Welcome to Xplore, your essential source of video advertising insight from across APAC, the most diverse region in the world.
During CCI’s virtual Broadcasting Forum at the end of last year, SpotX hosted a panel discussion with leading brand and content partners in Southeast Asia and the US to share global insights about the state of video advertising. Unilever and Viu joined our discussion about the Southeast Asia market, sharing how they’ve adapted their advertising and content strategies in the pandemic era and their thoughts on the path moving forward into 2021.
Accelerated digital transformation
The pandemic has massively impacted the way brands and content providers communicate with consumers. Brands like Unilever were forced to respond quickly to shifting demands of the volatile economy.
“Some categories were negatively impacted but others really grew. For instance, our hand sanitizer and soap teams working on brands like Lifebuoy went into overtime and a lot of funds went into communications and manufacturing,” said David Porter, VP of Global Media at Unilever. “We built a hand sanitizer factory and had it up and running in 18 days.”
Yet these experiences will prepare brands for future crises. “It’s good muscle that’s been built, and not muscle that necessarily happens in markets that are less used to volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), but now everybody is used to this volatility,” he added.
Evolving consumer behaviour and preferences
“There’s no playbook for anyone to react to the situation,” said Varun Mehta, Country Manager of Viu, highlighting the far-reaching impact the pandemic had on consumer behaviour.
The accelerated shift to digital with reduced socialisation during lockdown led to growth in disposable time, changing viewing hours, more personalised entertainment, and preferences for happier genres.
“We see a large part of consumption go towards the happier side of content,” said Mehta. “The typical ‘me time’ is moving beyond the 9 pm slot. Over the last 10 months, we’ve seen much longer working hours. Our audience, primarily women, have their time split between taking care of the home, their kids, and personal entertainment.”
As countries enter the new-normal phase, consumers have adopted a shift in device behaviour as multi-screen sharing becomes prevalent.
”We see device time split between categories, communication being the primary and the second being education, which has moved online. A lot of mothers share devices with kids for education; it’s a multi-device environment,” Mehta added.
While the change in consumer behaviour has been in Viu’s favour as more turn to video streaming, it was their flexible business model that helped most in the pandemic. “What really helped us was the dual monetization model. On the ads front, we’ve seen a much larger growth. With the slowdown and recession, people are being more prudent in spending,” said Mehta.
Evolving media mix
The media mix strategy is heavily driven by public behaviour, which has varied across the region during the COVID-19 crisis. “It’s the same storm but we’re all in different boats,” said Porter.
Brands have also seen a shorter media planning cycle. “Instead of having a media mix and reach curve that you build every three to six months, it can be changing on a monthly or weekly basis,” he added.
With budgets allocated to other forms of communication, brands are adopting a holistic communication approach, balancing driving hard sales with marketing basics such as brand awareness and data building.
Yet, as equally important is having an authentic purpose, especially during tough times, with actions that resonate with the audience. “We believe strongly that brands with purpose grow, companies with purpose last, people with purpose thrive, and we try to make that happen for everything we do,” said Porter, emphasizing the importance of workers’ safety and purposeful communication to the public, and citing brands like Lifebuoy Handwash that are running PSAs instead of commercials.
“If you have an authentic purpose, and you’re in a space that’s connected to this and the way it touches people’s lives, and you’re talking to the public about what you’re doing rather than what you believe in, this really resonates,” he added.
Shifting advertising demands and D2C strategies
While big spenders in travel and e-commerce have been negatively affected, more advertisers are increasingly willing to try out over-the-top (OTT) advertising with a performance-driven goal.
“Advertisers who have been traditionally tied to TV have now experimented with OTT and try to get a sense of how to compare the same performance metrics to OTT platforms. The reliance on programmatic platforms to do the buying has grown,” said Mehta.
“Consumption has become very local and advertisers have become more ROI-focused regarding what brands can reach what consumers at what time,” he added.
Brands also had to adapt to changing relationships between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail stores by evolving their direct-to-consumer (D2C) strategies.
“The pandemic has been an accelerant; the five-year plan becoming a one-year plan. We’ve pivoted into e-commerce with urgency that wouldn’t have happened otherwise and picked up on direct-to-consumer along the way. We have Ustores in a number of markets now and this gives us a good insight into public behaviour and to build up first-party data,” said Porter. “In a cookie-less world that we’re about to enter, having an element of direct-to-consumer is going to be more important.”
Innovating product and content strategies
From a content provider’s point of view, product strategy had to adapt to new demands from advertisers. “We’ve seen tremendous inbound in terms of digital placements in shows, with brands asking us how they can ride on the trend of big shows on the platform,” said Mehta.
Adjusting the media plan and performance-focused packages were key changes in Viu’s product strategy. “We have to go down the route of what would be the traditional media plan in terms of creating a similar OTT plan, and give reach and share-of-voice parameters to the brands that work with us,” he said. “We reacted to the market initially with packages factoring in conversion metrics.”
Shifting content strategies to benefit both advertisers and users was also a key change.
“We now have, say, ladies night, where certain shows are available during a free window for that day. This helps us to give users value for their money, and give advertisers top shows they want to advertise on which they previously could not,” said Mehta.
Yet the most important industry-wide change was the movement to online experiences as cinemas shut down, removing physical venues for offline events. “What we’ve been able to do successfully with Coca-Cola, was having watch parties sponsored by the brand. We have the audience log in at a particular time and interact with the cast and producers, and everyone has a great time watching through this show,” said Mehta.
While these don’t replace the big-screen virality of movie launches, online events do have their perks to deliver more reach. “If you compare an offline event in the mall which would gather 100 people, versus an audience you can hold online on a media day with 10,000 to 20,000 attending at the same time, your ROI for a brand versus offline will grow multifold,” he added.
The future and beyond
As the industry plans for 2021, building a solid strategy on data exchange will be a key topic moving forward. “The advantage of OTT is a return data path, and in a cookieless world, it’s important to think about what’s the value exchange that will make people eager to give data and exchange information. The public can monetize their data and having strategy around that can be important,” said Porter.
“Know the media and know the audience, and a brand will always be able to extract the maximum when they understand that,” said Mehta, highlighting the importance of knowing your target audience to communicate the right message.
Finally, collaboration is the path forward to build a supportive ecosystem together. “Digital and traditional can work hand in hand. It is healthier for both environments to collaborate rather than compete in the market,” said Mehta. “It’s about partnering during this time. Build a relationship with your media now and you’ll reap bigger rewards.”
Watch the full discussion below:
Doris Sun is the Marketing Manager, APAC at SpotX. She creates and executes the SpotX marketing strategy in one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. Based in Singapore, she started her marketing journey in the food and beverage and hotel industries before diving into ad tech. When not at work, you’ll find her planning her next travel adventure, food-hunting with friends, or attempting to be artsy with flowers, crafts, and cakes.