Programmatic ad spending in the Asian markets is much lower than that of mature markets such as the US where 83% of all the digital media is spent programmatically and in Canada where it is 82%. APAC countries such as Taiwan will spend just 43.1%, China 31.5%, Hong Kong 28.1%, Malaysia 25.2% and India at 13.8% – much lower than the global average as per the Zenith’s Programmatic Marketing Forecasts report. However, the numbers will increase, and all this is changing as there is a hunger to make the best use of technology in advertising.

With the advancement of technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP), programmatic advertising is now becoming a fast growing trend in the APAC region. The use of smartphones has facilitated the growth in access to the internet, with Hootsuite’s Digital Report 2019, showing the region delivered a 50% annual growth in the number of mobile users, with China adding another 50 million new users in 2018 opening up a new customer base for advertisers. 

According to the Boston Consulting Group’s study in the Asia Pacific region, the total digital display and video ad market will increase from $14.5 billion in 2017 to $19.0 billion in 2020, and that programmatic share will rise from 19% to 36% over this period. However, emerging markets in the region such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia are still to reach a stage of programmatic maturity which can only mean that there are plenty of opportunities still available for brands to explore.

Programmatic power 

With tech growing fast in Asian markets and the insatiable hunger for the consumption of content through mobile, advertisers are bringing in ML and NLP behind programmatic to place campaigns on targeted mobile material. The advantages of programmatically planned campaigns are plenty and are benefitting advertisers in the region. 

Targeted reach 

As APAC is a vast market, it is imperative that advertisers focus on targeting the right audience. Buying Ad programmatically can help with this. Filters available to buyers enable them to filter by audiences and geographies, taking a campaign to relevant customers making your content much more useful than sharing it with an untargeted audience. This increases ROI as it uses behavioural data across channels and serves content on mobile, desktops and even on TV. 

Real-time data and insights

Being an automated technology, gathering and analysis of data is more efficient and is used to draw consumer insights. These insights help give real-time information on how a campaign is performing. Based on this, advertisers tweak their campaign, reinvest in the right areas and deliver better results. 

Pitfall and pain points  

However, programmatic can also have some disadvantages which have been a cause of headaches for brands in recent years. Brand safety and ad fraud have long been a pain point. A brand’s well-earned reputation can be damaged instantly with one wrong advertisement placement, while recent incidents have continued to put a spotlight on these issues. 

We are all familiar with the backlash against YouTube which has run advertisements alongside objectionable content, for a number of cases. However, increased media and regulatory scrutiny have seen the platform roll out several changes. Ultimately, though, YouTube says its platform will never be 100% brand safe. Facebook is no different. Advertisers continue to be concerned by the safety challenges posed by its in-stream videos. 

Moreover, social media is not the only concern. Content placed alongside negative news articles is also causing a headache, like in the case of Christchurch attack which saw many publications bending under pressure to remove advertisements from their stories.  

Advertisers don’t want to be associated with tragedies. However, it is an unfortunate example of brand safety challenges faced by businesses. It’s not only poor placement, but also underlines an oversight in the media buying process.

So, what can be done? 

Context is king 

Contextually aligned advertisements are back in vogue.  Defining topics alongside where you would like to place your content is key. For instance, if you are a company selling tents, it would make more impact when your content is placed against an article on camping. This form of customised contextual advertising is more effective in delivering industry beating engagement rates. 

Contextual advertising offers many advantages to brands, publishers and of course to consumers. It is also crucial in the post-GDPR era as no user data is used to target the ad.

Be pals with premium publishers 

Advertising with premium publishers such as the times, FT, Reuters, Bloomberg and New York Times have their own advantage. They offer a high-quality content, brand safe environment and a higher engagement rate. Research by World Media Group, the body representing the world’s top media brands, shows that advertising in quality titles delivers better results than MOAT (measurement of advertising) benchmarks. 

Utilise technology to the maximum 

Brand safety is high on the agenda of digital marketers and is giving many sleepless nights. Adopting technology to combat brand safety could be the answer. Use of AI technology such as ML and NLP can help ensure that unsafe media buying don’t take place.

With semantic matching technology, advertisers can develop bespoke brand protection using an exclusion list system which enables brands to specify where they would, and they wouldn’t like to appear on a web page and alongside which article.  

Programmatic adtech has a bright future ahead in APAC as it is excellent in adopting any technology. With the advent of 5G and further penetration of smartphones in South Asian countries, programmatic will continue to be a choice for digital marketers in the region.