MarTech Interview with Kunal Nagpal, SVP and GM at InMobi Exchange

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Kunal Nagpal, SVP and GM at InMobi Exchange talks about the recent launch of InMobi’s UnifID Identity Solution while diving into a few programmatic trends in this chat:

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Welcome to this martech chat Kunal, can you tell us more about InMobi’s solution and your role?  

InMobi Exchange is the world’s largest independent mobile in-app supply-side platform (SSP). Advertisers need a trusted mobile SSP partner who not only enables advertisers to hit their campaign KPIs, but does so in a safe, transparent, and efficient way, at scale – and that’s  exactly what InMobi Exchange provides. In addition, we are one of the very few platforms that allow for a advertisers’ full funnel mobile marketing needs. 

I am the SVP & GM of InMobi Exchange, and my role is to help guide the product and business direction of the platform globally…

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Can you tell us about the recent launch of the UnifID Identity Solution? 

UnifID is a truly unique and timely solution that helps app publishers work with a wide variety of identity solutions in an agnostic manner. I like to think of it as a mediation solution, but for universal identifiers. 

The whole shift out of cookies and more recently IDFA on iOS devices has resulted in a large number of synthetic identifiers out there, each with their USP. It is only fair for advertisers then to work with one or more providers that best suit their fit and purpose. For app publishers then it is important to be able to support as many of these identifiers as possible, to ensure their ad inventory is widely addressable and thus continues to be valuable to advertisers. That said, it is not cost and time effective to build the support for every identity solution in the market. To be honest, it just wouldn’t be practical even if there were unlimited resources.  

This is where UnifID comes in. Our offering gives app publishers a single portal to select exactly which of these identifiers do they want to enable on their inventory, at the click of a button. Our system then takes over and works with the hashed PII and the universal identity players to match the users for the DSPs to then bid on. We take care of the technical and contractual work for the publishers, giving them precious time back to work on their areas of core focus.  

How do you feel programmatic advertising will change in the future in terms of how users will have need for newer innovations and features (and what kind).  

There are a few table stakes needs of users and programmatic advertising has to adapt to it. To my mind, these are: 

  1. Privacy: for too long and in a truly invasive way, users’ have had their privacy concerns ignored by the ecosystem. This needs to change. We fully support the long-delayed shifts in the positions of Google, Apple, and other large players and we hope the universal ID players will step in to fill this space in a responsible manner 
  2. Choice: Users are not monoliths in any sense of the word when it comes to how they want to or expect to interact with advertisement. Programmatic advertising has evolved over time to be screen specific with almost no attention paid to understanding their role in helping advertisers find the most contextually relevant time and place to showcase an advertisement. It needs to now evolve to help find the best environment for the user to interact with media while ignoring the boundaries of desktop, in-app, or CTV, even as we are very clear that mobile apps remain the most natural environment for brands and users alike 
  3. End to end transparency: we programmatic ecosystem has made great strides in the past couple of years in being more transparent to the buyers on what they are buying, when, and at what price. We are not done yet because the largest O&O players tend to remain out of the purview of industry standards that others have adopted. In addition, users have definitely not seen the same level of effort accorded to give them then transparency on who is showing the ad to them, why, and how is personal data deployed to get to that specific interaction. This has to change 

In today’s AdTech and martech environment how will consumer and data privacy start to create a shift in core advertising and marketing plans? 

In the broadest sense, the center of gravity of control of a user’s attention is shifting back towards the users. From the point about privacy that I mentioned earlier (in the question above) to discouraging user level targeting itself to prevent leakage of PII, the shift is clear.  

We’re already seeing advertisers shift their strategies accordingly, with privacy-compliant buying strategies such as contextual targeting and buying based solely around meeting KPIs becoming the norm. Expect much more of this in the future. 

What are some more relevant targeting practices that marketers and advertisers of the future will need to look at to create more impact from campaigns? 

In the future, successful advertisers will be adept at changing and altering their creative strategies based on cohorts, screens, audience perceptions, etc. I also think that there is a lot of work to be done around using machine learning-based probabilistic modeling. 

Campaigns will also become more impactful when there is a fair exchange of the data that an advertiser has on a user, to the users’ point in time data generated in real time. This exchange would be in a new self-contained client-side environment where the user itself is anonymized.  

 A few predictions that you’d like to share on the future of martech and programmatic ads? 

For one, I think there will be a greater reliance on high-impact ad formats like fullscreen video. From the publisher perspective, they command higher prices, meaning that they can bring a greater bang for the buck. Banner slots remain the bread and butter for the advertising world given their non-intrusive nature but innovation on video formats will continue this shift of advertising dollars away from them.  

In addition, I expect more spending to go towards the screen that people actually use. While Americans spend more time with their mobile devices than they do watching TV, linear television still makes up a huge chunk of advertiser budgets. In the near future, I think marketers will embrace this reality and be more diligent about their budgets reflecting the reality of their consumers’ lives, which in practical terms means a lot more focus on the in-app environment while also growing in other digital first environments like CTV. 

Some takeaways for marketing leaders and CMOs/CEOs in 2021: top factors they should keep in mind as they plan for the rest of the year, innovate, and expand their teams? 

It can be tempting to see the past 12 months as an aberration, but I think marketers would be doing injustice to their goals of always being a step ahead of the consumer trends. There are habits that have taken root or really reached a point of acceleration during the pandemic, and they will dictate a lot of the media plans – think advertisements within delivery apps, think CTV streaming over linear TV, etc. 

Marketing leaders can’t forget about the human side of the equation too. Diversity and inclusion were big talking points in 2020 – for good reason! – and they should remain a focal point going forward too. 

Finally, I think it is more important than ever for advertisers to assess why do they have any user data, how do they use it, who abuses it downstream, and how do they collect it going forward without looking like it is being harvested in a non-transparent manner. Consumer privacy is not a new topic but the sensitivity towards it has increased sharply, globally. Companies that respect that and therefore allow a fair exchange with the users will gain the most

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InMobi is a leading Marketing Cloud, driving real connections between brands and consumers.

Kunal Nagpal is the SVP and GM at InMobi Exchange

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