This week I’ve spent five days in Singapore absorbing Asia trends and insights, and preparing and then presenting the seventh edition of our Festival of Media APAC awards, which was a huge honour for me.
A big part of my role is understanding what is happening in the media landscape around the world and it’s trips like these that fuel my desire to continue to learn and gain further insight into what is driving advertising.
Asia is notoriously difficult to bracket under the APAC banner, particularly when you have somewhere like China with each of its cities showcasing different cultural nuances and needs and wants, making it like multiple countries within one nation, meaning advertisers are forced to have a plethora of versions of a campaign in one country.
There is also the likes of Japan who doesn’t particularly like to talk about the work it has created, while Australia and New Zealand’s media landscape is far more mature than that of a Vietnam and Malaysia, making it a smorgasbord of talent, ideas, creativity and innovation in media.
What it does mean is that attempting to understand the key trends and insights driving the APAC region is tough. It’s also worth noting that although Singapore is traditionally the hub for media in the region the individual countries within it are starting to take back more influence and this was evident in the domination of our awards of entries from the likes of Australia, New Zealand, India and China questioning Singapore’s future role as a hub for Asia. It also raises the question of whether it is still viable to host events in the country that are tasked with truly representing the region.
However, what I can say is there are a number overriding issues coming to the fore in media across APAC, which can be applied to most of the countries within it.
Unsurprisingly trust, questions around the future of the agency holding companies, programmatic, and a desire to have a universal measurement system in digital media is dominating proceedings.
However, one trend which really surprised me was the rise of adtech. What I mean by this is that despite adtech dominating some of the Asian market – mainly China – for quite a while the rest of the region is now catching up at a rapid pace with the rise of global adtech companies looking to make their mark in APAC. The likes of Ad Colony, Trade Desk, Teads and Integral Ad Science are all making their mark, so much so that a number of agency staff in Singapore are looking to make the move to companies that they feel could shape the future of Media in APAC.
This is compounded by a cautious marketing spend strategy in the first part of the year from agencies, who are understandably concerned about how this year plays out. And it’s certainly not helped by one of the biggest advertisers in Singapore acquiring an adtech company and asking its incumbent and potential agency suitors to commit a certain amount of programmatic spend to this acquisition, which suddenly gives a whole new meaning to the ‘power of the client’. I would certainly be intrigued to find out what clients in EMEA and the US would make of this policy.
The thirst for adtech and programmatic was seen in the entries for the Festival of Media APAC Awards, and also the recent success of the Drum’s programmatic awards in Singapore and points to an interesting few years for the region’s media landscape.
Another trend, which was clear throughout the judging process was the increased use of social platforms, particularly Twitter, in starting engaging and resonating conversations with consumers that drove product uplift, particularly when live events and real time conversations will be the key to retaining brand affinity in a world set to be dominated by AI.
However, something that underpinned at least half of the entries was campaigns rooted in solving a cultural or human problem, which were all about changing perceptions and raising awareness around issues ranging from testicular cancer to providing clean drinking water.
All of this was celebrated at the awards on Thursday night in Singapore, and I was fortunate enough to be given the honour of presenting them. Never short of energy I threw everything I had into it to ensure we had the most engaged and noisy awards audience at a Singapore Awards ceremony, which is not an easy ask.
All I can say is thank goodness we had an Aussie in the audience. I even managed to earn a laugh on two of my 20 jokes… You have to love the Aussies.