Reynold D’Silva
May 26, 2015

Connecting brands with generation 'M' in Southeast Asia

What can mobile do that TV can’t?

Reynold D’Silva
Reynold D’Silva

It’s been four years since my first encounter with Generation M—consumers who simply don’t watch much TV any more. I met them during a consumer home visit to a middle class household in Jakarta, Indonesia. Instead of watching TV, they spent their time glued to their mobile screens. A majority of it on social media apps. Since then, I’ve met dozens of teenagers like this across Southeast Asia, and many of them have grown up in their twenties to be adult members of Generation M, the mobile-first generation.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to Southeast Asia. An article in The New York Times reported that TV viewing has plummeted 9 percent so far this season. But it’s in Southeast Asia that we find the sweet spot of Generation M: a young population, low-cost smartphones and increasing access to free WiFi.

While a family in Southeast Asia might share one television between them, it is likely that each family member has their own mobile phone. So although TV is still an important part of the media mix in this region, advertising through mobile has the advantage of allowing marketers to reach the right person with the right ad at precisely the right time.

However, marketeers in the region are still playing catch-up with their consumers. In Indonesia, for example, the majority of brand advertising dollars are still being poured into television. Advertisers will spend $11.9 billion on TV ads in Indonesia this year, according to eMarketer research.

To a large extent, this is due to the smooth ease and low effort of TV advertising. Decades have been spent establishing norms, guidelines and buying mechanisms. In contrast, mobile advertising seems complicated and messy, both in terms of spend allocation decisions and in terms of execution. There are many more variables and it can be hard to compare the value propositions of different channels.

Pioneering mobile marketeers are already gaining competitive advantages with Generation M. This is because mobile advertising is superior to TV in many ways:

  • Mass reach: In Southeast Asia, mobile is now a mass reach medium. Last month alone, Facebook reached more than 72 million people in Indonesia, 65 million of those through mobile.
  • Mass reach with personalization: Mobile enables brands to connect in more relevant and highly personal ways with specific people. Instead of lumping “mums” into one segment and blasting all of them with the same TV commercial, Reckitt Benckiser’s detergent Napisan developed different, customized Facebook messages for different groups of mums: first time mothers with new-born babies, mothers of toddlers going through the terrible twos and mothers of older kids. They reached a mass audience of millions, with 97 per cent targeting accuracy that saw a 30 per cent sales increase from the previous year. One ad certainly doesn’t fit all.
  • Relevant message at the right time: TV viewing is heaviest at primetime but mobile phone usage starts when people wake up and continues until they go to sleep at night. Unlike TV, people carry their mobiles everywhere and look at them continuously, especially on social media platforms. This gives marketeers the ability to serve highly relevant messages when people are waking up, commuting through traffic, about to step out for a meal, or going shopping, to name just a few.
  • Dynamic data: Mobile channels such as Facebook have a dynamic view of the audience, knowing when they turn older, when their tastes in music change, when they are in and out of relationships or if they’ve moved to hotter or colder climates. For the first time, this knowledge empowers the messages from brands to automatically change and grow in relevance.
  • High engagement: Television content is consumed passively. People don’t actively engage with it and nobody knows what they actually do when ads are shown! In contrast, mobile is up close and personal. People consume quickly, but they also pay attention. Unlike TV ads, ads on Facebook are counted only when they are actually seen.

Marketer’s checklist for winning with generation M:

  • Create a small variety of personalised messages. People are in different stages of our lives so it’s impossible to connect with the masses using a blanket ad. Remember, one ad doesn’t fit all.
  • Sequential storytelling is a great way to introduce consumers to your brand before encouraging them to buy your product. Start with an emotional message, follow it with a functional message to the same consumer and close with a call to action or promotional message. Mobile lets you take control of the path to purchase for each individual consumer. After all, no one likes a hard sell.
  • Don’t make the mistake of assuming video for desktop and mobile are the same. People are watching a smaller screen on mobile, often without sound and usually with a short attention span. Techniques such as hyperlapse and subtitles help grab attention and deliver your message.
  • Create rich, dynamic, emotional ads. The vast majority of consumer decision-making is emotional. The more emotionally engaging, the more likely it is people will be persuaded by what you’re saying. With the rapid spread of free WiFi, consumers are watching more and more video content on mobile. Innovative formats such as Auto-play Ads, which interrupt the static news feed with movement, make it easier to engage the attention of your audience.
  • Reach people based on how they connect. Bandwidth targeting allows you to serve the appropriate creative to the right network connection. Videos on WiFi, carousel ads on feature-phones, premium product ads to high-end smartphones—these are just a few of the possibilities.

Reynold D’Silva is head of FMCG and CPG brands for Southeast Asia at Facebook


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