Expert’s View: Shwetha Iyer, Head of Marketing, Zee5, on Leveraging AI to Drive Innovation



We live in a time where effective marketing across channels would seem impossible without the use of AI technologies. Today’s customers demand personalized experiences from the brands they love. There is also a wealth of data in terms of consumer insights, but making sense of it all in real time is a humongous task without the right tools in place. With the myriad possibilities of customizations a brand can offer its customers, marketers today have a tough task on their sleeves.

For instance, OTT platforms like ZEE5 cater to an audience across geographies today. However, ZEE5 still manages to provide a personalized experience to a diverse target audience. Let’s dig into the expert’s insights to see how it’s all done.

Our ‘AI-Led Personalization Interview Series’, is an exclusive interview series with top marketing leaders, conducted in collaboration with ResearchNxt, a leading marketing research company which does in-depth research on trending enterprise technologies.

In this series, the who’s-who of the marketing from across industries share their take on AI’s impact on digital and mobile marketing, how AI is enabling hyper-personalization and hence exceptional customer experiences.

In this interview, Shwetha Iyer, Head of Marketing at ZEE5, talks about her journey with marketing technology from being a provider to an actual user of it. She also gives us a sneak-peek into ZEE5’s innovation initiatives with user-generated content and the areas where AI is extensively leveraged to ensure seamless audience engagement across the platform.

Key takeaways from this interview:

  • Importance of hyper-personalization in an OTT platform and ZEE5’s take on it.
  • How ZEE5 is leveraging AI to create, moderate, and serve real-time user-generated content?
  • And, the various avenues that are available for advertisers to leverage the ZEE5 platform for precise programmatic targeting.

Here are some extracts from the insightful conversation we had with Shwetha Iyer.

Netcore: We would start by learning about your journey in the Marketing Technology front in both the B2B and B2C brands that you were associated with. How do you see it progressing within multiple segments across the industry?

Shwetha: I am an advertiser turned marketer. So, my journey covers pretty much everything marketing. From being an advertiser with traditional channels like TV, radio, print as a part of my agency stint, I moved and spent a good six years in B2B at IBM, which was an excellent opportunity for me like any other marketer. In IBM, I started by heading marketing for Big Data & Analytics and moved on to launch Watson in India. Its where I learned the science of marketing that is related to customer segmentation, creating cohorts, and the application of campaigns across channels. Then Vodafone was an extension of that; however, it was hybrid where marketing was for both B2B and B2C segments. And now, at ZEE5, pretty much every single learning that I had through the journey in terms of understanding tech, creativity, and, most importantly, understanding the consumer has been put to use.

Netcore: It is great to see that from implementing marketing technology for clients at IBM, you are currently using technology to power your marketing efforts in ZEE5.We would surely like to know more about how you are leveraging technology at your current role in ZEE5?

Shwetha: My current role in ZEE5 requires me to be at the helm of the innovation initiatives around user-generated content, gamification, and kids segments. This is a part of our endeavor to onboard younger audiences on our platform and offers them interactive and immersive experiences. We are using technology to lead us into the journey of becoming a super-app, which also involves the use of AI for creating better products and experiences through hyper-personalization at scale.

Netcore: From a marketing standpoint, how important is personalization in an app or OTT platform?

Shwetha: It is vital and it is one of the pillars on which the ZEE5 platform is built. At ZEE5, we term it hyper-personalization, where user attributes and behavioral insights are used to deliver superior and relevant recommendations based on each individual’s preference.

At ZEE5, we have developed AI-assisted methodologies that take in to account multiple factors to identify user attributes that allow us to serve content recommendations that enhance the in-app experiences.

Netcore: Are there any AI use cases that you would specifically like to mention that will help ZEE5 achieve business growth?

Shwetha: Yes, one important use case of AI for ZEE5 is around user-generated content, which we will launch in June 2020. This will counter platforms like TikTok, wherein users will be able to create and showcase their self-generated content. In fact, no other OTT platform has done this till now, where the platform is being opened to be used by the audience to generate content. However, while doing so, the most critical aspect will be content moderation, and this is where we will be using AI tools. Creating a safe and secure space for our creators is of paramount importance, and We will be leveraging AI to analyse every single piece of content to ensure content sanity through real-time moderation.

Netcore: Our recent research on the Indian Content Marketing scenario identified that video is the most preferred and consumed content type among Indian consumers. How do you see OTT platforms like ZEE5 enabling and supporting marketers with video-based content strategy?

Shwetha: Since all our content is video-based and most of our marketing content is also videos, so we provide a wide variety of options for every user segment. Our video-based content ranges from movies to web series, documentaries, short-form content, music, and gamification. We are also shortly going to foray into the UGC space with the launch of our hypershorts platform. So, within the video space itself, ZEE5 is innovating extensively to keep the users engaged.

Secondly, ZEE5 allows various avenues for advertisers to leverage the platform. ZEE5’s exclusively curated Ad Suite features – Ampli5, AdVault, PLAY5, Infonomix, and Wishbox. These advertising opportunities help brands benefit from precise targeting and segmentation capabilities to deliver measurable results.

The use of AI in programmatic buying of media intelligently is and will be an emerging trend.

Netcore: As a marketer yourself in the online streaming space, what do you think will the emerging trends look like in this space beyond 2020?

Shwetha: Definitely personalization and recommendation, content moderation, and use of AI. However, for a marketer specifically, it has to be the use of AI in programmatic buying of media intelligently is and will be an emerging trend. Leveraging voice assistants efficiently specifically around search is going to extremely critical as well. Additionally, the use of AI to adequately test the performance of creative campaigns is also something that I foresee an emerging trend.

Netcore: In this time of global crisis because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how is Zee5 contributing to the citizens of India in easing out the tense scene?

Shwetha: With OTT streaming at an all-time high, we at Zee5 are ensuring that we curate and procure more and more content that is consumable by the entire household. We are encouraging co-viewing with family as the whole and also ensuring that regular situational updates reach the viewers from time to time. All of these are initiated with the sole aim to promote “Be calm, be entertained.

Netcore: Lastly, we would like to include your input and queries in our ongoing AI in marketing research. What kind of intelligence would you like to unearth for this research of ours?

Shwetha: I would like to know how marketers across their specific industries are approaching marketing as a function and how it is changing with the evolution of tech and user expectations.

We hope this interview shed some light on how an OTT platform can drive innovative efforts with the help of AI and related marketing technologies.

Do get in touch with us to learn more on how your organization can ace the innovation game with Smartech.

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