Industry Speak

Neha Ahuja

Head of Marketing - India

Basic principles of OOH - Creatives should be clean and the messaging concise

"Data will definitely drive OOH marketing ahead as we see the evolution of campaigns using big data like consumption trends and topical content to speak to their audiences."
November, 2019

allaboutoutdoor.com interviewed Neha Ahuja, Head of Marketing- India, Spotify to understand how OOH media has played a major role in accomplishing their goals.

Excerpts from the interview are as follows:

What has been Spotify's biggest challenge since start-up?

While India's inclination to listen to music and its diversity present great opportunities, it's also a market that is largely dependent on pirated music. In fact, India has been called the global capital of piracy owing to the fact that 3 out of 4 internet users listen to pirated music. It's this challenge that we as invested partners of the industry have to work together on, to ensure that creators are able to live off their work. Our free tier is a great start in that direction, and of course, as users evolve, they can try Premium across price points. The other challenge is that India's rich heritage in music, diversity of cultures, and multiplicity of languages translate to a huge range of preferences in music that necessitates agility for any music streaming service to make relevant recommendations and enable discoverability across music genres, as well as personal moods and moments. In this context, we are ensuring depth in content and deep localisation beyond just songs - more than 200 playlists across popular languages have been curated by our local editors, and our marketing campaigns have also been hyper-local, relatable, and relevant. We've also brought Spotify Lite to the country for users who are on older smartphones, in patchy network areas, or simply don't want to clutter their phone with a full sized app.

How important is the outdoor medium for Spotify in connecting with consumers? Has Out-of-Home become more significant in the last 3-5years?

OOH is definitely important, but it makes sense when it incites reactions from the audience. That's what we've tried to do through our two marketing campaigns - connect with the audience, but in a relatable way that leads to business impact. The first campaign - There's A Playlist For That - was hyperlocal and geo-relevant and it hadn't been done before to that extent; users were sharing it on social media, and creating memes with friends. It set an industry benchmark. For our second campaign, 'Sunte Ja', outdoor promotions were led by artists, where the lyrics of their most popular songs have been synchronized with various moods to curate quirky liners that appeal with mass user emotions and sentiments. Popular artists, including Amit Trivedi, Badshah, Diljit Dosanjh, Armaan Malik, Vishal & Shekhar, Sunidhi Chauhan, Nucleya, Shankar Ehsan Loy, Salim Sulaiman & Jonita Gandhi and international artists like Justin Beiber, Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, and Alan Walker fronted this OOH campaign. It has been a pivotal ATL communication media and we believe it still holds strong significance in not only metros but tier-II cities credited to key factors like visibility, a larger creative canvas, less intrusive, and effective capture of off-screen time.

How important are tier II and III markets? Does OOH advertising play a greater role in your media mix for those markets?

When it comes to a market as dynamic as India, we are focused on three things - making sure that what we say is reaching across markets, and in languages that matter to them; second, that we offer the latest music in as many local languages as possible and through playlists, whether algorithmic or editorial, and even user curated, that appeal to our listeners; and third, an app that makes sense for our users, right from background play and relevant recommendations, to the launch of Spotify Lite and access to Spotify across platforms, including Google Voice Assistant, PlayStation, Tinder, and beyond. OOH is equally important in these cities as in tier 1 because given the music streams for locally popular artists, the ongoing increase in smartphone penetration, affordability in data, and the increasing awareness around legal music streaming, there is an unprecedented opportunity for growth that will come through tier 2 and tier 3 markets.

How different was your brand and marketing approach in India as compared to other markets? What is unique about the Indian market?

One key discovery was with India's unique heritage in music, music isn't just a recreational experience, but has evolved into an integral form of expression and social relevance. Based on that insight our campaign thought and approach was built on the principle to seamlessly integrate into the daily user's lifecycle through an effective mix of owned, paid, and earned media platforms. Additionally, India has distinct demand for local content stemmed from India's diversity in culture and lastly passion for film music which is a unique to India by design. That encouraged us to bring on Anil Kapoor and Ishan Khattar for our campaign, both of whom brought a great amount of mass appeal and relevance as personalities in our campaign. That love for film music also reflects in our 'Sunte Ja' OOH campaign.

Who do you see as your biggest competition?

Piracy is the biggest competition to not just us, but the entire music streaming industry. To encourage users to move from pirated music to legal music streaming, it's critical to understand the ever-evolving user sentiment. It is the most pivotal point in our service that pushes us to focus on the inside i.e. building a product by keeping the user at the heart of our innovation. If music listeners get the same music but suited to their moods and moments, general language preferences, and with the opportunity to discover the latest music, the market will evolve.

How do you see OOH Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2019?

Data will definitely drive OOH marketing ahead as we see the evolution of campaigns using big data like consumption trends and topical content to speak to their audiences. The other basic principles of OOH to keep in mind are that the creatives should be clean and the messaging concise to make it effective.

Which markets are most crucial to you in terms of marketing?

Our intent is to reach anyone and everyone who loves music. Whether you're at the starting point in that journey, a habitual listener, or somewhere in between (listen to music while running, cooking, relaxing etc). We are talking to everyone, from users who freely enjoy music as a passion, to users who journey through their daily range of social experiences through music. Hence, while urban markets have been key points of traction for us, our outlook is in remain pan-India focused.

Spotify's target market isn't just music - it's all of audio. 

Spotify believes that the future of audio is limitless. That said going forward, our focus is to progressively build our platform through our 'audio first' mission based on purposeful innovation inspired by our users. As we've done with music, future opportunities are opening in the field of new-age storytelling through the evolution of podcasts. Our efforts align in building the user's experience through progression across audio formats that begin with curation, discovery, and monetization -- all found within one seamless experience that is deeply personalized for each user. Going forward, we aim to create an audio ecosystem that, offers a transformational consumer experience, unlocks creativity from breakthrough talent around the world and is supported by a sustainable and scalable business mode.

How important is India as a market for Spotify? What are your future plans to tap the vast potential that India offers?

Awareness around the availability of free, legal options to listen to music, and access to newer, relevant and exciting content is driving the market opportunity. In terms of consumption, India is positioned to become the world's youngest country by 2020, and that places an unprecedented opportunity for growth, primarily driven through the 18-35 year old demographic. Combined with factors such as a maturing music industry, increasing smartphone penetration, affordable data, a growing creator ecosystem, and an increasing balance between film and non-film / independent music, India is a critical growth market, and we feel that we are here at the right time and committed to grow the market. Our campaigns will continue to centre around users; for us, they are at the heart of all our innovation - whether in the product itself or in the way we market it. In the current campaign, the final ad we've put out around BTS has done extremely well. That relatability matters. Also, playlists, latest music and podcasts, user experience, and product features will continue to evolve on the platform and as invested industry partners, we are focused on growing the market by creating a healthy industry value chain, driving value for our partners, including labels, creators and brands. Here, we believe there is immense opportunity for growth in transitioning users from the mindset of piracy towards streaming music and are committed to undertaking that.

Interview by: Aarti Pahwa

Tags :  Spotify Neha Ahuja OOH

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