Based on the findings of this year’s Marketers’ Outlook, conducted in association with Ipsos, the industry is realistic about the challenges it faces going into 2015. At the same time, there is cause for optimism: more than half expect business to grow and their own budgets to increase.
When it comes to media channels, some are clearly more important than others. There is a focus on social, mobile and digital marketing, where marketers’ goals are for better integration between traditional media campaigns and their digital output. While over three-fifths have increased their involvement in social media marketing and mobile marketing in the past year, many still do not think their mobile is fully integrated with their traditional marketing campaigns.
Such caution can be attributed to the slowing of economic growth in China, as well as factors such as the impact of interest rate change. Of course, as Matthew Godfrey, Asia president at Y&R, points out, there are variations in optimism across the continent. “It depends greatly on the sector and the geography. Indonesia and India are still strong, while Thailand is showing resilience,” he says. This is reflected in the survey, with only 12 per cent of respondents in China believing that 2015 will be “much better than last year” for their brand, compared to 42 per cent and 36 per cent in India and Southeast Asia respectively.
Additionally marketers in India expect an 86 per cent increase in overall investment during this year, by far the highest in the region—and considerably higher than Japan and South Korea at just 39 per cent—which helps substantiate the optimism for a good 2015. Brand campaigns remain a clear priority this year, with 47 per cent of surveyed marketers saying they expect to spend more on brand building in 2015 than they did last year.
Sectors expected to undergo significant change are aviation and tourism, particularly if the recent fuel-cost reductions remain in place. “They will ramp up their spending, as this has been the main cost keeping spending down,” says David Brain, president, APMEA, Edelman. “Mainstream carriers have seen their business eroded at the bottom end (by low cost) and the high end (by Middle Eastern airlines) and are overdue to start fighting back.” Brain also expects the B2B market for cloud-based software and services to heat up and a “lot of movement in private property as investment capital increasingly becomes more mobile”.
Marketers’ objectives won’t change dramatically during 2015, according to many of the industry experts we consulted. As well as the usual suspects such as brand differentiation, product evolution and new market penetration, Godfrey believes “marketers’ priorities should be based on creating and placing ideas and content that builds relevancy and connections with consumers and help close the sales loop”. He adds that there is still too much one-way broadcasting to consumers in both analogue and digital channels. “An engaging approach is important no matter what the media mix is, as consumers now have the power to switch off, over and out,” Godfrey says.
This is backed up in the survey with 58 per cent of respondents stating that developing more creative marketing solutions is a top priority for 2015. Also highly important is the measurement of effectiveness and making marketing solutions more data-driven. Marketers still want to be more creative too: more than half listed that as a goal for 2014, but just a third felt that they achieved it. Managing talent was another area where marketers felt they struggled in 2014: nearly 40 per cent targeted it as a key priority but less than a quarter were satisfied with their progress.
In terms of challenges, the survey reveals that in 2015, marketers feel their key tasks are in building more integrated marketing strategies, seeking better return on investment and better data on consumers.
Closer agency ties
The need for brands and agencies to develop closer and more meaningful relationships continues to be apparent. Guy Parsonage, CEO of Fluid in Hong Kong and vice-chair of the Marketing Society in Asia, says that clients are seeking strategic agencies with deep market knowledge. “The breadth of partnerships within marketing is constantly evolving, showing that it has never been more important,” he says. “These partnerships are a good thing and make us challenge the status quo, and ask ourselves if we are really offering what clients need.”
Findings within the report corroborate that statement. “Marketers are looking for their advertising agencies to improve on strategic thinking and integrating their digital and traditional media campaigns,” says Mark Kidd, research director at Ipsos Hong Kong. However, based on respondents’ feedback, only one in five thinks advertising agencies offer strategic thinking and insight, even though over half of marketers want their agencies to do so.
In general, there’s a feeling that advertising agencies aren’t meeting the standards marketers expect across a number of areas, notably digital, campaign integration and creativity — all capabilities marketers would like to see an improvement on during this year. In terms of dissatisfaction, it’s a similar scenario across other agency disciplines, such as media, digital and PR.
“Top of marketers’ agendas will be creativity, flexibility and a truly multichannel approach. They want their agencies to inspire and be able to produce work that can be integrated seamlessly across a number of platforms, with an increasing emphasis on mobile and digital,” says Parsonage.
The focus on digital, social and mobile — increasingly prevalent over the last few years — shows no sign of wavering. 2015 is likely to see increased use of social media, mobile marketing and big data analytics. Six out of 10 respondents claimed they would use more social media and mobile marketing this year, with supporting services like social listening also on the increase.
Sam Ahmed, group head of marketing at Mastercard, believes this year will see brands looking to cut through the digital clutter to drive purchase and engagement. “Marketers will be looking to build digital business models and emotionally engage online,” he says. “This will have the added bonus of motivating your whole company behind your brand and brand strategy, and not just the marketing team.”
The survey suggests 2015 is likely to see digital media taking a bigger share of budgets, particularly in Greater China where over half of respondents predicted an increase of at least 11 per cent, with some suggesting spend will increase by at least half.
Looking beyond 2015, over a third expect mobile marketing to be the most effective medium over the next three years. Guy Hearn, chief innovation officer for Omnicom Media Group in Asia, believes the precise geo-targeting of consumers will be the main driver of growth. “Now that we can target people to within five metres, this will finally be the year that mobile will take a significant share of brand spend,” he predicts.
Hearn singles out messaging apps as one being one particularly interesting sector of mobile to watch. “WeChat is of course winning in China, but WhatsApp is winning in Malaysia. The rise of the sticker economy is an interesting subset of this. Throughout the region users won’t pay for music, won’t pay for entertainment content, but will pay for stickers — amazing.”
Another digital sub-sector gradually growing in importance is programmatic buying and real-time bidding. Seven in 10 respondents said they were using programmatic and RTB — mainly for new customer acquisition. “There will be more interest in programmatic, in particular in China, where it is set to grow significantly over the next few years and will overtake RTB,” Parsonage says.
In a response almost identical to that of 2014, mobile and social are the key medium for Greater China, Japan and Korea, while mobile marketing is growing in importance in Southeast Asia. As for India, respondents said social media remained the key channel to reach their customers.
And who is presiding over digital activities in 2015? Previously, tasks had been shared between roster agencies but now marketers are using a wide variety of different agencies for their social media strategy, with 58 per cent using specialist digital or social media agencies and the rest using traditional advertising, media or PR agencies.
“For some, the mix of agencies is getting bigger as they add more specialists and for others the mix is getting smaller as they aim to simplify and consolidate,” says Brain. “Collectors and analysts of data are in increasingly high demand and rightly so, given the growing data-centricity of even the most mainstream aspects of our business. As more and more communications — even outdoor — become digitised, we can expect a resurgence in demand for user-experience specialists to create a seamless, user-friendly brand world.”
But while all things social, digital and mobile are increasing, traditional media is growing at a much slower rate. Based on three-year predictions, the sector is set to gradually wane. Only 18 percent of those interviewed predicted an increase in their TV budgets during 2015, yet Hearn is not hearing TV’s death knell just yet.
“The death of TV will continue to be exaggerated. Spend will continue to increase at around the speed of inflation — in other words, will stay flat — and time spent watching TV will not decline significantly.” This decline will be different, he believes, with “binge viewing” or viewing content in sizeable blocks becoming the mainstream way of viewing that content. He also foresees that 2015 will be the year “social TV gets serious”. This is because planners will take into consideration the social reach, through either second-screen content, engagement opportunities or the talkability of the programme, rather than just the ratings.
In terms of print, Hearn paints a more negative picture, believing circulation will continue to decrease for most newspaper and print titles, except for free giveaways. India, however, will continue to be an exception. “Will the digital editions of print help? To a certain extent, yes, but the explosion of platforms and the lack of time will mean people will be ever less inclined to spend long periods of time on digital print platforms.”
The 2015 Marketers’ Outlook study, conducted by Campaign Asia-Pacific and Ipsos, had four main objectives: to gauge business performance in 2014; to understand the outlook for 2015 in terms of business performance and marketing investment; to evaluate current trends in marketing actions and strategies; and to understand what marketers want their agencies to deliver. A range of brand marketers from across Asia-Pacific completed an online survey between 10 December and 29 December, 2014. Markets covered include China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
- 45 per cent of respondents had more than 10 years’ experience in marketing
- 60 per cent had local responsibilities, 33 per cent regional and 22 per cent global
- Key sectors that respondents represented were consumer products (29 per cent), automotive (17 per cent) and finance (11 per cent)