Interview with Shamanth Rao
We offer high-velocity advertising creative production & performance marketing services that help our clients hit their growth & profitability goals in a capital-effective manner. Check out RocketShip HQ here
What are some of the most surprising ways in which the ad industry has changed since you first started working in the field?
There are a couple of ways in which the ad industry has changed pretty dramatically in the last seven or eight years that I've been working in this. Number one is automation: seven to eight years ago, I don't think we could have conceived that this level of automation was even possible and conceivable, and it's incredible how a lot of the targeting is basically done for you, especially on the bigger platforms like Facebook and Google. It's pretty insane how less manual how the operations are. And the second way in which the ad industry has changed is how, with increasing automation, creativity has become so much more important. In some ways, it's almost as if the ad industry is going back to the 60s - that creativity was everything. And the digital age, if anything, has brought creativity more to the forefront, because the manual tasks have become increasingly automated. The third way in which the ad industry has changed, especially on mobile, is that the Google-Facebook combine has become - well the Google-Facebook duo - has become so much more powerful in the ad industry. They've basically captured a lion's share of the profits. And while it was imaginable back then that Google and Facebook were important players, it seemed at the time that a lot of the other platforms would be as sophisticated, would grow as significantly as Google and Facebook have, and that hasn't quite happened.
What are some of the ways in which one must understand psychology in order to create compelling and effective ads?
Understanding user psychology has always been very, very crucial to successful advertising, and in this age of digital and mobile it's no less true. There are a couple of ways in which this is important. Number one: it's very important to understand how users interact with their devices. For instance, users want to take almost live snapshots of their day, of interesting and cool things, perhaps in the form of Instagram videos, Instagram Stories so to speak, Instagram posts. And ad formats that feel native to how users interact with the devices are ever more powerful. Number two: is to understand how users interact with the various platforms that they are on, not just with their devices but also how users behave on Facebook, Snap, TikTok, and different platforms that they are in. For instance, rewarded videos within games are extremely, extremely powerful lately, and they have been for the last year or two, if not longer. Videos tend to be shorter. Shorter videos tend to get increasingly more engagement, and they are increasingly powerful. And the third way in which understanding psychology is important is: that ads that are human and interactive are ever more powerful. The simplest example I can think of is that native influencer content: users speaking to the camera, that can be so powerful. Use of emojis can be so incredibly powerful. All these ways, I think, understanding user psychology has been never more important than it is now.
What are some of the challenges that come with developing messenger ads?
The key challenge with messenger ads is that they do not resemble any other digital media that we've seen thus far, because the messenger is inherently a personal communication medium and users - even until very recently - are just not accustomed to seeing ads in there which, A) presents a lot of opportunity because it's, as yet, a virgin unsaturated medium, so there's certainly a tremendous opportunity but it's also challenging, because ads need to be designed very, very specifically for messenger. And within mobile there are different formats; you need to make sure the ads are tailored for these. For instance, messenger stories are very different from sponsored messenger in inbox posts. And sponsored messenger inbox posts basically shows up in the middle of a messenger inbox, and the creative strategy needs to be specifically tailored for messenger as a format, messenger as a medium, right? And I think that one of the challenges, one of the mistakes that a lot of people do, is just basically repurpose their other ads for messenger which, unfortunately, can be very suboptimal and oftentimes such a huge missed opportunity, especially given how early in the day it is for messenger as of today.
What are some unexplored marketing and advertising technologies that you wish you could put in more time and research towards?
There are a couple of unexplored marketing and advertising technologies that I'm very excited about. I think a lot of these are still so new that they have hardly been explored. One that comes to mind is audio and speech recognition. Again, with Siri and voice assistance, this is something that feels magical as an experience, and yet it hasn't been explored for marketing. It would be incredibly cool if a voice-enabled assistant could surface targeted ads - and I'm sure this is on the horizon, it's just a matter of time. Number two is basically podcast ads - again, something I'm very excited about, because podcasts, as a medium, are growing and advertising in podcasts is growing, and I'd be excited to see how attribution evolves within the podcasting space. And I'm also very excited about interactive ads, playable ads where users have much more interactivity than traditional and historical video ads or display ads. And I think these are some of the trends that are going to emerge in the short-to-medium term.
What do you think is the future for interactive advertising?
The future for interactive advertising - that's the billion-trillion-dollar question, isn't it? I think a couple of trends I see coming in interactive advertising, one is that interactive advertising is going to be more accountable, more targeted, more performance-driven, and that trend has certainly already begun where a lot of playable ads are very, very much performance-driven, they're no longer going to be just entertainment or branding focused. They're not just going to be cute ads, with a lot of transitions and effects floating around a screen. They're going to be held accountable increasingly as we go forward. The other trend is that a lot of the interactive ads are going to become increasingly native, and some of the ads we're seeing on Snapchat and Instagram Stories for that matter, are already moving in that general direction. And I think that trend is definitely going to continue, where ads are going to look like posts and not like ads. And the next big trend, I think, is going to be ads are going to continue to be entertaining, they're going to be more fun, rather than just sales pitches. And, if anything, ads that need to stand out and break through the clutter, they'll really focus on being entertaining as much as being sales pitches. I'm very excited about how interactive playable ads are going to evolve as we go forward, and I can't wait to see how the world around these will shape up in the future.