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APAC Asian Creativity The Drum Awards

Why is ‘mobile-first’ APAC so bad at mobile creativity?

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By Charlotte McEleny, Asia Editor

July 5, 2016 | 5 min read

As the jet lag subsides for those APAC marketers lucky enough to go to the South of France for Cannes this year, the hangover still remaining is an underrepresentation of awards in mobile for the region. A rough calculation sees APAC bringing back only 10 per cent of the mobile accolades.

Phone graffiti

Marketers agree mobile creativity could be improved in APAC

This is despite being hard-pressed to go to a conference these days without discussing the mobile opportunity in APAC. With countries such as China, Indonesia, India and the Philippines representing interesting mobile-first markets on a huge scale, mobile is APAC’s opportunity to lead the world for innovation and creativity.

Malcolm Poynton, global chief creative officer at Cheil Worldwide, was jury president for the mobile category. He said there was a poor showing of entries, which surprised the jury.

“While the jury does not see how many of the 1200+ entries are submitted from each region or country, we did note that there were not so many from Asia in the initial rounds of judging. This suggests that while mobile phone penetration is fast growing in Asia and, in some countries, nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, mobile phones appear to be used as little more than a functional device with not as much brand play as more established markets. Obviously people call, message, use apps, coupons, send red envelopes and connect to the internet to watch content, but there seems to be few instances where brands are exploring the possibilities more creatively,” he said.

Damien Lavin, chief revenue officer of Adknowledge Asia agreed, saying that spend still wasn’t where it needed to be in the region.

“Mobile ad spend in Asia is still well below 5 per cent of total media spend, so therefore that channel is not getting its fair share of minds in ideation. Mobile awards are largely built on ideas and innovation and so this is where Asia is most held back. If we look at the innovation in mobile, most is still coming from North America and Europe, however markets such as China, Japan and Korea are very much just catching up with the pace,” he said.

DigitasLBi regional creative director Corey Cruz, looked at the entries and submissions from APAC and said that there is sometimes a translation and contextual barrier to APAC work that needs to be better communicated in the entries.

“Sometimes it’s a nice creative idea but it doesn’t solve the business problem, for example Alipay ‘Who Art You’. They wanted more people to use facial recognition as a way to promote payments, but the fact that they related your selfie to a lookalike painting brings to the fore the security issues with using such technology,” said Cruz.

From the judging room, Poynton’s advice for APAC is around copying ideas and being more original. He said that “while all smartphone manufacturers may copy each others' features and even design, a Mobile jury will not be impressed by anything familiar or copied”.

He explained; “we are looking for creative ways of connecting a brand with consumers, either in the most engaging or entertaining way or through the most impressive and relevant means of enabling people. ‘Helpmet’ from Thailand and ‘GigaSelfie’ from Japan for Tourism Australia were great examples of this. My advice would be to look to augment experiences, combine offline with mobile, create great engaging content and enable people in meaningful ways.”

Vikas Gulati, managing director, Asia at Opera Mediaworks, a company that is arguably seeing spend shift faster than the industry has and is innovating its mobile experiences for brands, said that some of the core issues is ignoring more ‘classic’ branding strategies like storytelling.

“In order for Asia to do better at awards, brands need to demonstrate creativity at every stage from the idea to the execution of the campaign, and formulate innovative strategies to meet challenges. Great award winning campaigns have the right blend of technology, data and creativity. Brands in Asia need to be more compelling in their storytelling while also using the latest technology to effectively deliver award winning campaigns,” he said.

Cruz agreed, saying that APAC was “far too often it’s just tech for tech’s sake. I previously saw a number of case studies where the idea was, ‘We used audio beacons, which communicate between your phone and your TV’ but none of them did anything creatively with it. It’s like saying ‘We used a drone-cam’, or worse, ‘We used a car’.”

However, it wasn’t entirely negative. Poynton pointed out that the most awarded single award was DDB Sydney’s ‘#comeonin’ campaign for the Sydney Opera House, taking one Gold and three Silver Lions. He said the more mature markets, “such as Australia, Japan, Singapore and to some extent Hong Kong,” are starting to produce the right sort of work. All eyes will be on Spikes and the rest of the awards season to see if APAC can leapfrog other markets and become truly mobile-first.

APAC Asian Creativity The Drum Awards

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