Nothing excites Wilson Yao, chief executive of Chinese digital integrated marketing solution provider Allyes, more than big data — the ability to gather information from both traditional and digital sources. He believes that this is one of the key trends impacting China’s digital scene.
“Previously when we did digital marketing or advertising in a traditional way, we placed advertisements according to a certain spot plan,” explains Yao. “But now everything is going the way of big data, so the majority of our advertisement placements are done in a programmatic way.”
The benefit of big data, believes Yao, is this automation of the ad placement process and the fact that return on investment is, he says, “much better than before”. Allyes has also identified mobile as another key trend, which in turn is fuelling the growth of big data.
“Now, probably as a result of the growth in ownership of smartphones in China, all marketing activities are going digital,” says Yao. “Last year, 40 percent of Allyes’ total advertising budget was attributed to mobile — it’s huge — compare this to the year before last, when it was only around 3 percent of our total advertising budget.”
Yet while Yao believes that the potential for big data in China is coming into its own, he also cautions that the country still has much to learn from the US and other Western markets.
“China has a huge population — and as far as the advertising industry is concerned, I would say it is leading the way based on total advertising volume, because we consume a lot of advertisements and we have a lot of advertisers here,” explains Yao. “But compared to the US market or even other Western ones, we are still catching up. The US market especially is still ahead in terms of technology — I would say five years ahead — so in China, we are still very much at the learning stage.”
Allyes, however, has evolved its business over the years since its foundation in 1998, and according to Yao, it is now in one of the best positions to take advantage of the big data revolution.
“Allyes originally was not an advertising agency, we are a technology company — if we look back 16 years ago, we provided a serving system to publishers,” says Yao. “When the dot-com bubble burst, we tried to survive — still providing technology to publishers but also exchanging some advertising spots from those publishers and selling them.”
The company then entered the advertising industry in 2000 and, five years later, became the No 1 player in China, by data volume.
A growing connection between the online and offline sectors is another major trend Yao has observed — and one that is set to increase big data’s potential — with many internet users increasingly moving their surfing from the PC to mobile.
“There is a challenge here for those traditional retailers, advertisers and manufacturers, who will need to change their mindset and go from traditional [advertising] to digital — again there is huge potential here,” says Yao.
Allyes is looking to capitalise on the trend for big data and has ambitious plans for growth over the next three years. Yao says that Allyes wants to reposition itself from being a digital marketing company to becoming “a total marketing solutions company” within that time frame.
“This means we need to enter not only digital advertising but also ad technology, digital PR and entertainment and social marketing as well,’” he says.