Robert Sawatzky
Nov 26, 2018

Brands, hug a geek and get ready to sell

Plus, TV trouble, agency angst and other lessons learned from Re.Con Philippines in Manila.

Some key lessons stood out when brands, publisher platforms and technology companies gathered in Manila to discuss data-driven marketing strategies at Re.Con Philippines, a Campaign Asia-Pacific event in partnership with Ada. Here’s five of them:

‘Buy now’ is the new ‘always on’

So says Facebook’s head of media in the Philippines, Chay Saputil, noting how ecommerce is putting new demands on marketers to deliver hard sales through their digital efforts over softer goals like brand awareness. 

“Our ‘always on’ should be: Where can you get this product? Where can I buy this product? Can I buy this now?” Saputil says, depicting a scenario where marketers’ jobs are getting much more competitive.

And when ecommerce and voice-activated buying becomes so responsive to consumers’ cravings, the need to satisfy demand can be easily brand-agnostic. This is why Amazon has been able to sell so many generic products through Alexa.

“Our beautiful red iconic logo types. They’re not working anymore,” bemoaned Coca-Cola’s Philippines marketing VP Stephan Czypionka of the new ecommerce environment. And yet, “it is much more important nowadays than ever than consumers love our brand, because we don’t want consumers to be satisfied with Amazon Cola. We want consumers to still crave Coca-Cola,” he said.

Geeks wanted

Are you a whiz with numbers? Love the sound of crunched data? Young enough to have grown up with computers without DOS commands? You might just have what it takes to earn yourself a promising career in … brand marketing.

Most digital marketers at Re.Con 2018 Manila admitted they’re new to applying data to digital initiatives and need help.  So much so that L’Oreal CMO Albet Buddahim ended his presentation with an advertisement (see photo below) for any data scientists in the audience to apply join his team.

“What we’re really looking for is not just a pure data scientist,” said Unilever Philippines media director Dennis Perez, “that person should also know marketing and business, because he needs data to propel value for the business.”

“Yes there are data scientists that can give you a technical interpretation of the data,” added Noel Tuazon, PSBank’s SVP & head of marketing group, but if they don’t give you smart business insights then that’s a problem. It’s a big gap.”

So minor correction: Creative, business-minded, marketing-savvy geeks wanted.

Oh, one other request: A bit more digital savviness from leadership too. “The decision-makers, the ones signing on the purchase orders to release the funds, it takes some time to educate them,” said Margot Torres, EVP & managing director for McDonald’s Philippines. “So I think digital leadership is probably for me the biggest challenge in the organization for us to really make it fly.”

Craft for mobile

Most of SEA qualifies as mobile-first region, but affordable smartphones and data plans in the Philippines have made this market especially mobile-friendly. Speakers at Re.Con 2018 cited this distinction early and often, yet admitted brands still needed to think in mobile terms more often.

“I know you can see that the world is already mobile now,” said Saputil. “But for brands and agencies here, how many of you have actually thought of a brief that’s mobile-first? Can you think about your last campaign—what does it look like on an Android phone?” Saputil’s advice to brands was to craft for mobile early in the ideation phase, when bringing briefs to agencies and to work through personal devices and messaging when trying to reach lower socioeconomic classes and rural audiences in the Philippines.

Tough times for TV

The proliferation of mobile video in the Philippines means trying times for traditional television.  Overlaying charts of peak television hours and peak mobile hours, Saputil pointed out that both shared the after-dinner primetime peak. Why? Because 92% of Filipinos use an additional device while watching TV, primarily for browsing and messaging, her research said. Clearly prime time TV advertisers can no longer bet on a captive audience.

Sobering statistics like these led Coca-Cola’s Czypionka to cut all TVCs since September, something they did last year, in favour of creating their own content on YouTube, a series around Filipino music through their new Coke Studio. 

“We need to fish where the fish are,” he said, telling the audience he has cut TV spending from 80% of the media mix down to 20%. “This was a radical change.” 

“TV will exist here [pointing to his mobile phone], or on our iPads or on our laptops, but not in our living rooms,” predicted Anurag Gupta, chief of agency & COO at Ada.

Agency Angst

Ad agencies were not on the official agenda at Re.Con but that didn't prevent speakers from talking about them. The general vibe, though, was that more change was needed.

In his opening presentation, Gupta ran through recent financial headlines and share prices of all the big holding companies predicting the death of the current agency model.

“All the CMOs globally and in Asia are saying that what we have and what we’ve had for the last 100 years is not working.”

Why? “Purchase has taken over most of the decisions at most big organisations. Zero-based budgeting has been introduced in most of the largest companies,” Gupta argued, leading all marketing expenditures to be scrutinized over whether they lead to direct sales.

While some performance marketing agencies are excelling at this, there’s not enough integration of data-driven conversion needs throughout their spectrum of agencies and media channels, the speakers said.

“My question is about their value. Is it technology?  Is it putting math on the data? Because at the end of the day we need their help because of the amount of data on hand,” added Tuazon.

“Our agencies constantly ask brands why do you work with consultants,” said Torres. “My answer is we’ll work with whoever can give us value.”

“I think there’s a simple question you can ask your agencies, which is: ‘Are you willing to take the risk when you’re taking the risk yourself on media and the costs associated with that?’,” said Ada CEO Srinivas Gattamneni. “Ask them to take the risk and see what happens.”

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