February 28, 2016


In last week’s Fireside Chat Blog Series Part 1, we shared key insights from Google India’s SEA VP Rajan Anandan and LinkedIn’s APAC MD Olivier Legrand on how to appeal to Asia’s next billion users. Today, we focus on Singapore.

During the chat, the big elephant in the conference room was what’s holding Singapore’s digital advertising market back? Without the typical barriers of emerging markets – such as internet access, connectivity, and data cost – why hasn’t the local market leapt forward faster?

Singapore is one of the most connected countries in the world, but according to Rajan its current digital advertising market is worth a mere $1.5 billion. At 11 per cent market penetration, that’s a drop in the ocean compared to neighbouring economies Australia and China, who are at 40 per cent digital marketing spend.

The head of Google in emerging markets tells us that about 85 per cent of Singaporeans are connected on broadband; with that figure, our ad spend should at least 50 per cent.

So, how are we as an industry going to ensure we have 20 per cent digital advertising market penetration by 2020?

Key questions around this raised by Olivier included:

  • How do you get marketers to understand the opportunity that comes with such a big commitment to getting online? Any advice for perceivable companies?
  • For companies of all sizes, do you have any advice on how or whether they should go online and advertise more?

To answer these questions, Rajan responded:

1)  Digitise your business

Rajan believes that it’s a business interest to know what digital is, not a digital interest.

“It’s actually not about advertising. I think it’s about you making your business digital,” he explained.

“The reality is, nearly all Singaporeans are connected. They are spending three to four hours on the Internet, and if you are a consumer facing business, marketing happens after you have a digital business.”

Take the banking industry for example. What percentage of credit cards are acquired online, what percentage of mutual funds are sold online, what percentage of servicing is done online right?

According to the Google VP, “in a country like Singapore, there should be no bank branches, 100 per cent of your banking should be done online”.

As far as Singapore goes, digital marketing isn’t converting consumers effectively if your digital assets aren’t optimised enough.

2)  C-suite engagement

If you want to see real changes in your business, appeal to your company’s decision makers about the potential of digital advertising.

“If you get this guy [at CEO level] to understand the opportunity by talking to them in business language and not in digital language – which is, by the way, another issue we have in this industry – then their ability to changing their organisation is amazing,” said Rajan.

“If I am a CEO, come and tell me, ‘I am going to improve your revenue by 25 per cent if you do XYZ, and I am going to reduce the cost of acquisition by 35 per cent. These are the things you should do head on…’ and so on.”

The Google VP explained if you’re working closely with the leadership team, you can get them to understand the extent of the opportunity that’s available to them so that they can drive the transformation. That’s how you can truly run a business differently.

3) Train your top talent


With the speed of digital consumption in Singapore, standardised training is increasingly important in online advertising. What was relevant in your strategy one year ago may be obsolete today.

“The IAB is participating into this is really – we need to train the team and create the talent pool that will be able to execute and really work closely with the leadership of those companies to drive change.”

Rajan concluded the section with a sentiment we share at the IAB:

“Collectively as an industry, we have to do a lot more work on how business users can really digitise themselves, as well as how they can leverage the platforms that already exist.”

Does your team need training to move your business forward? Keep an eye on our twitter @iabsg for updates on our next training events.  

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