Robin Langford
Mar 20, 2024

CacaFly’s Brian Yang on the growth of retail media and live shopping in the region

Fresh from establishing the retail-media network for Gojek, Yang speaks about retail-media opportunities for brands in Southeast Asia and courting KOLs speedily with tech.

Brian Yang
Brian Yang

CacaFly is a Taiwanese digital advertising and media agency focussing on media reselling. It claims to be the first agency in Taiwan to become an authorised Facebook ad reseller. Founder Brian Yang explains the agency’s exponential growth from a three-man operation and carving a niche through science-driven influencer marketing.

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your work?

I’m the co-founder of CacaFly, a Taipei-based company with operations in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, with Japan next on our radar for expansion. We started as a media-buying agency, but our founders are atypical advertisers with [many of them] having backgrounds as public science engineers. Our first breakthrough was when we were made the exclusive advertising reseller partner for Facebook in 2011, all the way to 2016. So that means we were the only agency you could go to if you wanted to buy Facebook ads in Taiwan. 

That foundation brought us into the digital advertising world and from there we became a regional partner for Google, Line, Microsoft, Twitter, TikTok, Amazon, and Apple. Since last year, we have also become partners with a few cloud operators, because these days the world of cloud engineering, GA4, and data management platforms go hand-in-hand with the digital marketing world. 

In a nutshell, we're not your typical ‘Madmen’ type; we're a digital market agency run by a bunch of nerds.

When people say nerds, what they often mean is people that are passionate about every detail of their industry. Is that true for the CacaFly team?

Well, that is a nicer way of saying it. We’re very data-driven, a bit more technical than the usual team and that's reflected in the way we are funded. We raised over $10m from venture capitalists and we’re getting ready to go public by the end of 2025. We grew from a small three-man operation into a workforce of around 300 people across five different countries.

So how has the work of CacaFly changed along with that growth? 

We have our bread-and-butter media-buying business, but we also have a cloud engineering team and martech consulting team. What really sets us apart is our influencer marketing team, which we call the CIA: our very own Central Intelligence Agency. 

CIA is a recommendation engine for accurately selecting the right influencer for a campaign. It can narrow down the average time to recruit a 20 influencer shortlists for campaigns in Indonesia—which has over 110K influencers—from seven days to just three or four.

Our ethos is that we put engineering into everything we do. For example, even for manual work with a client requesting the right influencers to amplify their campaign, we have a methodology and algorithm. We can say to that client: ‘I know you want this number one or number two influencer in the cosmetic or fashion sector, but that person’s price range is way over your budget.’ 

What we then do is find five to seven people with similar audiences, but with much lower commission rates, that combined collectively will cover a similar audience number. So even within influencer marketing, what we do is very scientific.

What digital channels are becoming more (or less important) in Asia?

I would say social media is kind of saturating. People are becoming jaded about the likes of Meta and Instagram and we’re seeing more marketing budgets being moved to the influencer world, or ‘key opinion leaders' as they are often referred to in Asia. 

Ecommerce is also on the rise, because right now, the buzzword is retail media, with retailers being the owner of those first-party transactional and behavioural data. Lots of these retailers that we speak to want to transform themselves from just the marketplace. 

Our engineering team is working with some of the regional players in Taiwan and Indonesia, and we're talking to another retailer in Japan about how we take advantage of the data and put the right campaign material in front of the right audiences.

In a similar vein to influencers, live streamed shopping is well established in Asia, but is struggling to take off in Western markets. Why do you think that is?

Livestream shopping is massive in China right now. It's almost like old school TV shopping, except that when you are watching TV shopping, you cannot buy directly from the screen. You need to call the TV station. 

For brands, livestream shopping offers very direct measurement in terms of marketing spend, because they can literally pay a flat fee to a producer to talk about their product. Or a more ambitious influencer will charge the brand zero, but take a cut of whatever revenue they generate.

This is a new form of advertising, and for brands, they get a bunch of new brand ambassadors out of it. I think one of the differences between Asian and American or European influencer marketing is that you can actually make a living out of being an influencer and selling products for people here.

You don't need to be a mega influencer, even if you are just a macro or micro influencer. The cost of living is lower here, so someone from Indonesia might make a decent living making $2,000 doing two campaigns for a brand selling teas or nuts, and they can live a decent life in Jakarta. You wouldn't survive on that kind of money in the US. 

So how widespread is being an influencer as a profession across the South East Asian region?

Well, even some of my young Gen Z employees brag about being a micro-influencer. They say to me: ‘why don't you use me?’ It’s a good side hustle, even if they just have 20,000 followers. It's not in the order of millions, but they can make a supplemental income doing that. 

Are larger brands also switching from macro to micro influencers, or is the lower cost the main reason for their growing popularity? 

In Taiwan, some of the top live commerce streams can regularly get over half-a-million US dollars in a single stream. So of course, every country has some sort of regional superstar. They still charge people millions to be a spokesperson. 

But there's only a handful of brands who can do that kind of partnership. What we do is we help them find the long tail. Surprisingly, some of the Fortune 500 brands are willing to work with long-tail influencers. Just to see if they can reach new audiences and spread that bet. 

How mature is the retail-media market like in Taiwan? 

Retail media emerged following the whole cookieless movement. You will soon no longer be able to monitor user behaviour through third-party tracking on your browser. So all the retailers suddenly realised that they are sitting on a bunch of gold mines, because they have all this behaviour data. 

They know what people order in terms of food, they know where people travel to, if they take more bikes or taxis, or if they go to the airport often. So with that raw material, we can segment and target custom audiences. We’ve created over a hundred user segmentations via our own bespoke tech platform TenMax. 

You’ve also worked with super apps in Asia like Gojek on their retail media network. Can you expand on that partnership?

In Asia we have a lot of super apps. Gojek has way more data than anyone in the West—delivery data, ecommerce data, fintech data—and they know more about you than the government does. A lot of regional players have a lot more data than their Western counterparts. Gojek is the Asian version of Uber plus Uber Eats and so much more including grocery shopping.

Say you're someone who bought a computer recently, and we know from your spending patterns that we can put you in a high-spender bracket. This can be useful for different brands because if you are someone that buys everything from Apple, it's more likely you might buy Chanel perfume compared to someone who buys everything from Xiaomi.  

So we don't know who you are exactly, but we know as a group, there are, you know, 25,000 or 100,000 people like you. And we can put the right campaign in front of you when you search or when you browse within the shopping platform. 

What are the plans for CacaFly’s retail-media proposition going forward?

Right now, all the retail media networks tend to keep the campaign material within their own platform. So Amazon doesn't syndicate your campaign information outside of Amazon. We're trying to encourage brands to come to us. We use that behavioural data, identify the user segment for you, but we syndicate your campaign material out within the e-commerce app, but also on social media, on display networks, news planners and so on. 

TenMax [CacaFly's adtech sister company] has a goal in 2024, to be the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) of martech, especially in retail media. TSMC is a foundry, basically the contract manufacturer for the chip industry, and can do this better, faster and more cost-effectively than anyone else.

We have already built a white-label RM platform for Gojek and are now actively looking for global retailers to work with. We have beat the giants such as The Trade Desk and Criteo for tenders, and we believe we can outperform all of the big players in speed, quality and price performance. From inception to finish, we can promise the launch of a retail-media network within three months.

We have already built a white-label RM platform for Gojek, the biggest e-commerce player in Taiwan and are now actively looking for global retailers to work with. We have beat the giants such as The Trade Desk and Criteo for tenders, and we believe we can outperform all of the big players in speed, quality and price performance. From inception to finish, we can promise the launch of a retail media network within three months.

Performance Marketing World

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