Forget all the digital marketing tech you know… Just as you forgot the phones of yesteryear

For those of us who used a Nokia 3310 and a generation of Nokia phones thereafter, before we switched to iPhone and other brands, we know just how great those phones were. They got us through calls, SMS and even carried a couple of games. There seemed to be just one brand of phones, the indomitable Nokia.

Then came along Apple. Apple entered the arena with a game changer phone, with smart software, making ordinary phones smartphones. This redefined how people used their mobiles. It gave people a good browser to navigate the world wide web, a powerful hardware to support mobile gaming and an app store that contained tons of great and ever-increasing apps. Still, Nokia maintained a huge advantage over Apple for years - its distribution network and its relatively well priced products across the spectrum.

Late but great, Google arrived, and grabbed market share. Not as a gadget provider. Google brought software, an app store and then gave wings to manufacturers to craft a phone that could take on a Nokia or an iPhone at a price and product advantage that the manufacturers deemed fit. This essentially made the iPhone alternative, Android, affordable to a mass of people who wished for a smartphone but could not escape Nokia.

Circa 2020, as I write amid a turbulent COVID-19 phase, I cannot help but compare notes with this piece of history in a different industry - advertising technology.

Like Nokia, the staple display marketing software in the world was and has been Google AdWords (now rebranded as Google Ads) for two decades. Around a decade ago, a revolution happened when publishers and advertisers started demanding more transparency in the money being traded among themselves. This led to a framework being jointly built, called Programmatic Advertising. Naturally, companies jumped into implementing this framework.

Publishers implemented the framework on their websites and apps. Advertisers started buying media programmatically. Google too jumped in, by buying out a programmatic platform called Invite Media and merging it into their DoubleClick offering for Advertisers and Publishers. Programmatic media buying also ushered in a special feature (akin to the app store), the ability to make a deal with any data provider of your choice and importing those data segments into the programmatic platform for precision-based targeting.

This was revolutionary. But there was a catch.

It was and still is available only to brands and agencies that can afford to cough up a platform fee, commit to monthly big dollar spends with guaranteed annual spend commitments. Kind of the pricier iPhone of the digital advertising industry. So, anyone who could transact big dollars and pay a platform fee, gained access to this powerful platform. A software for the big businesses. The common man i.e. a vast majority of small, medium and large enterprises continue to use the trusted and efficient Google Ads platform. This population does not probably know what they are missing. Even Nokia of old had many games and a browser that rendered websites decently well. Of course, an iPhone was desirable, but that did not matter, Nokia worked just as well.

However, in the advertising business, it matters if you own a Nokia or an iPhone, i.e. are you on Google Ads or a Programmatic Platform. The big companies use data as the new age oil and get bigger. Simply because they can afford to. As a small, medium or large enterprise with limited resources or not wanting to get into annual commitments, your tools are the same. But the giants can always use the advantage of data to outbid you to reach the target audience at a lower cost of acquisition, even though they are spending a lot more for that audience and inventory.

So how do we build an Android like model in the digital advertising ecosystem? Simply put, how do we get programmatic (the software) and the audience (app store) to the manufacturers (ad agencies) at a price that is affordable and accessible to all?

Firstly, we take out the platform fee. This automatically makes the platform affordable. Add the fee when customers want to commit to higher spends and need guaranteed inventory.

Next, unhinge from the minimum spends requirement. Let everyone in.

Finally, add the app store to the mix. In this case, data providers. Make it easy for brands and agencies to find various data providers on a single marketplace, without the need to sign-up separately as being done today.

This approach essentially brings advanced targeting and a single place to buy inventory at affordable prices. At BPRISE, we have created this one-stop integrated platform to offer audience-based programmatic media buying, delivering ads across video and banner formats. You get to pick from over 75+ data providers, 30,000+ data segments (example aspiring home buyers, is a data cut for whom you can target home loan ads or new home ads) and a publisher inventory that spans the globe (by publisher, we mean websites and apps).

In current times when almost everyone is online due to the coronavirus crisis, and in the near future when online will become the preferred platform to connect, you will appreciate the advantage of filtering - right down to the website or app, Geo-location and audience to target your ad.

Now that you know why you should forget practices of the past, request access to our closed beta trial of the latest in marketing technology.

With Marketers Gunning For Performance, Are Consumer Expectations Compromised?

BPRISE has been working with a number of brands courtesy agencies this year. With a two-year product in the making, we had with us some time to watch the market. It was unnoticeable at first, then with some deliberate effort, the mismatch really stood out. Interestingly, various other industry veterans had the same opinion. Advertisements on traditional media like print, tv, and outdoor billboards had a flavour that us Indians fell in love with. Utterly, butterly? Delicious, right? Talk about dairy products, milk specifically and we’ll have Amul at the tips of our tongues. Countless publications have revered Amul’s work when it came to advertising. They’ve brilliantly maintained contextual relevance and wit in their ads, till date.

Advertising: Evolution & How

Initially we were coaxed to buy stuff and marketed to on tv, radio, billboards and other print mediums. Today we have no choice but to consider digital advertising. At the start of this year it was written in the papers that the share of digital spending is expected to be about 16% of the total ad spends estimated to be around Rs 59,000 crore this year. Clearly brands believe in the power of digital, for advertising. And we do too. Why else would we spend our days and nights working on a technology platform for digital marketers? It is because man has evolved, technology has followed suit. Technology has provided convenience and we’re optimistic that the agencies using our automation platform agree to that. But what’s the one issue in the whole of advertising that’s quite the misfit? What is that one evidence of neglect?

Advertising: What A Miss

Image stills of tv ads reincarnate as poster ads. Video ads that run on tv sometimes show up on websites. Why cut corners with creatives? Disinterested viewers often skip ads that look and feel generic. Tech providers have been investing time and inventing tools to help brands up their relevance in advertising. Then why resort to image stills for poster ads? What about relevance? What about context? Where’s the personalization for ad viewers? Consumer mindset when watching tv and other mediums is different. This is precisely why creative on different mediums need to be treated differently. So how can advertisers be mindful of viewer expectations and needs? We bet that insights can help. Having an idea of what your customer needs (if you’re a brand) and what your content consumers relish (if you’re a publisher) can make a big difference. Experiment with native ads, videos, image ads, social media and more to truly pinpoint what works for you.

Advertising: How To Fix 

The number 1 recommendation is to stick to the basics. Start with ad dimensions, ad relevance and speak with viewers by keeping the context in mind. Of course, nothing replaces customer intelligence. Knowing who the viewers are and what they’re likely to like will be beneficial. You know as good as we do, how consumers are. They want quality and they want brands to cater to their specific needs. In fact, if you’re reading about the top-5 holiday destinations in India, you’d appreciate a tour company’s video ad explaining why they’re the best. We’ve had the privilege of meeting numerous digital experts, genius agencies and lovable brands and what they’ve had in common, apart from BPRISE, is their genuine interest in having ads made exclusively for specific sets of people. So, what does everybody vouch for? Customer insights! And this becomes more important to you as niche your market becomes. So, with growing trends in technology like AI, IoT, digitally-powered-everything and with a pressure to make everything perform, we hope consumer needs are met and not compromised. May ads, email campaigns, sms campaigns speak directly with the customers when it matters to them.

What Does Sequential Retargeting Mean For Advertisers

At BPRISE, we employ sophisticated programmatic advertising to best achieve positive brand recall and customer engagement for our clients. This doesn’t just mean stocking up on the knowledge and technology required to ensure hyper-personalised marketing on web and mobile. If anybody wants to get Sequential Retargeting right, then the first thing they need to do is have a sense of humour about it!

Funny Side Up

Sequential Re-targeting is a lot like delivering a joke. There is “The Set-Up”, where you familiarise your viewers with the basics and fundamentals of your products and services. This is what sets the tone for what’s to follow and gives the target audience an idea of whether they want to know more or not. “The Set-Up” is the proverbial stage of the early rounds of communication that get served to people online.

Next of course, comes “The Punchline”. This is the clinching moment in the user journey where a customer is convinced enough about the brand’s story and its offerings to finally crack a smile and make a purchase. Pow!

But this stand-up routine in digital advertising need not be a linear process. There may be people joining in on the fun while you’re in the middle of your ad campaign or product launch, or there are even those who leave right at the start without giving you a patient ear. How do you then make sure that everybody gets your marketing messages loud and clear? From the beginning, through the middle and all the way till the end? The answer is Sequential Re-targeting.

The “sequence” here doesn’t mean holding different group tours for people who visit you in batches and hear the same old sales speech. Regardless of what stage your product launch is in, the sequential re-targeting campaign starts, adjusts and evolves for every user at their time and place of engagement with your brand.

Automated Bucketing

“The Set-Up” takes time and skill. As mentioned above, the delivery and nature of sequential re-targeting typically changes for every distinct, new customer taking a seat amongst the audience. All first timers aren’t subject to the same “generic retargeting” and aren’t slumped into one single broad bucket. At BPRISE, our programmatic engine seamlessly segments the continuous influx of new visitors. This is not just based on demographics and location parameters, but also depends on the source of traffic, dates of user activities and expressed behaviours.

We are able to track users across the web’s many media platforms and segregate the hot leads from the cold ones. Through a funnel for delivery into BPRISE’s Premium Ad Network, Facebook ads on third party apps or websites, SMS and even email, we are able to mix notifications and track the chain of events to your target audience with computerized precision.

Old Wine, New Bottle. Cheers!

So, you’ve delivered the set-up and your audience isn’t anywhere close to hearing that punchline. And if you’re only building a name for your brand then there are other hiccups like being the first in customers’ minds while addressing their concerns about price, doubts, credibility and product quality.

What do you do? Go for what stand-up comedians refer to as a “Callback”. A comedian routinely tells a joke with a specific punchline and then, later in the show, tells a different joke with the same punchline. This gets a bigger laugh the second time around. Similarly, we help rectify the set-up and deliver freshness for the hard-to-impress crowd, till they are better positioned in the sequence to hear the same punchline.

We devised a callback for a car brand that found itself in that very pickle. The retargeting was broken down into small sequences like this:

Addressing Problem Number 1. Campaign ‘A’:

1st March: SMS campaign

3rd March: Email Campaign

5th March: Campaign on Facebook and Ad Networks

Addressing Problem Number 2. Campaign ‘B’:

15th March: Switch to a new campaign on Facebook and stop visibility on Ad Networks (only for customers who have been through Campaign ‘A’)

Addressing Problem Number 1 in a different way. Campaign ‘A2’:

20th March:New SMS campaign and Facebook Activation to users who didn’t convert from the first batch

Addressing Problem Number 3 for customers who are technically ahead in the sequence. Campaign ‘C’:

Look for customer re-engagement.

20th March: New SMS Campaign

20th March: New Email Campaign etc.

Everybody needs to be nudged differently. So, we made sure that the next time the customers logged onto the internet, the car brand was able to pick up from where each of them left off, just like old friends!

Now this can get complicated:

500 car showrooms X An average of 10 footfalls a day = A single day’s batch of data.

But with automated bucketing and tracking that we do at BPRISE, we easily spot and report which segment of which batch of prospects isn’t still laughing along and why. We understand the cycles, which sources offer easier conversions, their bounce rates and re-visiting patterns. This allows us to efficiently figure out where a shift in the marketing strategy needs to be carried out. The system lets us know if the marketing creative needs re-work, or if the retargeting should happen on a different platform or if the rhythm of the campaign frequency needs retouch. Once we spot a conversion though, that needle in the haystack is then promptly pulled out of the funnel to avoid wasting ad spends.

Speaking of which, I feel that the measurement of success in digital marketing shouldn’t be restricted to a metric like return on ad spend (ROAS) alone. Every sequential strategy should also be judged based on whether the engagement rates on ads improve, whether the returning visitors increase, and if the click through rates reflect precision targeting or not. The goal in sequential re-targeting is to serve smart and relevant ad experiences to guide prospects through their customer journey.

Programmatic advertisers typically chart out a funnel diagram as the trend, but I disagree. “Funneling” of layers of data and user journeys need not taper down to a small percentage of acquisitions. The user journeys under Sequential Re-targeting campaigns tend to look more like tributaries of many big rivers branching out into loops over time. All these users, however, are individually pursued to reach the logical conclusion delta of converted sales. That’s the trick.

If you have questions about sequential retargeting, leave a comment and I’d be happy to help!


Ads.txt & Ads.cert

When working (or like, surfing the web), I’m often shown ads of goodies I’d be interested in swiping my card for. There is little surprise as to how this show-of-the-most-cool-ads happens, as I work in an adtech startup! Nonetheless, when it comes to shopping online, I’m giving no “site” any benefit of the doubt. What I’m trying to say is that I am not willing (or even cuckoo enough) to enter my card details at a random site just because it displays the “computer mouse” I’m in need of. Say for example, I’m on one of the big retailer sites looking for a black Puma* backpack and I see the same bag displayed in an ad (at a discounted rate of course!) by “”.

How am I to even know if a third-party, selling goods of a retailer, online, is an approved seller? From my example above, is “Buy Good Stuff For Cheap Here” authorized to actually sell Puma goods? Will I get an original product? Has Puma approved this seller? How would I know? These are a few questions that run around in my head every time attractive ads by various third-party sellers grab my attention.
*The product and company names are trademarks of its respective owners. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

I can also say that the same logic applies to brands buying ads programmatically. But, luckily for them, in late June, the IAB Tech Lab set up a method permitting brands to confirm that a third-party offering space on a publisher’s site is really approved to do so. This is called “Authorized Digital Sellers or ads.txt”. And as the name clearly suggests ads.txt is a simple text file uploaded to a publisher’s site listing the official sellers or resellers of the publisher’s inventory along with the publisher’s ID for buyers to match. Though it might be difficult for a publisher to list the unique IDs its sellers and resellers use to identify its inventory, it has been identified as an efficient means to fight fraud in the marketplace.

Given that ads.txt takes care of the authorization process, entities that are granted permission can access the designated areas. However, if an entity is not properly authenticated it can easily access areas it shouldn’t. Now, say for example, I order a super-duper expensive designer bag from a well-known ecommerce site. There are fraudsters along the way ready to swap my bag for a cheap one without the knowledge of my courier company. And since my transaction is happening online, I will need a way to make sure that that the bag is indeed the one that was sent by the store, i.e. I need to authenticate the source of my bag. What if the store were to send me a unique digital tag number imprinted on the bag and send the same to me via email? That way when I receive the bag I can verify that it came from the right source. Similarly, in the programmatic buying business, advertisers/buyers can now know of the authenticity of an inventory’s source with the help of ads.cert – an authentication initiative by IAB Tech Lab.

Ads.cert is a follow up to ads.txt by IAB Tech Lab and it uses cryptographic security measures to authenticate inventory.

Ads.txt can help authorize inventory sources and ads.cert can help authenticate the same by creating a “signature process”. Publishers can now incorporate cryptographically signed bid requests on showing the path of inventory thereby authenticating the inventory. This process will be able to certify units of inventory coming from verified publishers. This digital signature prevents fraudsters from tampering with the inventory simultaneously letting buyers verify a specific site’s inventory. Ads.cert can block any manipulations done to variables like device, domain, IP address, location to make it look like valuable impressions. Now everyone in the supply is required to provide and signature; this promotes good behavior and is a means of tracking bad behaviour.

I have simplified this further and prepared an infographic that lists why ads.txt and ads.cert is actually important to you if you’re part of the programmatic’s supply chain…

If you’re a publisher or an advertiser give us a ring to take your ad inventory game to the next level, well whaddya waiting for?


Beacons, Proximity and New-Age Banking

banking, customer engagement, marketing

We have gotten used to Google’s prompts to leave for work, avoid traffic, or to come home. Being governed by an external party to plan our schedule doesn’t seem domineering if it’s a bot. We trust bots more than people these days. Why is that?

Bots function on data driven analytics and insights. The directions given by them function on programmatic deductions as compared to humans whose decision making is always influenced by emotions. Emotions can make our decision making illogical. However, intuition is a gift that humans possess. Intuition is the art of thinking without thinking. It is the subconscious talking to us after having done all the multiplications and calculations.

The art of thinking without thinking. The art of removing complexities and confusion. We trust bots because bots are not confused and hence don’t confuse. The decision making may turn out to be faulty at times but that is not often and hence the reliance.

Bank Relationship Manager vs the Chatbot

Bank Relationship Manager

As a bank customer, would I rely more on my relationship manager or on a bot telling me what to do when I login net banking?

Imagining the situation in my head, I think both will be of help.

I love being human, I love connecting to people and talking. It’s always a joy to be greeted by my Relationship Manager. It feels good when they make a call to update me on my holdings. Thinking about the bot, I am of the opinion that it would help to automate some tasks.

Human interactions take longer turn-around time. While my Relationship Manager takes a certain amount of time to procure the information and my work then depends on his turn-around-time. I am guessing a bot would offer immediate solutions for the most basic and essential requirements. Another point observed is that Relationship Managers change from time to time, sometimes quite often. I get a new message declaring a change of person. Not only it’s very difficult to keep a tab on the names but it’s also very confusing to keep track of the communication.

What do the leaders in the banking sector think?

Bank Leader

I read a write-up on a panel discussion in the 5th International Exhibition and Conference on Banking Technology, Equipment and Services which occurred in the month of January this year. Ms. Aruna Rao, Chief Technology Officer, Kotak Mahindra Bank stated her views on the power of data analytics and the way mobile devices govern our lives. She narrated an event from her life when she received a prompt from her mobile device, she said “It knew that I left from point A at this point of time and reach point B at a certain time, and that was my daily routine. They put this together in a very nice news case to give me this alert. They topped it up with a little chatbot. So, you can see five technologies coming together to deliver an enhanced experience. But I just want to dwell a minute on my feelings on this. I was amazed, I found it useful… like a personal assistance to follow me around and help.”

Technology has been changing our lives in so many ways. Location sensing is just one aspect. The next level of empowerment takes one to a plethora of different ways in which geofencing can be used. Beacons for example function on the same idea. Based on my location, beacons can initiate a line of conversation which can be perfectly timed. I receive discounts and offers from my bank. If the utility of such offers is not immediate I tend to keep it at the back of my head and may or may not use it later. But if the offer is so well timed that I receive the offer right when I need it, then there is 100% chance that I will use it. When I need a home loan, I am bound to do my own research about the existing rates in different banks before I reach out to my RM to give me a better quote. If I receive a notification in the meantime with a customized quotation or not even that, just a note to tell me that since I have been looking for home loan rates would I be interested in connecting with the RM. That is real time marketing. That is where the world is headed and that is the kind of proactivity customers desire from all touchpoints.

Another industry person who shared his point of view in the discussion was Mr. Amit Saxena, Deputy Chief Technology Officer (E-Channel), State Bank of India. He said, “At SBI we are trying to leverage multiple channels because we understand the future is not only through mobile or internet banking. We are trying to see what kind of experiences the customer expects from the bank. Customers have become very smart, they look for services as per their own convenience – so they do not want to visit the branches, they want new and better offerings which would suit their requirements.”

How would that happen?

Branch banking is the last resort people take, a resort when nothing else works. I call my RM or the banks service number first in any case of requirement. Considering the scenario where people want more ease and comfort, what are the contemporary technologies that cater specifically and profitably to the banking industry?

New Age Marketing Solutions – Beacon technology.

Beacons are being widely used to leverage on proximity sensing. They can be strategically positioned in the branches or at retail stores to send notifications to the customer. The context of the notification can be modified further to suit the customer. Digitized personalization is common in the retail industry, banks have yet to explore this aspect of big data.

Technology brings about a smooth experience by serving to the customers requirement when they look for it. For example, I go to a retail outlet. I identify an outfit that I want to buy. The beacon located in proximity is detected by my mobile device, my location and the product that I wish to buy are captured. I receive an automated message that says I will get this dress at 20% discount if I use my credit card. I want to buy the outfit, I get a discount, I use my banks credit card. It’s a win-win!

Another example-say if my bank has a tie up with a travel services provider, I get mails that say I will get a certain amount of discount on booking an international flight if I use my credit card. That is the kind of marketing that is already in practice. The next level of automation is when you receive this message in real time. I get a notification of the offer when I go online to book my flight. Likelihood of using the offer? Probability is one.

If someone keeps a tab on all this data, collate it and analyze to understand my regular buying behavior, it will enable them to build my profile and know which offers I will use. This helps me as I am not being subjected to unnecessary noise and helps them cut the extra expenditure. Customer profiling offers deeper understanding and fine-tuned marketing and specified communication.

If you know that a client is an aggressive investor, is it not poor marketing and business acumen to show him advertisements for a moderate or low risk fund. When bankers are so vigilant and alert in person, is it smart to make digital marketing so vague and ineffective?

The tech crux – Cross device targeting, Data exchange and Transparency

Multi Device

The age old saying – sharing is caring – takes us to the next level of technological innovation. Collaboration empowers all parties, that is how we reach new realms of knowledge, capability and expertise. Fusion and collaboration of different technologies is the way of customer service. It simplifies the decision making of the customer by binding different platforms to offer one consistent solution.

Have you ever counted how many gadgets you use throughout the day? I use my mobile phone, then the laptop at work, I come home and continue my work on my personal laptop. Three devices at least and at times I use my spare old laptop when I face any technical issue with the new one. Device switching is a common occurrence, I may have started browsing on my phone, then switched to my laptop after having identified a product. The bank’s application can identify me via the mobile phone but can it identify me as the same customer when I go online on my laptop?

It can. That is cross device targeting. This tech practice is helping organizations reduce the customer’s subjectivity to the same message multiple times. The business can reduce efforts and channelize them towards more productive avenues and do away with the cacophony of offers the customers have to endure.

Exchanging data or using third party applications and cross device marketing efforts though easily applicable to other industries, I wonder about the security aspect when the same is applied to the banking industry. Transparency of data exchange has high criticality, the security measures in place when concerning customer data must be stringent. Is this coalition between technologies and platforms secure?

The level of exchange depends on the terms and conditions of the partnership between the benefiting parties but a huge role lies with the customer as well. Do we read before agreeing to the terms and conditions of the application we use? Do we use secure channels of transactions? A bank offers as much cyber protection it can offer. Only mutually beneficial data that can enhance the shopping experience is shared and that too with prior approval of the customer.

Communication as a solution – Programmatic Advertising

Trust is the first aspect of any relationship. I would never put my money in a commerce that is unreliable. I trust my bank and relationship manager and that is a result of consistent performance and continued communication. I have never been subjected to products that do not suit me. Their communication with me is clear, appropriate and caters to my requirement.

That is the level of precision that I expect from the bots. That is programmatic advertising. Delivering effective communication to the right person in real time. We know about optimizing our web sources to respond to certain specific keywords. How about changing the game for a role reversal? Why wait for the customer to define the keywords for you? Be intuitive. Know what will interest the customer. Segmentation based on age, demographics, browsing interests, wish-list or shopping-list can give a marketer many new ways of directing marketing spends and channelizing them in a much more productive manner.

New age marketing is all about utilizing your resources in the best possible way. Unite technologies and the point of interactions to offer a seamless and hassle-free experience to the customer.