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Mumbrella Asia is five: A hell of a year

This week marks Mumbrella Asia’s fifth birthday, editor Eleanor Dickinson looks back over an eventful year that has included a number of triumphs and the odd curveball along the way

Eleanor Dickinson Mumbrella Asia Travel Marketing SummitIt’s that time of year again. Mumbrella Asia is celebrating another birthday. We’ve now turned five, which in any small business is a pretty considerable milestone.

However, given everything that’s happened over these past 12 months, writing this year’s annual update feels particularly gratifying. We’ve increased our website readership and newsletter sign-ups significantly, hosted three successful events and, more importantly, shown Asia’s media and marketing world Mumbrella is moving forwards in the region.

One year ago exactly, it was clear to all we had big plans ahead. As I wrote back then, with the launch of our flagship event Mumbrella360 Asia, we were approaching a sea change for the brand, although there were a few challenges to overcome as well. But more on that later.

Should you wish to read what we’ve been doing with ourselves during the preceding years, you can read our previous annual updates here:

Mumbrella’s first birthday: how are we doing?

Mumbrella Asia turns two. We’ve doubled our audience and are still growing

Mumbrella Asia is three. We’ve told you what we’re against; Now we’ll tell you what we’re for

Mumbrella Asia is four: Momentum, mobility and our next mountain

But for 2017-18, first up here are the numbers. According to Google Analytics, we’ve seen roughly a 10 per cent increase in traffic to the site year-on-year. This is in terms of both unique users and pageviews.

As the table below shows, the total number of page views stood at more than 1.8 million, which given we had only reached three million in our first three years, is reassuring news. The steady growth in traffic has largely been helped by the doubling of our newsletter database – now more than 15,000 subscribers – and increasing the frequency at which we send it, up from three times a week to five. 

What’s also striking about this year’s figures is that for the first time more users have come from mobile rather than desktop. Although only a marginal overtake (0.2 per cent), the shift is definitely a reflection of the direction of travel for media consumption in Asia.

However, there have also been some standout articles that gave us generous spikes in the above graph. October was a particularly busy month for us, largely thanks to my 1,300-word opinion piece on the transparency and authenticity issues dogging influencer marketing – an issue both I, and evidently readers, feel particularly passionate about.

That same month, Mumbrella Asia also got the chance to sit-down with the iconic (for some at least) Gary Vaynerchuck, who was keen to announce his agency’s impending arrival to Singapore. Meanwhile, Dr Mumbo was more keen to highlight the difference of opinion between Gary Vee and the esteemed marketing professor Mark Ritson. 

In-depth interviews with big names in ad land globally, including Bob Hoffman, Seth Godin and Cindy Gallop helped bring our site to wider international attention.

As with every year, traffic took the obligatory dip over the Christmas and New Year period, but thankfully has been on an upward trajectory ever since. And now, down to stories such our coverage of the Grab-Uber merger and Valerie Madon’s thoughts on ‘advertising losing its soul’, we are on track to recording one of our best months of traffic since my joining the team in February 2017.  

Although I’ve never believed in measuring your success exclusively in numbers alone, I would be lying if I said the growth in our readership wasn’t pleasing to see.

When I first joined as editor 14 months ago, many of the people in the industry I spoke to fell into two camps. Those who felt our previous reporting was too tabloid and sensationalist. And those who felt that our no-nonsense approach to reporting was what made Mumbrella Asia special – as a standout player on the media scene here.

Navigating a path between those two polarised perspectives has not been easy, but I believe we have matured. Important articles including our coverage of sexual harassment, unpaid agency fees, PR command and control and the rise and fall of The Marketing Group show we are still willing to tackle issues others dare not to, while still being a critical friend to the industry.

So now onto some other major developments beyond the editorial content.

One of the most exciting developments this year was bringing Mumbrella’s flagship 360 conference to Singapore for the first time. Naturally, the announcement generated a fair share of comment on why we were bringing yet another media and marketing conference to Singapore: Weren’t there enough of these events already? How were we going to be any different?

It’s fair to say the pressure of the event did give the Mumbrella team – in particular Asia publisher Dean Carroll – plenty of sleepless nights. I don’t think any of us will forget those painful moments in the lead-up to the first keynote speech – delivered by Viacom’s senior vice president of global consumer insights Christian Kurz – as we waited to see whether the auditorium would fill. And then the relief of seeing delegates take their seats just seconds before Kurz came on stage.

Christian Kurtz opens the first Mumbrella360 Asia in Singapore

A nice round-off to Mumbrella360 Asia was our awards show for the year – a move to November timed to take place alongside the conference. We also introduced live judging for the first time in Singapore, in order to make the jury process even more robust.

The two days of agencies and brands pitching their work to our panel of judges gave us one of our most diverse winners’ lists ever. You can read more about some of the triumphant campaigns in a subsequent series on brands’ winning work.  

Nevertheless, Mumbrella360 Asia wasn’t without its controversy; a social media row over our coverage of a keynote speech by Grab’s chief marketing officer Cheryl Goh still crops up regularly during my meetings some six months on. It wasn’t the best note for our year’s work to end on and we respectfully stand by the accuracy of our reporting, but the audited numbers spoke for themselves of the event’s success. The event attracted 1,143 visitors and included more than 40 international speakers, along with some 25 top-name sponsors. Now there is no shortage of parties that want to get involved  next time around. We’ll be making decisions on the timing for the next Mumbrella360 in Singapore soon.

Mumbrella360 Asia and the awards were not the only events we held in Singapore. Last week, we hosted our inaugural Mumbrella Asia Travel Marketing Summit, an event that – judging from the 250 bums on seats (most of whom heroically stayed until the very end of the day at 6pm) – surpassed all of our expectations.

Keynote speaker Yara Paoli at Mumbrella Asia’s inaugural Travel Marketing Summit

However, despite all the positive developments, it has not all been plain sailing. Although I was in town for the Travel Marketing Summit I am no longer based in Singapore; my Employment Pass was not renewed.

For the past four weeks, I have been working from Mumbrella’s headquarters in Sydney, where I will be based while we make a plan. This does have the positive of being in a time zone that’s two hours ahead.  Otherwise it’s service as normal, aside from my pau intake reducing.

Lifting my gaze though, this last year we have witnessed a period of enormous and momentous change in the media and marketing realm, both in Asia and globally. As another year gets underway, huge questions remain about how brands stay relevant in a digital space where audience’s attention is fragmented and apathetic at best. What is the role of agencies in this space and what is there left for publishers when all the media dollars are divided up? Plus where should CMOs look to when spending their ad dollars – given that there are now so many options in terms of TV, print, programmatic, influencers and so on, but at the same time questions hang over the credibility of said options?

Going into 2018, things already look set to be very interesting. The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal showed us the scary result of mindlessly handing over all our data for years to Facebook. Now with GDPR looming on the horizon, how brands adapt to a supposedly new rulebook will be fascinating.

Big questions: Will CMOs continue to pump dollars into Facebook for another year?

Meanwhile, last week saw the exit of arguably advertising’s biggest name Sir Martin Sorrell. Questions now loom over his potential successor. And doubts persist as to whether the agency holding company model itself can survive. Brands certainly seem fickle and edgy, with one big global account review after another being announced already this year. We are certainly living in the most interesting of times.

So I hope we can continue to be your daily go-to when these questions bring forth some answers – and inevitably more questions. To use that famous quote, there is only one thing certain and that is that nothing is certain. The industry as a whole would I’m sure, at the moment, testify to that.

It’s been a hell of a year. Over and out.  

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