Saturday March 17, 2012

Digital dilemma plagues Malaysian marketers


ONE cannot trivialise the impact of digital media. Malaysia has 18 million Internet users already and has 11 million (68%) on Facebook, which makes it Asia's fourth highest. Our mobile ad market grew 37% in the third quarter of last year to over 1 billion mobile ad impressions. No wonder they say that whoever dominates mobile will be the leader moving forward.

It's a matter of time before mobile becomes the new normal. Industry stats last December show that 57% of mobile web users in Malaysia are accessing the web via their mobile devices, 50% while waiting for something and 47% while lying in bed.

There is simply no stopping social media too. According to technology researcher Gartner Inc, the number of organisations blocking employee access to all social media is dropping by around 10% a year.

In case you want to up your Digital IQ, Malaysia also has the largest online video viewing population in South-East Asia and tops the Asia Pacific when it comes to social networking; and 500,000 active bloggers, the highest in the world after Indonesia and EU. No wonder we also have the largest number of online banking customers in South-East Asia.

The shocker came last month when the Global CEO of Procter & Gamble announced they would moderate their advertising budget, which increased 8% last year, by moving to a marketing mix that focuses on digital. The world's biggest advertiser has a new message; Marc Pritchard, global marketing and brand building officer of P&G now puts a big emphasis on the influx of mobile devices in the market and the pace at which consumers are adopting mobile technology.

Malaysian marketers may be blinded about the impact of digital especially when market tracking of digital ad spend is grossly unrepresented. It is estimated real spend was around RM222mil in 2011 and is projected to stream ahead at +40% in 2012.

Here are some sign posts.

Technology rules

Undoubtedly technology is leading a lot of thinking and marketers are playing catch up. While mobile banners and SMS campaigns have been the trends in 2011, 2012 will see more Rich Mobile Banners ads kicking off as new ad formats when 3G speeds improve. Consumers are also purchasing more advance phones as the mobile phone market intensifies with more affordable smart phones.

2012 is the year that agencies and advertisers will have to focus on better integration of mobile, elevate creative excellence and even looking at mobile from a direct marketing advertising model.

Technology will mean people will increasingly expect brands to understand their unique needs and deliver. But capturing the imagination of Malaysians and staying relevant is a must, even before considering technology platforms.

Big data

According to Google chairman Eric Schmidt, from the dawn of time through 2003, human civilisation generated approximately 5 exabytes of aggregate information. In 2009, that much data captured in the equivalent of 25 quadrillion tweets, was generated every two days!! Globally, businesses created 1.8 zettabytes of data in 2011, according to IDC. That output, enough to fill 57.5 billion 32-gigabyte iPads, is growing approximately 62% annually on a compounded basis. This is the biggest headache for marketers.

The demands of real-time, rules-driven, audience-centered marketing represent a full-on paradigm shift in how marketing is done. But with the opportunity inherent in this approach comes a daunting challenge: to identify and deploy an actionable range of “use cases” practical marketing applications that, fueled by data, may drive transformative improvements in both marketing effectiveness and efficiency.

Data has bombarded a lot of science in marketing, which means creative is on the sidelines while media is now centre-stage on brand strategy involving both brand development and brand building. Data driven digital marketing will be the new mantra.

Return on investment

Return on marketing investment remains the biggest bugbear for most marketers justifying their actions in the boardroom.

Rajesh Kumar, deputy MD of TNS Research International Malaysia, adds: “With many-to-many sharing and influencing happening (even of branded content), the advertiser is not just the brand but the general online population as well. And given the role word of mouth plays, surely this many-to-many interaction is influencing brand choices and purchase decisions. How does one understand and leverage ... that is the key to better ROI in general.”

The fast pace of the digital age has changed planning from a strategic role to one of tactical, reactive campaign management. Real-time planning means brands and agencies need to be ready to manage a series of engagements, not just a single campaign. Meaningful data and daring creative is the way forward.

Harmandar Singh is regional CEO of Sledgehammer Communications (M) Sdn Bhd, which is organising the Malaysian Media Conference themed Digital Disclosures on April 2 in Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-7726 2588,

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