Gunjan Prasad
May 20, 2015

How Unilever works in Indonesia, the region's most social market

Unilever's Indonesia media director, Adeline-Ausy Setiawan, talks to Campaign about the country's unique media and social habits, the brand's current media review, how much freedom the company allows for localisation of global brand platforms and more.

Adeline-Ausy Setiawan
Adeline-Ausy Setiawan

In 20-plus years with Unilever Indonesia, Adeline-Ausy Setiawan has hawked everything from soaps to soup. Piggybacking on the skills learnt as a brand leader, Setiawan (or 'Ausy', as she is perhaps better known) seamlessly made the transition to leading media for the largest advertiser in the nation. She may see herself as a product of the “TV generation”, but she has learnt her digital lessons quickly in her four years as media director of Unilever Indonesia & SEA. Under her aegis, digital budgets have grown five times since 2011 and are pegged to double in 2015 (over 2014).

Here, Setiawan talks to Campaign Asia-Pacific about the opportunities and challenges new media offers in Indonesia and how it is time for the nation’s media and advertising industry to raise its profile globally.

What differentiates Indonesia from other markets in APAC?

With 240 million people, Indonesia is an archipelago with rich cultures. Although the majority of the population is Muslim, Indonesia is a country where culture enriches religion and, thus, we see similar values across races and religion in Indonesia. It is an open-minded society with high acceptance to the 'external'.

We are a collectivist society rather than individualist. Thus, most Indonesians don’t want to be seen as the outliers, and enjoy being behind the scenes more than standing out of the crowd.

This trait also shows in our communication, which tends to be more indirect, with the real message hidden somewhere between the lines. This, I think, is one of the most important factors that led to the explosion of social media in Indonesia. It is a place where people can be more expressive and self-oriented. Things we can say in social media are not the things we would ever say in the face-to-face world, as there still exists an unspoken cultural norm that we feel obligated to follow. 

What is unique about the media landscape in Indonesia?

There is a strange sort of churn taking place in the country’s media landscape. Indonesia has been and still is predominantly a TV market. Free-to-air television penetration has been 97 per cent since decades ago. Therefore, we—who were born 30 to 50 years ago—are very TV-oriented.

However, the younger generation seems to prefer more interactive media options to one-way media such as TV to remain connected to the world. In Indonesia, the primary source for Internet connectivity amongst the youth is the mobile. There has been a significant growth in smart mobile ownership, which has accelerated Internet penetration. The strong presence of the traditional media, along with an exponential evolution of the digital media, has automatically steered the Indonesians into becoming a multi-screen audience. The number of minutes that an average Indonesian spends over some screen in a day is 540 minutes, which is the highest in APAC. And to think that all this has happened in the span of four years is a bit overwhelming.

This creates immense opportunities as well as challenges for us (advertisers) as well as the broadcasters (publisher).

Under your leadership, how has Unilever Indonesia’s media mix changed over the last few years?

The biggest shift has been in our digital mindset. When I took over the media role four years back, digital was one of Unilever’s strategic key thrusts. “Digital ignition … fit to compete to fit to win” became a sort of mission statement. The consumers were moving faster than us and there was an immediate need to step up. We first identified the building blocks: resources (human, investment), capability, partnership, campaigns, and recognition, and then turbo-charged digital investment. We ignited the brand marketing team top down, recruited a dedicated digital lead and forged partnerships with key digital players such as Facebook and Google. Proud to say that in four years we have grown our commitment and capability manifold and have received industry recognition. Our digital investment has grown 10X in the last five years.

Unilever is also very serious about mobile marketing. We believe to be a marketer-par-excellence in this hyper-connected world, it is mandatory for our brands to provide meaningful connection through mobile devices. In a market like Indonesia, where the number of mobile connections is higher than our population, it will be a big loss if we don’t leverage this opportunity.

What kind of a relationship do you share with your social media partners?

On the social-media front, with Facebook and Twitter deciding to open offices [in Indonesia] shows their commitment toward this market. And it is undeniably on top of our media agenda. Indonesia is a very collective society, which needs external society recognition. Facebook has managed to reach mass audiences across all age groups, genders and SECs. It will be our loss if we don’t engage meaningfully with them. Recently we did a project with Walls, 'Taste of joy', which we are now submitting to Cannes. With Twitter, we have run quite a few workshops for certain Unilever brands. Recently, a Twitter Mirror was put up at the venue for Ponds Miracle Concert—a first in Indonesia.

We invested in YouTube even when their reach was very small as we could smell a huge potential for being content-creators here, rather than using the media for push advertising.  

A media review has been called this year. Is there any particular reason for it? Do you foresee any changes on the local front?

It is Unilever’s normal approach to call for a capability review every couple of years. I feel this is important for both the company as well as the agency as it allows both parties to pause and re-evaluate what should be the new building blocks in this dynamic and hyper-connected world.

How much flexibility can you give your creative partners here in Indonesia, considering the main brand ideas are decided globally? Any campaigns that have stood out in their use of local insights?

It can be misleading to blindly say that brand idea is decided globally. The global teams look to lead and centralise one core brand idea/campaign, which is built on insights from key markets. This ensures that it works locally and can be adapted and amplified in our market. With this framework clearly set by the global team, there is still room for making it more relevant to local insights.

For instance, Clear’s Ayo! Indonesia Bisa campaign ignited the movement to support our athletes in SEA Games 2011. This was purely based on the love, pride and hope Indonesians feel for Timnas [the national soccer team]. Clear shampoo, which is a youth-centric brand with values of confidence and optimism, saw the opportunity. By combining this brand energy with a movement of Facebook, we created a song called “Ayo Indonesia Bisa” [“Come on, Indonesia can!”]. These words connected with the target audience in a big way. No surprise that Indonesia actually won the tournament after 12 years.


Moving on, Clear is continuing its commitment to sport and nation’s pride by re-activating this campaign in 2013 and 2014. However, Clear is now addressing the frustration of Indonesian people towards achievement, particularly in soccer. It is the biggest sport passion point in Indonesia, but the national team’s performance was quite alarming. Focusing to be the credible channel to gather support for Indonesia’s soccer, Clear called for the support of 24 million people through Once met, we promised to bring a soccer legend as well as an international coach to train Indonesia’s football players. As a result of that campaign, Clear gathered 26,021,327 supports in 2014.

How do you propose to build Indonesia’s market profile on global platforms like the upcoming Cannes, especially in the media category?

I think we need a special task force to raise Indonesia’s profile at Cannes. The fact is that we have not done enough towards this in the past. There has to be a real movement in the media-advertising-marketing industry of Indonesia to increase Indonesian representatives to Cannes to start with. The practitioners need to understand what exactly Cannes is and what kind of positive impact it can bring to the country and to the business.

Winning awards at a global platform like Cannes should become a currency talk between senior levels of marketers. However first and foremost the onus lies on us to produce excellent work at a scale that deserves to be noticed, and then to package them in the right context.

Publishers, brand owners, media agencies, PR agencies and of course creative agencies have to work hand in hand for this. This is not impossible…but needs a high level of commitment. We, at Unilever, have already rolled the dice.

Does your competitor in Indonesia, Wings, keep you awake at night given that its strategy has been to imitate the leader in a cheaper and faster manner?

We believe that competition makes us stronger, keep us alert and sharp. There are things we should learn from them too. I still sleep very well at night, though. The key is to be always prepared: know your competitive edge, identify your blind-spots/weaknesses, quickly spot the opportunities and build the ability to implement plans flawlessly and on time. Also, however big you may be, never ever underestimate competition.

The Unilever Foundry has been set up to engage with startups. Is Indonesia tapping into the area?

Yes, definitely. To work with the startups is very refreshing! Just wait for our next move.


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