In this exclusive “Masters of Media” series, Integral Ad Science (IAS) speaks to the Movers and Shakers of the Southeast Asia advertising industry, on all matters digital.
Asha Gourinath is the Lead Digital Marketing & CRM for Growth Markets in SEA for Grab. She’s a skilled global marketer who’s worked with clients in India, the US, Canada & Indonesia to help strengthen their capabilities in e-commerce, multichannel strategy, marketing, CRM, and customer experiences.
Integral Ad Science (IAS): Asha, lovely to chat with you. Could you tell us about your digital advertising journey?
Asha Gourinath, Grab (Asha): After completing my Master’s degree in Marketing Communications, I started off my career in Sales & Distribution for Vodafone India as a management trainee. My professional journey started in rural India, which is one of the most challenging terrains to manoeuvre. I got my first glimpse of marketing in the product marketing function, managing usage and retention for the customer base,later moving towards content partnerships, and launching products nationally for Value Added Services. “Mobile Advertising” was still a new term back then, I was curious and that led me to change roles and work with InMobi which was an upcoming and well appreciated Ad Network back in 2012. I was lucky to get a chance to manage performance and brand agencies which gave me further insights into how briefs & campaigns came to life.
I was keen to understand the full-funnel planning process on how an agency worked and this led to a geographical relocation to Indonesia in 2015, the road not well-traversed back then, where I joined Havas Media Indonesia to lead their Mobile Advertising vertical. I got a chance to interact with clients for the first time as an agency partner, thus began my journey in learning, designing, and launching full-funnel digital marketing campaigns. It was a great experience for me and it opened up a world of cultural experiences and newer ways of working. This led me to eventually lead Digital Marketing and Programmatic Trading Desk for the agency.
I quickly realised that I missed the exposure I had in the ecosystem to bridge the gap and work through bottlenecks between the client, agency, and media partners. This led me to my current stint at Grab where I oversee Digital Marketing & CRM for growth markets ( Indonesia, Vietnam & Philippines). In this current role, I’m able to leverage my experience, and Grab is a dynamic place to work in and every day is a new adventure.
IAS: What are the key industry developments you’re excited about?
Asha: Technology has evolved a mobile-first and in some cases mobile-only and on- the- go societies, where paying bills, shopping, ordering groceries, booking grab rides, etc. are as simple as the clicking of a few buttons. Such convenience, blurring of geographies have been unheard of and it’s one of the greatest gifts of technology. During the current pandemic, the role of technology was evident more than ever and I’m excited to see what new frontiers will technology ace.
When it comes to digital marketing, I’m excited to see how we can become more strategic about digital marketing and not just use it for clicks and views but actually use the medium to drive efficiencies, ROI, and real-world outcomes for the business. In the current climate, brands will demand more transparency and efficiencies on their media spends and it’s important for the industry to come together and be able to provide that transparency.
IAS: What is your opinion regarding the industry’s move from brand safety to brand suitability?
Asha: I feel we are all going back to the basics. In the earlier days when a brand/agency wanted to put an advertisement on a leading newspaper or tabloid, the first facts to check would be the ad specs, placement type & content/section it would feature alongside. In the rush of focusing only on the unit of economics as the main concern & measuring ROI as a key KPI, we lost track of maintaining brand salience, and why we invested media dollars on digital media. We have come back full circle and clearly content and context is king and targeting towards relevancy is the step in the right direction.
IAS: What are the key initiatives pertaining to digital media quality your company is prioritizing right now? E.g. ad fraud, viewability, brand safety, brand suitability
Asha: Our key priority is mitigation. We are increasingly working on a transparent model in terms of liaising with our agency & other media partners. There should be a fair play and with quality inventory & audiences, brands benefit in the long run. The two dynamics need to go hand in hand if we compromise on quality & focus only on efficiencies such as maintaining a cheap bidding as a primary goal. We are indirectly encouraging low tier-metrics and making it susceptible to ad fraud and low media quality.
IAS: What are the top key trends you foresee in coming years?
Asha: Data is clearly the new currency of the future. It’s the new kind of fuel if you are in oil & gas, it’s the new superfood if you are in the wellness industry, the new gold – you get the drift. Data is powering and driving everything and stricter and more stringent guidelines pertaining to Data & Privacy will impact all of us collectively when it comes to Digital Marketing. So, it’s definitely a space to watch out for in the coming time.
Another interesting trend is around machine learning & automation. It’ll inform the way campaigns are set up, optimised & reported. Once we have a consolidated view on learning we can leverage and redefine how we pass on the credit to our existing media partners. Siloed views will become an exception than the norm.
IAS: What do you do in your free time?
Asha: I love to travel & explore all kinds of cuisine, catching up with friends & binge watch Netflix. I try to stay fit and healthy if time permits.
IAS: What is your advice to the young talent in the industry?
Asha: Stay hungry and stay foolish! Stay hungry so that you’re never satisfied with the status quo and stay foolish to go ahead and break the stereotypes of what can be done and cannot be done.