We’re well into the New Year. And everywhere I turn, the air of uncertainty smacks me in the face. I’m pretty used to uncertainties; freelance copywriting is full of unknowns, surprises and WTF-moments.
These days, the uncertainties are external. The impending GST, falling Ringgit and steadily ascending inflation have concocted an aura of economic doom and gloom here in Malaysia.
The signs ignored, voices hushed and belts further tightened.
The situation seems out of our control, with our captain-less ship at the mercy of global economic winds and undercurrents of mismanagement. We need to fend for ourselves; work harder, spend less and save more. Yes, I’m venting a little here.
But they say necessity is the mother of invention. In marketing communications, a flourishing economy and big budgets does not automatically translate to great work.
I know, because I’ve worked on campaigns for big brands with big budgets; only to see the work often become needlessly complex and hopelessly off the mark. And when budgets are cut, it is used to rationalise ineffectiveness and less-than-desired results.
These days however, I work mostly for start-ups, entrepreneurial businesses and SMEs. They usually don’t have a marketing budget or even a marketing department. But what they do have is the willingness to try new things, allow creative incubation and exhaust all strategic avenues.
The money is then spent to expound and execute a good idea, and not to bombard the media with a scratched-up campaign hoping for a miracle.
Perhaps the economic doom and gloom presents an opportunity to revamp our preconceptions of marketing. In today’s marketing there are no set formulas, cure-alls or guaranteed results, brands need to spark conversations, have a social persona and navigate the wilderness of technology.
Budgets may be trimmed, but we’ve got to roll with the punches.
Less is more, more or less, yes?
Look, I believe in advertising, especially since I’ve toiled in the industry as a copywriter for the past 15 years or so.
But I also believe some things should not be advertised. While most products and services can benefit from incisive communication strategies coupled with compelling creative executions and targeted message dissemination; I believe those in the ad industry itself should not be advertising themselves.
In recent months, I’ve seen newspapers proclaiming that ‘print is the way to go’ and radio stations promising ‘increased sales’. And the fact that they are advertising in their own pages and airwaves seemed rather desperate.
Advertisers (or clients) will naturally go where there is a large audience. I think media owners should work on strengthening their audience base rather than proclaiming that their medium is a cure-all for communication conundrums.
It’s so obvious that the digital and social revolutions are giving traditional media – especially Print and Radio – stiff competition in terms of ad revenue. These traditional players must begin to realise that they cannot remain unchallenged and must improve on content and engagement, whilst embracing the future of communication.
It will take more than just advertising in-own-media to pry the ad Ringgits that are increasingly being channeled towards online advertising. And we all know that advertising a substandard product will only make it fail faster.
But then again, here are some interesting bits to chew on, based on a 2013 Global Survey of Trust in Advertising by Nielsen for Malaysia:
- 72% of consumers in the country trust newspaper ads
- Credibility of traditional advertising remains high compared to online paid media
- Trust in digital ads such as online banners and social media hover at around 50%
- Confidence in online advertising is swiftly growing, with ad spend forecast to touch US$34 billion in Asia Pacific by 2015
- Word-of-mouth still remains the best form of advertising, at 86% trust level
So, while traditional advertising still plays a major role in ad campaigns and strategies, online advertising is fast catching up and cannot be ignored any longer.
Traditional media owners have realised this, hence the desperate attempt to advertise themselves. Only time will tell how long they can remain profitable while clutching to fading hopes.
And in case you didn’t notice, word-of-mouth is still and will always be advertising’s top performer. Maybe it’s wise to spark conversations rather than pour money down the media drain.
More than 12 million Facebook users. National broadband penetration is over 80%. Almost 17 million total internet users. And how much are Malaysian businesses spending on online advertising?
A measly 1% of their total advertising budget.
A report released recently by Google and McKinsey & Co shows that Malaysian businesses hardly see internet advertising viable. In fact, Malaysia is placed at the bottom 10% of the 57 countries surveyed.
Look, I’m no advertising genius. But doesn’t this seem like a severe case of head-in-the-sand ignorance?
Just 10% of Malaysia’s Facebook population is still more than the total daily readership of The Star, which is at about 1.06 million.
But that’s not all. We Malaysians spend more time on the internet than on watching television or listening to the radio combined.
If you ask me, I think we spend more time online than even talking to our spouse, family and friends combined.
If anyone out there thinks online advertising is crap – it can be annoying if improperly executed though – here are 5 good reasons why you should take your next campaign online:
- Costs a fraction of TV, Print or even Radio ads
- You can measure results and effectiveness almost immediately
- Internet allows for almost pin-point targeting, bases on niche interests
- Those in their 20s and 30s are active internet users; a consumer goldmine!
- Almost 40% of purchase decisions are made on the net; making online presence critical
In times of dwindling marketing budgets and an ever-evolving consumer landscape, please feel free to double or even triple your online marketing efforts this year.
If you still want to spend RM40,000 or upwards on a one-time-only print ad (I’ve got some tips for that too) instead of a highly-targeted, response-oriented online campaign; then go right ahead.