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Why the needle isn’t shifting fast enough for mobile programmatic in APAC


By Charlotte McEleny, Asia Editor

June 15, 2016 | 4 min read

Marketers are starting to see the value in trading mobile programmatically but, according to experts at a Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and InMobi event last week, there are key issues that are holding back the APAC region, which is widely referred to as 'mobile-first.'


With many mobile-first regions like China and Indonesia grouped into APAC, mobile is a key focus for many CMOs, agencies and suppliers in the region. APAC also offers huge scale that conflicts with a very complex and fragmented geography and culture at times, meaning data and automation is arguably more critical than in other, simpler markets. That said, markets such as the UK, as detailed in a Drum and Tremor Media report last month, are also having teething problems.

An argument that was repeatedly raised was the issue of putting money into Google and Facebook in order to get big reach with mobile users. Much like the global debate, the lack of transparency over data, the lack of access to data and the tension around walled gardens was creating issues for the agencies in the room.

Speaking at the event was Jayesh Easwaramony, VP and GM of APAC, Middle East and Africa at InMobi who made a case for scale being achieved by using programmatic via other platforms. In terms of scale in Singapore and wider APAC, he said that just through the InMobi platform over 60 to 70 per cent of travellers to Singapore’s Changi airport were captured.

Another tension that arose from the day was the blame that was fired back and forth between agencies and clients. Many agency-side audience members complained of having clients that were risk-averse.

OMD International’s head of digital Joanna Stevenson spoke on a panel at the event and argued that to shift into new ways of trading, a level of risk was needed from the client. She countered this by saying that agencies also needed to gain more trust from clients by opening up their “black box” and by being more transparent.

Another issue was that clients were too ignorant to understand the benefits of having a more audience-led approach to media, insisting on having Google, Facebook or certain publishers on the media plan.

In response to this, the only brand speaking at the event Standard Chartered’s global head of digital marketing Damien Cummings, said that an issue was that both agencies and suppliers weren’t helping brands hit the right goals and were measuring at too shallow a level.

He said that Standard Chartered had cut marketing budget by 40 per cent from 2014 to 2015, and a further 16 per cent from 2015 to 2016. He said priorities for him were cost optimisation, decreasing churn and increasing new customers, so therefore metrics like number of followers, shares, and likes are too tactical.

The audience agreed that there were certain brands that had broken through a layer of testing or had managed to see a deeper value and were now working out how programmatic fit into their marketing strategies.

The audience was asked to reveal how much of their digital marketing was traded programmatically which Mindshare Asia Pacific’s chief digital officer Sanchit Sangha claimed was 25 per cent. Other agencies in the room agreed that theirs wasn’t this high. Sangha was speaking at the event too and said that reaching that level at Mindshare was due to having specific targets, as an agency and from clients. For example, Mindshare clients like Unilever are now building their own private trading desks, something that can help appease issues like trust.

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