Here is what I think marketers should be putting into their shopping list for 2013 in the region.
While it seems that every month we hear about a new marketing pathway that will more accurately target our customers, boost engagement, and bring a better ROI, there is only so much you can do in a year.
Here is what I think marketers should be putting into their shopping list for 2013 in the Asia Pacific region:
The darling of media discussions, social media will continue to rise spectacularly in places like Indonesia and Thailand. Marketing teams all over the country are no doubt claiming the phenomenal growth of their Facebook fan base for their teams, but the reality is that if you are a likeable number one, two, or three consumer brand in these fast-growing markets, your Facebook page will grow without much help. The number of people getting online and onto Facebook through desktop and mobile in growing markets will boost your figures and make you look like a hero regardless of what you do - it is as simple as that. Pop those champagne corks marketers, but this is no time to be complacent. That growth will slow and then it will be harder to slap a nice chart on the wall and ask for more social media resources.
What you should be doing in 2013:
Just as smart countries like Singapore re-arm their military during the good times you should be stocking-piling your social media resources when the going is good - it will be harder in a year's time when senior management begins to understand the challenges of social media and the metrics of engagement of this medium will be further refined and spend and resources will need to be managed for accountability.
Google continues its war against free clicks and we are seeing more and more ad formats that are being beta tested in the U.S. make their way to Asian Google pages. As a result of ad innovations like Product Listing ads and Sponsored Listing ads, SEO listings are being crowded out. In 2013, with more teams moving money into search, the cost per click is rising and search is becoming less sexy than before, with most senior executives now having SEO and SEM saved in their iPhone auto-completes. Apart from aggressive industries like the travel industry, Asian SEM professionals are still trailing behind their U.S. counterparts. In this region companies will be looking to hire people to manage their growing budgets - a challenge in a region where search does not have the status that it does overseas and people who could manage SEM campaigns sometimes opt for the glitzy world of finance. Paradoxically, while SEM costs grow and SEO gets crowded out, executives will be asking more from SEO. Execution will be a challenge without the right people.
What you should be doing in 2013:
This is a time to be developing staff with quantitative skills and university graduates from communications and marketing programs.
Marketers in APAC have had to add a few new acronyms to their phrasebook in recent years such as DSP (demand-side platform) and RTB (real-time bidding) and they are coming to terms with the idea that because of these technologies, their agencies will soon have even more of a hold over them in terms of audience insights and intimidating terminology. The important thing to realize is that the equation goes both ways: having more access to insights is an excellent excuse to demand more from your agency. The in-depth audience insights your agency now has access to means that you can demand that things like display ads will be tweaked in real time because of the velocity of insights made possible by these technologies. It is time to really challenge your agency and hold on to your purse strings tightly as you put experimental dollars into the DSP roulette; beware the conflicts of interest and ask for full transparency. My watershed moment at SES was at the DSP panel where the lack of transparency and complex conflicts of interest were revealed in an excellent panel and follow-up discussion with Mikko Kotila (Statsit), Matt Harty (Accuen), and Kazuo Burgess (Omnibus).
What you should be doing in 2013:
At a time when agencies themselves debate what a true DSP should be, marketers should be arming themselves with four key questions:
1. Does the DSP have allegiances that may pose a conflict of interest? The DSP must remain neutral and have no allegiances to any publishers, exchanges, data providers, or for that matter any other vendors.
2. How transparent is the DSP? The DSP must be fully transparent especially where it concerns pricing and fees. Ask to see the details. What the DSP earns should be visible in the interface, and every cent that the DSP makes should be known, understood, and visible to the agency. Transparency should be down to publisher/domain so that not only will the advertisers know exactly how much they are paying, they will also know how much they are paying for which publishers.
3. Check if the DSP is marking up the media costs without informing you. They should not be doing this.
4. Does the DSP bulk buy media? The DSP should not be simply reselling bulk buy media to its clients. If they are then this could be just another way to make more money or they may be seriously lacking technology.
There are other innovations underway in 2013 but I will have to leave email, mobile, CRM, video ads, and other trends for another article. This is a highly personal view of the market. However, the areas above are where I see marketers having to adapt, learn, and change in interesting ways in 2013.
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Max Sim is regional head of digital at JobsDB. He oversees digital marketing in China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, and Malaysia.Max began his career as a developer at Accenture's e-commerce Development Centre. Over the last 12 years, he has worked for a variety of global digital marketing projects with a focus on rolling out large scale enterprise SEO projects for News Corp subsidiaries. Before joining JobsDB, he was hired by Omnicom to bring BlueCurrent, a boutique agency group from Japan to Hong Kong. He has worked with many blue chip clients including Estee Lauder, Hitachi Data Systems, Metlife, and Harrow International School. Max takes an integrated approach to digital marketing and practices PR, SEM, and social in many of his projects.
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