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Bringing tech to the forefront

Axiata Digital raises the bar for marketing, advertising

Behavioural information, not demographic data, is a better predictor of intent

It wants to automate digital campaigns as much as possible in the next few years

Leveraging technology to make a significant difference in the business world is a given in today’s world. That said, businesses are still only scratching the surface of the untapped potential technology can bring to industries.

In the business of integrated digital advertising, Axiata Digital Advertising Sdn Bhd is pioneering the revolution by combining data science, technology and creativity for brands and businesses across Asia.

Its CEO Srinivas Gattamneni believes that within the next three to five years, 90% of all marketing decisions could be data-driven in order to meet fast evolving consumer demands on digital platforms.

At the very least, he says, sectors such as local consumer packaged goods, education and automotive will move at least 30% of their media spends to digital in the next three years.

Integrating data to drive such marketing decisions is part of its key strengths, as is using artificial intelligence and machine learning among other technologies. These enable it to automate and optimise routine campaign-to-campaign management, in turn maximising media spend and creative design.

He shares, “Our differentiation comes from the ability to use deep audience and consumer insights for media planning and other activities.”

Anonymous targeting

Its telco-powered proprietary data management platform XAct, which draws from different data sources, houses data of around 280 million unique profiles with approximately 200 attributes per user. In turn, this gives it an edge to optimise consumer journey planning, customer profiling and intent targeting.

Apart from telco data, apps are a good source of data that Axiata Digital draws on.

“What type of apps consumers are using tells you a lot. A simple example would be if you have the My Talking Tom app, a Mothercare app and maybe Harvard Business Review, there’s a 90% probability that you’re a highly educated mother with a child or children.

“We let the data do the talking in terms of who this person could be.

“You could be a 60-year-old, but you’re behaving like a 20-year-old soccer enthusiast, so I should be treating you as that.

“Demographic data is a proxy for intent but we think behavioural information is a better predictor of intent,” he says.

When it comes to privacy concerns, Srinivas stresses that it is careful in ensuring that it obtains user consent for any data it uses.

Further, he explains that targeting is always anonymous.

Users may be targeted based on their usage and the type of person they are, garnered from data such as browsing history, but at the end of the day, Axiata Digital does not use any private data.

In general, it uses advertiser IDs from a user’s Android or Apple as unique identifiers for its profiles, which can be wiped.

Competing in the market

Axiata Digital wants to take on veteran large agency groups that have a stronghold in traditional media, owing to its strength in the digital space.

Conventionally speaking, TV campaigns for a brand tends to be done once a quarter and are reused time and again, which Srinivas says is not applicable in today’s world.

He explains, “In the visual space, there’s creative fatigue and you can’t show the same thing more than four to five days in a row, because people won’t engage with the brand anymore.

“What we do is end-to-end digital marketing, covering how you can create that voracity and volume of creatives, show huge permutations and combinations of creatives for different people, find where they are and target them at the right context and time.”

Srinivas points out that campaigns must have creatives that are able to target two people who have different psychographic behaviours even if they are ‘sitting right next to each other.’

Adding on capabilities

In addition, the majority of media planning done in traditional agencies are based on hunches, instead of data.

Axiata Digital wants to change that mindset and focus on media planning anchored on data on audience segments and consumer journeys among other aspects.

“Within a few years, we believe in a world where a huge amount of campaign planning to delivery is automated, so we’re working on automating a large portion of our ad operations,” he says.

Once it reaches that level of automation – it wants to automate at least 60-70% within the next three years – it would be possible for Axiata Digital to serve smaller clients.

“Right now, if you look at any digital campaign optimisation, the knowledge is largely inside the human brain, which comes from past experiences of having done particular campaigns.

“That’s something you can actually replicate in a machine by having all past information on consumers, campaigns and performance and letting the machine do the learning,” he adds.

Axiata Digital is currently working on becoming an agency of the future, by meshing together agency and technology practices, in preparation for future competition with big technology giants.

This is because Srinivas believes that there will be a confluence of the chief marketing officer and the chief information officer in most organisations.

Strong potential for growth

While Axiata Digital is a new brand launched earlier this year, the various go-to-market brands – including AdParlor and AdReach – that it consolidates has been around for four years.

It has operations in nine countries in Southeast and South Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and South Korea.

With a team of around 200 employees, it serves large corporations and clients such as CIMB, Line Man, Sushi King, TGV and Timberland.

As a result, its quarter-on-quarter revenue growth is close to 40% and is on track to achieve its vision to grow 100%-150% year-on-year.

Its most challenging obstacle at the moment is shaping the mindsets of mid-cap clients at a time when audiences have already made the shift to digital media.

“If you look at the top 30 to 40 clients in every market, they’ve significantly shifted 30%-40% of their media spend to digital already, whereas the next hundred – generally the local consumer packaged goods clients, automotive and real estate have only moved 2%-5%.

“It’s really how do we shape these industries to actually exploit more of the digital audiences, find very clever ways of targeting them and getting the chief marketing officers to understand the power of digital and data,” he reveals.

He also believes that digital should be responsible for offline outcomes, in addition to the digital outcomes.

For instance, he wants to be able to attribute a consumer seeing a specific advertisement on Facebook as the reason the consumer walks into a store. FocusM

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