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Adknowledge Asia Adtech

How to hack Asia's booming digital sector with Adknowledge's Matt Sutton

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By Charlotte McEleny, Asia Editor

April 13, 2016 | 3 min read

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Many markets in APAC lead the rest of the world in terms of consumer adoption of digital, particularly mobile, and yet much of the spend is yet to shift. For Matt Sutton, recently appointed CEO of Adknowledge Asia, this means planning his business for growth. However, he warns that tech businesses moving in on this opportunity won’t succeed unless they invest real people.

In an interview with The Drum, Sutton said: “A key thing that we believe is that; in order to deliver value in the digital space, you need to invest human resource”.

He warned that too many tech players enter the market by sending an exec from the US, delivering a brilliant presentation to sell the product but are then often unable to service the needs of the CMOs locally. He said the increasingly fragmented and complicated landscape meant it was necessary to help marketers navigate it.

“When we talk to CMOs in Indonesia, Korea, Thailand or Japan, they want to learn more. They want to work with platforms that are going to enable them to, but they have no human resource commitment,” he explained.

“Tech platforms themselves will offer a whole load of efficiencies and massive media gains, and get rid of a lot of media wastage from offline and also online, but you need the whole human resource around them.”

Adknowledge Asia, which is a joint venture between Malaysian telco Axiata and Adknowledge and is the exclusive partner of AdParlor, is planning to increase headcount in the APAC region this year. To help service its aggressive growth plans, it aims to grow from 140 people in nine markets to double that, adding four new markets.

“Markets like the UK and US have grown to a point where you get single digital percentage growth year on year and within that there’s a lot of competition. The market ends up quite static and people are trying to take market share from each other. Business planning in Asia looks a bit different to that because you are planning against growth. We’re seeing advertisers spend about 10 per cent online at the moment and we think that’ll be up to 40 per cent by 2020. The Southeast Asian market is worth about $1.5bn, India is pushing $1b, Hong Kong is pushing $1bn and South Korea $3bn, and that’s with them spending 10 per cent,” he said.

A key issue holding back spend in APAC is measurement because there is less infrastructure in the region than in the US or the UK, not helped by the issues of big players like Google and Facebook, as well as local players like WeChat, acting as ‘walled gardens’.

Sutton said having additional data to layer on, such as the telecoms data that Adknowledge use via Axiata, was key until the market opened up. “Brands will need to have a value added data layer and intermediaries like us have a pivotal role,” he said.

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