Brand news

IRCTC's viral reply to one of its users is neither funny, nor befitting, savage or epic. here’s why?- Salil Shanker

29 May 2019

One of our editors spoke to Salil Shanker, VP of Amnet India about the entire incident. Amnet is Dentsu Aegis Network’s programmatic group. I think there is no one better than Salil who can explain why such goofups happen and who out of the user, brand and the ad exchange is really at fault. He says, “While one can ensure brand safety by deploying multiple third-party tools that ensure brand safe environment for ads. However, seller also needs to deploy these tools and mechanism at their end to filter out ads which are non-brand safe for their content or website and may give a bad consumer experience.” To simplify it further, the inventory seller, which in this case is IRCTC, should have deployed intelligence at their end to filter non-brand safe content, which in this case is the obscene ad. This definitely doesn’t make IRCTC look savage because it’s a brands responsibility to give its users a nice and clean experience. Period.

As long as it’s legal, it’s our choice what we do with tons of GB of internet that we get every month via fixed line or our mobile phone service provider. Oh, and in between somewhere the Government also decides what we see or not but besides that its mostly our choice. IRCTC should not have acted smart here and should have remained boring as they were for past 19 years. For the one time, they decided to be funny, they made fun of Anand Kumar (and you & me) and told the world about Anand Kumar’s browsing habits and their inability to think proactively. So as per IRCTC either ADX or Anand Kumar is at fault. In the words of Shanker, “With the rise of internet users in India the consumers are exploring the digital world like never before and in the process they end up being in non-brand safe environment, where their individual privacy is also at stake and are exposed to violated content, this further lead to them being followed by retargeting ads across their digital journey.”

When we asked Shanker about the level of sophistication that one should expect from brands in cases like these, he said, “First, we need to understand that programmatic is a better way of buying existing media and it’s not a new channel, it has nothing to do with ad frauds. Programmatic helps you buy media more effectively by deploying lot of mechanism which filters out issues on ad fraud, issues with transparency and issues with brand safety. Market is getting evolved but it’s still in doubts about adoption. People (read brands) need to understand the importance of Data & Tech and address these issues proactively.”

Could programmatic have saved the day?

Yes, definitely but like everything premium in life this feature too comes at a cost. Salil tells us, “India being media first country, price plays an important role in making media buying decisions. It is not that marketers do not understand the importance of data and tech. They do, however, they are so much engrossed in the Vanilla media buying, that they fear of trying programmatic media buying to its full essence. They are still used to the concept of traditional digital buys where they see an ad against their media investment and fail to understand the concept of audience buying when it comes to programmatic media. Because of these they don’t use Programmatic to its full potential and ignore Brand safety tools, ad serving which comes with a premium. The option of opting 3rd party brand safety tool are there in traditional media as well, that come at additional cost which publishers don’t really consider and hence end up in the situation that we are seeing today. Brands need to invest on third-party tool to avoid the situation and need to have expertise in using these tools.”

Agencies offering programmatic too are at fault sometimes, mostly because they aren’t able to educate brands about the risks and potentials of the tool. On this, Shanker explains, “At Dentsu Aegis Network, we have one clear vision to innovate the way brands are built. In the context of today’s constantly changing market, we are hugely focused on how brands adapt to new environments, technologies and ways of working, with brand safety at its heart. We take digital brand safety extremely seriously and pursue every possible measure to protect our clients. We have a robust approach in place, which we constantly review against the latest technologies in the marketplace to ensure we are at the forefront of managing the risks.  We place immense focus on our compliance policies, practices and controls, and our brand safety measures are considered industry leading. As programmatic advertising continues to grow, we need to be ever vigilant and responsive, working together as an industry to ensure brand advertising only appears in brand safe environments. We work exclusively with selected DSPs & SSPs in order to buy cleaner inventory which address brand safety issues and bring standard buying process for clients and agencies. Also, we are partnered with all 3rdparty brand safety tools ensuring any brands align to us are on programmatic safe content environment. As an organisation, we conduct extensive work with our clients to develop brand safety protocols at the brand level, which will positively influence all their activities. Moreover, there are training modules and workshops that we conduct for our internal agencies and clients on Programmatic buying, data and technology, data privacy and brand safety.”

To conclude, I would say, it’s a very smart world. IRCTC should not function like a sub-standard brand. Brands like PayTM are able to provide a world class experience when it comes to booking train tickets and people like me are using PayTM for booking tickets. This happened because IRCTC couldn’t give me the user experience I wanted. As far as, Anand Kumar is concerned, he is a normal human being who just wanted to complain and get his two minutes of attention. Let’s not pull his leg. Looks like Gagandeep Luthra has already figured out the fault.