In this exclusive “Masters of Media” series, Integral Ad Science (IAS) speaks to the Movers and Shakers of the Southeast Asia advertising industry, on all matters digital.
Linda Taylor is the Director of Programmatic Strategy, Southeast Asia at iflix and she has almost a decade of experience in working with major media networks across APAC markets. In her current role, she leads the programmatic strategy and enablement for iflix across the region.
Integral Ad Science (IAS): Linda, we’ll love to hear about your digital advertising journey. Tell us more.
Linda Taylor, iflix (Linda): I grew up not really being allowed to watch TV so imagine the irony when I got my first media job in ad sales in a TV network (Network Ten in Australia) my parents were very surprised! The bright lights of media had clearly dazzled me and from then on I was intrigued by this new world that none of my friends or family really knew about, a surprising number of them never really thought about how the ads get onto TV or online. I kept hearing about how “TV is dying” so I decided to jump across to the digital side with an online-only news publisher (Daily Mail Australia).
Itchy feet then got the better of me and I moved to Singapore to challenge myself in greater APAC. I ended up going back to my video roots and joined the premium video OTT industry (iflix, SEA), trying to show that TV was still a relevant media platform, it had just gotten a makeover, was transacted programmatically, and available anywhere, any time!
IAS: What are the key industry developments you’re excited about?
Linda: As OTT is such a new area and the whole industry is in the process of making a name for themselves and I’m excited to see that everyone has committed to standing strong and pioneering together. Collaborating with fellow competitive platforms is integral to creating unified higher standards and proving to the wider media industry and advertisers our premium value.
My hope is that we can progressively move to actioning real change and not get stuck just talking about advancements. A previous manager once said to me, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. I’m excited to see that action take shape in APAC.
IAS: What is your opinion regarding the industry’s move from brand safety to brand suitability?
Linda: Love it, but does everyone else value or understand it yet? In general, brand suitability is a much more pragmatic approach because it applies the partnership elements of sponsorship to everyday trading by aligning the values and content themes of a publisher/network with those of brands’. We all know that ad tech isn’t 100% foolproof as algorithms change and new risk areas arise frequently which makes it risky to trust a keyword exclusion list. So as best practice, brands should make sure to pre-select their platforms based on the associated “publisher brand” they want to align their own brand with. The challenge is that in the ongoing quest for a cheaper eCPM or greater ROI or lower overall spend, marketers are forced to make a choice between suitability (safety) and price. And that raises the real question on what premium do we put against brand suitability?
IAS: What are the key initiatives pertaining to digital media quality your company is prioritizing right now? E.g. ad fraud, viewability, brand suitability
Linda: It’s all about maximising engagement. OTT is a “lean in” environment as opposed to other “distract me” platforms such as UGC or social media. When users come to our platform they are looking to be entertained, evident as they watch for at least an hour but more likely up to 2 hours; rather than a few stolen minutes throughout the day. Our challenge is to maximise this engagement as much as we can to benefit our advertisers and our users.
Viewability definitely has a key role in measuring engagement and one of the things we’ve done recently has been to introduce low disruption instream display formats that have extremely high viewability and CTRs; which in this display overrun society is impressive. We’re also constantly AB testing new ad units and their effects on user engagement with our content and with the ads themselves. Continuing to provide engaging content for our users and verified premium performance for our advertisers, is a key focus for us.
IAS: What are the top key trends you foresee in 2020?
Linda: We will start to see some budgets shifting back from performance into more brand-focused environments as a result of a renewed focus from large MNCs on the value that brand advertising offers. There is (rightly so) a lot of hype and noise around performance campaigns and driving efficiency with various CPX buying models however smart brands have become more mindful that it takes two to tango and are harnessing the power that traditional brand-building brings.
Also, the rapid rise of voice led search or digital interaction. I first heard that 50% of all searches in 2020 will be voice-based in a Google seminar and I was amused. I then realised that a growing portion of my searches themselves were voice initiated. We are currently looking at ways to harness the power of voice to help our own users discover new content as well as how we can use this to improve our advertising offering.
IAS: What do you do in your free time?
Linda: Going on adventurous digital detoxes. In a good way, we are far more connected than ever before, but sometimes I like to turn the phone off and go hiking in a remote jungle or exploring to find a secret beach. Being out in nature helps me reset and come back to the office refreshed. It also helps me refresh because WhatsApp doesn’t work in the jungle so no one can ask you for help with a PowerPoint deck.
IAS: What is your advice to the fresh talents in the industry?
Linda: If you want to stand out and be innovative be prepared to ask lots of questions and be an active listener. Too often we are, myself included, so focused on pushing our own ideas or agendas that we aren’t able to truly be innovative as we haven’t fully understood the issue. It’s not just about what you can see at first look, is there a deeper issue? You’ll only find out if you ask.