Q&A with Alex Khan: 2016 will be year Singapore gets to grips with programmatic

Alex KhanAlex Khan is the managing director, Asia, for AOL, the internet portal turned programmatic player. He was named on the leadership council of the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Singapore in November.

In this Q&A with IAB Singapore’s CEO Miranda Dimopoulos, Khan talks about what brands need to do to stay relevant, marketers’ digital pain points and why he’s back at the IAB.

AOL went from internet pioneer dial-up service to media technology company. What do traditional brands need to do to stay relevant in 2016?

Traditional brands need to follow their consumers, past, present and future. That is, where are they coming from, where are they going to and what will bring them on in the future. Gather the data, understand the data and apply the data, don’t be shy! Tim Armstrong had a vision for AOL; he followed through on that vision and that has led to AOL being a leading global media and technology company now owned by Verizon.

What have you been up to lately at AOL?

The focus has been on integrating all of our teams locally, which includes AOL, ADTECH, Microsoft and Millennial Media. Combined, we’re in a better position to enable marketers to connect with target audiences at scale, capture a more complete ROI view, and drive revenue. In addition to this we have been busy getting our product focus right for Asia, especially in areas of mobile, video and data.

What are some pain points that digital marketers have right now, and how will you use your involvement with the IAB to help solve them?

Marketers in this region are suffering from information overload, and being able to digest what is the best solution for them and their brands. The technology media landscape changes so quickly, and with skilled resources in short supply there is a lack of solid independent knowledge and training on how to navigate the changes in digital technology. One of my key focuses with the IAB will be to help with the gathering of this knowledge, leveraging the expertise that we have in the region, and putting it in a format that will help marketers understand it faster.

What is the state of programmatic in Singapore right now compared to mature markets like in the United States?

Programmatic in Singapore is still a few years behind the more mature markets like the US, specifically in terms of budgets and investment in spending programmatically. The good news is, there is an ever increasing desire to understand why and how budget investment can increase. Programmatic is expected to be a $20 billion industry globally by the end of this year, and is showing no signs of slowing down. 2016 will be the year we see marketers in Singapore really get to grips with the power of programmatic to drive their branding objectives,

With more intent-driven advertising (i.e. YouTube how-to videos) dominating content marketing, do demographics still matter?

Demographics absolutely matter because you still need to place the right product to the right audience, not everyone will actively seek out specific channel. Mobile in particular is vital here, as the data from mobile devices helps to build a complete view of target audiences. With mobile, marketers are able to determine when they reach their consumers, increasing relevancy to them by leveraging data such as real-time location, cross-screen as they move from device to device, and, of course, demographic profiles. Mobile is a highly personal device, one on which consumers are willing to receive content and messages from brands that are relevant to them at a specific point in time.

You were involved in the early days of the IAB and then stepped away. What brought you back to the Association and what do you want to achieve on the leadership council?

It’s true; I was one of the “original” founders of the IAB in Singapore. With the advent of a new reinvigorated IAB Leadership Council a few years ago, I felt it was the right time to get involved again. I would like to see the IAB spread out regionally and host a global event to showcase what Asia has to offer. We can do this by stimulating knowledge among members and non-members alike, as previously mentioned, and reinforcing the IAB’s reputation as a body that can help all companies involved in the space.

Rajan Anandan and Olivier Legrand at IAB session

Rajan Anandan and Olivier Legrand at IAB session

Last question, at a recent IAB Fireside discussion, Rajan Anandan (MD Google SEA and India) and Olivier Legrand (MD Linkedin APAC and Japan and IAB Leadership Council Member) also discussed how “Moon Shot” thinking can help create a culture of big thinking. As someone who has been successful at adapting to different markets across the world, what is your advice to fostering great leaders in the Asia market?

Choose your leaders – both current and future – wisely, and empower them to act, learn and apply.


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