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.
We spoke to Rohan Mahajan, Performance Head at Omnicom Media Group (OMG) Indonesia. He’s an expert on all things digital and has solid digital experience across Asia. A keen learner, he’s always making strides to keep up with the digital developments and currently he’s acing the evolving media territories such as CTV/ OTT, DOOH.
(Video interview transcript as below)
Integral Ad Science (IAS): Great speaking with you Rohan. Tell us about your digital advertising journey. How has your career mapped from when you started?
Rohan Mahajan, OMG (Rohan): I started my career eight years ago in Delhi, and I feel like an oldie (veteran) already in the system. I started off my digital journey with a gig at a small boutique digital agency with around 20 people, working on AdWords campaign and doing Search Engine Marketing. Fast forward, I’ve changed roles, changed verticals, changed geographies. I transitioned from being an AdWords specialist to a social specialist and from a social to a programmatic specialist having worked at Accenture, Google, and now at the Omnicom Group in Indonesia. I’ve been in Indonesia for the last two years, and a lot has changed in the region during the last decade. Seeing digital evolve from a secondary medium for brands to a primary channel is particularly gratifying. Brands understand that the audiences are now on social platforms- are now on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc. There are so many different channels. In the last 8 years, I’ve seen digital has now evolved from a ‘brick and mortar’ (traditional) to a fancy restaurant or fancy chain (digital). It’s been an interesting journey, and with newer media metrics and newer media measurements in place, we can see improvements in the whole digital journey for consumers as well as for brands.
IAS: What are the top key industry developments that you are excited about?
Rohan: There’s a lot of digital advancements happening in APAC, and I foresee the pace of change to be more rapid in the next couple of years. The first key development will be around Digital Out of Home. We (OMG) just pioneered the first campaign in Indonesia for one of our clients, where we executed Digital Out of Home programmatically. Currently, the scale is small but the scale will increase in the next couple of quarters, I hope. Moving forward, we can actually buy any digital screen-based campaigns out of our own office anywhere in the world. It will be the same as any other channel that we buy, such as Google and Facebook. The other great thing is that we can create multiple creatives and change them on the go, rather than have static boards, that consume more time and resources with limited creative options.
The second big thing will be verification, I feel that currently and even more so for global brands, they have adopted verification as part of the media buying itself. And we see that not just for direct buys, but also across multiple big channels such as Google and Facebook, there’s more appetite for verification within these channels as well. Verification companies like IAS, are doing a great job within the region. You make sure that you’re educating us, you’re giving solutions around that, not just to media agencies but also to brands. More so, it’s not about global brands opting for it but also to local brands, which are local FMCGs or local telcos. The clients that have to evolve, and also adopt verification as part of the media buying itself.
The third will be OTT (Over-the-top) space, OTT will take a while. As compared to Digital OOH, the OTT will become more scalable faster and in the next couple of years, we will see the scale happening not just on YouTube, which is user-generated content but on premium content in which consumers are actually paying to watch. We’ve all heard of Netflix, we have Netflix’s of the world sitting out of APAC: iFlix, Viu, Hook, Oona and many more in the region for us to use as part of the media buying. I see that brands are already routing their ad spends to cater to these audiences that are more engaged when watching their preferred content.
I’m bullish on these trends and it’ll be great to see their adoption at scale.
IAS: What is your opinion on the industry’s move from brand safety to brand suitability?
Rohan: Brand suitability is much more than brand safety, it’s an advanced format. For people and brands who do not know what brand suitability means, the first step is brand safety. But you want to make sure that it’s not just by the exclusion list, which is the basic or putting a filter on DSP or SSP which is not good enough. Brand suitability is that you are buying media that is of quality and of context to your brand. You want to make sure you have conversations with your agency partners or verification companies, on what we can do better to make sure that the brand suitability needs are met.
IAS: What do you like to do in your free time?
Rohan: I’m a typical foodie, I love any kind of food. From Indian paranthas to Indonesian padang, from Vietnamese banh mi to Thai pad thai. It’s the love of food, which drives me to travel to the different places in the region. Food and travel, these are my two loves beyond the craziness of digital that I spend time on. When I’m in the mood to chill, I enjoy watching Netflix which has great content from around the world. Lastly, I would say, I’ve got a passion for Muay Thai, which helps me keep fit and focussed.
IAS: What’s your advice for fresh talents entering the industry?
Rohan: A lot of brick and mortar companies and a lot of heritage companies are going through digital transformation. Whether it’s telcos or insurances, all verticals are going through it, not just tech companies. In the next decade, a lot of digitally-savvy companies will be driving their businesses through digital outreach alone. It’s the right time for anybody to pick a career in digital. My advice to the ones who have just started their careers in digital is to keep updated on the evolving channels. It’s smart not to get fixated on one platform and just one channel, it’s important to keep learning to seize the opportunities that digital will provide.