6 advertising trends actionable for Asia marketers in 2016

Its approaching that time of year where we industry folk get on our pedestal (i.e. publisher website, blog) and rattle off trend predictions for the following year.

The issue I often find is they are typically too abstract (this really is the year for IoT) and therefore lack tangibility. Stargazing is great but if you’re looking towards 2016 my hunch is that you want to read about new things that you may actually be able to implement / test in your brand communications plan next year.

Therefore I’m going to cover:

  • 2 big, shiny things; ephemeral apps and Virtual Reality (2016 really is the year for VR ;-))
  • 2 established but evolving trends; the messenger app ecosystem and how organic is (sort of) back
  • 2 fundamentals that will become more widespread with clients in Asian markets; interest based content and targeting


Big and Shiny…

I recently attended a Hyper Island event where TapJet founder and award winning app creator Chris Harris shared what he sees as being a key trend in app development and user experience that he has coined as ‘ephemeral apps.’ The easiest way to explain this is with an example.

Last week I took my parents to Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to see the view and noticed this:


As a user, this is so riddled with friction I don’t know where to start. Even if you were able to spot this tiny little sign, after scanning the QR code it gets very messy.

However with an ephemeral app, I would receive a ping on my phone from an ibeacon as I entered the room (that knows my language based on my phone settings) asking if I want to download an app that would explain to me the wonders of Tokyo based on the direction I was facing. Imagine the power of combining this with AR/VR so when I looked over the Tokyo skyline, I could click on key landmarks to find out more about them? Not only official information but a social graph of reviews, Instagram photos, images, videos, friends that have checked in, even an AR experience that could serve as a teaser to visit those landmarks?

Finally imagine if your brand was Canon, Visit Japan, or Airbnb and the value your brand could create by being part of, or facilitating that experience?    

It may seem like a stretch to say that brands could feasibly implement this in 2016. And this example lends itsef better to AR (unless they hand out Google Cardboard on arrival). However the tech is there; a small scale MVP is more than feasible and the story would create great content for certain brands.

By the way, on my way out, the ibeacon would then delete the app, saving my phone memory (apart from the pages I may have saved). It is ephemeral after all…

Next, 2016 will be the year for smartphone enabled Virtual Reality. I’m not saying everyone from Hokkaido to Hanoi will be walking around with VR headsets on, but we will see brands in Asia testing out VR content experiences.

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 13.04.462016 will see the launch of the Samsung Gear VR developed in partnership with Oculus. At only $99 and, according to Wired, providing a great VR experience, this (and others) will make high performance VR accessible to the second ring of early adopters (after those who have bought Oculus prototypes).

Wider distribution of Google cardboard will mean more brands being able to create content experiences like Volvo, yet the friction required to get consumers to download a separate app as well as having Google cardboard will limit the scale of immersive mobile VR for now.

The compromise will be wider facebook360 videodistribution of 360 videos. These are being rolled out across Facebook and YouTube and provide an interactive experience where people can scroll and swipe to explore what is happening all around opposed to just watching. Facebook have just started partnering with key brands in the US; expect to see videos like these hitting newsfeeds in Asia in 2016.


The evolving messenger app ecosystem…

Brands are starting to appreciate that messenger platforms offer organic ‘follower’ models similar to Facebook fans and Twitter followers a few years back. At a time where ad-blocking and viewability are of paramount concern, to be able engage with and share content to a scaled, opted in audience is more attractive than ever. 

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 14.42.40On LINE for example, brands can create branded stickers that if decent and offer social value, puts your brand into peer to peer conversation. The value exchange is that people agree to follow your brand and you can send them LINE messages with content, offers, quizzes, etc.

40%-50% of people block brands messengers instantly, but that still leaves millions of followers you can interact with, such as the Pond’s Indonesia example here. Some brands have over 10m followers who pay for a LINE account, but no extra charge to send messages to their followers.

We are seeing similar things on Snapchat, where brands are putting their Snapcodes on advertising, distributing via influencers and putting it on their packaging to serve as an entry point to brand engagement on the platform via ‘Stories.’

As covered a few months back, messenger platforms like WeChat and LINE have functionalities that extend well beyond messaging. On WeChat, you can book a doctor’s appointment, do your banking, get food delivered and much more (in China). The big change in 2016 is that brands will be able to leverage multiple messenger ecosystems for customer service, delivery, payment and much more.

2016 will be a big year for Facebook Messenger. The Facebook newsfeed combined with Messenger will allow for full funnel marketing, commerce, fulfillment and customer service integration and the creation of a broader ecosystem that in some ways will resemble WeChat, LINE and Kakao, but can potentially offer scale in most markets in Asia.


Addressing some fundamentals…

It’s taken brands a while, but in 2016 I think we’ll see brands in Asia being smarter about content and targeting.

When it comes to content, some brands are doing a great job of leveraging powerful universal assets to a wide audience (think The Gentleman’s Wager and Pooface) and supplementing these with local, culturally relevant created, influencer and consumer content that’s customised to different interest groups.

However many brands are still producing a lot of local content, market by market that is high on quantity but low on quality that audiences don’t see because they don’t receive the paid support necessary to achieve scale on social and video platforms.

I see the main reasons for this being legacy scope of work agreements rolling over year after year (that go back to the ‘organic days’ of social) and the lack of custom audience targeting. It’s more profound in Asia, potentially due to less appetite for risk, the importance placed on relationships and less sophisticated marketing operations teams.

Therefore my optimistic prediction for 2016 is that more emphasis will be put on targeting custom audiences and as such less content will be produced that isn’t really made for anyone, nor seen by anyone. Instead it will be consistent with the brand’s creative theme, but tailored to different audiences based on data driven trends and insights. Due to challenges around ad-blocking, the need to customise content to the platform and the targeting capabilities of Facebook and Google, the big platforms will continue to see the lion’s share of investment that will continue to be more video and more mobile in 2016.

You’ll note that I haven’t gone into detail on ad-blocking, viewability, programmatic, brands as publishers and many other hot topics. I certainly see these as being very important next year. However I’m sure you’ll see these covered off many times as other industry folk give their 2 cents on predictions for 2016. My aim was to provide something a little different, with an Asian lens that’s hopefully actionable. Hope you found it useful…


The above photo is of the Christmas lights display at Midtown Roppongi, Tokyo. Have a nice Christmas and Happy New Year!


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