Exploring the ocean of advertising & it’s evolution with Akshatra Srivastava | Pubhouse

Date: August 20, 2023

Welcome to the latest series of Publisher focused conversations – PubHouse. Pubhouse is a place for experienced professionals to share their experience in the publishing industry. It’s a place where we try to bring out the best out of them and focus on how they are contributing to the society and the industry that sits inside it.

Our second episode features a very experienced advertising sales professional of the publishing industry. With close to 16 years of experience in digital publishers, he has worked extensively with clients & agencies all across India. He has contributed to the growth of companies like Eenadu, Oneindia, Times of India, Indian Express, Hindustan times & Business standard.

Most recently, he’s working at Dailyhunt in the capacity of North Agency Lead.  This conversation will also help aspiring sales person to learn about ad sales vertical too. So without further delay, let’s start with this knowledge filled Pubhouse conversation with none other than Akshatra Srivastava.

Q) Hey Akshatra! It’s a pleasure to meet you. It’s going to be a wonderful conversation as we get to know you and learn from your experiences. So before we go deep into things, I’d like you introduce yourself to our audience and waht you do.

A) Thank you so very much for giving me this opportunity, I am super excited to take this up.

To start with, I am an experienced professional with a Masters in Advertising and Consumer Behaviour & over 15 years of experience in to traditional and digital advertising. In my current role, I own media agency relationship in North India for our flagship product i.e., Dailyhunt, leading short video platform i.e., Josh, Influencer platform i.e., Collab and Hyper local video platform i.e., Public Vibe. I’ve donned many hats like building & nurturing agency relations, leading & closing yearly deals, setting rate for the group with the respective agencies, processing client media briefs, working on media mix for offering brand awareness & building strategies for overall growth of the group.

Q) Who is Akshatra outside office? What fun things you do to keep yourself entertained?

A) I’m totally a Family Man:). Outside office, I always intent to spend quality time with my kid, family and relatives. Being a big time traveler, I am always hunting for new & peaceful places that I could explore. I always lean towards spirituality, self connect and reflect is what we are. Everyone have a soul inside and a soul from outer world to connect with. So I drive on the path of ‘Embrace the Grace of God’. All these activity keeps me engaged.

Q) You started your journey in the publishing world back in 2008. That’s almost 15 years and you must have seen a lot change in advertising. What changes have you seen in the publishing world in these past 15 years and how have you changed yourself accordingly?

A) News has always been the vital part of everyone’s life as it keeps them updated on what’s happening around them. The publishing world has drastically changed in past 15 years and it has been a roller-coaster ride. The avenues were limited back then and now brands have lot many tools to play with & to reach their targeted audience for their brand’s communication. In today’s world we have Print, TV, Digital Publications, OTT, OOH, Outdoor, CTV, Movies, Social Media, Apps, Radio, Influencer platforms and many more channels. The availability of these channels, helps brands to built their presence/image in people’s mind with diverse media. In today’s world, content is the king and the scale at which innovation is happening, gigantic changes will happen in the advertising industry in coming years. Trends will constantly evolve and so will advertising.

The act of self-affirmation is the best. I always go with the newest trend and adapt to the changes asap. This keeps me up high to confront with the changes and development.

Q) You have a vivid experience of working with almost all the big news publishers in India. Is working at dailyhunt different from other legacy/news publishers?

A) It’s always a new learning experience when you get associated with vivid news publishers. With every new publication you shape yourself and the perception of your approach changes with each move. Dailyhunt is very unique as compared to other publisher platforms. It provides content into 14 languages which enables it to maximize it’s reach by connecting with vernacular audience across corners of India. It has gained it’s popularity in a very short time and the growth has been phenomenal. The vast content curation and multiple lingual approach has enabled it to reach both the urban and rural audiences. This is the key to success and has enabled them to add 380 Million monthly users, thus gaining a lion’s share in the Indian news ecosystem.

Q) You are the Agency Lead – North for Dailyhunt, can you throw some light on how expectations from brands/agencies have changed after the pandemic? To elaborate more, you could talk about how KPIs for different industry verticals have changed(or not) and how media investments from brands are a reflection of the India growth story.

A) It was uncertain and unpredictable for all clients during pandemic, as many budgets were paused and cut to avoid losses. At the same time, there where brands who grabbed the opportunity by changing their strategies and reach their intended audience and markets. GenZ and Millennials have changed their shopping habits and hence ecommerce have taken a massive leap. Post pandemic everybody have become more agile and data driven. Brands and agencies have modified their thought process while planning their spends. Digital has taken a big leap as against traditional media. Creativity is thriving and brands are more focused towards performance and have their own standard of KPI’s while spending. The nuts are being chosen carefully to meet the KPI’s, hence the Branding budgets and Performance budgets are highly distinguished. Programmatic advertising have seen a massive jump in past 2 years. Overall advertising spends in 2023 can be expected to grow around 15%. This ultimately reflects the Indian growth story. The leading industry categories in ad spends are FMCG, Finance, Technology, Retail and Gaming.

Q) In today’s world, Rich Media executions and custom formats are selling like hot cakes while banners have taken a back seat. While publishers struggle accomodating these rich media experience in their user interface, how do you to balance the agency/brand expectations? You can also talk about experiences from your previous organization’s too.

A) Rich Media ads are designed to grab users / viewers experience but at the same time it disrupts the users interface. At times larger file size takes longer time to upload and hence this leads to loss of user. We have kept ourselves restricted to utilizing very rare rich media ads as this could be more annoying to user or viewer. Revenue is one aspect but we can’t loose our users who are bombarded with unwanted ads. Rich media is good but not always wise until you are market leaders.

Q) Sales can be a demanding job sometimes. What would be your golden advice to sales professionals in advertising on handling stress and acing new business?

A) One has to be eloquent, built connections/relationships, always on your feet in identifying client needs, focus on challenges and try overcome problems with solutions. No hard rush required at any point in time. There is always a golden rule which I feel i.e., ‘You Grow We Grow’. Working and meeting clients advertising and promotional goals with honest opinions will always work in your favor. I advise sales guys out there to not throw unrealistic or irrelevant ideas to brands for fetching one time business, rather focus on providing multiple solutions so that they stay with you for longer stint. At the end if they grow with your trust then you’ll grow with their trust.

Q) What motivates you everyday when you are going to your job and how do you handle bad days?

A) My rule is – always be self motivated. You would never be charged up if you allow stress overpowering your thoughts. Remember that there is always sunshine on the other end. So bad day won’t stay for long. Just work on your shortcomings and try overcome them as soon as possible. Keep learning and keep gaining (senior or junior) as it is the only key to success.

Q) Data is a very critical aspect of every job these days. With the advent of data oriented marketing & advertising, data has taken the centerstage. There’s a lot of data analysis at the campaign planning stage and also post campaign execution. What is your perspective on such intensive data analysis and do you think this has long term value? Have publishers really utilized the power of pre & post campaign data analysis?

A) AI has changed the dialogue of today’s marketing and advertising field. Data oriented analysis enables the business to have a better understanding of the the current scenario and trend of the market/consumer behavior hence allowing them to work on improvising their strategy to trigger new product development. In the pre digital era, I don’t think that anybody could measure/track performance of their ad campaigns but still they got fantastic results. Print & TV have been the top choice of brands for their promotional vehicle and Yes they have proved themselves. Every media vehicle has their pros and cons, be it digital or traditional media. So much intensive data analysis required lot of high skills and is  time consuming too.

There is a cut throat competition and privacy issue attached with data analysis. In my honest opinion pre and post campaign data analysis are always good as it will verify your campaign performance but brands should always go with marketing mix i.e., Performance campaign and Branding campaigns. Focusing only on performance will be a bottleneck for brands as will loose their charm of awareness and brand recall for masses. I always say – “Never be in the trend, always be the trend setter”. Choose the wise strategies while campaign execution.

Q) Let’s talk about Programmatic advertising. What’s your take on programmatic advertising and how it fits in the advertising world?

A) It provides advertisers and publishers an automated technique to increase ad efficiency. It has a very high potential to become the future of advertising. With programmatic algorithms, brand have the ability to capture vivid audience they are seeking at the right time. It has both pros and cons attached. There are endless options on digital spaces where they can reach the right affinity of audience they require but at the same time publishers now are looking to just complete the inventory sales which decreases the ad efficacy. Hence AI technology plays a vital role packed with complex algorithms for the better efficacy of ads.

Q) How is dailyhunt & oneindia doing advertising differently? Is there a secret sauce or is it just the vision that guides the entire advertising vertical?

A) Dailyhunt is a leading news content and aggregator application which provides content in 14 India local languages, whereas Oneindia is the news website which provides content in 9 languages with 9 different websites in their respective categories. There is no secret sauce, its just the bright vision of our co-founders which keeps the breeze moving. Getting local news updates in local languages was far from reality back in 2010 but now everything is smoothly done. We capture all corners of our country with both Dailyhunt and Oneindia covering 600 Million internet users.

Q) What are the trends in advertising you are excited about?

A) Data has evolved into the advertising industry. AI, Programmatic, Marketing clouds, content are the new trends of advertising industry. I will keep observing these trends and see many more new technology adaptation in near future of advertising. I am excited to witness new gen technologies like CTV, Influencer marketing (In Deep), Virtual Reality, etc.

Q) India is going to be a $5 trillion economy. How do you see advertising grow along with the economy especially when the cost of media/inventory is going down every year? Will the focus be on more data oriented marketing or better targeting?

A) India is a country where advertising determines the the future of the economy. Creating jobs, contributing through taxes and social welfare activities. More population creates more demand and more demands leads to rise in product range in each category and rise in products leads to rise in competition and rise in competition leads to rise in advertising spends to standout unique in the market. Hence to reach the right and effective target audience the demand of more organized data will be required. This surely leads to marching of Advertising industry onto different heights in near future.

That’s a wrap for now! We really enjoyed this insightful conversation.

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