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.
Miranda Dimopoulos is CEO of the IAB SEA+India. In this role she brings together the world’s largest companies alongside regional and local businesses to elevate the industry and drive investment in digital. Over the past five years she has established specialist committees, grown membership 12x, and revenue significantly more, through the development of multiple effective initiatives as well as launched a program in partnership with the Singapore Government to nurture Programmatic talent.
Integral Ad Science (IAS): Miranda, tell us more about your digital advertising journey.
Miranda: In two words; completely unpredictable. I never would have imagined a near 20 year career in advertising (and counting) with the majority of those years spent engrossed in Asia. I was extremely close to becoming an academic at university, as I’d always been fascinated by the convergence of data and psychology, as a result I immersed myself in Advanced Maths and Organisational Psychology to become an Economist. However, my first role after graduating was at Saatchi’s in London, thus fueling my new found obsession for art, science and technology.
IAS: What were your top learnings during the recent pandemic?
Miranda: When the year began the biggest objectives on the agenda were doubling down on the team’s time in our markets around the region and finalising how we would produce our 2020 Ad Spend Report. As the Chinese proverb says 谋事在人，成事在天 (Man proposes , God disposes).
In March, we threw our original plans out the window and swiftly forged a new approach that reduced the risk and impact of shifting to this new, completely virtual world. I practiced a ‘Mindfulness framework’ to help me reflect during times of transition called Rose, Thorn and Bud. In a nutshell, this helps identify a success that has happened (Rose), a challenge you need support with (Thorn) and an opportunity you look forward to exploring (Bud)
Rose – Reconnecting. Without the distraction of traveling 75% of the year, I’ve been able to spend more time with my team, our Board and many of our Members. Getting to know so many of our members one on one (and introduce them to my dogs) has been an absolute joy.
Thorn – Acceptance. Being at peace with the fact that no matter how strong your strategy and the credibility of your business, revenue and success can be completely and utterly out of your control and you never know when a pandemic will be along to obliterate everything.
Bud – Virtual working. I can honestly say that our team has only experienced increased productivity working virtually. How will this continue in the future? Will we see less of a need to be tied to the registered business address of our companies and the freedom to be based wherever feeds our soul the most? Time will tell.
IAS: How are the SEA+India advertisers and publishers pivoting in the current climate and what’ll the new normal look like for the digital ecosystem?
Miranda: We’ve seen the rapid digitisation for many businesses that is often quoted as “7 years in 7 months”. This means we have more online activity with eCommerce and OTT surging ahead bringing more brands to our screens. This creates more options and consumers will be able to choose who they support in terms of their personal ethics and beliefs so we are likely to see the swift success of challenger brands. The companies that are gaining are those who have empowered their teams to come up with creative solutions to adapt. Those resisting change in the belief that “everything will go back to normal” are missing the opportunity to embrace this change and reimagine their businesses.
IAS: How should the industry find balance between the short term ROI needs vs long term brand building
Miranda: It seems COVID-19 has exacerbated business short termism and a knee jerk reaction to protect the bottom line at all costs – including consumer loyalty. Whilst short term ROI to gain new customers, might be essential for example, to bolster cash flow, the simple reality is that customer loyalty and retention has never been more important.
A glaring example of this is co working spaces some of whom have used this pandemic to PR themselves as supporting small businesses. The harsh reality is that some of these co-working spaces have provided no flexibility or support for their clients (including us) and are refusing to provide any options or alternatives for leases signed pre pandemic. The long term result of this is that business owners and leaders are now scrutinizing long term operations and many are hesitant to commit to longer term contracts – and if they are at all, they are doing so at a greatly reduced headcount – instead of being able to view landlords as partners to navigate through corporate challenges. This in turn will have significant economic impacts on the rental market, especially with virtual working becoming more of the norm and headquarters becoming less essential.
IAS: How’s the media quality awareness/adoption among the more local clients in the region as opposed to global clients?
Miranda: Global clients understand the need to invest in strategy, verification, policy and training whereas local clients prioritise the need to deeply understand and adapt to the local nuances of this region, hence why a ‘Western’ approach rarely works here.
IAS: Please tell us 3 interesting things about your cute dogs
- Despite looking expensive they are both rescues
- My 18 month old pup weighs 82kg which is more than most of our Regional Board Members
- I have oil paintings of them both take the pride of place in my home
IAS: What’s your top suggestion for all the dog lovers out there?
Miranda: If you aren’t in a position to adopt, consider fostering to help out the many needy shelters who truly go above and beyond in an underfunded sector in Asia. Puppy mills are well disguised these days so do your homework before “adopting” and please neuter your dog to reduce the number of hounds without homes.
IAS: What are you reading/watching/listening to keep entertained during lockdown?
Miranda: In terms of what I’m reading, at the moment I’ve found myself incredibly inspired by some of my friends’ prose. Jess Davey, the Regional CMO at McCann, never ceases to amaze me with how articulate she is in all topics from beautifully vulnerable insights to managing our mental health to her punchy commentary on the state of US politics, and is truly the client whisperer. Amy Kean, author of “The Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks” continually pens editorial pieces that speak to my soul whilst kicking ass in her day job. And for the past 20 years, Cindy Gallop has been a source of inspiration personally and professionally and is my guiding star for business decisions and maintaining my motivation for advocacy when it can feel like a truly unnecessary daily battle. It’s hard to give up with someone like her in your corner and I strive to be that for others myself.
IAS: What is your advice to the fresh talent in the industry?
Miranda: Take your destiny into your own hands and always be curious. Read what you can, be fascinated about the dynamics of not only the business but individual markets and how the elements of the digital process impact these. Always be asking yourself; What worked? How can we improve? Is there something I’m not considering? How can I help make things better? And accept that admin is a fact of life and we all have to do it.