Graham Christie
Sep 15, 2015

Digital Darwinism: Are we evolving rapidly enough?

THE MOBILE HUB: Big Mobile's Graham Christie wonders why marketers are still hesitating to experiment with mobile.

Graham Christie
Graham Christie

This is a term I’ve been peddling recently. It’s not mine, but I think it neatly nails a real issue that is holding back mobile.

McKinsey and Company talks about 'digital Darwinism' in reference to a report it has published, though it admits it didn’t coin the term either.

In Brand success in an era of digital Darwinism, McKinsey compiled data from 1,000 brands and 20,000 consumer journeys across 100,000 touchpoints. Robust sample depth, undoubtedly. The report found that competition amongst brands had heightened considerably due to digital proliferation, with the inevitable net effect that consumers were savvier. Their expectations had grown, so some weaker brand messages and communications had lost their impact, resulting in brand impact and conversions being weakened. 

Principally then, some brands have evolved their digital marketing to keep up with the consumer, while others have yet to do so. A headline for me is that companies with greater digital capabilities were able to convert sales at a rate 2.5 times greater than companies at the lower level. Take a look at the report. 

This Darwinism makes perfect sense to us, we’re living and breathing it day in day out. We see the verve and sheer velocity of digital. In this year's Global Outlook, PwC included a chart that demonstrates how evolutions and in some cases revolutions in media are increasingly ‘just around the corner’.

Nowhere is this felt more than in mobile, and this is surely where the biggest evolutionary opportunity is being presented today.

So with a recent IAB report showing APAC remains the highest growth region for mobile in the first half of 2015, what doesn’t make sense to me is why this evolutionary step towards mobile is hesitant.

What are we concerned about? Is it that perhaps mobile will not end up being that imperative after all? (Surely not?) Is it that with a lack of industry measurement, it’s better to wait? I would understand this if the cost of entry into mobile was substantial. But, in fact, it’s the very opposite.

Compare for instance, an advertiser budgeting for a TV campaign. For the sake of argument, let’s look at $200,000 for producing the 30-second spot, perhaps putting $1 million against it on media, then of course there’s another $200,000 on promo, social, search and so on. So that's nearly $1.5 million on what will be a perfectly normal TVC.

The average mobile campaign in more advanced APAC markets is between $75,00 and $100,000—around 5 per cent of that TV example. With that low cost of entry, smarter marketers and agencies know that you find out a lot by testing and learning. You find the measurement that works for you.

In developing APAC mobile markets, where data suggests, for instance, that China is growing by 315 per cent, Indonesia 142 per cent, and Malaysia 126 per cent, there is an even greater need to evolve. Such is the centricity of mobile, albeit against a backdrop of a more resilient traditional media sector.

So Digital Darwinism is happening all around us, which side of the evolutionary line is your company—and your own career—on?

Mobile web versus apps

This age-old question has been resurrected due to a recent Opera Global report on mobile. In the US, 80 per cent of traffic is generated by apps, heavily influenced by Facebook, Game of War, Tumblr and other massive apps.

There is only one other region of the world where this dominance is similar, and oddly it’s in some of the islands in the Pacific such as Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. Elsewhere the splits are the opposite, with web impressions outstripping apps, and especially so in APAC. So we should be careful not to allow the sheer heft of US-based information automatically influence APAC thinking before looking more closely. Of course it’s not an either/or situation, nor is it just about reach, it needs to be as much about audience fit and the communication itself.

Programmatic becoming premium

The Boston Consulting Group, (BCG), agrees with everybody, reporting that the US$600 billion global media sector is evolving (that word again) programmatically. In its Programmatic Path to Profit report, BCG forecasts that more media will be traded programmatically by 2019 than by a direct sales channel. It states similarities between the end of people-based stock trading a decade ago and where we are with digital media today, and advises not falling into the same traps.

Fundamentally, programmatic (that is, more automated and data-enriched trading), needs to be seen as just how we increasingly execute digital communications. A means to an end, and not an end in itself.  

So over the next period, there’s isn’t a single switch that will be flicked, but numerous panels of switches as publisher concerns over depressed yields, and advertiser anxieties over quality, abate. At Big Mobile our position is to present premium audiences, leveraging tech and data, and apply a workflow and transaction model that meets the needs of the client. This means that we, and others, concurrently need to continue taking extra care and attention to develop effective mobile engagement solutions at scale, in spite of a fragmented ecosystem, whilst also accelerating the development of more efficient workflows programmatically.

Agility and adaptability are the keys during this journey to eventual vertical alignment. Being so right now is vital, as we live in a mobile world under genuine threat from an overly homogenous, Silicon Valley-propelled ad market. If we are not careful, and don’t learn from the stock-market missteps, we’ll accelerate a commoditising effect, and the true value to brand and media owner will be diluted.

Graham Christie is group CEO with Big Mobile


Campaign Asia

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