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How Airtel Ads plans to eat into Google, Facebook ad revenue with its premium inventory

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Airtel has a customer base of 320 million and has access to data as minute as what its consumers spend on and where they spend, it also has details of their geographic location

twitter-logoAjita Shashidhar | February 27, 2021 | Updated 08:05 IST

Telecom major Bharti Airtel recently announced the launch of its ad tech platform, Airtel Ads. The often-asked question in the past few days has been whether it will be similar to the ad tech platforms of Google or Facebook? Airtel Ads is surely a competition to Google and Facebook, but its ad inventory is expected to be priced at a premium. Although the two American tech giants bag over 85 per cent of India’s digital ad dollars, industry experts believe there is indeed a market for premium digital advertising inventory.

“Advertisers are looking for premium inventory, as the click-through rates and performance on Google and Facebook are not very encouraging. There are too many ad placements and as a result, there are a lot of random clicks that don’t make sense,” says Mukesh Agrawal, Co-Founder, Media Ant.

The advantage Airtel promises to offer is more accurate targeting and that would come at a premium. “Google’s display ads runs on third-party platforms and thereby give advertisers a wider reach, but it is difficult to find out if those ads have got the desired traffic. The ads served on Airtel are expected to be far more targeted, and the platform is also less cluttered. This will be especially useful for smaller brands that want to reach out to a specific set of audience,” Agrawal further explains.

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Also Read: AGR case: New ray of hope for Airtel, Vodafone Idea before Mar 31 deadline

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Airtel has a customer base of 320 million and has access to data as minute as what its consumers spend on and where they spend, it also has details of their geographic location. “These facets will enable advertisers to serve targeted ads based on geography. If an advertiser wants to invest in hyperlocal advertising, say, target consumers living in DLF Phase-4 in Gurgaon, it will be able to do so better on a telco’s ad platform,” says Lloyd Mathias, Angel Investor, Business & Marketing Strategist. Mathias expects ad tech to emerge as a strong source of revenue for the telco. “Voice has become commoditised, therefore they first forayed into content through platforms such as Wynk and now into advertising. It’s a natural progression,” adds Gautam Mehra, Chief Data & Product Officer, APAC and CEO, Dentsu Programmatic, South Asia.

Adarsh Nair, Chief Product Officer, Airtel, says that Airtel Ads is built on three pillars – a platform that understands the Indian consumer, promise of superior conversion, and guarantee against ad frauds. Nair claims that none of his competitors understand the nuances of Indian consumers as well.

He cites the example of mobile education company, Vahan. “Vahan has a technology company which is trying to find jobs for blue-collared workers. How do you find these people and connect them to a service like Vahan so that they can find a job for them? Being a telco, we have data that will help you understand not just people with high incomes but also people like blue-collared workers,” he claims.

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Also Read: Bharti Airtel share climbs 2% after telco raises $1.25 billion via debt instruments 

Over 20 per cent of digital ad spends, according to Nair, gets wasted. “The consumer may be clicking on an ad, but it may not be relevant to him/her, but the moment the click happens, the advertiser has to pay. The advertiser pays without any guarantee of results,” he says, claiming that Airtel Ads would ensure customer privacy and zero ad fraud. In fact, marketing strategist, Mathias, says the biggest risk to a telco ad platform would be that of consumers being spammed with advertising. Nair says the ad platform will not serve ads to the consumer without his/her permission. “If you are looking for brilliant customer experience and a network that really cares for the customer without ad fraud or any other worries, Airtel would be the platform of choice.”

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Though Nair confirms that Airtel Ad would charge a premium to advertisers (cost per minute on a platform such as Facebook is in the region of Rs 40), he is not willing to divulge how much the premium would be. “We will definitely come at a premium as we are talking about a 320 million reach, our ARPU base is the highest (Rs 166) among the telcos, we have the highest consumption of data as well as high-quality customers. However, we want to be competitive in terms of the network. When we go to marketers and have a conversation, they are willing to pay us a 20 per cent premium, but it’s hard to say if that will be a fact all the time.”    

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Although Airtel is the first telco to launch its ad tech platform (and will serve ads across its mobile, DTH, and home service businesses), Jio is also known to be experimenting with advertising. With its formidable reach of over 400 million telco consumers and its myriad touchpoints across retail and entertainment, it has all the ingredients of being a compelling ad tech platform.

“India is a supply surplus market, but it has a few operators who give strong signals such as verified demographics. It’s good to see more players coming in,” says Mehra of Dentsu.

While it will take a while for Airtel Ads to be as big as Google or Facebook, industry experts believe it will surely eat into their shares.

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Updating Special Ad Audiences for housing, employment, and credit advertisers

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On June 21, 2022 we announced an important settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will change the way we deliver housing ads to people residing in the US. Specifically, we are building into our ads system a method designed to make sure the audience that ends up seeing a housing ad more closely reflects the eligible targeted audience for that ad.

As part of this agreement, we will also be sunsetting Special Ad Audiences, a tool that lets advertisers expand their audiences for ad sets related to housing. We are choosing to sunset this for employment and credit ads as well. In 2019, in addition to eliminating certain targeting options for housing, employment and credit ads, we introduced Special Ad Audiences as an alternative to Lookalike Audiences. But the field of fairness in machine learning is a dynamic and evolving one, and Special Ad Audiences was an early way to address concerns. Now, our focus will move to new approaches to improve fairness, including the method previously announced.

What’s happening: We’re removing the ability to create Special Ad Audiences via Ads Manager beginning on August 25, 2022.

Beginning October 12th, 2022, we will pause any remaining ad sets that contain Special Ad Audiences. These ad sets may be restarted once advertisers have removed any and all Special Ad Audiences from those ad sets. We are providing a two month window between preventing new Special Ad Audiences and pausing existing Special Ad Audiences to enable advertisers the time to adjust budgets and strategies as needed.

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For more details, please visit our Newsroom post.

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Impact to Advertisers using Marketing API on September 13, 2022

For advertisers and partners using the API listed below, the blocking of new Special Ad Audience creation will present a breaking change on all versions. Beginning August 15, 2022, developers can start to implement the code changes, and will have until September 13, 2022, when the non-versioning change occurs and prior values are deprecated. Refer below to the list of impacted endpoints related to this deprecation:

For reading audience:

  • endpoint gr:get:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field operation_status

For adset creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/adsets
  • field subtype

For adset editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdCampaign
  • field subtype

For custom audience creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field subtype

For custom audience editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:CustomAudience

Please refer to the developer documentation for further details to support code implementation.

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Introducing an Update to the Data Protection Assessment

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Over the coming year, some apps with access to certain types of user data on our platforms will be required to complete the annual Data Protection Assessment. We have made a number of improvements to this process since our launch last year, when we introduced our first iteration of the assessment.

The updated Data Protection Assessment will include a new developer experience that is enhanced through streamlined communications, direct support, and clear status updates. Today, we’re sharing what you can expect from these new updates and how you can best prepare for completing this important privacy requirement if your app is within scope.

If your app is in scope for the Data Protection Assessment, and you’re an app admin, you’ll receive an email and a message in your app’s Alert Inbox when it’s time to complete the annual assessment. You and your team of experts will then have 60 calendar days to complete the assessment. We’ve built a new platform that enhances the user experience of completing the Data Protection Assessment. These updates to the platform are based on learnings over the past year from our partnership with the developer community. When completing the assessment, you can expect:

  • Streamlined communication: All communications and required actions will be through the My Apps page. You’ll be notified of pending communications requiring your response via your Alerts Inbox, email, and notifications in the My Apps page.

    Note: Other programs may still communicate with you through the App Contact Email.

  • Available support: Ability to engage with Meta teams via the Support tool to seek clarification on the questions within the Data Protection Assessment prior to submission and help with any requests for more info, or to resolve violations.

    Note: To access this feature, you will need to add the app and app admins to your Business Manager. Please refer to those links for step-by-step guides.

  • Clear status updates: Easy to understand status and timeline indicators throughout the process in the App Dashboard, App Settings, and My Apps page.
  • Straightforward reviewer follow-ups: Streamlined experience for any follow-ups from our reviewers, all via developers.facebook.com.

We’ve included a brief video that provides a walkthrough of the experience you’ll have with the Data Protection Assessment:

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The Data Protection Assessment elevates the importance of data security and helps gain the trust of the billions of people who use our products and services around the world. That’s why we are committed to providing a seamless experience for our partners as you complete this important privacy requirement.

Here is what you can do now to prepare for the assessment:

  1. Make sure you are reachable: Update your developer or business account contact email and notification settings.
  2. Review the questions in the Data Protection Assessment and engage with your teams on how best to answer these questions. You may have to enlist the help of your legal and information security points of contact to answer some parts of the assessment.
  3. Review Meta Platform Terms and our Developer Policies.

We know that when people choose to share their data, we’re able to work with the developer community to safely deliver rich and relevant experiences that create value for people and businesses. It’s a privilege we share when people grant us access to their data, and it’s imperative that we protect that data in order to maintain and build upon their trust. This is why the Data Protection Assessment focuses on data use, data sharing and data security.

Data privacy is challenging and complex, and we’re dedicated to continuously improving the processes to safeguard user privacy on our platform. Thank you for partnering with us as we continue to build a safer, more sustainable platform.

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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Updated July 18: Developers and advertising partners may be required to share information on their app’s privacy practices in third party app stores, such as Google Play and the Apple App Store, including the functionality of SDKs provided by Meta. To help make it easier for you to complete these requirements, we have consolidated information that explains our data collection practices for the Facebook and Audience Network SDKs.

Facebook SDK

To provide functionality within the Facebook SDK, we may receive and process certain contact, location, identifier, and device information associated with Facebook users and their use of your application. The information we receive depends on what SDK features 3rd party applications use and we have structured the document below according to these features.

App Ads, Facebook Analytics, & App Events

Facebook App Events allow you to measure the performance of your app using Facebook Analytics, measure conversions associated with Facebook ads, and build audiences to acquire new users as well as re-engage existing users. There are a number of different ways your app can use app events to keep track of when people take specific actions such as installing your app or completing a purchase.

With Facebook SDK, there are app events that are automatically logged (app installs, app launches, and in-app purchases) and collected for Facebook Analytics unless you disable automatic event logging. Developers determine what events to send to Facebook from a list of standard events, or via a custom event.

When developers send Facebook custom events, these events could include data types outside of standard events. Developers control sending these events to Facebook either directly via application code or in Events Manager for codeless app events. Developers can review their code and Events Manager to determine which data types they are sending to Facebook. It’s the developer’s responsibility to ensure this is reflected in their application’s privacy policy.

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Advanced Matching

Developers may also send us additional user contact information in code, or via the Events Manager. Advanced matching functionality may use the following data, if sent:

  • email address, name, phone number, physical address (city, state or province, zip or postal code and country), gender, and date of birth.
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Facebook Login

There are two scenarios for applications that use Facebook Login via the Facebook SDK: Authenticated Sign Up or Sign In, and User Data Access via Permissions. For authentication, a unique, app-specific identifier tied to a user’s Facebook Account enables the user to sign in to your app. For Data Access, a user must explicitly grant your app permission to access data.

Note: Since Facebook Login is part of the Facebook SDK, we may collect other information referenced here when you use Facebook Login, depending on your settings.

Device Information

We may also receive and process the following information if your app is integrated with the Facebook SDK:

  • Device identifiers;
  • Device attributes, such as device model and screen dimensions, CPU core, storage size, SDK version, OS and app versions, and app package name; and
  • Networking information, such as the name of the mobile operator or ISP, language, time zone, and IP address.

Audience Network SDK

We may receive and process the following information when you use the Audience Network SDK to integrate Audience Network ads in your app:

  • Device identifiers;
  • Device attributes, such as device model and screen dimensions, operating system, mediation platform and SDK versions; and
  • Ad performance information, such as impressions, clicks, placement, and viewability.

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