Graham Christie
Jun 5, 2014

APAC mobile: Hearing from the main protagonists

THE MOBILE HUB: Graham Christie, partner with Big Mobile Group, reports on topics arising at the recent MMA Forum.

Graham Christie
Graham Christie

Recently I attended and spoke at the MMA (Mobile Marketing Association) 2014 Forum in Singapore. The event covered an expansive range of mobile topics, from m-commerce to effective creativity to audience data intelligence and more.

Before I delve in and headline some of the more important areas as I see them, one observation I made along the way was just how increasingly diverse the APAC region is in mobile. It is (to be honest, frustratingly) difficult to group more than a few marketplaces against a single attribute. Such is the influence of local factors such as media conventions (how relatively strong TV is), socio-economic factors (of course) and the robustness of the electronic-payment infrastructure, to name just a few. This does make planning across borders a challenge, and this impacts brand owners, agency partners, and media owners alike. 

On this subject, as one regional CMO delegate told me, there’s a clear choice between running a project across many markets and watering it down to find the common denominator that can be measured consistently, or running a more sophisticated example in far fewer markets—perhaps losing scale but hopefully gaining potency of the idea. I asked what the percentage ratio was between the former and latter, and for this major brand, it was 75:25.

M-Commerce has matured rapidly in the last few years and its influence is being felt across the ecosystem. And, as is sometimes the way, later entrants gather speed quicker.

Seng Yee Lau, president of the Online Media Group at Tencent Holdings, kicked off the event and adopted a natty couple of sound bites I liked, stating that media, (implicitly mobile media), had changed from being a “touchpoint” to a “cashpoint”, and additionally from a “persuader” to an “enabler”.

Mash this up with the support that Andrew Knott, VP for media & digital at McDonald’s, gave to the notion that the traditional marketing funnel is dead, and it’s easy to see why so much disruption is being felt. 

One person’s distraction is another’s competitive opportunity, and amongst the delegates there was no lack of eagerness to gain the edge.

Facebook’s managing director for Asia Pacific, Myungjo Choi, pointed out that users in emerging SEA markets spend more time on mobile than any other region in the world. This places a high importance on effective communication, Choi said, adding that mobile provides the chance to personalise at scale and a requires brands to strive for high-quality creative.

I thought Chiradeep Gupta, manager of global media, categories and partnerships with Unilever, provided a good playbook for mobile marketers to copy. The five elements he said should steer mobile projects are as follows;

  • Defining the role for mobile
  • Placing the highest importance on content
  • Setting metrics
  • Leveraging functionalities, and
  • Knowing the consumer journey.

Another representative of a goods manufacturer, Peter Mitchell, global media innovations director for Mondeléz International, stated that 10 per cent of the company’s advertising spend now goes to mobile.

A panel in the morning session wrestled with factors that seem to inhibit growth. These were summed up succinctly as the fear of the unknown, an unwillingness to change and cross purposes between operating models for agencies and clients.

I think this is accurate. The first two factors are really both a failure of effort and application. It’s bad enough to lack curiosity to enable the organisation you work for to make good decisions, but to not have enough self-interest to invest in one’s own future career is stunning. If you know somebody like that, ask them to get out of the way, will you? The third is a very real problem. Most marketing services businesses are changing, and I feel they need to change more radically and structurally. 

Helen Blanchette, senior manager of innovation/business transformation and head of the 1:1 experience service for Fuji Xerox Asia Pacific, stated that there is only one way to create genuine change in mobile for an organisation, and that is to have an integrated, cross-functional team operating. This is bang on, but easier said than done.

My view is it requires a very strong and capable client, convivial relations amongst all stakeholders, clear governance from the get-go and remuneration that’s based on the share of heavy lifting and contribution to the core objectives and metrics.  

Rahul Welde, MMA chairman and Unilever VP of media, hit the nail on the head though, sharing a simple but potent philosophy, which has presumably helped Unilever create brand advantage: Organisations should adopt a “learning-by-doing” approach. I interpret this as being prepared to fail as well as succeed, build an actionable knowledge bank, and don’t die wondering.

It was positive that the importance of communicating effectively was a theme. A number of speakers, including yours truly, took the opportunity to make the case for care and craft in the pursuit of good mobile advertising. Daniel Rosen, global CEO for Joule, prompted delegates to ask ‘Where is the story being experienced?’ as a useful way to forge relevance. And Barney Loehnis, head of digital for Ogilvy APAC, discussed the need to unlock the behavioural economics in the relationship between mobile consumers and brands, such as understanding what their underlying motivations are, and then injecting that into service design.

Finally, I was intrigued by Dr. Beverly Harrison’s session. Harrison, principal scientist for mobile at Yahoo! Labs, shared a glimpse into the mobile future from Yahoo’s point of view. A key principle seems to be breaking down the barriers enabling multiple apps to talk to one another, so a news app talking to a weather app, talking to a calendar app, talking to a voice controlled in-car app.  The user journeys dramatised in the demos certainly painted a compelling vision of how much more useful this ‘horizontal’ approach is, and suggested how much more compelling the monetisation opportunities would be as a result of the extra intelligence, more personalised content services, and real-time’ness.

Full steam ahead then. So what are your organisations mobile plans for the next 12 months?

Graham Christie is partner with Big Mobile Group


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