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LoopMe's Bernard Fung on opportunities for brands in North APAC in the AI era
November 7, 2023
Bernard Fung is the managing director and head of North APAC at LoopMe. With over 20 years of multi-continental consulting, marketing and sales experience in media and tech, here he outlines the big opportunities for brands in North APAC in the age of artificial intelligence.
What are the key trends in advertising and what are the implications for the North APAC region?
Inevitably, the imminent phase-out of third-party cookies is still looming large across the world. However, for advertisers in North APAC, this new privacy era is widely perceived as a favorable shift with a renewed focus on building customer trust and optimizing first-party data to underpin the buying experience; this is becoming a key area to explore.
Another trend that we can’t ignore is the growing dominance of live-streaming commerce in the online marketplace. Pioneered by China, where real-time selling is now established as a major retail channel, the traction is spreading wider across the APAC region, supported by initiatives to engage influencers and merchants through short video content creation. As platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and TikTok incorporate features for livestream commerce, the question remains as to whether it will compete with traditional e-commerce beyond APAC, as brands exploit the potential for both personalized consumer interaction and optimization of real time ad spend; interventions set to be heavily supported by powerful AI models.
What are the most significant growth opportunities?
The figures speak for themselves; China has one of the largest digital audiences world-wide – with nearly one billion internet users.
Furthermore, the smartphone is now the sole method to access the internet for consumers in many APAC markets. In China, 99.8% of internet users have used a smartphone to go online, evidence that much of the opportunity is rooted in the rise of mobile advertising campaigns and more broadly, an appetite ripe for digital innovation.
The region is also the fastest growing AI market, ranking second only to the US in terms of its expenditure on the technology. This is in part thanks to favorable government policies, which marry compliance with innovation to meet the expectations of a tech-savvy population, who are used to e-commerce behemoths such as Alibaba. Generative AI and AI-driven consumer apps powered recommendation engines have elevated marketing and retail to new heights. This willingness to embrace new tech is good news for creative marketers looking to expand in a growing economy.
How do some of the cultural differences within the region present challenges to marketers, agencies and publishers and how can this be addressed?
All marketers want to see bang for their buck, but the expectation for ROI is especially acute here. With post-pandemic uncertainty still lingering, the business impact of campaigns must be measurable and defined, and speed is of the essence when reporting back results. Businesses will expect to see tangible and transparent measurable gains to commercially qualify the creativity of campaigns.
Perhaps most apparent is that one size definitely doesn’t fit all for campaigns: Social media marketing may be massive, but it is a fragmented landscape in which Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are not officially permitted, while platforms such as WeChat, TikTok and Weibo flourish.
Furthermore, it’s a diverse region with an array of languages and cultures. History is heavy with examples of marketers trying to shoehorn Western ideals into advertising campaigns that try to recognize and respect national sensitivities. Therefore, advertisers must strike a balance between achieving brand consistency and an approach that resonates with different audiences across the region. An in-depth understanding and commitment to audience personalization in campaigns is critical to capitalize on the world’s most profitable social media market, which is expected to reach 1.21 billion network users by 2027.
Does the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies into the mobile advertising sector have any kind of endpoint? How does the future look like in terms of potential innovation?
Right now, we’re in an AI-powered era of next-level audience segmentation, with our ability to predict and understand the consumer purchase journey elevated to new heights.
For me, the limits and boundaries are smashed. Brands will need more relevant, effective interventions – tailoring the message and format of online adverts to consumers in ways which reflect the many nuances of the buying cycle. Simply knowing a customer’s preferences no longer cuts it; think instead about how you can ensure a discount offer reaches those about to unzip their wallet to make a purchase.
In the context of the APAC region, where content is king but reaching new consumers beyond the big social media platforms can be a challenge, evermore refined algorithms will be the game changer, driving more targeted campaigns to improve quality, delivery and discovery.
Here, a shift in mindset will be needed to reap the full potential. The region has had a heavy focus on data use to retarget existing customers, but will need AI to uncover predictive future patterns to deliver a new customer base. Better predictions mean less of the unknown, less risk, and less wasted investment.