By William Hamer-Jones on March 12, 2018
With the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region now representing the most significant growth market globally for digital ad spend, it now embodies one of the most attractive and scalable opportunities for brands and agencies in their FY ‘18 strategies. In fact, eMarketer projects that digital ad spending across the region will hit $101.30 billion in 2018, climbing to $149.49 billion by 2021. Of course it’s no surprise that China leads the pack in digital ad spending.
After working in Asia at Ogilvy for several years and managing marketing activity in the region for some of the world’s largest brands, including Apple and Uber, I aim to offer an overview of the markets, resources, cultural challenges, opportunities, and best practices for how to conduct your business efforts in this sprawling region.
Identify A Local Resource
Identifying and forging a relationship with a local resource is a must. While APAC offers a massive opportunity for your brand or agency, it won’t be as simple as translating your website and supporting local currencies. Partner marketing is an industry built on relationships and trust. It’s critical to invest in local account managers who can speak the language and provide support for publishers in your main markets. As a result of enormous population growth and with markets like China and Japan and increasingly, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand, there’s a growing population of educated young media professionals living and working in the region who are working at world-class agencies that can help you.
The best way to manage your regional partner marketing efforts is to invest in either your own local resource by building an office in a specific market, or by partnering with an agency on the ground that knows the local market and people and can help you build your APAC business efforts. Based on my experience, you simply won’t see a return on investment unless you have people on the ground in the region.
Gain A Cultural understanding
There are an estimated 4.5 billion people in Asia (60% of the world’s population) and an estimated 1.4 billion people in China alone which is more than a billion more people than the population of the U.S. There’s no single approach to APAC because of the sheer size of the region and diverse array of cultural differences. However, keeping this in mind will help you tackle the region and shape a customized market-by-market approach.
Unlike EMEA and the U.S. where English is a prominent language and there’s somewhat of a shared culture, you won’t have this luxury in parts of Asia. When focusing on individual markets, take time to understand the language, history, and culture of the people you’re looking to work with. Additionally, you’ll need to look at the local laws and legislation to ensure there are no significant barriers to entry. For example, in China, cross-border data transfers are illegal, which means that companies are required to comply by storing their customers’ personal data on servers inside China and are restricted from exporting data overseas. The upshot is that marketers have to keep all their information in China and the implication is the government owns the data.
Create the Opportunity, Identify Key Regions
Expanding into international markets is not only an opportunity, it’s also a necessity.
Robust planning requires reviewing your company’s readiness to go abroad, looking at your strengths and weaknesses, and being sure that key stakeholders are in agreement with your APAC venture.
The best place to start is by evaluating and prioritizing your top markets (countries or cities) across APAC that you’d like to target. Start by conducting your own audit before launching in the region. This means:
- Look at whether your brand is even ready to enter APAC markets; do you have organic traffic in the region?
- Who are your competitors? What have your competitors done in the region?
- Is your product competitive?
- What is your budget?
These questions will yield insights and a better understanding that you can bring to internal stakeholders. Do you homework! Be prepared to identify target markets, potential customers, and a multi-phase plan.
Based on the current landscape and work I’ve already done in developing programs and deploying my clients’ strategy in the region, there are a number of key markets that Impact Radius has seen work extremely well when it comes to performance partnerships in APAC. These include Greater China, Japan, Korea, and Australia/New Zealand (ANZ). These markets have been effective based on a number of factors that include the countries’ GDP, the maturity of the market from an ecommerce perspective, the population, and internet penetration.
Although still early to the partner marketing space, APAC presents a real opportunity for brands as the region boasts a rapidly emerging middle-class, large disposable incomes, and an increasing appetite for Western brands and quality. However, APAC remains its own puzzle. It’s unlike any other market because there are so many nuances within each country. Many Western brands fail to take these nuances into account and are further hampered by language, resource, and budget restraints.
Impact Radius offers a compelling avenue to break into these markets on a CPA (cost per action) basis with established partners that include banks, airlines, content sites, loyalty portals, and other types of B2B partners. Impact Radius has had success in APAC due, in large part, to the flexibility of its platform, and its ability to efficiently manage numerous currencies, languages, and partners in the region.
If you’ve done your homework, identified a local resource, set expectations, and have a budget, by entering APAC, you’ll have half the world’s population at your doorstep with regional economies growing at an impressive rate. Overall, to be successful in APAC you need to do your research, understand the opportunity, partner with efficient in-country resources, and embrace the incredible diversity of cultures within the region.
Here are some resources you can consult to help you with your research on the region:
“Advertising in China: Best Practices to Maximize Your Results, MarketingtoChina”
“Advertising in a New Age of Media, China Business Review“
“Mobile Advertising in China is key: Expert, ChinaDaily.com”