Why APAC should look to Europe, not the US, for programmatic solutions

Marketing 101 teaches us that different groups of people need to be engaged with in different ways depending on their age, location, familiarity with your brand and their propensity to buy.

Unfortunately, this fundamental marketing principle is being neglected in APAC, by agencies presenting their ‘APAC programmatic strategy’.

The idea that an overarching APAC strategy can succeed involves ignoring the region’s different languages, different alphabets, different currencies, different go-to sites for news and content, different mobile chat platforms and different levels at which mobile or desktop platforms are used to access the internet.

The alternative to this homogenous approach exists and has been shown to work halfway across the world, in Europe.

For European ad tech players, the diversity of the continent – 50 countries, 38 different languages and 28 different currencies – was once a significant hurdle to overcome.

Having risen to this challenge by creating programmatic campaigns managed from a central hub and adapted easily for different markets, European ad tech businesses have essentially gone through a Darwinian battle for survival, and those that have come out on top could transform the success of programmatic in Asia.

That’s because European players have not just recognised that a one-size-fits-all approach will never be fit for purpose and learned how to deal with fragmented markets at scale through a single platform.

They’ve also developed a mindset defined by restless curiosity and a drive for an ever more tailored and more effective approach. That involves never presuming total knowledge of each region. Instead, there’s a belief in the importance of gathering and responding to every minute detail that might affect the success of a campaign – whether that’s age, content, language, time of day or even the weather.

Asian advertisers are operating in markets with around three billion people – compared to Europe’s 600 million – and countless languages and cultures. That makes the challenge of delivering properly personalised campaigns greater than in Europe, but it also means the potential benefits of an ultra-optimised approach are greater too.

It’s neither necessary nor practical to have an office or people on the ground in each of these markets in the programmatic age. Instead, ad tech players simply need to deliver campaigns via a hub and spoke model that harnesses strong relationships with multi-regional publishers and delivers tailored messaging at scale. Which is precisely how many successful ad tech businesses operate in Europe.

The programmatic algorithms that allow for ultra-optimisation around numerous variables haven’t received the same priority in the US. This is because the US market has been viewed – incorrectly to an extent – as homogenised, with US programmatic tech and strategies reflecting this view.

Of course, there’s no denying the dominance of the US both in APAC and elsewhere when it comes to programmatic. In 2016, programmatic spend in the US is predicted to reach a huge $33bn, up from $22.1bn last year, while the most recent figures for Europe stand at the somewhat smaller €5.7bn.

But the way things stand is not necessarily how they will always be. APAC needs the tech and strategies of suppliers that can demonstrate every variable has been considered and acted on if the region is to reach its full potential.

While there’s no doubt that the US unleashed the first wave of programmatic innovation, we shouldn’t presume they will lead the second.

True cutting-edge marketing can come from anywhere in a global marketplace. Truly realising the potential of programmatic in APAC will involve advertisers looking to Europe.

Attila Jakab is managing director at Infectious Media.

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