Interview: Cities like Bhopal, Ludhiana, Shimla, Ranchi have TG with buying power says Virginia Sharma

Virginia Sharma JioSaavn

In an exclusive chat with Social Samosa, JioSaavn’s Virginia Sharma stresses the platform’s USP, characteristics of digital audio advertising, and the future of audio streaming.

Audio streaming services have gained prominence over the last couple of years led by innovations and competition. We get in conversation with Virginia Sharma – Vice President, Brand Solutions at JioSaavn to know more about the changing dynamics of the digital audio streaming industry, the premium VS freemium debate, audio advertising, branded integrations, and more.

Edited Excerpts

Of late India has emerged to be one of the most crowded markets in the music streaming industry. How challenging is it to create a brand identity in the chaos? 

What was once three-player music streaming ecosystem in India a decade ago, is now close to ten in 2020.

We have been establishing our unique JioSaavn brand personality, which reflects our mass premium positioning, across multiple touchpoints be it visual identity or exclusive content. Even the brands we choose to partner with. Audio content in general, and music in particular, is being developed, released, and promoted in new ways every day.

Data now plays a significant role in how music is programmed and presented to each user uniquely. 

What was the nature of the partnership with Nestle KitKat like last year? What did it entail and what were the end results? 

This campaign allowed Nestle to connect and engage with their young audience of Gen Z & millennials. 25 million KitKats were co-branded with JioSaavn’s logo, encouraging consumers to participate in a consumer benefit program that would give them a chance to win a month’s worth of Pro subscription. An immersive environment called the ‘Break Zone’ was created on JioSaavn, hosting curated playlists.

This channel along with Kitkat’s new glow-in-the-dark packaging was promoted through multiple audio & display ads, with the apt CTA to ‘Have a Break’. It’s been a rewarding partnership.  

What are the measures adopted to calculate ROI on brand partnerships and how do you selecting brands?

We provide a mix of traditional & custom metrics. Traditional metrics for display include brand lift, reach, impressions, Click-Through-Rate, whereas custom metrics that measure the efficacy of audio are ‘Listen-Through Rate’.

In addition to this, we believe that more industry-standard metrics need to be developed to measure the impact of content-driven associations and are actively working towards that goal. Our core focus lies in understanding a brand’s business and marketing objectives to figure out if we can play a meaningful role in their marketing mix.

Riding high on low pricing premiumization in India, players like Spotify have garnered a huge subscriber base. How are you tackling this competition?

The market opportunity in India is so large, so naturally, a number of platforms will compete for market share. The competitiveness of the Indian market has helped us to mobilize growth and foster innovation allowing us to stay ahead of even the most established and capitalized global players.

We’ve long believed that India is a country of countries and our diverse content catalogue paired with our people-first products will be the differentiator. We built a user-centric and data-driven platform with a focus on consumer experience and groundbreaking original content. We are in the business of culture as much as we are in streaming.

There is a popular notion that Indian consumers shy away from paid content, do you think India is finally ready to pay and is finding value in the subscription model? 

Yes, we definitely believe that the population is ready to make subscription purchases. We have both a paid and a freemium model, which allows us to provide different values to different users. With Jio’s large mobile user base and with JioSaavn, we are driving demand for advertisers and unique value proposition and payment gateways for subscribers. Our paid subscription service saw a 4x increase in the last year.

What does digital audio offer vs the analog audio format?

Digital audio, unlike analog audio (more commonly known as traditional radio), opens listeners to the world of music and podcasts in their pockets, on-demand. Listeners don’t need to surf different stations to find content they want to listen to but instead can make a choice from a diverse range of music and podcasts to cater to their infotainment needs.

For advertisers, this is an opportunity to leverage technology to connect with their listeners in an environment that is intimate and recurring. Unlike traditional means of audio, advertisements on digital audio can be targeted, include other formats such as display, video, and content associations, and can be measured on sophisticated measurement parameters.

Additionally, radio ads are skippable as listeners switch to other stations on radio due to ad fatigue caused by long, cluttered ad breaks. However, ads on digital audio are designed to be non-intrusive and personal. This is the decade for the growth of digital audio as a medium.

Is Programmatic Audio widely accepted in India?

Not yet, but it is definitely headed there. India is a strong “Do it for Me” market, where advertisers need a lot of education and servicing. As the digital audio user base grows, the supporting ecosystem to monetize the inventory is bound to grow as well. A countable number of Demand Side Platforms & Supply Side Platforms now shelve out a prominent space on their respective platforms to highlight audio as a separate format for advertisers, which is a positive indication for the future of digital audio advertising.

For Example, DV 360 Marketplace recently introduced a new section for buying audio inventory and also introduced a new audio ad creation tool.

Also Read: Report: Audio OTT platforms’ digital revenue increased to US$ 102.1 million in 2017

How can programmatic audio add value to display and video strategies?

Each format adds its own value to the marketing communication the brand is trying to drive. With audio, brands have the opportunity to literally be in the listeners’ ears, which we call the earbud moments, which are usually when the listener is not looking at their screen or multi-tasking. They can use the power of sound to get the listener to feel the exact emotion the brand is trying to convey. The value driver for programmatic audio is the ability to target and drive marketing objectives more efficiently. 

How do creative agencies play an important part in making digital audio a success?

Creative agencies play an extremely vital role in ensuring the success of digital audio by fuelling the demand for the right marketing assets. The way a listener consumes content on a digital audio platform is different from other digital platforms. Our ad experiences are designed according to a listener’s streaming journey — from launching the app and searching for a song/podcast, to engaging with the app passively while listening to audio. Whether the screen is on or off, creative agencies can conceptualise the ad creatives keeping the user behaviour and journey in mind.

The same is also applicable for content associations with podcasts and music. While we have our in-house creatives teams that help conceptualize and execute these campaigns, we look forward to the ecosystem to grow stronger with more players contributing to the creative process. 

How is regional targeting strategy shaping up? What are the key target markets?

Our integration with JioMusic in 2018 has allowed us to achieve a scalable presence across all regions. The JioSaavn base now consists of 100MM+ Monthly Active Users across Tier 1 to Tier 3+ cities. While many brands default to selecting 18-35 years old listeners in the Top 15 Indian cities for their campaigns, we have seen that audiences beyond top 15 deliver high engagement rates when targeted in brand campaigns.

Cities like Bhopal, Ludhiana, Shimla, Ranchi, and Dehradun among others have audiences with buying power and are spending a lot of time on the platform. These non-metro cities are also adopting digital commerce faster because of the lack of brick-and-mortar modern retail. We also enable brands to engage with the non-smartphone user base through ads on the JioSaavn app on JioPhones.

What are the ways in which brands can leverage audio streaming advertisements?

A report by Nielsen suggests that 79% of audio consumption happens when it’s physically impossible to consume video or view an image. Think cooking, working out, driving, daily chores, commuting, etc. This capability of digital audio to engage during ultra-mobile moments helps generate multiple touchpoints for brands to interact with their target audience.

Native Audio Spot is a popular ad experience that allows brands to engage with their audience for 15 minutes through multiple display and audio impressions, combining the emotional connection of digital audio with display capabilities to achieve deep engagement.

We also see an increasing influx of brands spending on playlists and podcasts as the experience enables them to tell a compelling story to listeners. Brands are doing this in the form of what we refer to as the 3Cs:

  • Curate an audio experience that represents the soundtrack of your Brand.
  • Create relatable and meaningful original content for the earbud generation
  • Collaborate with us to produce relevant, cutting-edge original content for today’s consumer


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