Matt Harty
Dec 19, 2017

Programmatic in Asia: Onwards and upwards in 2018

Mobile, connected TV and the China market are all primed for major development in the year ahead.

Mobile internet ad spending is expected to grow to US$68.76 billion in the Asia-Pacific region in 2018, surpassing North America.
Mobile internet ad spending is expected to grow to US$68.76 billion in the Asia-Pacific region in 2018, surpassing North America.

I’m expecting 2018 to be a stellar year for programmatic in Asia. Long-term economic and demographic trends in the region should reach a tipping point, which is likely to coincide nicely with shorter-term positive developments in the digital advertising ecosystem. All this to say, it’s likely to be a watershed year. Here are a few trends to keep an eye on.

1. Asia rises

Let’s start with a macro view. According to research by the Brookings Institute, the world will add another billion middle-class consumers within seven years, with the vast majority of that number residing in Asia. A huge proportion of this new middle-class population will be buying cars, plane travel, packaged food, cosmetics, financial products, and other goods and services. You name it, they’ll buy it—and they’ll likely be buying it for the first time.

If global brands are serious about growth, they need to knuckle down and start winning those hearts and minds now. Brands are hearing the message loud and clear, as eMarketer estimates that paid advertising spend in Asia-Pacific will outpace North America by 2019. Expect a huge ramp up in activity in 2018, as agencies lay the infrastructure they’ll need to deliver their future campaigns to this growing population of Asian consumers.

2. Mobile takes centre stage

While we’re on the topic of the rising middle-class consumers in Asia, some of the first products they’re flocking to—and purchasing—en masse are smartphones. It’s setting up a compelling story for the growth in mobile advertising in 2018, but it’s not the only factor contributing to the growth of mobile ad spend next year.

Those middle-class consumers are not only buying smartphones, they’re also ramping up their data consumption. Our data shows internet users in developing economies including Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand are viewing more videos, using more apps and engaging other high interaction formats. At the same time, high-impact formats are integrating more seamlessly into media plans, and becoming a real option for advertisers in Asia. In 2017, I saw a number of campaigns move from successful activation in Australia to Southeast Asian markets. I expect that trend to gain momentum in 2018.

(On that note—here’s a special tip for digital advertisers in 2018. If you are advertising in emerging Asian economies, and your ad involves a large video creative, try targeting users with a wifi connection. No one wants to waste their precious data quota on an ad!)

As media agencies in Asia catch up with global best practices, in terms of measuring viewability, I expect it will also contribute to the growth of mobile ad spend. I’ve seen increasing enquiries about using services from our viewability partners on campaigns. The sophistication and practicality of the technology will only engender confidence to increase investment in mobile. 

3. Making CTV connections

Programmatic advertising and connected TV are a match made in heaven, and 2018 is the year I think more and more advertisers in Asia will come to realise it. In 2017, we launched our first programmatic Connected TV (CTV) campaign in Australia, and there are many more in the pipeline. With the technological foundations of CTV already laid, it’s simply a matter of advertisers and brands recognising the potential of the medium and rolling out campaigns across Asia.

China, however, is another matter altogether. Depending on the methodology, China is already the most advanced connected TV market in the world—and it’s growing fast. According to new estimates from iResearch, connected TV ad spending in the country is expected to grow at a rapid clip, from USD $252.9 million this year to USD $1.93 billion in 2020. Global brands will need to start reviewing their presence in China’s connected TV landscape immediately. Fortunately, companies like ours are already deploying and improving capabilities to help brands meet Chinese audiences—as evidenced by the continuing investment in The Trade Desk’s Shanghai team through 2017 and into the future. 

I hope all my friends, clients, colleagues and competitors in the Asia ad tech world enjoy a relaxing holiday break. We’ll all need the rest, as we prepare for a frantic (and fruitful) year ahead.

Matt Harty is senior vice president, Asia-Pacific at The Trade Desk




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