David Blecken
Oct 13, 2015

Unruly launches Japan operation

TOKYO - Video ad tech company Unruly has opened an office to serve the Japanese market, led by former Facebook Japan sales director Haruyo Kagawa as country manager.

Haruyo Kagawa was most recently at Facebook, and before that worked at Amazon and Overture/Yahoo
Haruyo Kagawa was most recently at Facebook, and before that worked at Amazon and Overture/Yahoo

The company has worked with brands such as Unilever, Panasonic and Samsung in Japan remotely since 2009. Kagawa told Campaign Asia-Pacific that demand for Japan-related services had increased significantly. Further clients upon launch will include Toyota, Panasonic, Adidas and Diageo. She said the company’s largest pieces of business were in CPG/FMCG sectors.

The majority of Unruly’s business comes via agencies, Kagawa said. In addition Japan’s largest domestic agencies, Dentsu, Hakuhodo and ADK (Unruly is involved with ADK’s Sticki initiative, launched earlier this year) these include the likes of MediaCom, which works closely with Procter & Gamble.

Kagawa said Japan represented a major growth opportunity for Unruly. According to the company, Japan is the world’s third-largest advertising market, with a value of nearly US$41.2 billion, but only 3 per cent of digital adspend ($311 million) last year went on online video.

Phil Townend, Unruly’s Asia-Pacific managing director, said in a statement that he expected the situation “to change massively over the coming months”. He cited a research into Japanese video advertising by eMarketer and Accenture that predicts the country’s online video market will be worth nearly $1 billion by 2017.

Japanese video marketing in brief

  • Just 32% of online video views happen on YouTube—the lowest among Asia-Pacific's top advertising markets. The regional average is 45% (comScore)
  • The average click-through rate is nearly 8%, compared to a global average of just 3.6%. The average share rate is low at 0.10% versus 0.23% globally (Unruly Activate)
  • Nearly 80% of Japanese video viewers say they are very likely to lose trust in a brand when an ad feels fake (Unruly Future Video Survey 2015)
  • Japanese viewers are the most likely to find ads that 'follow' them online helpful—over 35%. They are also least likely to find them creepy at just over 55% (Unruly Future Video Survey 2015)
  • Most people—76%—mute video advertising at least some of the time (Unruly Future Video Survey 2015)

Services that Unruly will offer in Japan include Unruly Activate, a programmatic video platform that delivers native video advertising. Features under the Activate banner include a skippable pre-roll format; a format dedicated to mobile newsfeeds; and a click-to-play format designed to maximise user engagement.

In addition, Unruly ShareRank is a tool that aims to predict the social impact of video content before it launches. Kagawa explained that ShareRank uses panel surveys to assess people’s emotional reaction to video ad content, brand recall and purchase intent. Brands can then act on the findings to increase the chances of their advertising making an impact, she said.

Changing attitudes around data, blocking and viewability

Kagawa said that Japanese advertising was becoming more data-driven, but that the approach to measurement was still somewhat behind markets like the US. There, “marketers are looking at the duration of watching, has it been shared, the organic number of views”, she said. “They know what to look at depending on the campaign goal. So I believe measurement is one important area where we can educate.”

Another way Unruly can help grow the market is to help publishers monetise their inventory, Kagawa said. “We can help monetise mobile inventory, which hasn’t been done very much. Marketers are looking for more inventory, and we can help generate inventory that will help [them] and also publishers.”

She said ad blocking had yet to become as big a topic in Japan as in many other markets, but noted that Unruly’s skippable format was designed to be user friendly—an important consideration for Japan.

“We give people choice which I believe will be more and more important for this market,” she said. “People will look for more opportunities to choose what they want to see.… It’s a risk for marketers because they may lose the opportunity to reach consumers, but that’s something they have to work on. They have to work hard to make [their content] interesting.”

Concerns around viewability also have “a bit of a time lag” in Japan as opposed to the US and UK, where Unruly found low levels of viewability to be the second-biggest concern after quality of inventory. But as with ad blocking, Kagawa said she expected that to become an issue in Japan very soon. Unruly works with analytics companies Moat and Integral Ad Science to ensure viewability, she said.

Unruly launched its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore last year and opened an office in Sydney in April. Last month, News Corp acquired the company in a deal worth up to $176 million.

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