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25 years of digital ads and beyond: The Drum Digital Advertising Awards APAC


By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

August 12, 2019 | 8 min read

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While the first digital ad banner graced computer screens 25 years ago, the Asia Pacific region has adopted digital advertising at varying speeds. Despite this disjointed catch-up, the premise of advertising has always been storytelling and the way it can influence decision making.

If we think about this quarter of a century, undoubtedly technology has accelerated and what can be achieved now with data is very impressive. However, arguably the creative doesn’t always connect but what steps need to be made to get digital/media to work better with creative in the next 25 years?

Ahead of The Drum Digital Advertising Award APAC 25 Years of Digital Advertising breakfast event, we spoke to industry experts from VaynerMedia, Spotify, DWA, A Merkle Company, McDonald’s, Telaria, AdColony, OpenX, Xandr and Unruly on why creative and media must work hand in hand, in 2019 and beyond.

No single solution

At the core of it all, you simply cannot engage an audience without a level of excellence in both messaging and media planning. “We often seem to put all our focus on one and think that will do the job. It won’t and we wonder why our campaigns aren’t performing,” affirms Pippa Berlocher, managing director at DWA, A Merkle Company.

“How do we change this? It’s tricky for APAC marketing teams as often messaging and creative is a global responsibility, whereas campaign planning and activation fall regionally/locally. There are still strict mandates and guidelines to not create any assets at a local level which often means there is a disconnect.

“Until clients are set up to truly embrace digital with regards to technology, data, operations and content/messaging creation (i.e. DCO) – I think this will continue to be an issue.”

It begins with operational structures, insists Avery Akkineni, vice president at VaynerMedia Singapore. Breaking down traditional silos between creative and media agencies, and moving to an agile, integrated model. “Digital media is constantly emitting valuable signals about audience engagement, and smart brands lean into these signals, optimizing creative and media in concert.”

It’s always been about storytelling says Andrew Tu, managing director of OpenX APAC. But as technology took on a greater role, and programmatic ecosystem in the region matured, the art of storytelling was temporarily put on the back-burner in favour of quantifiable metrics.

“The ‘creatives’ and the ‘mathmen’ also continued to work in silos as ad technology advanced. Both sides of the equation are now incredibly important to the success of marketers’ campaigns and ability to engage with consumers, and to realign the digital ad industry, technology and creativity must work side-by-side.

There is no single solution to solve the divide. However, those traditional silos have started to breakdown assures Vijay Kunduri, managing director of Unruly Asia, adopting a more collaborative approach where creative agencies and content creators are tapping into insights and data to create better and engaging content.

“There is greater acceptance by creative agencies to a data-driven approach to create optimum copy, video length, platform & format-specific content to elicit better user engagement,” he explains.

“We're likely to see more bespoke content created using data tailored to engage a user at an emotional and individual personality level. As Blockchain technology gets embraced with its promise of removing intermediaries and bringing in greater transparency it will be more integrated communication/advertising ecosystem.”

Better together

Diogo Andrade, automation lead, South East Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan at Spotify agrees that, fundamentally, structural changes need to be made before the industry can move forward.

“Brands need to be investing in their technological infrastructure,” Andrade claims. “Agencies need to become more integrated (creative and media back in the same room) and the industry needs to invest in relevant talent like data scientists and analytics experts. With these foundational blocks in place, there will be more potential to deliver the best real-time data-informed digital creative that are served to the right audience at the right moment.”

Kevin Smyth, general manager of Telaria South East Asia adds that we live in an era where users are spending more time online, which means marketers have access to an increasing amount of data. “But without an automated practice to draw insights, analyse and activate this data, we are limited in our ability to operate at scale.”

“The only way to ensure that media and creative work well together is to foster strong collaboration across media and creative teams, so that insights can be effectively integrated into creative strategy and continuously optimized within media execution.”

Additionally, Josephine Tan, director of digital solution readiness at McDonald's believes that the engagement and planning process needs to change in order to bring creative and digital together. “Having been on the publisher, agency and client sides, I think that a key deciding factor is more often the dynamics of the working relationship and process, in addition to capabilities of the teams and individuals. In this, trust is extremely important, and the client plays a very important role in fostering that.”

This also extends beyond inter-agencies to the big digital players like Facebook and Google, and ad-tech and data partners that now have a stronger say in the game. “Everyone needs to be part of one team and brought on the journey together.”

Doing so is easier said than done, however, because making this work will likely call for a return to something closer to the integrated services model where it’s not two companies working on the same campaign but one partner that can provide seamless execution.

Future foresight

Looking at the next 25 years, Tom Simpson, vice president of AdColony APAC says that the industry will continue the recent trend of feedback. Digital advertising has evolved into looking at what it can better target and test.

“New channels like audio will emerge, old channels like TV and OOH will go 100% digital and addressable, and creative innovation will expand to cover all of those possibilities. With digital, even the most basic banner ad, there's feedback on what works. We can live test different messages and creatives, laser-target audiences, and deliver everything dynamically.

“More relevance means better more trackable results, and better results mean everyone in the process wins, even consumers – because seeing ads that mean something, is better than being bombarded with noise.”

Samuel Tan, senior director, JAPAC market development, Xandr adds that there’s no point in spending all this time perfecting audience segmentation strategy to then serve an ad that simply doesn’t resonate with the audience. "There’s always been an argument of Mad Men vs. Math Men and the reality is that we need something in between.

"We’re at a point where the advertising experience sadly hasn’t kept pace with the content experience on offer from broadcasters, publishers and the new streaming players." To solve this, Tan a much deeper collaboration is needed not just between media and creative, but also with content creators and technology platforms.

"We need to set a higher bar by putting the consumer first. If we do that, I’m confident that the next 25 years of digital advertising will be as exciting, if not more than the first."

This balancing of art and science will continue to be one of the biggest challenges in advertising creative, anticipates Phil Townsend, chief commercial officer of Unruly APAC.

He concludes: “Creative, especially in video, is arguably responsible for up to 70% of campaign performance so advertisers should be investing in partners who can deliver uplifts and guidance in media but also in creative intelligence/analytics. The biggest gains in ROI will be achieved from replacing gut feel and subjectivity in the creative process with data to help make more informed decisions.”

To mark the judging day for The Drum Digital Advertising Awards APAC 2019, we’re hosting a panel of industry leaders to discuss this year’s theme ‘25 years of digital advertising’. Join us for the free breakfast event on August 15 2019 in Singapore, hosted in partnership with venue partner Twitter.

Sponsors of these awards are: Telaria, Unruly, OpenX, AdColony and AppNexus

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