Southeast Asia has a history of embracing new technology rapidly, whether it is new social networks, smartphones, or electronic gadgets.
The media and advertising industry is no different, and the scramble to become digital is evident to anyone that works in the creative communications world. Ad technology underpins the newest wave of the digital frontier and has now become the skillset that any brand leader needs to know.
In 2014, programmatic media buying in Asia became mainstream, underpinned by platform providers and advertising agency trading desks muscling up their regional operations, and the benefits of increasing efficiency becoming better understood. Singapore established itself as the regional center for programmatic providers as the major US and European firms set up headquarters on the Little Red Dot.
The establishment of a true ecosystem, comprising publishers, agencies, demand and supply side platforms, and brands, has created an industry that is set for lift-off in 2015. Display advertising takes up around 70 per cent of programmatic spend, but the industry is now geared up to transact, trade and execute digital video advertising using software tools.
The programmatic wave has landed in South East Asia and there is no turning back. The revolution of data-based media buying, where brands can plan, buy, optimise and execute their campaigns through software, has commenced, and this year will herald increased sophistication.
The main growth driver is user consumption of video. The growth rates for web video engagement are staggering and brands are beginning to spend more on short and long-form video advertising content in order to cut through the noise and engage with consumers.
The power of programmatic is to find and reach its audiences with precision. Combined with video’s unique storytelling ability, software-enabled video branding will grow substantially as a portion of the marketer’s budget mix.
The pace of change is fast and technology innovation in the programmatic market is happening at a rapid rate. Any digital format of video advertising can now be bought programmatically, including desktop, mobile, social, and this year, we will see the first trials of programmatic TV in the region. The ability to buy TV ads using software will hasten the acceleration of data-driven advertising. Programmatic TV is the last frontier of the industry and will be a game-changer for how we fundamentally buy media in Asia.
For sure, the manual era of buying ads will eventually vanish as ad agencies seek to eliminate high and inefficient cost structures. In its place will emerge self-serve software platforms that enable brands to launch sophisticated and scalable video campaigns onto any device, in a matter of minutes.
My experience of working in Asia is that once innovation is understood and accepted, it’s adopted quickly and grows like wildfire. The current challenge is that every participant, especially the ad agencies and brands, are required to understand the new inter-connected world of data, media and software for this to happen. There are some notable champions in the region who are pushing the boundaries, but there isn’t yet critical mass. When clarity replaces complexity, the market will move.
The US and European markets may have had a head start in running programmatic video campaigns, but global brands and agencies are exporting their knowledge to Asia. New products, marketplaces, and buying tools are arriving every month and luckily for us, we benefit from those learnings and can quickly build on what has worked.
2014 was the year of absorbing knowledge, as ad agency trading desks built their data skills, and tested new programmatic strategies. In 2015, we can expect to see Asia set the pace and implement programmatic strategies unique to the challenges of reaching consumers across many different markets.
What else will happen this year?
Purpose Built Video: Brands across Asia will produce more made-for-web video content and publishers will free up more inventory for advertisers to place their branded video.
Programmatic Specialists: Specialist programmatic teams will grow inside advertising agencies and work closer with other divisions, including search, social, traditional media, and sync with the overall communications and marketing planning functions.
Viewability: Viewability (measuring the opportunity for an ad to be seen) will become common media lingo. Any programmatic player worth their salt will already have viewability technology as a part of their toolkit. It’s inevitable that viewability will become a metric on how we buy, but in 2015, there will be loads of debate about what it actually means and the impact that it will have.
Asia will become an integral part of the global programmatic industry, and adopt and re-shape strategies that will impact the industry’s global evolution. Insightful consumer data (particularly from juggernauts like China), and the scale of other markets as they move towards adoption (think India, Indonesia) will propel it into a future that no one will look back on.
Brands will likely increasingly allocate a larger portion of their digital spend to video, and savvy agencies will try new strategies that have not been tried elsewhere. 2015 will be the year of execution, volume growth, and innovation in areas such as mobile video, private marketplaces, and better metrics to track campaign performance.
Those of us who work in-market know there are numerous challenges across Asia, so we need to carefully manage this fragmentation. Big brands will forge through the initial tall grass, but smaller brands working with edgy agencies will take the leap and dive in to the brave new world.
If 2014 was a foundation year for the programmatic media industry,the next phase will see a mixture of evolution, disruption and innovation across Southeast Asia. Brands that are prepared to learn and invest will be best placed to float in the next wave.
The write up is part of the DMA Annual Report ‘What’s Trending 2015‘.
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