Gabey Goh
Nov 18, 2015

Four hurdles to programmatic adoption in Asia

SINGAPORE - The tipping point for programmatic’s mass adoption in Asian markets will come when data can be easily accessed by the marketing industry.

Campaign's Marketing Innovation Summit takes place today and tomorrow in Singapore
Campaign's Marketing Innovation Summit takes place today and tomorrow in Singapore

That was the reply DataXu chief executive Michael Baker had to a question raised during Campaign Asia-Pacific's Marketing Innovation Summit, which includes an interactive workshop today and a full conference programme tomorrow.

“Fact is, that Asia is still data poor,” he said. “So those who are operating digital assets, it’s important that you start collecting data.”

About 30 people, the majority from client-side brands, attended the workshop, which sought to offer a better understanding of an oft-spoken but misunderstood area of marketing, programmatic.

Here are the other big hurdles in Asia:

2. Tracking and measurement

James Sampson, VP and general manager of DataXu APAC, said that while many marketers in the region are buying into programmatic, tracking and measurement is still a problem. 

“We’re finding that the use of unified tracking tools and software, while common with marketers with global remits, it is not as common with local or regional marketers yet,” he added.

During his session, Baker also highlighted some of the issues currently being faced by the industry in more mature markets, the first of which is the shift away from clicks.

“If I buy an ad, will someone see it? Basing success on clicks is the most common way for many, but the thing about clicks, from what we’ve learnt from working with clients such as American Express is that the people that usually click on ads have the least amount of money,” he said. “Clickthrough rates are inversely correlated to income.”

3. More silos

In addition, the rise of cross-device marketing and dominance of digital marketing has created additional silos within marketing organisations.

“The funny thing is... digital experts get hired in and end up forming silos within their own teams,” said Baker. “The best practice is to hire in that expert early on and then integrate them into existing teams. Digital marketing is marketing now, it’s no longer the tail,” he added. “It’s the dog.”

4. Walled gardens

The walled garden issue is also a challenge, with major platforms such as YouTube and Facebook inviting brands to engage with consumers yet not allowing marketers to make use of that user data to reach that same audience on other channels.

“Companies like Google and Facebook are collecting the world’s data," Baker said. "You now pay Google for your own brand name online. It’s become an expense item so competitors can’t access it to divert traffic away.”

When it came to the topic of open exchanges, which have large inventory across multiple sites at a lower cost versus private exchanges, which typically feature niche or prestige publishers and more premium inventory, Baker shared a tip with the audience.

In the United States especially, there are cases where marketers would buy an audience on a private exchange, put cookies on those ads to track them, and then buy that same audience on the open exchange in order to retarget across different websites.

“Essentially you’re buying faces not places,” he said. “Publishers don’t like it because they’d rather you buy that audience data direct from them, but they know it's happening.”


The main takeaway for marketers in the room is the fact that the industry now has a whole new way of working thanks to new digital tools and access to data.

Baker said that it’s now about conducting continuous, simultaneous, and small tests with marketing initiatives and adapting in real time.

“That’s the real transformation for marketers, this shift to data-driven marketing,” he added. “We’ve seen that the most successful marketers are the ones most focused on the ‘way of working’ rather than the specifics.”

Baker also reiterated the importance of data to the marketers in the room.

“If you’re not competing on data and analytics, building your own data and audience, then your brand is eroding its own value,” he said. “And it’s going to be very difficult to compete.”


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