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Innovations change user experience
September 6, 2011
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Digital ad solutions company Zedo started its journey in 1999, a year which saw the birth of many internet companies. The company today owns an online ad network (Zedoadnetwork .com); it offers solutions related to ad serving for online ads, rich media advertising and other formats of digital advertising to publishers, as well as self-service advertising options to marketers. It is now all set to change internet ad selling and buying with its latest innovation ZINC Exchange. In an interview with FE's Rohit Nautiyal, Roy de Souza, CEO and co-founder of Zedo talks about this new innovation and the future of Internet advertising in India. Edited excerpts.

You launched Zedo in 1999 when the dotcom boom was at its peak. What was the main objective behind starting your own company then?

It was a good time to start the company because of the high level of optimism and people's interest in new ideas. But soon the market crashed and we learned how to keep a business going. Also, one of our focus areas then was to build a sales team in India. Today, we have 75% inventory available on the websites of major publications in India.

How do you see internet advertising growing in India?

Currently, internet advertising in India stands at $300 million and this can go up to $1 billion in the next five years. It will boil down to how fast internet penetration takes place here. The user base in China was not big big at one point in time but it grew rapidly. Lower cost of computing devices and bandwidth can fuel faster penetration. In fact, some Indian companies are doing their bit by launching tablets for around Rs 10,000.

Though ad networks have been around, there is still ambiguity among advertisers about what's actually present in their baskets. What are the reasons behind this?

Advertisers will continue to rely on agencies. Not only is the market competitive but it's big as well. So big brands continue to work with different agencies. Earlier advertisers bought space from websites. This was followed by the advent of ad networks that offered visibility on many websites. Globally, most online ad networks are not transparent in what they promise.

For instance, if 100 websites are promised to an advertiser, a majority of these will be small websites. So the ads will appear in these small websites which do not have big impressions. Today, you can buy search advertising from search engines but not display advertising. So agencies and advertisers are now realising the importance of buying ad space directly online. This will be the next big trend and soon we will launch our own ad exchange called ZINC for Indian clients. This will be done as part of a separate company and will be on the lines of e-commerce websites. Ad exchanges can enable advertisers to have more control, more transparency, and the ability to buy targeted ad placements at the click of a button.

Today we have a dominant position in terms of advertising technology. Next we will help our advertisers sell more advertising and this is where our ad exchange will play a key role.

Are big publishers comfortable working with ad networks?

Yes, they are willing to do that as there are so many big and small advertisers in the market. The decision-makers want to be able to see where their money is going without the hassle of dealing with too many intermediaries. Advertisers are not interested in advertising in smaller websites or blogs anymore as it is not simple to keep a track on so many of them. Additionally, these websites come with the danger of negative publicity. Rather, advertisers choose to be visible on big websites with brand-safe and professionally-generated content.

To what extent has usage of rich media ad options increased in India?

We have been innovating in this space as well. Two years back, Zedo launched an innovation called slider. This ad format "slides up" at the bottom corner of the screen; it moves along with the page as the user scrolls down and settles to the bottom corner when the scrolling stops. This innovation has received an overwhelming response both in India and abroad. It has more impact on the users.

Is internet advertising in India keeping pace with what's happening globally?

A few years ago publishers used to look at the West in terms of what's happening in internet advertising.

Today, agencies and publishers work together to come up with the best of ideas for the advertisers. Indian advertisers are highly receptive to innovations and in the past few years I have seen publishers come up with some of the best ones. In the US, advertisers are more used to buying smaller ad displays. While our slider is liked by Indian publishers, it is not that popular in the US. Innovations change user experience and publishers in the US do not like to compromise on that.