Connections become even more critical when dealing with always mobile, always on consumers. How can brands get savvy about social engagement and spark conversations that doesn’t seem artificial?

In his opening presentation, Kristian Barnes, Regional Chief Client Officer, Dentsu Aegis Network said a perspective shift is required in how brands craft their messaging.

He quoted a statement from an analysis piece from PwC that summarises mobile’s place today:

“The mobile phone has become an extension of the user’s individuality – representing him or her to the world at large as a ‘digital avatar’. An individual user may have more than one persona, depending on the context and situation (such as a work persona versus an at-home persona). The mobile phone is the common thread that ties those personae together.”

To further illustrate, Barnes highlighted a list of the most popular activities that consumers in Asia do on their mobile phones every day, from social networking (80%), taking photos (98.6%), listening to music (64%), gaming (60%) to setting their alarm clock (82%).

What is clearly not on this list, is receiving marketing messages on their mobile phones, noted Barnes. However, with the mobile phone now a gateway to an individual’s self in both the physical and digital realms – there are still great opportunities for brands to connect and engage.

“But to do so, we need to reframe how we use that gateway,” he said. “Marketers spend a lot of time trying to understand the people that would buy from us, but research suggests that the why, the when, what and where are also important.”

“The prevalence of the mobile phone allows us to combine all these elements to better create value and social associations,” Barnes added.

Effective mobile marketing creates a value exchange with the mobile user. Brands should offer an experience or information that helps or enhances their current context in a way that utilises available technology seamlessly.

“If you want to harness the power of mobile, you must recognise that it is all about ‘me’ the user and not ‘you’ the brand,” said Barnes.

Redemption stories and social wildfires

During a fireside chat led by Tim Sharp, Regional Head of Social Media, APD, the topic of brand reputation in an era of social media, snap judgements and echo chambers was raised.

Sharp asked Leigh Wong, Head of Communications, SEA, Uber how the ride-hailing platform deals with these challenges and what lessons have been learnt in the process.

Wong pointed to the #DeleteUber case which took place at the start of the year, when a tweet sent by Uber New York announcing the suspension of surge pricing for riders around Kennedy Airport backfired spectacularly.

It was sent on the same day a taxi union in New York City issued a statement refusing to pick up aiport passengers, in protest over President Trump’s executive order banning refugees and immigrants from certain countries from entering the United States.

Although the tweet was sent 30 minutes after the end of the protest, many interpreted the alert as an opportunistic attempt to attract business and undermine taxi drivers. The resulting online movement urging people to delete the app reportedly resulted in more than 200,000 uninstallations in six days.

“People saw it as Uber trying to take over, taking money away from hard working taxi drivers,” Wong recalled. “On the surface of it, we were dealing with social media miscommunication and misunderstanding but people didn’t want to hear it, it got lost in the frenzy as the ‘wildfire’ spread.”

On a deeper level, Wong shared that the incident revealed broader sentiment about the brand that had been crystallised over time.

“There’s this narrative that people already had in their heads,” he said. “I’ve always thought about brand reputation as a savings account, if you consistently deposit into it, one day you can withdraw from it when needed.”

That certainly seemed to be the case for Samsung, a brand that the Uber team looked at when drawing lessons internally. The electronics giant went through bad press and a global recall for its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in late 2016 after multiple reports of the devices exploding and catching fire.

“You’d think something as serious as an exploding phone and the device being banned from flights would be the end for the brand,” mused Wong. “But one year later, with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, you have people lining up to buy it and positive product reviews.”

“Clearly it’s something they’ve done well with their brand that we would need to do ourselves,” he added.

That turnaround or redemption story had already been a point of discussion internally within Uber even before new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi came on board. To those thinking “cold chance in hell” that the embattled brand could redeem itself, Wong pointed out that many tech companies have gone though similar journeys – from Google’s Eric Schmidt coming on board to provide “adult supervision” to the founding team to Facebook dealing with Mark Zuckerberg’s film portrayal as a socially-inept founder.

“We were already making a concerted effort to get through the bumps and when Dara came on board there was this sense of renewal and excitement,” he added. “But there is no such thing as a saviour CEO, if we only pin our hopes on him and not do our part, it won’t work.”

On the willingness to be open about the brand’s struggles, Wong said that avoiding the issues would be like ignoring the elephant in the room.

“We would be silly not to acknowledge it, and if we want to change how we are viewed, it’s got to be more than communications,” he added. “Authenticity and reputation is built from the ground up and if we don’t do this, we’d be setting ourselves up for another round of bumbling around.”

Breaking social myths

Rika Sharma, Group Head of [email protected] and Regional Director, Digital for Unilever at Ogilvy & Mather sought to debunk some common myths around social media and its place in the overall marketing mix.

  • What is social media?

“Social media is about reaching your audience not growing your user base with likes. When you run a social campaign it’s about accurately targeting your audience with the right message.”

  • How often should we post on social media?

“Unless there is a real-time crisis that requires immediate action, you don’t have to be always on. No one is coming to your brand pages anymore; you can target your audience when you need to. So be clear about what your objective is, where your audience is, and then define your content strategy.”

  • Once I publish it on social media, everyone will see it.

“Social media platforms are ultimately a business, there’s no such thing as free social media. You must have a smart paid media strategy behind your campaign, if not don’t be on social, as you’ll end up just talking to yourself.”

  • Is viral a brief?

“Having your content go viral could be a happy outcome but if there was a formula to it, everything we made would go viral. Are there elements that you could orchestra, such as shareability, emotional resonance and paid distribution, yes. Are you guaranteed virality? No. But is that the end objective? If your video got 100 million views, so what? Did it move the needle on sales or business objectives?”

  • I should have a contest to engage with my community

“If you are looking at running a contest that offers rewards in exchange for a response, ask yourself: Why am I doing this? There’s a 1 – 9 – 90 rule to community engagement and the level of response can be broken down as follows:

  • 1% of followers: Really engaged with your brand, they really care and will be your advocate.
  • 9% of followers: Will come to your page or post and do an action, such as a like or comment.
  • 90% – Will do nothing, preferring to lurk or ignore.”


  • Which is more important: promoting or creating social content?

“You need to consider both. Where does your audience congregate online? How do they interact? What content type would best suit? All this informs the type of creative you produce. Creative can be channel-agnostic but still needs to be in service of the platform and the formats within.”

  • Can social media do more than drive awareness?

“Yes, depending on industry and how you’re set up to track different data points in your organisation. It’s not the only factor that drives it but social can track across the funnel depending on the objective.”

Asia is not a country but it’s definitely mobile

Carrie Chen, Head of Trading Desk Operations, APAC, Digital Sales & Marketing, Telenor Digital once had to reassure European colleagues that a Facebook-based click-to-website campaign in Myanmar was no mistake.

“It didn’t make sense to them why we didn’t run an app-install campaign instead,” she recalled. “And we had to explain that while smartphone penetration is high in Myanmar, many own Chinese devices that don’t have Google Play or iTunes, so the primary way to get an app was via a direct download.”

That set the scene for a panel discussion around the nuances of mobile advertising in Asia, and the trends being observed.

Vikas Gulati, Managing Director APAC at AdColony believes the real story is not the technology but rather how consumers have embraced mobile content and services. “I think Asia is truly mobile first in that way,” he added.

Joe Nguyen, Senior Vice President, APAC, comScore pointed out that markets like India, are 70% mobile-only, and that consumers will ultimately go with the most convenient channel to accomplish their task.

Morden Chen, General Manager, APAC Ad Sales, Cheetah Mobile agreed, adding that the challenge for marketers is how to deploy an audience or user-centric approach to mobile marketing when the KPIs attached to their efforts may be directly opposed to doing so.

Mobile video is an area where despite its explosive growth in consumption across the Asia Pacific region, effective leveraging of the medium remains elusive.

“Not all video is creative equal,” said Gulati. “Each market has own nuances and network speeds that will impact the user experience. Everyone is sold on video but making it work is difficult.”

Morden argued that performance marketers already accept mobile video as an effective channel for achieving goals, but the challenge lies in proving it’s value for branding campaigns.

“Ideally you want to be able to share the same place of value that TV buys do but in Southeast Asia I am not seeing a big surge in using mobile video for branding campaigns,” he said.

Nguyen added that the majority of brand involvement with mobile video advertising is with short snackable content consumed via social media or in-app.

“It has really moved to long form video yet,” he said. “For example, OTT players are engaging mobile users with content up to 40 minutes long, which could be an opportunity for brands.”

On the topic of metrics and measurement, especially within the mobile space, Chen lamented the persistent presence of CTRs as the core metric of success in briefs received from clients.

“But when it comes to brand-related campaigns, the measurement frameworks are just not there yet either,” he said.

Gulati shared that there is still heavy reliance on last click attribution, which don’t offer a holistic picture but reported that with larger brands at least, the conversations are changing.

“Clients are now asking the right questions,” he said. “Leaving behind old media metrics, and looking at impact on brand with metrics like brand awareness, favourability and purchase intent.”

Chen pointed out that some industries are at the forefront of adopting robust attribution modelling, such as e-commerce, gaming and travel.

“These sectors have been the fastest adopters and other industries can learn from them,” he said.

Nguyen said that while measurement on digital may be easier compared to traditional platforms or channels, when it comes to true attribution, its realisation remains a ways away.

“It’s hard but no one is even talking about it, and that’s the first step,” he added.

The bit about bots

In the last 12 months, chat bots have dominated discussions, with some brands already jumping on board the bandwagon.

Moderator Vincent Teo, Vice President, Fintech & Innovation Group and The Open Vault, OCBC Bank reported that the bank’s own chat bot called ‘Emma’ helped close SG$10 million in home loans since its launch in January of this year.

Alexander de Leon, Regional Product Marketing Manager, Facebook shared when it comes to the company’s Messenger Bots, conversations with interested clients centre on the expanded role it can play.

“It’s limited by your imagination,” he said. “Chat bots have the potential to be a full funnel solution, from raising brand awareness down to customer support and sales conversions.”

Arvinder Gujral, Senior Director, Business Development, APAC, Twitter agreed with the ability of chat bots to do more, pointing to users booking test drives with Volkswagen in Dubai and ordering pizza in the United States.

“Ultimately a bot is there to solve a problem and should not be an exercise in pure branding,” he said. “It is to give users an experience which is faster and more efficient than dealing with traditional channels.”

Teo noted that chat bots appear to be what websites were in the 90s – where every brand felt they needed one and asked panellists what marketers needed to be mindful of.

De Leon agreed that chat bots are currently the “super hot sexy thing”, but said the first question to ask is: what is the business problem a brand trying to solve by having one?

“You can create a chat bot but it needs to have a purpose, be it enhancing customer support or redefining a brand experience,” he added. “Right now you have people building one, just to check it off this bucket list but then don’t invest enough marketing dollars to promote it, so no one uses it.”

Gujral agreed, noting that chat bots will go through it’s own evolutionary cycle, where mistakes will be made during the learning curve.

“When it moves from just a hobby to a line item on a CMO’s sheet that can demonstrate a direct line to impact on business, is when we will see chat bots become more than a luxury for innovation’s sake,” he said.

Alvin Rodrigues, Chief Security Strategist, APAC, Fortinet noted that rapid adoption is driven by the need for business progress tends to overtake digital security concerns.

“While I can imagine many chief security officers are wary with the discussions of how expansive chat bots will soon be, right now it is not an area that is getting a lot of attention,” he said.

Chat bots currently serve as information providers, but when features expand to involve monetary transactions or personal, sensitive information, the risk profile changes.

“Trust is at stake. When users trust the environment and your brand, they will share information requested,” he added. “So when a chat bot is compromised, it will have a negative impact on brand reputation. It is crucial to loop in your IT department the moment your chat bot evolves beyond providing public information as they will need to map out how to secure that activity.”

One “M” to rule them all

The mobile device is a multi-faceted phenomenon that marketers are still learning to wield effectively. With all the possibilities and different elements that can be leveraged, which one rules supreme?

That was the mission of the closing segment hosted by James Miner, CEO, MinerLabs, which saw four industry experts representing one aspect of mobile: Movement, Moment, Machines and Multi-User.

Experts had prove that their “M” was the superior solution to a marketing brief: Singapore Airlines is launching its new B888 plane with a new direct flight from Singapore to Barcelona and wants to drive both awareness and ticket sales with a launch price promotion.

  • Andrew Darling, Director of Global Communications, Blis represented Movement:

“Movement is the biggest super power, because where you go defines who you are. You are more than the websites you visit, much more than the games you play or where you check in. Insights into this can frame and sharpen any campaign’s intent.”

  • Helena Gamvros, Strategic Partnerships Director, Amplify, Outbrain represented Moment:

“Why is Moment so powerful? We as humans are driven by our emotions; we make decisions with our hearts. Because of this we are vulnerable and can easily succumb to emotional hooks, more so when it is done in the right moment.”

  • Amita Mehra, Regional Agency Business Lead, Google represented Machines:

“The challenge for any brand is staying relevant and connected with the right audience amidst the proliferation of devices and fragmentation of audiences, all at scale and with efficiency. The superpower of machine learning can help, from deciphering millions of signals to determine the right target consumer to predicting campaign results, setting expectations of success and fully leveraging the other ‘M’s’ here.”

  • Haroon Qureshi, Director Content & Partnerships, Asia, Africa & Russia, Mindshare represented Multi-User:

“Multi-User embodies social media, gaming and online communities. Gaming is the right superpower to unlock today’s challenge. By introducing a mobile-based paper plane flying game to engage and incentivise consumers to engage with Singapore Airlines’ new route, the campaign can go beyond digital and leverage the real life ties we have with our networks – to bring them along for the ride.”

Gamvros ultimately emerged victorious, based on audience votes and judges’ scores, claiming a Roku Streaming Player as her prize.


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