Retiring the Canary

Clay Schouest is the Chief Strategy Officer of Carat APAC.

Are we entering a ‘new norm’ for advertising where growth in ad spend and economic growth enter a new relationship? It seems we might be.

5 – 7 minute read


Global advertising spend has generally always acted as the canary in the coalmine for the general state of the global economy. When ad spend goes up so does economic growth, and when spend contracts so generally does the economy. This is the first year in many that global economic forecasts for growth are going up whilst the advertising growth rate is less than the previous year. To be exact, the overall economy is predicated to grow 3.6% in 2017 versus 3.1% actualised in 2016, whilst advertising growth rates are forecasted to be lower with a 3.5% increase in 2017 versus 4.1% actualised in 2016.

This scenario suggests a couple potential scenarios:

1.  That economic growth may be about to slow, or that advertising may actually exceed its initial forecast.

2.  That we are entering a ‘new norm’ for advertising where growth in ad spend and economic growth enter a new relationship.

Could it be that less advertising spend is required to achieve growth?

It’s the latter that I would like to explore. Perhaps we are starting to see a new norm for advertising. Could it be that less advertising spend is required to achieve growth? This would suggest advertising investment is becoming more effective at achieving like-to-like sales.

One could assume this may be down to the influence of the peer-to-peer economy. In other words, the power of fully-scaled social media whereby ‘earned’ media is becoming increasingly more influential on achieving sales.

It could also be attributed to the increasing shift toward addressable advertising—advertising that serve ads directly based on demographic, psychographic, or behavioral attributes associated with the consumer instead of projecting what content a particular audience will be consuming.

To use this Adweek example: Whether your target audience is watching TBS at 2 p.m. or ESPN at 10 p.m., they’ll be served your ad. And it is served to your target whether they’re a heavy or a light TV viewer because the ad finds the audience versus the old model of having the viewer come across the ad. And advertisers are only charged on impressions that are served to their target audience.

Over the past few years, the impact of new ad technology has increased the prevalence of addressable advertising with better, and more accurate targeting and optimisation that requires less advertising spend to achieve sales, and in turn reduces wastage.

The growth in advertising investment allocated to addressability has increased over 2,000%. Currently only 10% of all advertising is invested in this way – and analysts predict it will be exponential in the coming years (30% by 2018 and almost 50% in the US by 2020). The scalability of addressability is on our doorstep.

It could be attributed to the increasing shift toward addressable advertising with better, and more accurate targeting and optimisation that requires less advertising spend to achieve sales, and in turn reduces wastage.

Does addressability equate to better effectiveness? There is also evidence to suggest yes. In a recent study by the analytics group D2D the effectiveness of addressable advertising was measured versus a control group panel. Those plans that contained elements of addressability outperformed those that did not. The study concluded addressability done in the correct way can influence effectiveness by a factor of 10X. This will most likely increase as it becomes more scaled.

As more platforms and media goes addressable, traditional ‘fixed inventory’ advertising will become less and less. This coupled with the fact that people also consume less advertising and have more ad blocking technology installed might ultimately spell the death of advertising as we know it.

The creation and distribution of brand messages will be addressable and largely embedded in entertainment-based content or embedded in general utilitarian aspects of our daily lives. Reminders will pop up on our digital screens and household items – such as a message from our favourite yogurt brand on our digital fridge door, or a message about allergy relief medication relayed by Alexa in the morning when we ask for the day’s weather forecast.

It feels like the old adage of “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half” may be coming to an end all together. Coming back full circle: are we entering a ‘new norm’ for advertising where growth in ad spend and economic growth enter a new relationship? It seems we might be.

 

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Hello Advertisers, It’s 2017

Tam Le is the Regional Associate Strategy Director for Carat APAC.

As culture continues to evolve in Asia, accelerated by the ubiquity of the Internet and the different global viewpoints that it brings, gender roles will begin to shift and blur and our industry will need to keep up. But what is the best way to do that?

7 minute read


A few years ago I was dating a guy who was a much better knitter than me, in fact, an interest in knitting was one of our common interests and a conversation starter for us. I thought it was great that he was so skilled in an old-fashioned craft, but when I told my Vietnamese parents that he had just helped fix one of my scarves, they were less than pleased. My mom questioned his masculinity. My dad just laughed. They couldn’t understand how a man could be interested in knitting and I couldn’t understand their rigid view on traditional gender roles.

But it seems like I’m not alone on this. The global rise of third-wave feminism and the growing gender equality in education and income is manifesting itself in attitudes in Asia. JWT surveyed[1] over 1,500 men and women in Singapore, China and Malaysia in 2013 and found that eight in 10 agreed that men and women are pretty equal today, and that gender doesn’t define a person as much as it used to.

Yet, our briefs remain as stereotypical as ever. Baby formula? Only mums know how to take care of babies. Beer? Only men drink that. This is ridiculous. It’s 2017, and it is time we, as advertisers, caught up or risk alienating a large potential consumer base.

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MEN MATTER TOO
And speaking of the rise in third-wave feminism, the effects of which have trickled down into marketing all over the world (as seen here, here, here, here, and here), it’s easy to forget that men have difficulties and face biases as well. In the same JWT survey[1] of Asian consumers, eight in 10 also believe that while people talk about the difficulties women face, things are just as hard for men. On top of that, men are more likely than women to say that life in general is harder compared the generation before because, similar to women, their spheres of influence are growing, shrinking, and generally shifting in new, uncharted directions that most brands have yet to catch up with.

Daddy Day Care
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“This trope is repeated everywhere in popular culture, from adverts portraying fathers as feckless incompetents who can’t even take care of a KFC bucket to cartoons where the butt of every joke is the idiot dad: Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin and, most egregious of all, Daddy Pig in Peppa Pig,” rants Andrew Watts in his appropriately titled “Stop telling men they’re useless at childcare, and maybe they’ll be better” feature in The Spectator.

Today men in Singapore, Malaysia, and China are almost equally likely to state “emotional support for their family” as a primary definer of manliness as they were to name “career success.”

Today men in Singapore, Malaysia, and China are almost equally likely to state “emotional support for their family” as a primary definer of manliness as they were to name “career success,[1]” and in 2014, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower reported that 10,200 male Singaporeans and permanent residents cited “family responsibilities” (e.g. childcare, housework, etc.) as their main reason for not working, more than triple the number in 2006[2]. The movement towards gender equality is evident and even in countries with great disparity, like Japan where just a meagre 2% of Japanese men took paternity leave in 2012, strides are being made by the government to normalize greater male involvement in family life. The Japanese government currently grants male employees with young children up to one year of childcare leave with the goal of raising the percentage of men who take paternity leave from 2% to 13% by 2020[3].

Perhaps as time goes on, and these government initiatives and evolving mind sets take a greater hold, marketers will realize that both men and women share the responsibility of making major childcare decisions, on matters such as education, activities, and diet. Maybe then, grievances like those of Andrew Watts, will be a thing of the past: “I just find it odd that women, who would be appalled by anyone suggesting that a woman’s place is in the home, can promulgate the idea that men are, by their nature, hopeless parents—even though that’s saying the same thing in different words.”

A Man’s Place is in the Kitchen… and the Laundry Room


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In addition to childcare, men around the world are taking a more active role in household chores. According to our own Consumer Connections Study (CCS) data for Thailand, 92% of men reported purchasing household items within the past 12 months versus only 74% of women. In a different study, The Parenting Group, which publishes Parenting magazine, among others, teamed with Edelman in 2012 to conduct two surveys[4] of American fathers; they found that about 70% of dads report they buy the groceries, cook, and clean. This is not limited to just Western markets: 40% of Asian men also say they are the primary grocery shopper[1].

However, it would be irresponsible to not state what the women reported in the very same surveys. Although 70% of American dads said they did the grocery shopping, only 36% of American moms agreed[4]. That number drops to just 12% among women in Asia[1]. Given this, it’s easy to dismiss the role of men in grocery shopping.

However, seeing how so few food and cleaning brands currently speak to fathers in Asia, the ones who successfully do will stand out and win over this growing demographic, and perhaps a few approving mothers as well.

Boy Beauty

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This past year saw many large multinational beauty brands embracing male spokespeople. CoverGirl named makeup artist and high school senior James Charles as its beauty ambassador; Maybelline appointed Manny Gutierrez (@mannymua733) as theirs, and Rimmel followed with 17-year old beauty vlogger Lewys Ball[5]. With these bold strokes, the cosmetics industry has rung the death toll on traditional, narrowly-defined gender norms.

For those of you who think the actions of these Western brands don’t apply to Asia, think again. In fact, the rise of male grooming applies more to APAC than any other region of the world. Asia holds the largest men’s skincare market, accounting for 2.1 billion dollars, or 64% of the global spend on male skin creams, lotions and whiteners, according to Euromonitor’s April 2013 data. China is the largest men’s skincare market, accounting for nearly 30% of global spend, while South Korea holds second place with almost 20% of the global share[6]. “There is a wider idea of skincare being effeminate in many countries, but in Korea, this doesn’t seem to be the case,” noticed Simon Duffy, co-founder of the United Kingdom male skincare brand Bulldog. “If your mother has a nine-step skin routine, which happens a lot in Korea, you’re going to do five,” said Euromonitor beauty analyst Nicole Tyrimou[6].

Asia holds the largest men’s skincare market, accounting for 2.1 billion dollars, or 64% of the global spend on male skin creams, lotions and whiteners.

But this trend doesn’t stop with China and South Korea: thanks to Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan, sales of male grooming products are growing faster than the entire beauty product category (9% versus 5%, respectively), according to 2013 research from Kantar Worldpanel[7]. “This is where the market’s development is happening,” stated Euromonitor analyst Tyrimou. “It’s very concentrated in Asia[6].”

However, what motivates the well-groomed men of the East varies from culture to culture. The same Kantar Worldpanel found that in the South-eastern countries of the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, consumers felt that career success involves looking the part. Whereas in China, most men just wanted to win over the ladies[7]. It’s important to understand these different motivations in order to land the right communication message for each market. Doing so could help brands win over the huge remainder of the male beauty market that remains untapped, which Kantar estimates at US$6 billion[7].

Just as the traditional role of women have made dramatic shifts in Asia, so too have the traditional roles and self-perceptions of men who now see themselves as active participants in the household and in their own skincare routine.

 

HONEY, YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY… BUT YOU STILL HAVE A LONGER WAY TO GO

“Women are not a special-interest group. They are over half the population.”

Many articles have covered the rise of women’s spending power, or the female economy, or sometimes called—and I shudder to write this—the sheconomy. Yet, despite this rise in power, and one would assume that with it comes respect, marketing executives, such as Simois Ng head of marketing communications at Sony, are still quoted saying, “some people might assume that women prefer to take selfies but actually, they can shoot professional photographs too[8],” and believing that they are actually giving credit where credit is due.

Too many brands still believe that “shrink it and pink it” is still a valid approach when appealing to women. Hopefully these next couple of examples will prove there are some more nuanced ways to approach it.

Whisky and Women

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Skinnygirl Margarita, Little Black Dress Vodka, Chick Beer: all of these (real) brands make me want to barf…and it’s not from excessive drinking. It’s because they try to pander to their target market in such an obvious way that it becomes desperate and sad—in the words of one of my favourite brand strategists, “hey, your strategy is showing.”

Fortunately, not all brands have such an outdated, stereotypical view of female drinking habits. “Diageo has a comprehensive marketing guide that regulates how we present our products to everyone, whether male or female. We always show respect for consumers and work within the industry to encourage similar behaviour. In terms of best practice, we feel it’s important to never underestimate or patronise women,” states Mark Sandys, category director for whisky and reserve at Diageo[9]. This is especially valuable in Asia where women are increasingly becoming more empowered and going out, especially in mixed-gender groups, is becoming more common. Diageo has observed that “In China for instance, women account for a quarter of all whisky consumption. In India, the number of women enjoying whisky has gone up by nearly 30% versus last year, and our team on the ground is telling us that female participation at whisky tastings has increased by around a third on last year. A new generation of young, professional female whisky drinkers are introducing their friends, colleagues and clients to the spirit[9].”

In China for instance, women account for a quarter of all whisky consumption. In India, the number of women enjoying whisky has gone up by nearly 30% versus last year.

In order to win over this valuable and discerning segments, there are two approaches: a gender neutral one, and a purposefully gendered one, but done from a place of understanding. For the first route, to quote Sandys from Diageo again, “Fundamentally we believe that ‘[gender] bilingual’ marketing makes for better marketing. One of the key ways of doing this is by raising our standards of design. New launches such as John Walker & Sons Odyssey or Johnnie Walker Platinum have stunning, aesthetically beautiful pack designs that we know appeal to both men and women[9].” On the other end of the spectrum, you have brands like White Girl Rosé, Veuve Clicquot, and Moet & Chandon which explicitly appeal to women, yet they do it from a place that, in the case of White Girl Rosé, makes us feel like we’re in on the joke, even though it was created by male comedian The Fat Jew. Similar to John Walker & Sons Odyssey or Johnnie Walker Platinum, the design is sleeker and devoid of gimmicky images of high heels and pearls. Thought and tact (except in the case of White Girl Rosé) will go a long way.

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Get in, Loser. We’re Going Shopping.

You’d think with the way every car commercial ever is narrated by a man with a deep voice that women don’t buy cars when according to CCS, the percentage of women who have discussed or bought an automotive is neck-and-neck with the percentage of men in APAC markets like India and Hong Kong, and actually greater than in Malaysia.

tam7In fact, auto analysts CNW Marketing Research and J.D. Power and Associates say that about 40% of spending on new cars last year was done by women[10]. “The automobile is a product reflecting the personal lifestyle and taste of both men and women today. Women are also the key decision makers in family matters including the purchase of big-ticket items like cars and may affect men’s choice of car models,” says Reinhold Carl, managing director of Audi Hong Kong[8].

In order to communicate with women in a way that appeals to them, Audi utilizes fashion platforms such as The Hong Kong Fashion Extravaganza to build word-of-mouth. It is also important to communicate the features that matter to the people who will be actually using them instead of falling back on the same tired tropes—such as speed and horsepower—when many women are actually looking for utility[11]. So instead of showing a car zipping through the curves of the countryside or a mountain, maybe show how a certain SUV is built to accommodate a mother who needs to load two small children into it.

As women’s salaries begin to climb, and therefore their decision-making influence and purchasing power along with it, marketers will need to begin to focus more on them and their needs. Because as Jim Winters, president of branding agency Badger & Winters, put it so elegantly, “Women are not a special-interest group. They are over half the population[12].”

 

SO NOW WHAT DO WE DO?
As culture continues to evolve in Asia, accelerated by the ubiquity of the Internet and the different global viewpoints that it brings, gender roles will begin to shift and blur (men will knit; women will drink whisky) and our industry will need to keep up. But what is the best way to do that? Do we change tactics, adopting a unique one for each gender, or do we ignore it as a part of the demographic profile all together? It might be confusing because my article presented both ways, each one working for different brands. And that’s because there are arguments to be made for each tactic, which we want to flesh out with these next two Rocket articles, each one written by a different member of Carat APAC.

 

A case against changing tactics for genders. 
A case for changing tactics for genders.

 


1. https://lbbonline.com/news/jwt-report-on-the-state-of-asian-men/
2. http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/mums-at-work-dads-minding-the-kids
3. http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1495347/japan-encourages-fathers-take-more-active-role-child-care
4. http://www.edelman.com/news/the-parenting-group-and-edelman-partner-to-provide-insights-on-the-modern-dad-at-the-first-dad-2-0-summit-82-percent-of-men-who-became-a-parent-in-the-past-to-years-feel-there-is-a-societal-bias-ag-2/
5. https://cassandra.co/life/2017/02/10/boy-beauty
6. https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-asia-mens-skin-care-takes-off-1401320768
7. http://www.campaignasia.com/article/asias-male-grooming-sector-growing-faster-than-entire-beauty-category-kantar/372632
8. http://www.marketing-interactive.com/the-rise-of-the-she-conomy/
9. http://www.campaignasia.com/article/women-and-whisky-diageos-gender-neutral-marketing-formula/383418
10. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703521304576278964279316994
11. https://hbr.org/2009/09/the-female-economy
12. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-end-of-shrink-it-or-pink-it-a-history-of-advertisers-missing-the-mark-with-women/2016/06/08/3bcb1832-28e9-11e6-ae4a-  

 

Using Cultural Context to Create a Hyperlocal Strategy

Growing up, I have seen ads changed over time: in the past, they were purely functional and focused on the quality of the product; a decade later, I found myself weeping over an ad about the eternal spirit and sportswear. Today, I see ads in Hokkien (a dialect that was once taboo in Singaporean media) about the latest government healthcare plan. From my experiences alone, I can see that brands want to tap into culture more than ever. Culture helps advertisers reach a wide group of people with relevancy. And now technology helps better target cultural moments. But can brands tell if a moment is actually culturally significant or just a fad? What exactly is culture and how do we identify it? Are our insights about consumers or are they about culture? How can we make use of culture to build an effective hyperlocal strategy? In this article I will attempt to answer these questions.

 

Being a Chinese Singaporean, I always assumed my culture is similar to the culture of a Hong Konger or a Taiwanese. After all, we all experienced the same level of economic development in our nations; we descended from a similar root; and we share a common language. However, after celebrating Lunar New Year with a native family in Hong Kong, I realised I was wrong and our similarities were only skin-deep. This is a common mistake that brands make as well when approaching APAC: they assume a homogenous culture when there isn’t one.

 

What makes culture? Arts, language, traditions or food might come into our minds when we think of culture. While these are important parts of culture, they are not the true definition of it. A culture is a collective form of behaviour or practice among a group of people. Aspects like religion, history and governance are large scale influences [1] in people’s behaviour and practices, shaping the culture as a society progresses from generation to generation.

 

“Small” and “big” culture: separating fads from tradition

Culture can be broadly seen as “small” or “big” [2]. “Small” culture moves quickly (fashions, fads, slang words, etc.), while “big” culture is slow moving and underpins the way we live (traditions, customs, values, etc.). Dynamic influences from our surroundings shift these two types of cultures. Our mind adapts to the constant shift in culture and reacts according to the changes. Our brain is constantly conditioned by the culture we are in [3], shaping our behaviour and perception [4].

 

I recall IKEA’s previous agency ran an ad during Hari Raya (an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting) that roused a reaction from the Muslim community in Singapore [5]. The ad tries to depict the urban-ness of a Muslim family with “gangsta” poses and gold chains during the holiday. While urban-ness or hip hop music could be relevant in “small” culture, what it fails to do is recognise the taboos, traditions, and practices in the “big” culture: the underpinnings of lifestyle among mainstream Muslims in Singapore.

 

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Responders to the ad can be categorized into 3 main groups: older Muslims were mostly against the ad, younger Muslims were lukewarm to it, and non-Muslims appreciated the “humorous” take on Hari Raya. The different responses among the groups reveals how culture conditions their responses to the ad.

ikea facebook.jpg

The older group were concerned about the misrepresentation of  Muslims in Singapore and the inappropriateness of “gangsta” poses during Hari Raya. While the younger Muslim group appreciated IKEA’s effort to introduce fun and relevance, they felt haram still needed to be observed. The non-Muslim group found it “humorous,” but then again, they do not celebrate Hari Raya and are unaware of the subtleties within the culture. One ad can be perceived differently by different cultures, even in a small nation like Singapore. This is why a hyperlocal strategy is important, especially in a cultural period like Hari Raya.

 

Getting more out of your insights with culture
I am sure you have come across insights such as, ‘Filipinos aged 18 – 25 engage heavily in social media and frequently share selfies on Facebook’. An insight like this is good to understand the consumers, but not people or culture. We need to examine the insight within a cultural context to gain deeper understanding. The “small” culture of this insight is the love of sharing selfies by Filipinos among their social network, proven by the fact that Manila is actually the selfie capital of the planet [6]. But if we examine under “big” culture, we see that Filipinos have high value for friends, Amor Propio (self-esteem), and a need for expression [7]. These could be the motivations for Filipinos to produce more selfies than any other country.

Selfies---Manila-1-009

Understanding the cultural context of our insights prevents lazy stereotypes. In the west, it is common to view selfies as a sign of narcissism [8]. But in the Philippines, the cultural need for communication, expression, and self-esteem are reasons why selfies are so popular. Over or misrepresentation could occur if we do not give cultural context to the insights. In the Hari Raya ad, we can see that there is an over-representation of the “small” culture of hip hop music which caused a misrepresentation of the “big” culture of Hari Raya practices.

 

Cultural context for a hyperlocal strategy
Having cultural context sharpens our insights which helps to create a hyperlocal strategy. A hyperlocal strategy is not just about having a well-defined target, it is also about tailoring the media experience. If we know the cultural context of why Filipinos love selfies, we can create conversations about expressions and Amor Propio on Facebook, YouTube, or TV. On Instagram, we can find ways to use selfies as a form of expression. Engaging people on a cultural level creates a collective impact on them. “Big” culture topics can be introduced on high reach media that is familiar and scalable to attain effectiveness, while relying on the latest trends in “small” culture to innovate activations. Always remember media should deliver the best experiences to the audience and to do that, cultural context needs to fit well with media context.

Culture has a huge role to play in our media experience. Culture conditions our minds’ responses and perceptions. Considering culture and using it to sharpen our insights will help us design effective media experiences and have the right content in the right context. In this economy where scaling is important, culture is the best way to engage people collectively. Recognising a fad from a tradition is important so as to show thought and tact from a brand. Ultimately, it is about how a brand can appreciate the uniqueness of cultures in this highly diverse APAC region and find opportunities to engage diversity effectively.

 

Jude Koh is the regional associate strategy manager for Carat APAC.

 

  1. Pradeep. BV, Mediratta, N. (2016). Consumers don’t exist, people do! How to speak to people within their cultural context [WARC Article]. Retrieved from WARC
  2. Curphey, J. (2011, Nov). Culture: Insight’s third space – Conducting and integrating cultural analysis to drive brand value [WARC Article]. Retrieved from WARC
  3. Ambady, N. (2011, June). The Mind in the World: Culture and the Brain [APS Column]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2011/may-june-11/the-mind-in-the-world-culture-and-the-brain.html
  4. Park, D. C. Huang, CM. (2012, Aug 1) Culture Wires the Brain: A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective [Perspect Psychol Sci Journal]. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3409833/
  5. Rajaratnam, R. (2015, June, 23) IKEA Singapore Responds To Outrage Caused By “Bling Glamour Home” Ad (Yes, Bling) [Web article] Retrieved from http://says.com/my/news/ikea-singapore-raya-2015-ad
  6. Golangco, V (2014, March 13). Sexy and social: why Manila is the selfiest city in the world [News Article] Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/mar/13/manila-selfiest-city-most-selfies
  7. Philippines-Australia Business Council. (2008) Filipino Values [Web Article] Retrieved from http://pabc.org.ph/main/details.php?p=14
  8. Seidman, G. (2015 August 6). What is the Real Link between Selfies and Narcissism? [Web Article] Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/close-encounters/201508/what-is-the-real-link-between-selfies-and-narcissism
  9. Fernandez, C. (2007, April 05) The Heart of Filipino Problems – Amor Propio [Web Article] Retrieved from http://chinocracy.blogspot.sg/2007/04/reason-for-filipino-problems-amor.html