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TechBytes with Tom Simpson, SVP Brand & Exchange at AdColony APAC

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TechBytes with Tom Simpson, SVP Brand & Exchange at AdColony APAC

Hi Tom, please tell us about your journey into MarTech/AdTech. Tell us more about your role and team you handle at AdColony.

I started my journey as a marketer 15 years ago, and gradually voyaged through industries. I began my career in the agency world, and then on into tech, which is where I am now. Every move I made was done with the simple goal of learning something new, as the foundation of my interests lay with people, and the world I live in.

As time went by, my interests went from aspiring to be the best marketer possible, to gaining knowledge about business and relationships in agencies, to being well-versed in data and technology on the supply side.

Having worked across many sectors from Video, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Programmatic, to even Online Retail and Data with the world’s largest brands, I’ve had a lot of fun with the different aspects of working at major multinationals – and even experienced the challenges presented by a start-up.

Currently, I’d say my biggest passion – and favorite part of my role, is leadership and people. I’m very privileged to be working with such an extraordinary team at AdColony here in Asia Pacific. Even when the entire team is working from home now, everyone is committed to bringing their best self.

We acknowledge that these are unprecedented times, which is why we are focusing on our team’s health and wellness by planning a series of games to keep the spirits up and ensure when this situation ends (and it will end!), we come out of it stronger and better prepared than ever before.

COVID-19 has been the biggest disruptor in 2020. How’re you dealing with the chaos? What preparedness have you built to lead and sustain your business goals leading to the future?

The COVID-19 outbreak has most definitely been a challenge for us all. I, personally, am taking this as a transitional period, that will soon pass. No one can really be completely prepared for the repercussions of such an outbreak, but what we can do as business leaders, is to look back at similar crises businesses have been through in the not too distant past.

From the collapse of the Walls Street as a result of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in 2008 to the Global Financial Crisis, businesses globally have experienced setbacks that they have bounced back from. It took some time, but by 2010, we were all on the road to surpassing these financial depressions and interestingly enough, 2011 turned out to be the biggest ever year for AdTech Funding.

Resilient businesses eventually start building around the existing infrastructure and adapt to situations, as these situations present us with opportunities to move on from a period of stagnation and ultimately adjust to a new reality.

At AdColony, we live and breathe the following principles:

– Stay in Touch

– Move with customers

– Focus on Engagement

– Be Agile

These pillars are our advice to clients when structuring media plans, but I’d say it is just as applicable in our current situation as we work daily towards our business goals, despite and in spite of the outbreak.

You recently released the “Coronavirus Impact Survey.” What is the most startling observation you have reported in the survey?

The COVID-19 situation is still new, and industries are reeling from the initial shock, but once the dust settles, we expect to see more brands leaning into the ‘new reality’. While consumers are worried, they are in fact, not as concerned with associations with the pandemic than brands think.

From our recent “Coronavirus Impact Survey”, we have discovered that 76% of the consumers across the Asia Pacific (APAC) wished brands to continue communicating during this crisis, and 47% of the respondents are actually hoping to see more ads featuring compassion and support for local communities during this outbreak. In such a time, brands need to reinvent the way they think about their audiences and cater to the different personas that are affected by the current state of the pandemic.

Another interesting call out from our survey is the uplift in Mobile gaming, as it moves ahead of the ranks – even surpassing social media. Social media now ranks fourth, behind mobile gaming, television, and streaming in terms of how consumers are spending their time. We have observed a 45% increase in consumers playing mobile games multiple times a day. Furthermore, 66% of the respondents across APAC have started playing more games and have downloaded a new game to their phones since the outbreak.

The takeaway here is that while consumers have concerns around COVID-19, they are also pragmatic and hungry for information. Brands need to be authentic, and in times like these, avoiding COVID-19 completely isn’t a great strategy. It is important to cater to consumers’ need for information and entertainment in this time by keeping the three E’s in mind: Educate, Empathize and Engage with consumers – brands may find that they can help consumers and society get through this together.

How are customer behaviors shifting in the current lockdown scenario? Are these shifts in behavior likely to become the norm in the coming months?

As lockdown measures get stronger across the region, we most definitely witness a shift in customer behaviors and the way they interact with brands.

Time spent on smartphones has increased by 30% since February 2020, which plays out just right as consumers look to occupy themselves in their homes. The usage of entertainment outlets such as television, gaming, and streaming with OTT platforms like Netflix is also at an all-time high.

Evidently, from the empty supermarket aisles posted on social media, household items remain in consistent demand although consumer spend is moving to online retail and e-commerce, rather than brick and mortar stores. This is proof when 46% of our respondents have claimed to shift more of their purchases online – no surprise there.

As the physical world contracts due to the pandemic, we are occupying much more space in the virtual world. Ultimately, life goes on and COVID-19 has just brought about forced upon a new routine for consumers to adjust to. The transition from offline to online channels will most likely accelerate in the coming months as this lifestyle becomes a norm. It’s also interesting to see the huge rise in time spent on online gaming and streaming entertainment as consumers spend more time at home with reduced outdoor entertainment options.

We have seen a spike in the Video streaming platforms and Audiotech (Spotify, etc). Conferencing tools are the new lifelines of many B2B collaborations. Which other sets of technologies are making lives easy for Marketing, Sales, and Advertising teams?

Working remotely sure comes with its set of challenges, and we can all see applications like Zoom sustaining social lives and work lives.

There are tons of fantastic applications out there that work well for plenty of companies – and I know that it differs across individuals and organizations, but here are some of my favorites.

For communications within our teams at AdColony, Slack is the main platform that really helps to ensure that we’re all in the loop and well connected with each other. It is where we chat with our colleagues, collaborate on work by sharing documents, and even correspond with our partners.

InDesign is another application that I’d call a staple for anyone working on creatives, especially for anyone working in Advertising or Marketing – perfect for last-minute creative requests for a campaign!

A personal favorite of mine would be AirTable, a holy grail for organizing the hundred and one projects that are ongoing all at once. AirTable is an application that keeps plenty of us at AdColony at the top of our game. Times are hectic, and it’s great to see such the development of such technologies that maximize our performance and efficiency when managing tasks.

Is the ‘Gaming’ industry becoming the next big advertising market for publishers? How does AdColony see the mobile gaming market in APAC and ANZ?

Gaming is a channel. It is a place where publishers can execute ads against customers at scale. In fact, mobile gaming in Asia Pacific has more of a reach than social media in many markets. It is a professional, consistent and well-designed environment – an aesthetic and neutral backdrop upon which to display creatives.

Mobile gaming has always been an opportunity for publishers, and we are beginning to see marketers’ interests align around the new reality that is the rise of mobile gaming. With 70% of consumers practicing social distancing, there is a clear shift in spends from traditional channels to measurable digital channels – presenting an immense opportunity for programmatic in today’s gaming market.

The most successful mediums – just like the most successful content – are socially driven. Part of this is purely social pressure – the ‘watercooler’ effect means that in order to participate in culture, you need to consume specific media. We’ve seen this dynamic played out countless times before, in TV, sport, movies, music and the list goes on.

However, beyond that, games have become a fundamentally social medium. The content is largely based on your social circle’s overall participation and what they’re doing. As more people play games, the importance of participating, the “fun” of gaming, and the signaling value of being ‘good’ at gaming all increase. We often call this the ‘come for the game, stay for the party’ effect, which will only continue to drive the increase in mobile gaming across the region.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.

I’d love to hear from three fantastic people in the industry! Rohit Maheswaran,Co-founder at Lifesight, James Sampson, Regional Head, Strategy & Partnerships, GrabAds at Grab and Ciaran O’Kane, Publisher at ExchangeWire.

Tom Simpson is the SVP of Brand & Exchange at AdColony APAC. Tom is a global digital specialist with over 15+ years of experience in tech and marketing, at start-ups, agencies, and global multinationals, shaping their digital business, growth strategy, operations, product development, and commercial leadership.

He is an expert in digital marketing including programmatic, gaming, mobile, and video, plus emerging technologies such as AI, Big Data, and Blockchain.

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AdColony is one of the largest mobile advertising platforms in the world with a reach of more than 1.5 billion monthly users globally. AdColony’s mission is to drive business outcomes that matter for advertisers and publishers using its best-in-class mobile technology, the highest-quality mobile ad experiences, and leveraging its curated reach. AdColony is known throughout the mobile industry for its unparalleled third-party verified viewability rates, exclusive Instant-Play™ and Aurora™ HD video technologies, rich media formats, global performance advertising business, the programmatic marketplace, and extensive SDK footprint in the Top 1000 apps worldwide.

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