Q&A with IAB Singapore chairman Tobias Wilson: We are in a market where traditional media still rules

Tobias Wilson IAB SingaporeTobias Wilson, the founder of Singapore digital agency @ccomplice, which is now known as APD after it was acquired in February, was recently appointed chairman of the leadership council of the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Singapore.

In this Q&A with Mumbrella via email, Wilson was asked why, in his estimation, is digital’s share of total ad spend in Singapore still only around eight per cent, what explains marketers’ print ad mindset in such a tech-savvy market, and what the IAB plans to do about expanding the digital ad ecosystem.

What do you see as the biggest challenge you face next year in your role at the IAB, and what do you plan to do about it?

I joined the IAB leadership council years ago and have seen the level of engagement grow significantly. We feel it is our mission to inspire and elevate digital understanding and excellence in Southeast Asia. However the biggest challenge is still investment; whether it is client budgets, talent or training.

We have just finished our 2016 planning and our focus will continue to be on training with an added initiative for more experienced marketers, global certification to create a benchmark that aligns Southeast Asia with the skills of more mature markets such as the US and Europe and delivering the standards and guidelines that are needed in the region.

In your estimation, only around eight per cent of total advertising spend in Singapore goes on digital. Based on what do you make this estimate?

Publishers do not have to release their numbers in Singapore, as opposed to other markets where they are, and then also qualified by an independent auditing board. Therefore we can only really gauge the size of the market from experience.

We are encouraging the key players in the market to collaborate with us to revive the Digital Adspend Report we have previously produced. However we want to ensure the figures we provide are accurate and not estimates, so we get a truer understanding of where the market is.

Why, in such a digitally savvy country with the world’s highest smartphone penetration, does digital still take such a small share of the ad market?

We are in a market where traditional media still rules. This is due to a number of reasons; a traditional media mindset, understanding of measurement and metrics in digital and talent. Resolving these inhibitors to digital spend growth are at the core of our offerings as the IAB. Digital spend is predicted to almost double by 2017 (to read the report, click here) and far exceed our ambition of 20 per cent of all media spend by 2020.

This just makes us even more motivated to deliver top notch education and inspiration to continue to unlock success to match the market infrastructure – particularly around content and mobile and the unique platforms we have in this region. We are mobile first and we will do all we can to bring the industry and technology together.

It’s said that many a marketer in Singapore feels “safe” by booking an ad in the Straits Times. Do you think that fairly characterises a common mindset in Singapore?

There is certainly the adage of the CEO who wants to see their brand on a number of billboards on their way to the airport. We believe that through delivering clear results, and understanding, of the effectiveness of digital is key to providing brands with the confidence to shift their spend and budgets. This is to the benefit of everyone in the ecosystem; brands, publishers, tech and partners whether they are big or small.

Which brands in Singapore do you see as particularly bold in what they’re doing with digital?

I like what Ikea have been doing with content and it’s definitely paid off for them.

Obviously, GrabTaxi [an APD client] but they’re definitely the exception to the the rule…. Being young, fast and disruptive is in their DNA, it’s who they are. They study the data, fail fast and invest heavily in the areas that work while testing and identifying their next target. Grab is an extremely exciting business to work with.

The IAB’s mission for digital to have 20 per cent of total marketing spend in Singapore by 2020. Doable? What needs to happen to get there?

We trained over a thousand people in 2015 in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. We will continue to offer top-notch sessions as well as more deep dive sessions for specialists. Delivering foundational documentation for clear guidelines and standards is also a key focus for us in 2016. Not to mention we have a few things up our sleeves to inspire the industry with some of the best and brightest. We may be one of the smallest chapters in the network, but we have proven over the past two years to be one of the most tenacious and effective.


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