Staff Reporters
Jul 10, 2018

Live blog: Rise 2018 for marketers

Campaign Asia's shared insights from the Rise 2018 tech conference for startups, platforms and, yes, marketers in Hong Kong, starting July 10th.

Live blog: Rise 2018 for marketers

This page is an archive of a liveblog by our editors who attended Rise 2018 at Hong Kong Convention Centre, starting July 10, 2018. Campaign served as a media sponsor to Rise, the annual conference for startups, new technology platforms and also brands and agencies. Updates were posted here throughout the day, in live blog style (newest updates at the top).

Can a startup's branding look like a Fortune 500 company's?

By Jenny Chan

In this Facebook Live broadcast with Yali Saar, the CEO of Tailor Brands, yesterday, Saar said his startup that automates parts of the branding and marketing process for small businesses, esp in logo design, copywriting and social media strategy, will be able to apply the technology to A/B testing and eventual optimisation of paid-search advertising copy/images in one year's time.

Lending voice to brands
By Robert Sawatzky

Will voice and audio marketing dominate the marketing scene as more consumers come to rely on personal assistants?  Probably not, according to a Rise panel moderated by Campaign’s Jenny Chan looking at the value of voice marketing.  But it will be a crucial channel for reaching consumers at key moments, much like other media, the panelists said.

Steven Moy, the US chief technology officer at R/GA Media said voice will be a key component of the customer journey strategy during moments where it makes sense. Parents who are rushed making lunches for kids can most easily interact with brands through voice as can car drivers looking for answers.

“The way you determine is it meaningful is, is does it add value to your target audience. Is it something a brand should own?  Is the technology ready?” he asked.
Moy said brands need to be aware that investing in voice assistant solutions won’t necessarily give them the consumer data along with interactions since Amazon or other platforms may keep it, depending who they work through. 

Renee Wang, CEO of podcast aggregator Castbox argued voice marketing will remain an important channel to reach younger users who are busy and are increasingly coming to audio for answers.  Podcasts, she argued not only remain one of the best ways to reach audiences commuting in their cars, but brands see real value in the creating content far more cheaply than video, with the potential to still reach sizeable audiences.

But Amy Buckner Chowdhry, the founder & CEO of AnswerLab warned not to treat voice like traditional media channels like radio. 

“We’re going to destroy voice assistants if we give them the same advertising messages that we’ve done with radio and with TV, Buckner Chowdhry said. “If we start pushing traditional same old ways of advertising to people through voice assistants, there’s not going to be that level of trust in adoption. We don’t want to be interrupted in the middle of a task that we’re trying to complete.”

So how is it appropriate for brands to employ voice assistants? Moy sees voice-activated opportunities during initial browsing sessions and at moments when customers first enter stores, since they’re looking for help finding products.

But Chowdry hinted voice may not work for those customers who really don’t know what they’re looking for.  “It’s not good for complex decision making,” she said.  “It’s not good for browsing multiple options to come to a decision. It’s great for laser-focused small chunks of tasks and our job is to work with clients on what those should be.”

Sticky Opinions
By Robert Sawatzky

Delegates at Rise were asked to vote on everything from what makes success to Chinese technology prowess.  See the answers for yourselves

Delegates feel China is giving Silicon Valley a run for its money
Privacy? Schmyvacy...
Hard work pays off, apparently
Strong belief in net benefits

Give and you shall receive: Consumers demand value in exchange of their data
By Soon Chen Kang

Whatever and whoever that are not in the online space are the missing pieces on the consumer journey that brands are working hard to track in order to complete the pipeline of data. During the ‘How to really know your consumer’ session moderated by Campaign’s Greater China reporter Jenny Chan, Daniel Diez, global chief marketing officer, R/GA Media Group, mentioned that a large part of the missing data for most FMCG goods manufacturers are related to sales from mom and pop stores.

There are low-tech and high-tech methods to capture such data, said Diez, with Snapcart being the most straightforward way to transfer data from purchase receipts to ‘magic mirrors’ used by fashion brands such as Guess in its retail stores. He also suggested that brands should map the data for things that do not happen very often, such as purchases of homes.

Amy Buckner Chowdhry, founder and CEO of user experience research firm Answerlab, however advocated for a more analog approach to film consumers in their homes as she believed that storytelling could help brands to develop empathy for consumers.

However, in certain emerging markets from Southeast Asia where ecommerce penetration could be as low as 2%, Alan Hellawell, Group CSO of Sea Group said the players there “must learn to walk before they run”. This encompasses having awareness on concepts such as GMVs, learning the finer points of targeting consumers, such as those who have not returned for a while. “Most of the merchants do not understand data, you have to educate them not just on Excel but also on CRM,” he said.

Hellawell said such data collection approach would inevitably help brands and retailers get a fuller picture of the consumer profile, since market research are usually centred on urban consumers.

On the data transparency issue with consumers, Diez said it falls on brands to make clear to consumers the value in the exchange of data. The example of the Nike + Running app was again brought up in this panel, as Diez said personalised training tips given the app are what runners really want in return for logging their data on the app. “That is the holy grail, when consumers feel that they are serving something back to me,” Diez emphasised.

Since KOL marketing and livestreaming are all the hype in the mainland China, Jose Blanco, CEO (Greater China), Guess, suggested that brands should try to capture those who show engagement during the livestreaming session, from say the 1 million users who watched the live-streaming, for example. “Identify which of the followers who are really engaging, even though there may only be 30,000 users, we now have 30,000 new consumers to engage with,” he said.


They might be giants
By Robert Sawatzky

A panel session on “What giants do differently” quickly became a lesson about what giants are trying to do to startups emulate startups to become more agile, courtesy of HSBC’s CMO Leanne Cutts.

While Cutts was unapologetic about representing a big brand, noting HSBC’s goal is grow even bigger, she noted that at startup conferences like Rise, they like to learn from and partner with startups to help make them more responsive.

“We have the platform, we have the reach, we have the scale. What we’re looking for is partners to help us to be able to personalise all those messages but then also be able to rapidly scale that.”

Cutts say technology has allowed HSBC to work more like a startup by injecting more speed and responsiveness, allowing the banking giant’s marketing efforts to “fail fast” in some cases, but simply move on.

“Historically you’d spend a lot of effort just getting something out there and not necessarily know if it was working in time.  I think now what we’re interested in doing is being able to get content in quickly, being able to optimise it fast and then push it through the sales engine as quickly as possible and have that iteration and feedback loop faster and faster. That’s where we’re moving,” Cutts said.

Another area where Cutts sees HSBC changing is in shaking up traditional job roles.  As an example she says the bank talks about working at ‘kitchen tables’ where different groups around that table might take the lead on different days and on different projects depending on what they are, to allow more flexibility by specialty.

“We’re still very much in that transition mode of having hierarchical structures but we know we need to be much more responsive,” Cutts said.

Aye to AR, nay to voice
By Soon Chen Kang

Agencies asked to gaze into crystal ball spared little time to conclude that voice is not likely to replace primary digital channels such as mobile apps in the next three to four years.

Speaking at the ‘Future of Advertising’ session, Richard Ting, chief experience officer, R/GA Media Group said he would not be bullish on voice simply because voice functions in advertising remain at the rudimentary level with functions such as customer service. Even day-to-day usage of voice commands are restricted to simple tasks such as control functions to play music.

“I don’t think voice is going to skyrocket like mobile apps,” said Ting. “People are customized to interacting with their cell phones, they like touching the screen.” Hence, brands are more keen to keep things simple for now, Ting explained, with interest from retailer clients using voice to build grocery lists, for example.

Richard Ting

What Ting would instead bet his money on is AR which brings advertising to consumers phone through applications such as AR kit, again highlighting consumers’ attachment to their mobile devices. “The ability to look at advertising through your phone lends its ability to scale, unlike VR sets which I am not a big fan of,” said Ting.

Mollie Spilman, COO of Criteo, concurred, saying that AR provides avenues for creatives to create brand experience due to certain shopping behaviours of consumers. “When I buy a $5,000 sofa, I would like to see how it looks like in my living room,” said Spilman.

Meanwhile, the panel also addressed the duopoly and data privacy issue as Ting urged brands to take a more proactive approach towards consumer data. “When you work with Google, all of a sudden the data is controlled by third party with you having no understanding of the consumers,” he said. Citing the example of the Nike Run Club app, Ting said such a plaform helps brands to have a direct relationship with consumers, with full control of their purchasing data for for targeted advertising. “It’s not mediated by Google [or any other platform], we are trying to get brands to think towards that direction,” Ting said.

He also suggested that consumer identify profiles should be held on blockchain instead of having their data scattered all over the internet to give consumers more control of their personal data.

“Even advertisers with lots of money can’t bribe us”

By Robert Sawatzky

Lillian Leong, COO, 9GAG. 

In a very scattered panel session looking at different branded content platforms, one central message stood out for content creators looking to create branded content. “It can’t be bullshit,” said Lillian Leong, COO of humour portal 9GAG. “You have to embrace genuineness.” 

One of the reasons why viewers engage with user-generated content above slickly produced videos, she said, is they like an honest camera which is more engaging. Millenials especially, she said, “can’t be fooled. You can’t bribe them.”

So how well then does branded content work on her platform?  “Well, we have to make a living,” Leong said.  “But even advertisers with lots of money can’t bribe us. If the content isn’t engaging, we have to say ‘no’. We can’t let down our users.”

The biggest learning for platforms and marketers, she added, was to let go of their egos.  Advertising and brand content is a bit of a gamble.  “Some people think they can produce everything but at the end of the day the campaign sucks.”

Leong encouraged them to find the right people who can do the right job for you and don’t be afraid to enter new platforms early so you can test and experiment.

“Now is the best time for us to try out platforms,” she said, because the social media field is so open.

Inane comments & questions gallery
By Robert Sawatzky

Not everything said on stage is original and on-target.  Among some of the ‘gems’ heard at Rise:

“If you do vanilla ice cream, focus on vanilla ice cream.”

“Social media has really opened the playing field.”

“Influencer marketing is the most authentic way to advertise today.”

“We go on social media to connect with each other.”

“Do you find you’re able to customise with data and get to know more about your customers that way?”

“Twenty seconds left… what are the challenges you find in breaking into China?”

"AI is not to be feared"
By Soon Chen Kang

(from left) Tim Kobe, Yali Saar and Chen Wu

At the start of the ‘Tech has replaced creative talent’ session, the audience was polled on the aforementioned title and no one answered to the affirmative. The session however wrapped up with 6% of the audience believing that tech has indeed replaced creative talent.

The discussion between Tim Kobe, CEO of Eight Inc and Yali Saar, co-founder and CEO of Tailor Brands appeared to sway the audience, with Kobe saying that AI is not something to be feared, since the HP calculator was once viewed as AI and technology has been part of human civilisation.

Saar pointed out that unlike the HP calculator, the AI that we know now accelerates at a much faster pace and is a ‘black box’. He said the industry can prepare for AI by thinking not about how one can be very good at one task, but instead going further into the realms of design thinking.

Meanwhile, Saar also believed that the inability of AI to imitate human emotions is not such a bad thing, since it can learn negative emotions such as hate and envy.

“What keeps me up at night is data starvation”
By Robert Sawatzky

An interview with South Korean ecommerce platform entitled “AI will change shopping forever” quickly evolved from the hypothetical to the real. Asked by Criteo COO Mollie Spillman whether AI would revolutionise ecommerce, Coupang’s VP of growth and computational marketing Kartick Narayan said “it already is.”

Narayan explained how it’s being applied to speed up and streamline logistics, from how product is picked, packed, shipped and stored.  But what he finds most useful is in marketing applications to identify which customers show signs of being long-term value customers, and then acting on those signs to deliver the right message, to the right customer, on the right channel, for the right product, among millions of potential SKUs.

“Sounds magical,” said Spillman.  “But what keeps you up at night? Is there a scary side to AI?”

“What keeps me up at night is data starvation,” quipped Narayan, that they won’t have enough key data points to feed AI the right information.

"We try not to give our startups too many KPIs"

By Jenny Chan

Campaign was live at RISE, speaking with Barbara Guerpillon of Unilever Foundry about how adtech and martech startups are changing the way Unilever brands do marketing in Asia:

Grab's primary competitor has always been "the hand that waves down taxis"
By Jenny Chan

Grab made headlines in March this year when it acquired Uber's operations in Southeast Asia. A Singapore watchdog last week provisionally found the Grab-Uber deal anti-competitive, however, an issue that wasn't directly raised by the usually hard-hitting Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode, who interviewed Tan Hooi Ling, co-founder at Grab (pictured above), at the opening session at RISE's centre stage this morning.

"What gave you the permission to be a superapp for everything, as it can get really complex?" Swisher asked.

"We asked our consumers and they want us to be a one-stop shop from transportation to groceries," answered Tan, announcing partnerships with Yahoo and Happyfresh today. "You were competing head on [with Uber], and suddenly there is no competition anymore," Swisher continued. 

Tan asked the audience to forget about ride-hailing for a second and consider the fact that "any industry will always go through cycles of consolidation", with Grab "experiencing that at an accelerated speed".

Grab has been the beneficiaries of competition over the past six years, she said. "My co-founders always like to say, our primary competitor has never been the other ride-hailing apps but always been the hand—the hand that waves down taxis on the street, but not as efficient as our pre-booking system. Competition has enabled us to innovate and utilise alternative tactics and strategies effectively."

Food unites, but grandma drinking Sprite is not so cool
By Soon Chen Kang

While Miss Yeah, the resourceful YouTube office chef, had once brazenly used a Huawei phone to smash garlics and as a chopping tool to prepare  Chengdu street food on her makeshift kitchen desk, monetization of content has been an ongoing challenge for most platform owners and some content creators.

Ray Chan, co-founder and CEO of 9gag, admitted during the RISE Conference in Hong Kong today that his platform has been bad at making money, even though 9gag was reputedly making over 180 million viewers happy every month. The reason for the disconnect, he explained, was due to the lack of synergy between brands, audience and the agency.

“The audience is more ahead of the brands, CMOs don’t use Instagram, how can they create something interesting? That is almost impossible,” he said.

Yeah, however, said there are certain universal themes that audiences usually gravitate towards, such as food. "I barely speak in my videos," she said. "But because I am a foodie, and a lot of people love food, now I have over 6 million subscribers on YouTube and Facebook."

Meanwhile Jason Ma, co-founder of 88rising and CEO of EWA, said brands must tap into opportunities to create 'new culture'. "In China, you see grandmas and kids drinking Sprite, that is not that cool," he explained. The brand has since launched a hip-hop themed campaign to capture the younger audience, while the same approach has been used by Nongfu Spring Water in its AI-themed campaign.

Campaign Asia

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