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Why Gap Between Have and Have-nots is Closing in Asian Advertising While the number of ad tech providers continues to grow in number, a large portion has already been replaced by freely available tools from tech giants Facebook and Google

By Kazu Takiguchi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The biggest budget does not automatically equate to the best marketing. While this may have been true of traditional mediums in the past, internet has become the ultimate democratizer between big and small businesses alike. More dollars does not mean more coverage, and startups are taking full advantage of the level playing field new technology has provided.

Advertising has become cheaper and arguably easier to achieve online. A move to the digital allows for the targeting of niches and experimentation of format, along with the unlocking of tools which allow for the gathering of data and further pinpointing of audience. These are techniques previously reserved for the big boys of the marketing world, and now startups armed with the same tech are shaking up the industry.

The fact is that the tools used by multinational corporations and startups to communicate branding today are not all that different, making for an Asian advertising industry which preferences engaging messaging and culturally appropriate values. The gap between the advertising haves and have-nots is closing in Asia, so let's take a deeper look as to why.

Taking it Online

The global advertising and marketing landscape has vastly changed in past decades. Traditional channels like television and print used to be dominated by multinational corporations with big budgets to play with, but the shift towards digital has lowered the barrier to entry for startups.

Any firm of any size can purchase digital advertising to suit their specific needs. The move to the online has proven to provide a fairer advertising paradigm where branding success is better judged on advertising creativity than company valuation. There have, of course, been fears that larger enterprises would reassert their dominance of the digital realm through the acquisition of high-tech analytical tools.

Machine learning and AI-powered marketing tools were hugely hyped a few years ago with the fear that startups would not be able to afford such tech tools and once again lag behind their enterprise counterparts - but reality unfolded a little differently. While the number of ad tech providers continues to grow in number, a large portion has already been replaced by freely available tools from tech giants Facebook and Google.

This includes Facebook's Automated Ads and Google's Bumper Machine. With the playing field essentially leveled, the only way to gain a competitive advantage is to understand the target audience better and deliver ads which resonate with them. This again favors the agile nature of startups compared to the clunky corporate machinery which defines multinational outfits.

Cultural Communication

There is a reason further than tech as to why startups are closing the gap on marketing against global companies, and it comes down to cultural communication. A majority of multinational corporations have their roots in the Western world, leading to a disconnect between their marketing messages and the unique cultural nuances in Asia. This presents an opportunity for local startups and small business to tap into their native understanding of the market.

Foreign companies are prone to cultural gaffes by grouping Asia as a homogenous collection of countries or producing content riddled with errors. Culture is highly nuanced in this part of the world and marketing campaigns simply copied and pasted from other regions with little oversight are doomed to fail. Case in point: fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken and their slogan, which in English reads "finger-lickin' good". When translated into Chinese, however, the line is a little less appetizing: "We'll eat your fingers off".

The result, while unintentionally humorous, only serves to remind customers that this company is less connected to the given market.

The X Factor

Startups have been able to master the form and function of the digital world to produce content which is unique, out-of-the-box and definitely not produced by a large foreign entity. Startups, which by their very nature are companies aiming to disrupt the status quo, have this "x factor" to their marketing communications.

Take the example of TikTok. The social media app has been all the rage in 2019, but actually began as ByteDance trying to fill an Instagram-sized gap in China. More than a mere copy, ByteDance refined their concept to short videos which oozed virality. Released internationally as TikTok, this is a case of tackling local censorship of one platform through the invention of a groundbreaking new one in its place.

Another case study can be seen in the success of Xiaomi. The Chinese company realized a demand for quality smartphones at an affordable price point and carved out a share of the market for itself from established players Apple and Samsung. It just goes to show that knowing the market, delivering product and advertising accordingly is what success means today. It is more than money, marketing in the digital paradigm preferences ideas that are well-delivered.

Startups are best advised to stick to their best attributes of creativity and playful messaging to continued success in this area. They have more flexibility with branding and tone than the corporate world, so exploit it. They are the locals rather than foreign corporations, so show it. The proliferation of digital marketing has opened the door to small companies over big conglomerates for the first time; startups must make sure they do not let this opportunity go.

Kazu Takiguchi

CEO-founder, Creadits


Kazu is founder and CEO of Creadits, a single global marketplace for advertising talent, using a unified currency--Creadits. Creadits are used globally to acquire anything required to start advertising - graphic design, video shoots, writing, campaign management, training, even data.  


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