You are currently viewing In a conversation with Satish Kadu

In a conversation with Satish Kadu

Satish Kadu is an entrepreneurial business builder, product and marketing geek, and angel investor. He founded YOptima in 2013 and has overseen its growth into a trusted and admired Insight-driven marketing brand. An alumnus of the Indian School of Business (ISB), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Satish considers himself a lifelong learner and is passionate about applying data and creativity to drive non-linear business impact.
In a recent interview with Bangladesh Brand Forum, Satish Kadu spoke about his journey with Programmatic and the current prospects and possibilities of Programmatic.

BBF: Before establishing YOptima, you pursued a diverse career spanning programming, marketing, and launching initiatives like ATOM and ViziSense. Could you share your journey’s inception and its progression towards Programmatic?
Satish Kadu: My academic background is in chemical engineering. After a year in the chemical industry, I pursued a Master’s in Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), where my focus shifted towards math and analytics. My Master’s revolved around the mathematical modelling of fluid flow, a foundation correlating with YOptima’s analytical orientation. Transitioning to programming, I entered Bengaluru’s tech scene, a move influenced by my chemical industry exposure. My initial months at vPro marked a learning curve, but soon I found my passion and became a tech architect there for over three years.

Following this, I pursued an MBA at the Indian School of Business and later joined Microsoft for two years, cultivating discipline in execution and program management. Next, my tenure at Yahoo exposed me to the dynamic world of advertising, particularly the development of Yahoo’s Behavioral Targeting platform. This experience sowed the seeds for my engagement in programmatic advertising. Subsequently, I spent time at Naspers and then Komli, where I contributed to building programmatic tech, including real-time bidding and audience measurement tools.

In 2015, YOptima emerged as an extension of my programmatic journey, aligning with an automated media buying and selling trajectory. Over the years, programmatic in India has evolved, finding its footing around the pandemic, becoming a mainstream mechanism for efficient full-funnel campaigns. Today, programmatic stands as a unifying force, optimising campaigns across diverse platforms like Google ads and Meta and connecting the dots of my journey seamlessly and organically.

BBF: You mentioned starting in 2013 when programmatic wasn’t mainstream in India. Looking at today’s post-pandemic landscape, how should programmatically be harnessed for mainstream marketing campaigns?
An intriguing shift has unfolded globally and in emerging markets like India, Bangladesh, and South-East Asia. Digital has transcended from an extension to a mainstream media platform in the last 3-4 years. Even TV-first marketers now consider digital branding a primary mechanism due to its efficient and expansive reach, surpassing television. The audience pyramid depicts a transition, with cord shovers and cutters moving from linear TV to digital platforms. Similarly, audiences at the pyramid’s base, lacking a TV but owning mobiles, contribute to digital’s prevalence. This transformative trend has even led digital-first marketers to launch campaigns digitally before TV, upending the traditional sequence. Both TV-first and digital-first marketers are embracing digital as a mainstream branding tool.

Performance-first marketers are also embracing branding-focused media buying for holistic growth. Programmatic is emerging as the preferred method, unifying digital buys across various platforms like Google, Google+, YouTube, OTTs, and display apps. This consolidation yields 10-30% more efficient media buying, bolstered by unified frequency control. Additionally, programmatic offers audience targeting, competitive pricing, transparent reporting, and an auction model. Programmatic has become the default for comprehensive branding and full-funnel media buying in this evolving landscape.

BBF: Did you anticipate this transformative shift and the potential obsolescence of traditional advertising when you started in 2013?
That’s an insightful question. In 2013, those of us in emerging markets looked towards the US and Europe as a crystal ball for market trends. Predictions indicated that Programmatic alone could account for a significant portion of ad spending, such as the projected 5 billion dollars in the US, over 10% of their total ad expenditure. So, we had a glimpse of the future.

Moreover, with the advent of Programmatic, even premium publishers and OTT platforms embraced automation through private deals and programmatic guaranteed setups. This hinted at the irreversible shift towards automated, platform-driven media buying, replacing traditional methods. What needed to be clarified was the speed at which digital would become a mainstream medium. This growth was gradual in our part of the world.

While it was evident that programmatic would become the universal media buying mechanism, the market’s size fully reflected this once digital branding went mainstream. The onset of the Covid era accelerated this process, significantly boosting digital penetration. Evolving audience behaviours and the rise of OTTs propelled digital adoption to unprecedented levels.

BBF: Let’s delve into some statistics. How substantial is the global programmatic market, particularly in the subcontinent?
A: The figures vary significantly. Let me provide some context. In the US, Programmatic constitutes a staggering $100 billion ad spend within the $160-170 billion digital market. In essence, Programmatic currently encompasses over 90% of all US display and video media purchases. This comprises a blend of auctions and deals coupled with data integration. This trend is likely to extend to other markets as well. While the foundational elements of Programmatic may continue to evolve, the automation aspect is here to stay and grow.

Shifting the focus to our part of the world, Programmatic has become the default strategy for many advanced marketers, powering their comprehensive branding and full-funnel campaigns beyond the traditional bottom-funnel investments like Google ads, Meta, or Marketplaces. About four years ago at YOptima, approximately 70-80% of our media acquisitions were performance-driven on Programmatic, with 20-30% dedicated to branding. This ratio has significantly flipped within a much larger media buying context.

Regarding estimates for India, Programmatic currently encompasses a range of $500-700 million, potentially reaching a billion dollars in ad spend. We are witnessing a growing uptake of Programmatic as the default approach across a spectrum of marketers, particularly among major players. Some significant marketers now exclusively rely on 100% Programmatic media buying. Moving to Bangladesh, the overall digital ad market hovers around $350-400 million and is projected to maintain a growth rate of 60-70%. In our interactions, Programmatic is a recurring theme; many have either experimented with it or are considering its adoption. Therefore, we foresee Programmatic becoming a mainstream media buying strategy in Bangladesh within three years.

BBF: How do you envision the evolution of Programmatic in the next 25 years?
A noteworthy trend we observe is the increasing adoption of Programmatic by premium publishers. This allows them to tap into automated selling, as exemplified by Geocinema’s embrace of Programmatic for IPL. This trend is enduring, given that all publishers, regardless of size, will inevitably encounter limits in their direct sales capacity. Consequently, the integration of automation becomes essential. We anticipate premium publishers to adopt Programmatic through open auctions or preferred deals, opening up a broader supply of high-quality inventory on Programmatic platforms.

Another significant trend is the rise of data adoption, particularly first-party data. This becomes especially crucial with the projected depreciation of cookies and identifiers in the coming years. Marketers are investing in their first-party data capabilities, leading to the emergence of a first-party data ecosystem. Aggregators of first-party data will likely empower marketers to harness the potential of first-party data on Programmatic platforms, a trend already in motion. At YOptima, for instance, we collaborate with over 20 data partners to enable marketers to target audiences based on transactionally relevant, opted-in information.

Moreover, Programmatic is poised to extend across all digital screens. Connected TV is already gaining substantial traction in markets like the US and Europe, with a similar surge anticipated in emerging markets such as India, where connected TV is penetrating approximately 40 million households. This expansion will also encompass other digital screens, reflecting the growing adoption of Programmatic mechanisms.

A final noteworthy trend is the drive towards more sophisticated measurement practices. There’s a palpable push towards scientifically quantifying the impact and effectiveness of advertising efforts. In this context, investments are being directed towards measurement beyond last-touch attribution. This entails a shift towards multi-touch attribution or data-driven attribution, as well as media mix modelling and conversion lift studies. These more comprehensive approaches offer a more robust and statistically grounded understanding of the impact of advertising expenditures.

In summary, we foresee Programmatic’s future characterised by the increased involvement of premium publishers, the ascent of first-party data, the proliferation of Programmatic across various digital screens, and a sharper focus on advanced measurement techniques for more accurate evaluation of advertising efficacy.

BBF: Could you elaborate on the services offered by YOptima?
A: Certainly, YOptima serves as a comprehensive meta-DSP platform catering to leading marketers and agencies on a global scale. Our role becomes prominent when marketers progress beyond pure bottom-funnel performance strategies and venture into full-funnel marketing for genuine incrementality. This is where Programmatic emerges as the most effective avenue, and YOptima steps in to facilitate this transition.

At YOptima, we primarily engage directly with digital-first marketers who have yet to be partnered with agencies. Our meta-DSP leverages top-tier DSPs, notably Google DV360, and integrates our proprietary solutions.

Our first offering is AudienceY, an audience modelling and insights platform functioning as a performance acceleration engine. Powered by AI and ML, it analyses complex, multidimensional data, identifies trends, and generates macro insights that complement the micro-optimizations performed by DSP algorithms. This synergistic approach enhances custom bidding mechanisms and influences DSP algorithms.

Our second innovative product is Neo, a sophisticated bot to streamline campaign management. Neo is infused with YOptima’s extensive domain knowledge, rules, and best practices. The bot efficiently converts media plans into campaign designs, initiates campaign setups, tracks and monitors campaigns, and optimises bids and budgets. This operational efficiency enables the dissection of brand campaigns into numerous micro cohorts, allowing for precise efficacy measurements and tailored communication strategies for each affiliate.

In summary, YOptima’s services encompass full-funnel marketing facilitation, leveraging cutting-edge DSPs, audience modelling and insights through AudienceY, and advanced campaign management automation via Neo. We are excited to introduce these offerings to the dynamic market in Bangladesh.

BBF: As an angel investor, what factors guide your decisions when evaluating potential startup investments?
A: When considering investments, I often use platforms like AngelList, and sometimes make direct investments based on my familiarity with founders or strong referrals. Key factors include assessing the market opportunity, the problem’s scale, and whether the founders focus on the problem rather than their solution. The founding team’s uniqueness and potential to lead in the market is crucial. Ultimately, early-stage investments hinge on the founders’ qualities. I also consider my ability to understand and relate to the business. I tend to avoid startups in industries I need help to grasp. My main criteria are market potential, strong founders, and a personal understanding of the business.

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