Living the Programmatic Life
Published in Jan-Feb 2023
ZEENAT CHAUDHARY: When and why was Alliancez set up?
MUHAMMAD GHOUSE UDDIN KHAN: Alliancez started operations in 2018. At that time, digital advertising was emerging as a new trend; programmatic advertising, especially, was becoming popular and my friends abroad were talking about it. Out of curiosity, I began educating myself about programmatic. At the time, the Pakistani market was not ready for programmatic; nevertheless, in 2018 we launched Alliancez with the objective of providing clients with digital media buying capabilities through programmatic. We also created our own ad network called Resonance – it was the first video ad network run locally by Pakistanis. Apart from Google Ads, there is no other such ad network in Pakistan.
ZC: What exactly does Alliancez do for clients in this sphere?
MGK: By harnessing the power of programmatic, we help advertisers run their campaigns through a host of connected services such as Google DV360 – which is more efficient than standard Google Ads campaigns – teams can design creatives, organise audience data, purchase inventory and optimise campaigns, along with sharing campaign data and insights across teams to work across disciplines.
ZC: Would you say Alliancez is a marketing technology company?
MGK: Based on our clients’ objectives and audience, we use a host of targeting features including, but not limited to content-based features, geographical targeting, a range of audience lists and technology-based targeting features. Programmatic advertising keeps a solid check on brand safety guidelines so that ads do not appear next to inappropriate content. Essentially, we are an ad tech provider that helps clients build their businesses.
ZC: Is programmatic advertising extensively used in Pakistan?
MGK: As of now, apart from Alliancez, programmatic ad technology in Pakistan is only handled by major media buying agencies, such as GroupM, Starcom, OMD and IG Square. It is a unique tool and clients such as Coke, Pepsi and Unilever are investing in it. When Candyland launched Bisca, we executed all their digital advertising with Viral Edge.
ZC: What were the challenges in promoting programmatic advertising in Pakistan?
MGK: Initially, it was not easy to effect this shift in digital advertising. Had I not had 15-plus years’ of experience in the field, I would not have managed to get through the initial years, when clients were not aware of the tool’s benefits. Now, however, companies are eager to invest in programmatic due to factors like transparency, premium inventory, easy and detailed reporting and real-time bidding. The issue is to have a certain amount of media spend available – around $100,000 – which most companies do not have.
ZC: Alliancez recently signed an agreement with Do Advertising and Signways Communications to develop outdoor digital programmatic advertising. What does this entail?
MGK: This agreement is a revolutionary step aimed at introducing new trends in digital OOH advertising with lower budgets and more effective targeting. We can run video ads on multiple OOH sites at a time. Lahore is the main market and there are more than 10,000 such placements there. In DOOH advertising, clients pay less and media owners get more revenue. If a media owner makes 100,000 through normal programmatic advertising, with OOH programmatic they will make 200,000. Also, an advertiser’s biggest issue is consolidated numbers; if there is a billboard on Shahrah-e-Faisal, they have no idea about impressions; with this technology, they will get results that are at least 70% legitimate.
ZC: What other services does Alliancez provide?
MGK: Rich video creative development. We are one of the few agencies to provide end-to-end solutions from development to execution. We also do search advertising, web design and development, SEO, YouTube video monetisation, Facebook media advertising and digital marketing. We are now working on launching Pakistan’s first-ever affiliate marketing network.
ZC: Is it difficult finding HR for Alliancez, considering that the services you offer are relatively new in Pakistan?
MGK: Yes, it is a big challenge to find the right people who can handle advanced marketing tools. People are lacking in media planning skills and do not understand the bigger picture/spectrum of digital marketing.
ZC: What does the future of media buying look like?
MGK: Media buying is directly proportional to the economy. Our currency is being devalued regularly and this is a challenge because all the tools we use are paid in dollars. This has hurt most businesses as even ad spaces on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc., take payments in dollars.
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