Clarity and transparency mean everything in digital marketing, says IAB Singapore’s Miranda Dimopoulos

IAB Singapore's Miranda Dimopoulos on clarity and transparency in South East Asia

Reminiscing on recent headlines about digital marketing may not always conjure up entirely positive memories, but among the doom and gloom there are some shining lights.

The digital marketing industry is still seeing double-digit growth in many markets, and for good reason, and a large majority of the industry is genuinely working hard towards a better ecosystem. Leading that charge in South East Asia (SEA) is the IAB in Singapore, which has seen a significant uptick in its output of industry initiatives that help marketers find more clarity and transparency among the increased complexity.

Transparency and clarity is also the theme for this year’s The Drum Digital Trading Awards Asia Pacific, which aims to celebrate the shining lights, and of which the IAB Singapore is a partner. IAB Singapore CEO and ambassador to SEA Miranda Dimopoulos spoke to The Drum about why clarity and transparency “mean everything” and explained how these values are driving its activity.

She also called for global companies to better grasp the nuances of emerging markets and says businesses need to start paying attention to the behemoths of the East – Tencent and Alibaba etc – which are starting to have bigger and more powerful implications to media outside China.

Digital spend varies across markets in Asia Pacific but what level is the investment in the markets you look after and how has that changed?

IAB Singapore’s ad spend report, released early this year in partnership with eMarketer, offers clarity into where digital spend sits within Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Digital spending will account for less than 20% of overall media investment in 2017.

However, across these markets, double-digit gains in digital ad spending are expected, driven by increased demand for mobile, video and social media advertising.

Back in 2011, digital spend accounted for only 6% of total media spend in Singapore and crossed the 20% market in 2016. This momentum in spend shifting increasingly toward digital advertising is heartening, and reflects the rapid maturity of a region whose consumers are already digital and mobile.

How mature is the understanding and adoption of automated trading and data-driven advertising?

There is a disparity across the different markets in Southeast Asia when it comes to the understanding and adoption of automated trading and data-driven advertising. This ranges from markets such as Singapore that are leading the curve; to emerging markets such as Indonesia and Thailand that are just getting started.

One thing that is consistent throughout the region, though, is the growing understanding around the importance of programmatic, and the benefits to be gained from a data-informed approach to advertising.

We are seeing increased openness to adoption, and high interest in how to accelerate such efforts.

What can the industry do to help increase these investments?

Increasing investment in digital boils down to education. Digital can enable amazing marketing and deeper understanding of consumers. However, it is also a landscape that remains in flux and prone to complexities. We need to educate the marketing and advertising community about what can be done today and inspire them with a glimpse of what can be done tomorrow.

It is also important to add that when we talk about education, we’re not just referring to the brand marketers that are making the decisions on where their budgets will be spent – though this is undeniably a prime audience segment. It is also about education across the entirety of the proverbial food chain, to equip practitioners with the knowledge for intelligent strategy and execution, coupled with an informed appreciation for the wider ecosystem.

With digital forecasted to grow exponentially in the coming years, ensuring sufficient talent to fuel this growth and turn predictions into reality will be fundamental.

What has the IAB Singapore got planned in that respect?

Education is a core focus of the work IAB Singapore does as an industry body for the region’s digital advertising industry. We organise and host numerous training events throughout the course of the year, in Singapore and other markets in the region.

For example, we have a Training Series event coming up on 29 August in Jakarta that we will be doing in partnership with the Indonesian Digital Association (IDA).

Led and curated by our Board, Committees and Members, these training efforts aim to provide agnostic and relevant content to digital practitioners. Topics span from the basics of programmatic to brand safety, mobile video and digital measurement frameworks.

The theme for the awards programme this year is clarity and transparency - what do these words mean to the IAB Singapore?

They mean everything. You cannot educate or understand without offering clarity on the landscape and you cannot increase investment or trust without transparency into the systems in play within the digital ecosystem.

In pursuit of this, IAB Singapore also commits to generating research that helps plug knowledge gaps. We have an on-going Viewability Working Group that is seeking clarity into how the region fares when it comes to MRC-defined Viewability standards across formats. The first report on display advertising was released this year.

What positive moves are you seeing in Asia Pacific around clarity and transparency?

Well, the IAB Singapore Viewability Working Group has Integral Ad Science, MOAT and comScore all working together to test inventory – that’s definitely a positive move for industry-wide transparency as collaboration is the first step.

Across Asia Pacific, we’re seeing some good moves being made. IAB Australia’s Measurement Council has done great work with regards to its especially with the launch of its Daily Digital Content Ratings this year.

The announcement from comScore in April stating that they are going to offer free viewability measurement is a great move as well.

In a year's time, when looking back at this theme, how do you hope the industry will have evolved or progressed?

High on the wish list is increased consideration for the nuances and needs of emerging markets from global players. But closer to home, I think the biggest hope would be to have serious progress made on improving the infrastructure barriers that would in turn enable greater transparency and clarity.

For example, about 40% of non-YouTube and Facebook video inventory in the region still uses legacy tech such as Flash/VAST. So as an industry, we need to move toward VPAID to allow unilateral deployment of ad verification across all markets and formats.

In a tenuous link to transparency, if you were invisible for a day, what would you do?

I’d probably spend the day spying on the heads of Tencent and Alibaba so I can be well prepared for when they eat us alive! In all seriousness, as we see the accelerated rise of the east there has never been a more exciting region to be a part of. Keeping an eye on what moves these industry giants make and adjusting accordingly may well become the difference between success or irrelevance.

The IAB Singapore has selected to partner on three awards at The Drum Digital Trading Awards Asia Pacific; ‘best publisher innovation’, 'most effective use of data' and ‘best use of creativity’ while Miranda Dimopoulos will also serve as a judge for the event.

Ahead of the judging day, The Drum is hosting a breakfast event in Singapore to explore the theme of clarity and transparency further. To attend, sign up here. To find out more about the awards and the programme or events and content in the lead up to the event visit The Drum Digital Trading Awards Website.

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