Integrity, innovation, collaboration: New challenges and opportunities for advertisers

MANILA, Philippines – Does advertising play a role in upholding the truth?

At the 2017 MSAP Media Congress held last week, thousands of delegates converged in Baguio City to learn about best practices in advertising and marketing in mainstream media. Experts spoke about new challenges both the media and brands face today, and how these can be taken head on.

For instance, CNN’s Manisha Tank said during her talk that audiences now expect fresh news and information 24/7. Along with this, audience attention spans are shrinking – Facebook has started encouraging advertisers to push 6-second ads. In this fast-paced scenario, it’s harder to determine what’s real and what’s not, Tank said.

That’s why publishers – as well as brands working with them – have an increasing responsibility to focus on truth, rather than “going viral,” experts said. When done right, it can also lead to business growth.

Viral isn’t always a metric of success

This year, the biggest question in every pitch or campaign was how it can generate business impact, according to speakers. 

"If anyone is still measuring the success of their campaign by likes, comments and shares, they should leave this congress, or probably this industry," said Neil Stewart, Asia Pacific Head of Agency at Facebook. "It's a shockingly bad measure of success."

David Trovell, Managing Director of Initiative said: “It should come back to a business metric every time. There are too many people who are too accepting of [just] media metrics as being the value of success.” 

It’s already a given that audiences are on Facebook and searching via Google. However, a hugot-laden video isn’t enough anymore.

“Don't get so carried away with telling stories. If it doesn't translate to business growth, maybe there's something wrong. Maybe you're just delivering a piece of entertainment more than a piece of advertising,” said Dennis Perez, Head of Media at Unilever Philippines.

For a campaign to fly, brands and agencies need to be familiar with the consumer journey first. Perez said: “Know the people you want to talk to. Their values, what they believe in, or even the tensions and the problems that they are experiencing. Find the intersection between that and that's where you create your content.”

Authenticity, values

Margot Torres, Executive Vice President and Deputy Managing Director of McDonald’s Philippines, said that without authenticity, even a well-placed strategy will fall flat.

She cited the story of Daniel Cabrera, the child who studied under the lamp of a McDonald’s branch in Mandaue City. According to Torres, working with real stories such as Cabrera’s worked to their advantage and led to concrete results.

Daniel’s story took off by accident – it started with a Facebook post. Where can other brands find their own genuine stories? Technology will help, but only to a point.

“There's the listening, the tools that allow you to listen to the consumers – but also you need to be sensitive to society, culture, and what the world needs,” said Amor Maclang, founding director of Geiser Maclang.

Maclang’s advice to brands is to create movements aligned with their values. “It's not enough for people to know you. It's your responsibility to keep telling people what you stand for and what you're about. It's not elevating yourself. It's about, ‘these are my values, these are what I stand for, now if you are aligned with it, then come join me,’” she said.

Real stories need the right context to thrive, Perez said. Online, particularly on social media, context can be fragmented – on the one hand, audiences have more power to create and share stories that matter to them. On the other hand, there’s a lot of clutter ­– manufactured reactions, fake news, hate. 

At first glance, this scenario may seem less than ideal for marketers who want their message to exist within a positive consumer climate.

Yet the agency heads we spoke with believe that brands don’t need to worry about being surrounded by this, as long as they focus on what matters: the audience.

“Brands are all about connecting with their audience,” said Donald Lim, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network. “They will never touch that space [of fake news].”

“Brands have their own purpose… [they’re] running independently of the scenario. We cannot not be there,” said Jos Ortega, Chairman and CEO of Havas Ortega.

Importance of credibility

As brands establish their authenticity through their own stories and channels, publishers are now doubly challenged also to do the same.

Some of the people we interviewed say that platforms like Facebook need to be pushed to be accountable. A united stance will help, too.

“All digital publishers, they have to come together, do a campaign, like what is right, what is wrong,” said Ravi Trivedi, digital director at Carat.

“We have to really educate,” Lim said. “The platforms really need to take ownership. Industry players should work together. In the end, the consumers will be the eventual ones benefiting from this.”

The 4-day congress had for its theme, “Ascendant” – a call for industry players to harness their power to influence behavior, culture, and business for the greater good. It brought together big names from agencies and brands all over Asia. – Rappler.com