Brands come to OTT to build awareness and recall, says Rahul Sarangi of MX Player

In an interview with, the Vice-President and Head - New Business at MX Player, talks about how OTT platforms are a better bet for brands for their content needs

Akansha Srivastava
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Rahul Sarangi

With brands relying more and more on content marketing to ensure higher affinity and recall among their consumers, they are flocking to OTT platforms for content solutions. The proof of the pudding is that MX Player with the largest number of users is set to release six to eight brand-driven content pieces in the next two to three months.

However, brand marketers, who tend to make engagement the goal of their content initiatives, refrain from OTT platforms as it does not offer engagement like social media platforms. Addressing this, Rahul Sarangi, Vice President and Head- New Business at MX Player, in an interview with, said, “Most of the brands don’t come to an OTT platform for engagement. Instead, they come to build awareness and put them in the consumers’ consideration set.”

Sarangi said that his platform performs better as a content consumption tool than the likes of YouTube.

He was of the view that both branded content and brand marketers’ approach towards brand integrations have evolved over the years.


How has branded content evolved over time in India?

Branded content is a smooth bridge between the advertisers and viewers. Back in the day, brands used to do product placements. It then became AFP and later branded content. It has now beautifully moved to become content solutions. Brands now don’t want to place their products in the content for no reason. They only want to associate with the content if the brand ethos matches the content. We recently did an interactive film with Axe – ‘The Right Click’. It is a tale of two college-going students, set against the backdrop of the new normal in 2020 with online lectures and a budding digital college romance. Starring Yashaswini Dayama and Prit Kamani as Dia and Ajay, it allows viewers to decide the progression of the film by giving them a series of incidents and options from a young college boy’s daily life and his journey of getting to know his crush. They emphasised the fact that they didn’t want to be shown in the story for the sake of it. They got the brand removed from six places from the series. The story was so apt and matched the brand ethos that the brand didn’t find the need to be visibly present all over the series. The romantic story of the series exactly told what the brand wanted to tell.

Does it mean that brand marketers are evolving?

Brand marketers have evolved. Earlier, brand executives were very old school but with time, we’re seeing young digital-first brand heads who have understood how brand integrations in content work.

Why should brands look at OTT as a platform for their content marketing needs? What is that one thing that brands will get from OTT but not from YouTube?

Most of the brands’ subscriber base is very limited on YouTube. Even if a brand collaborates with any social media content platform, its audience is limited to some extent. YouTube is more of a search-driven platform, where one can get everything. Whereas OTT is a destination, and each OTT platform has its own viewer cohort, allowing brands to target their consumers better. On YouTube, the accounts are driven by YouTube algorithms. When one puts content on YouTube, he/she can only hope that it sticks. The brands use YouTube more like a promotional and marketing tool over a content consumption tool.

Most of the OTT platforms boast of having a huge subscriber base and viewership. But, all the consumers are not subscribed to all the OTT platforms. Do you have an answer to the question that arises around the reach aspect then? How do you ensure maximised reach to the brands?

We have an advantage over other OTT platforms as we are also a free platform. Our numbers are very large on a DAU basis. Also, recently we did a content initiative for Rexona where we collaborated with the biggest Telugu YouTube channel Tamada to simulcast the content created for the brand. So reach isn’t an issue for us.

Other than regular advertising, what are the content offerings available on your OTT platform?

We have a large slate when it comes to our MX Originals and Exclusives and brands can ride on to such original content pieces. We also market our original content really well. We also do a lot of bespoke creative solutions for the brands. That is, given their marketing requirement at that particular time, we come up with a content solution for the brand.

MX Player has a dedicated 25-member brand solutions team. For this vertical to function effectively, one needs to be a storyteller and bring out the best of branded content work. We have content-driven people in our content solutions team, who understand brands well and also know how to integrate them into the stories. 

How do you ensure that brands which partner with your content are also delivered engagement just the way they get on social media?

It’s like comparing apples to oranges. One can compare social media with our short-form video app MX TakaTak, but not to an OTT. For large projects, we also do Nielsen studies around engagement, viewership, brand lift, organic UGC, and a few other metrics. But most of the brands don’t come to an OTT platform for engagement. Brands come to OTT to build awareness and put them in the consumers’ consideration set.

How keen do you see brands to do content collaborations with OTT platforms?

This year, we are doing 10 web series for A-list brands, which shows how keen brands are to do content on OTT. 

There is a notion that publishers don’t promote branded content as well as they promote their original content. What is your take in this regard?

It depends on how the content has landed and what value it holds. If the content is good, the publisher will definitely promote it.

What are the challenges associated specifically with branded content on OTT? How can one overcome them?

India is not that evolved in terms of content marketing in comparison to the west. It is still a fairly new thing in India. Therefore, at times the budgets become a little bit of a challenge. Also, the creative quality of branded content depends on who is driving the creative. We at MX Player, keep the creative call to ourselves. Thirdly, at times, the turnaround time and the timing to produce branded content are very tight because the brands opt for content integrations when they launch their campaigns. We end up missing out on the opportunity even if the content suits the brands’ requirements well. The good news now is that the planning is being done much in advance unlike before.

Other than ‘The Right Click’, which are the hand-picked brand integrations executed by MX Player?

Inspired by the idea that stories and songs bring people together, Smule with its online community of music lovers was a seamless fit as the presenting sponsor for Times of Music. The concept of our show lent itself to an innovative brand integration with Smule, wherein its online community can sing the songs of our show on the Smule App. Given the nature of the show – it was easy to drive synergies across both platforms.

‘Love Ok Please’ is a show based on love standing the test of travel and no journey is complete without having some quick munching options along the way. Therefore, we decided to associate with Too Yumm! which is a snack brand that fits the bill as a seamless product integration since it’s easy to eat and small enough to carry along with you while travelling.

Rahul Sarangi MX Player