Laura Quigley
Jul 28, 2020

Into the unknown: Tips for APAC marketers to navigate rough terrain

Change seems to be the only constant right now, requiring marketers to reassess every possible touchpoint to ensure their messages are timely, contextual and relevant, the SVP of APAC at Integral Ad Science argues.

Credit: Santiago Lacarta, Unsplash
Credit: Santiago Lacarta, Unsplash

In the Frozen 2 movie song, when Elsa sings 'Into the Unknown' her vocal range escalates each time and hits higher-octave notes. While that has nothing to do with the state of digital advertising in APAC, the lyrics do strike a chord with me. We are in the unknown and to say it’s a unique time in the world is an understatement.

As we all collectively grapple with what this global pandemic means for us—as humans first, but also as professionals—there are often more questions than answers. There is no playbook for times like these, and what has unfolded in front of us is a strong human resilience, creativity, and the digitisation of the world around us. Marketers are under a lot of pressure to prove ROI as they optimise their media spend to provide actual business outcomes.

Here are a few tips for marketers to help navigate their campaigns during these difficult times and create stronger relevancy and engagement with the consumers.

Context matters more than before

For the foreseeable future, consumer attention is likely to remain shifted toward screens, and advertisers would be wise to meet them there. Even if budgets are tight now, the slow ease of quarantine and global adjustment to a “new normal” means that digital advertising budgets will return, and the connections made with consumers during this challenging time will remain. The best way to reach consumers while navigating the challenges presented by shrinking budgets and tricky, volatile news headlines is to employ a local approach and have a brand suitability strategy that leverages contextual targeting.

To elaborate more on contextual targeting; say you are reading an article about jaguars in the wild. If the context of the article was understood, you may get an ad from Singapore Zoo or Night Safari . However, if the context of the article was not considered, and the words ”jaguar”, “speed” and “fast” were picked up, you could get an ad for the latest Jaguar car. So, we can see that context matters when it comes to targeted advertising. But what about the consumers receiving the adverts—how do they actually want to be targeted by advertisers? Now is the time for advertisers to take this approach, act locally, and use it to effectively engage with their audience in the right environment and right time, whilst also at the same time plan for a world without third-party cookies and mobile phone identifiers. The local context will be important.

Consumer and their immersive digital lives

The convenience and accessibility to products online—especially during COVID-19—have not only increased existing online shoppers’ spend but also converted many offline shoppers to online. This trend is unlikely to return to pre-COVID status according to a recent Nielsen COVID-19 consumer survey. Consumers have literally replicated their lives online—from celebrating birthdays to attending events to children taking ballet lessons—everything is happening online. As such, they have become significantly more open to digital offerings and experiences, a shift that marketing execs believe will persist even after the pandemic recedes. This suggests digital marketing efforts will command a greater share of total marketing spending moving forward, even if overall marketing budgets shrink 8% to 10% next year. Marketers need to ensure that they create more local content and experiences for their discerning, time-poor touchless and digital customers, and reach out to them in an engaging, relevant, and timely fashion on the platform of their choice.

Integral Ad Science conducted data privacy research in APAC and we found that data privacy remains top of mind for consumers, despite a significant proportion of respondents unaware of current privacy regulations. Consumers are aware of online data collection but still care deeply about their data privacy, so much so that they’re taking action to restrict their data collection online. However, consumers are receptive to ads in the right environment and prefer contextual targeting methods. 

Creatives that are reflective of our current times

Marketers are delivering work that reflects and responds to the spread of the coronavirus despite the challenges of fostering creativity under lockdown, a study by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has found.

Marketers are placing increased scrutiny on creative elements right now. From tone and visual imagery to copy and keywords, the context of media buys needs to be carefully assessed for every campaign, no matter the channel or size of spend behind it. Brands are focusing on products that are most pertinent and useful in an increasingly virtual world, and are increasingly showing empathy. They are re-evaluating creatives that show overt promotions, interactions like handshakes, hugs, and high-fives, to ensure that ad copies are not tone-deaf to the realities of the current world we live in. Consumers of today are opinionated, discerning, and time-poor and marketers have precious few seconds to make an impact.

Calibration: make sure to make sure

As market dynamics change rapidly, marketers must constantly reassess their campaigns and creatives. What they decided a month ago isn’t necessarily appropriate today. Change seems to be the only constant and because of that, marketers must reassess every possible touchpoint for the brand across paid and owned channels, from video ads to the automated emails they’re sending via customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Brands must ask themselves every day, “Is this creative or ad placement right for this moment and in this context?” And when the answer is no, they need to pivot.

At IAS we've taken a few concrete steps of our own and there's more in the works. We've rejected the regressive, long-standing industry naming conventions-  “blacklist,” “whitelist,” to “exclusion” and “inclusion” list among others and are in the midst of auditing all our internal, external collaterals, UI, blog posts and website to make sure no footprints of this dated naming convention remain. We take pride in being a diverse and inclusive company and the verbiage we use must be reflective of that. 

We certainly don’t have all the answers for navigating these turbulent times. But thinking through these has been a helpful exercise in itself—I hope it’s helpful as you navigate the coming weeks and months with your own teams.

Leaving you with the final lines from the song on high octave notes! 

Where are you going? Don't leave me alone

How do I follow you? Into the unknown?

Laura Quigley is the SVP of APAC at Integral Ad Science.

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