them accordingly. The plan is to profile the user base of radio as well as video-on-demand services.
The biggest concern around such technologies, however, is raised by Prashant Singh, managing director at research and consulting firm Nielsen. Although Nielsen has worked on a project with Zapr, Singh says invasion of privacy is an issue that the ad-tech firms need to address. He agrees that several such companies are coming up with interesting solutions to the media consumption puzzle. But the problem arises when they embed their technology in an app and the consumer is not aware that this app is capturing his TV viewing habits. In fact, data from millions of devices is collected in this way.
Right now there is no law in India governing the privacy issue but going forward it could be a concern, says Singh. When Nielsen worked with Zapr, for instance, it got consent from the people it was tracking. Tell the viewers that a particular app will collect your data, he advises. The basic requirement for a sound and fair measurement system is that people should know they are being monitored.
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.
Editor's Picks »
- Reverse Pitch| “Out of 5,000 ventures, only 2% get showcased to our members”
- Congress wins Chhattisgarh by a landslide, puts an end to Raman Singh era
- Opinion| A comprehensive rejection of BJP by Chhattisgarh
- Opinion: Why Urjit Patel will not be missed as RBI governor
- Even the Raman Singh factor could not prevent the BJP debacle in Chhattisgarh
- Steel stocks get winter chill as China demand issues resurface
- Why Uday Kotak’s defiance is scaring his bank’s investors
- Exit RBI governor Urjit Patel, enter wrath of the markets?
- The government has a troubling message for minority shareholders
- Opec-allies’ output cut may not amount to big shift in oil prices