Campaign Staff
Jun 25, 2024

‘We don’t have to put in safeguards because we are one of the safeguards’ – Silverpush’s Hitesh Chawla

In an exclusive interview at the Cannes Lions Festival, Silverpush’s Hitesh Chawla speaks about privacy first solutions, contextual advertising, and his plans for global domination.

Hitesh Chawla (right) at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity
Hitesh Chawla (right) at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

Adtech firm Silverpush specialises in contextual video advertising — serving up ads on digital video platforms that are appropriate to the content being consumed. The India-based company made a first foray overseas in Singapore nearly six years ago in 2018 and has experienced a meteoric rise through the pandemic and post-pandemic era, powered by global expansion.

We caught up with Silverpush CEO Hitesh Chawla at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for a conversation on his company’s approach to cookieless contextual advertising, its growth trajectory, and his ultimate ambition: to be a global leader in the advertising industry, and not just within adtech.

What are your impressions of Cannes Lions during your second year at the festival?

Hitesh Chawla (HC): The last time felt quite overwhelming, and we were just trying to take everything in. It is the best place to meet global agency and brand stakeholders. And if the goal is to meet potential partners, one cannot depend on serendipity. This year, we spent six months planning the events we should participate in, and discussions we should be a part of.

What are some of your key takeaways from Cannes Lions?

HC: AI continued to be the most popular theme. With so much advancement continuing to happen in generative AI and large language models (LLMs), a huge excitement is natural.

Testing! Agencies now have been adapting to test and learn to a greater degree, with so many amazing new tech partners bringing fresh opportunities and insights.

And finally, creative and media are still too siloed on the agency side. There is great work on both sides being created in a vacuum. Should adtech and media be including creative in our conversations more often?

Silverpush began with an offer of cookieless solutions. How has your offering evolved?

HC: When we first offered contextual ads on YouTube, we did not plan on building solutions for a cookieless world. The focus was on a layer of relevant ad placements on video and building a product that did not require user data.

Contextual went on to become a big buzzword, and there was a lot of talk around cookieless solutions. We started contextual on YouTube, processing content via AI to build better data around what was happening inside a video, to plant ads. We looked at the other key platforms — first Meta, then programmatic on the open web, OTT, and non-walled gardens. We built solutions for each of them over time. The goal was to improve outcomes. We achieve it at two layers: the first is much better contextual placement of ads; and the second is combining improvements in creative driven by AI which can deliver better results.

How does generative AI affect what you do at Silverpush? What parts of generative AI do you find most relevant?

HC: Even our basic product was built around AI. With new-age LLMs, the focus remains on improving outcomes. Earlier we used AI to figure out the right placement for an ad. But with generative AI, we can figure out the context that matters the most. The use case in video remains simple. New tools including visual and audio detection, finally allow a true understanding of contextual moments across online video (OLV) and connected television (CTV), where previously it was a coin flip. I am excited to see where brands and platforms want to take this.

On the creative side, earlier, AI used to suggest recommendations in the video to enable better results. But with generative AI, computers can execute those recommendations — it takes actions for you. The latest development involves using AI in video creatives to enhance the effectiveness of brands’ video investments. By combining AI-led creative enhancements with our contextual intelligence engine, we achieve significant improvements in all the key metrics tracked by brands.

How have the last five years been for Silverpush?

HC: We set up in Southeast Asia following an emerging market story. But during the pandemic when remote work became the norm, we thought of testing the US. Though we did not have a team in place, we began to pitch and gained traction.

Post-pandemic, the US is our biggest market, contributing over 50% of revenue. It has given us confidence to try other markets which we had previously avoided because we imagined there would be local competition. Our operations in the UK are doing very well, and we have made hires in all bigger advertising markets: Spain, Germany, France, and Sweden across Europe; Brazil and Mexico in South America; and Japan and Australia in APAC.

As you expand to markets with vastly varying norms on privacy, how do you ensure these are being adhered to?

HC: We do not collect data, have anything to do with device IDs or cookies, or do anything on the user side. For us, everything is about the context of the content. We do not know what a user has already consumed. Let us assume you are on a travel site or watching a travel video on YouTube: you could then be served a travel ad. We do not have to put in safeguards because we are one of the safeguards.

How is Silverpush making the most of the surge in CTV?

HC: We look at each market very independently. Every market behaves differently. CTV is big in some markets while others are just exploring, and it is too small to be part of the plan

But in developed markets like the US, we offer the contextual layer on CTV where brands can choose not just programming and audience, but the context of the show. We get a lot of budgets for YouTube targeting CTV households in markets like India where YouTube is considered the biggest ad supported platform for CTV.

You had predicted the rise of AI in an interview in 2019 when it was not yet a key part of public discourse in marketing. Are there any other trends that you are anticipating?

HC: AI is yet to evolve completely. The potential exists, and there should be new developments over the next three or four years, particularly evolution in generative AI. There will also be new platforms — TikTok is still huge. I also see a rise in shoppable content. Outside China, brands are still looking to secure this audience.

If you were to describe Silverpush five years from now, what would you say?

HC: From global presence to global domination: and we can achieve this vision by continuing to solve tough problems with our product innovations. We want to continue building product innovations that provide value for marketers by improving their outcomes. That is the vision we are chasing. A short-term milestone is going public. We are preparing for an IPO next year. So, global domination and an IPO is a step to help us achieve that vision.

CTA: For more information on Silverpush and its contextual solutions, please visit the official website


Campaign Asia

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