Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Startup Stories

ReleaseMyAd (Making Advertising Simple) – Startup Story & Interview

Sharad Lunia and Anup Ostwal, business development head of releaseMyAd

releasemyadsReleaseMyAd is an online advertising platform that assists businesses and individuals to smoothly advertise on any mass media option of their liking. Be it newspapers, radio, in-Cinema, magazines (& soon television!), our business network reaches out to all these media categories.

Wharton School of Business grad Sharad Lunia’s startup releaseMyAd success story and Interview. After completing my graduation in marketing from  Wharton, Pennsylvania, I worked for Saatchi & Saatchi in New York and then joined Microsoft in their digital advertising solutions group where I stayed for two and a half years.Eventually I returned to Kolkata where I grew up and started releaseMyAd on valentine’s day in 2009.

Sharad Lunia and Anup Ostwal, business development head of releaseMyAd
Sharad Lunia and Anup Ostwal, business development head of releaseMyAd

How did you come up with the idea of  your startup? What would you call the defining or eureka moment?

The idea of releaseMyAd as it stands today has evolved over time. My intention was to leverage my family’s advertising background and my own experience in advertising at Microsoft to create a completely tech-based online ad platform to serve advertisers at scale for offline media. A steady growth and a dynamic development of the business model led to the formation of a soundly functioning marketplace.

In 2009, it was started as an online platform that simplified booking classified advertisements in newspapers such as matrimonials, property,recruitment etc. Although Newspapers enjoyed mainstream reach across both english & vernacular readers, they maintained primitive Ad booking systems which we wished to correct. Our intention was to make the advertising process simple and hassle free for individuals.

That gradually paved the way for our services to SMBs & nascent startups who face an utter lack of access to reliable advertising agencies & unbiased media recommendations, given their limited budgets. We decided to make all mainstream media options available to them. By and by, we onboarded local advertising options such as Radio, Cinema and Magazines. Today, SMBs can easily advertise across newspapers, radio and cinema halls if they wish to, opening up a whole new world of opportunities for reaching their target customers effectively.

While serving SMBs and nurturing startups, RMA grew alongside them. For Example, Craftsvilla.com,at an initial stage had used our platform to carry out a media buying worth Rs. 1 lakh,  but recently, we executed their entire Miss Ethnic Campaign featuring Kareena Kapoor across TV, Print & Cinema. We realized that the cost benefits we managed to provide to SMBs through our marketplace model could also be extended to others. Our significant cost savings enabled us to onboard multiple other funded startups, which include Peppertap, Swiggy, Housejoy, ZipGo, Doormint, TaskBob and LocalOye among others.

releasemyad.com

Share some anecdotes and incidents of how you started up, how did you build the team and the brand?

On Valentine’s Day of 2009 when we launched our website officially to test the target market. The objective was to enable people to wish their valentine by means of a Newspaper Ad. We were initially very apprehensive about whether or not we would receive any Valentine’s Day newspaper messages. Nevertheless we carried out a 14 day promotion on Facebook. It was very heartening to see that we had 12 customers at the end of the 14 days. I still remember the wave of euphoria that ran through the office which was very small at the time when the first client paid up.

Though the profits were miniscule, we went and spent it all on a small celebratory get together at Pizza Hut.  Besides the money, it was the thrill that our idea had the power to take shape and roll out into the real world, which made it the happiest day at releaseMyAd. Our first advertiser’s message from that particular day hangs framed on a wall in our office. It says – “Hey Jennyass, Some traditions are a li’l hard to let go off…Happy Valentine’s Day…Really missing you”  (can share wall pic if needed)

What are the different challenges you faced In your startup journey?

Convincing the media owners

It is no mean job to aggregate media options in 1 platform and then convincing media owners of the effectiveness of an online portal as a viable acquisition medium.

Convincing advertisers to go online

Also, convincing the advertisers to use an online platform instead of personally meeting a media representative and discussing an ad campaign was quite a task. Resistance to what is new will always be there but our job is to make advertisers realize the benefits and ease of the process.

Enable interaction via an online platform

It is always a challenge to get things just right. In this case it was building the right interface to simplify & replace the traditional method of media planning & buying. We had to create a tech-based system in order to enable businesses to self-serve themselves for most of their requirement. This incorporates every step a person must take to book and even create advertisements to be rendered online. However, the system is created to also enable personal interaction where the client might feel it’s necessary.

How has your startup grown from its inception to now? Percentage of growth

Our initiative is a first  for the Industry and given our customers are online, we repeatedly iterated on our user interface after gathering beta feedback. This development was critical & took multiple rounds to finally help settle for a solution which was both comprehensive in its offerings, yet simple to use & understand. Our initial observation, was towards providing an Instant booking platform similar to our Newspaper Ad Platform , however on engaging with our customers we realized that the time taken from intent towards sale for Radio was around a month for the B2B segment . Thus we re-modelled the site structure & processes to accommodate servicing our clients needs better. The same applies for cinema. Right now, we offer one stop media buying solutions for every budget size.

We have serviced around 2,19,000 advertisers till date. Our annual turnover was Rs 32 crores for last year. This year, we are on track to cross the 80 cr turnover mark.

How do you differentiate yourself from competition ?

In our endeavor to make advertising easy, effective & affordable – we’ve been competing with the localized Ad/media vendors across the country. Though these are our main competition but there is a huge difference in our business process. Given our emphasis on technology and a standardised system & process to serve advertisers across the spectrum at scale, we function independent of personal factors that tend to influence business decisions. Unlike local agencies, our business dealings are not relationship driven. We offer greater transparency and clarity in pricing. Our business is not what you call ‘push-based’ – where recommendation made by agencies are a function of the ‘commission earned’ . Besides, we aggregate all media options with very relevant data which is quite unusual.

In a net driven world we thus offer a marketplace that affords considerable user ease by leveraging technology to automate and manage ad booking at scale where the common man can easily self-serve himself. With our historic price monitoring, and multiple seller enquiry system, we offer greater cost benefits than any other. Also,we must understand that ad spaces are a perishable quantity which means that a slot, if not bought, goes wasted. With technology, we can effectively appropriate these ad spaces to the right customers. On top of that, there are huge pricing variances from one place to another. This is where an elaborate work of price tracking comes in because our whole intention, in the end, is to offer lowest prices to customers.

Brief idea of the market in India viz the rest of the world.  

India is in a very dynamic stage of development. The market is hardly comparable to the west. The literacy rate is constantly on the rise. Hence, where on one hand, newspaper readership might be on the decline elsewhere, here it has an extremely strong presence which will only increase in the coming years.

Even if we go by the PWC entertainment and media outlook report, we may see that by 2018, even though internet advertising might have a higher and apparently more impressive conjectured compound annual growth rate at 28%, its ad revenues speculated to come up to Rs. 100 billion barely comes to one-third of that in print media in that is assumed to reach a  Rs. 314 billion mark in the next few years. This shows that digital is still only a smaller portion of the advertising pie.

The radio and cinema segments also shows a considerable growth rate in the upcoming years at 17 and 12 percent respectively. The mass media market doesn’t have ‘decline’ written on its cards anytime soon as opposed to other markets where a time for saturation is slowly setting in.

Future plans

  • Matching the right advertiser with the right media option : By building backend CRM systems categorizing advertisers based on their marketing objective, target locations, budget, requirement and advertising frequency
  • Efficient sale of last minute Ad inventory : We intend to improve our last minute inventory sales transactions thereby enabling better pricing for our advertisers.
  • Iterative learning knowledge base :  To recommend which media works for which objective and budget- standardized into packages.
  • Dynamic Ad Pricing Data: We intend to maintain a dynamic internal ad pricing providing knowledge to help better negotiate lower prices from media owners for all our customers besides further aggregating SMB ad buying for which we intend to foster the RMA partner program and further develop the marketplace model that we have laid down.

Revenue model

As a marketplace we are commissioned on the basis of the volume of business transacted via our platform by our media partners. These range between 10-20%.

What is the 1 thing that sets you apart ?

It is the fact that we are technology driven & are innovating in the offline advertising world.

What problem does RMA solve for businesses ?

We solve 3 key issues :

Media Discovery : A mass media campaign’s success greatly depends on selecting the correct media option. We help our clients discover the right media option for their objective by offering over 212 Newspapers, 27 Radio Stations, 19 Multiplex Chains, and all leading magazines.

Lowest Pricing: Given that availability & pricing for Ads fluctuates widely with demand, we strive to drive the lowest price for every potential advertiser. To ensure this, we float the enquiry across multiple publishers & advertising representatives throughout India to obtain the lowest possible rates. Further, we monitor historic pricing of Ads across clients, to better negotiate prices with the publishers in the advertiser’s interest. In the end, we manage to save a lot of money.

Service Delivery : We ensure a glitch-free smooth run of advertisements placed across all ticket sizes. Our systems & processes enable us to service huge volumes of ad placements, otherwise not possible via any manual process generally followed by traditional media agencies.

Please ask releasemyad team anything you want via comments box below.