Finecast will accelerate the idea of integrated TV planning in India: Atique Kazi

Kazi, President - Data, Performance & Digital Products at GroupM, lets us in on the inner workings of Finecast and how it will bolster the TV ecosystem for advertisers and media partners

by Javed Farooqui
Published - October 31, 2022
7 minutes To Read
Finecast will accelerate the idea of integrated TV planning in India: Atique Kazi

With the aim of harnessing the potential of broadcast quality content across platforms and touchpoints, media investment powerhouse GroupM recently launched Finecast in India. It was launched in select global markets in 2017 with the objective of delivering digital-like precision and accountability to advertising on television. The launch of Finecast comes at a time when the consumption of broadcast content is getting fragmented.

In an interview with exchange4media and Impact, GroupM President Data, Performance & Digital Products Atique Kazi said Finecast is currently available for CTV with plans afoot to expand it to linear TV. He also revealed that the agency is working with broadcasters and distribution platforms to enable targeted advertising on linear TV. Below are the edited excerpts from the conversation.

What prompted GroupM to launch Finecast in India?

TV advertising is changing. We are seeing a massive shift in consumer behaviour on television. Today, consumers have more options to access television content. Earlier, it was just through linear channels. Within the traditional ecosystem, many more options have emerged in the cable and DTH space. In the last few years, we have seen the emergence of OTT. With all these changes in the media landscape, consumers have started accessing the content in multiple ways which include linear TV, Connected TV, and OTT. Therefore, we cannot look at television advertising in isolation by ignoring new access points like OTT and CTV. We need to have total TV conversation and that's primarily the reason why we have brought Finecast to accelerate the idea of doing integrated TV planning and not just linear TV planning.

Currently, broadcasters are monetising linear and digital platforms separately. With the launch of Finecast, will we see more TV + Digital deals between advertisers and broadcasters?

Finecast has a certain ethos and we don't compromise on that. If you look at Finecast's global positioning, it provides access to broadcast quality inventory across devices. Anything which is there on the linear feed would be part of Finecast. For example, even if there is a popular YouTube channel with millions of subscribers, we won't take that particular channel in our supply mix if the content on that channel is not available on linear TV.

What's the idea behind having only broadcast TV content under Finecast?

With Finecast, we want to keep the ethos of TV advertising intact. We don't want any compromising points. The TV hardware remains the same it's just the access points that change. If I start looking at other formats like user-generated content (UGC) there are comprising points (brand safety) that come through. We also believe that some of the broadcast quality content that we watch is more of a household viewing and the UGC content is more of individual viewing. Finecast is a product targeted at households and not at individuals.

How does Finecast work?

On the one end of the spectrum, you have publishers/broadcasters and on the other end of the spectrum, you have brands who want to reach the consumers. What we have in between is a proprietary tool called FCAP which is our Finecast audience planner. FCAP harnesses all the supply information that we have from all the OTT players. So it will capture all the information about the inventory that OTT players have and which genres and geographies that inventory will come from. We have worked with some of the data partners in India to go ahead and map all the data which is available like affluence data, census data, and point of interest data into this particular platform. So, my geo key on the platform is postcode. Now, I can tell you within the postcode how many households are there in that postcode, what is the affluence level in that postcode besides automotible ownership data, the number of schools in that locality, and so on and so forth. This info is now available on top of the publisher data for brands to go ahead and use for targeting specific consumers.

What kind of response has Finecast received from broadcasters and brands and going forward? Will it pave the way for more TV + Digital integrated ad deals? 

In GroupM, we have at least 60 to 70 clients who are working with us on Finecast from a client's portfolio perspective and include all possible categories. From broadcaster/publisher, we have everyone in the mix right from Disney+ Hotstar, SonyLIV, Voot, and MX Player. If I do an audience graph, we do approximately 95% coverage of addressable households on Connected TV per se. Right now, the Finecast solution is only on Connected TV.

As far as integrated TV+Digital planning is concerned, three years down the line you will have a situation where the broadcasters will be selling combo packages that will have linear TV + OTT together. Currently, everything seems to be siloed.

When do you plan to include linear channels in the Finecast mix?

It's a work in progress. We are working with partners as to how we can make the linear feeds addressable as well. We are working on the possibility of cutting the linear feed at the set-top box (STB) level and during the ad break replacing the linear ads with targeted ads that are relevant to that specific household or geography. This will take a lot of time as we will have to work with the broadcasters and the distribution platforms. For broadcasters, it will be about managing their inventory and the kind of backfill that they can create. So, suppose you are showing an ad in the best region of the country then what is the ad that you show in the rest of the region where you are not selecting those specific audiences?

The broadcaster and the distributor will play the most important role. Our role will be to bring in the audience insights as to what cuts we want to go ahead and advertise. Distribution platforms like Airtel, Tata Play, and others will have to make their STBs smart so that their boxes can have a return path. The broadcasters will have to give authority and flexibility to the distribution platforms to insert ads in a dynamic way.

Have you started the conversations with platforms and broadcasters for enabling targeted advertising on linear feeds?

We have started conversations with some of the distribution players and we have started testing with some of the partners as to what these scenarios could look like and what is the advantage for the national and local advertisers. In this opportunity of making linear feed addressable, we will see some betas and some samples happening by the end of this year. Scaling up targeted ads on linear feeds will take another three years to happen.

How is the CTV ecosystem shaping from an advertising perspective?

As per our internal data, the reach of CTV has gone up from 8-9 million households in 2021 to 20-25 million this year. This increase in the overall CTV universe demands that advertising dollars flow into that advertising funnel as well. As far as CTV advertising is concerned, we work with certain broadcasters on programmatic guaranteed setup and there are certain publishers with whom we work on the bidding models.

We have also commissioned a study where we want to analyse the audience-watching behaviour on CTV. In certain genres, there is a belief that co-viewing is happening while in certain genres the viewing happens on a siloed basis. As per our estimates, 2.4 people are watching content on connected devices. However, that number varies from genre to genre.

How is GroupM as an agency ensuring that CTV gets its due from advertisers?

We have integrated CTV into our TV planning framework which gives us a holistic view of TV plans. We go to our clients and talk about the incremental reach that they will get when they use CTV + Linear TV vis-a-vis standalone TV planning. In our TV planning systems across GroupM agencies, we have already included the CTV planning reach curves.