Hong Kong is fast, busy, bustling and full of life. It’s a place that’s industrious, competitive and incredibly driven - the perfect place to build brands, right? Wrong.

Hong Kong marketers are lagging behind their peers. But why? Has the need for short-term profits and the need for instant gratification on our Facebook feeds short-circuited our approach to brand building? In our need for speed have we become so lazy that we’re falling off track?

The chase for short-term marketing results is affecting brand’s abilities to focus on the long term. Marketers are using shortcuts to keep and attract consumers, which unfortunately results in consumers developing a lack of trust in brands’ owned channels. Two of these shortcuts are the use of one-off celebrity endorsements and neglecting the creation of data-led campaigns.

The Hong Kong market is saturated with examples of campaigns in which brands use celebrities in one-off exchanges as a way of driving engagement on social channels. This is somewhat shocking given that the 2016 Edelman trust barometer research reveals that in Hong Kong, only 36% of the general population trust information shared by a celebrity. That’s not to say that there isn’t value in a strategic and meaningful long-term brand-celebrity partnership.

However, these one-off exchanges are transactional, shallow and although they often bring a temporary spike in traffic, they give marketers false hope that long-term brand building can be done with short-term social media engagement.  The methodical building of a brand and its values is driven by great products/services and top-notch content.

Proving a tangible ROI also points to a larger problem across Hong Kong – the lack of data rigour. In my experience, very few brands demand robust analytics from their agency partners. Brands launch campaigns without clear business/sales/lead generation KPIs. Often, brands somehow believe metrics such as fans, likes or shares are sufficient. The problem is when brands do not demand robust analytics linked to business KPIs, then all but the most data-led agency partners become lazy. This lowers our market’s ability to compete with its regional and/or global peers.

Short-term and often lazy tactics, like using quick celebrity endorsements and non-data supported campaigns, is leading to a significant and damaging lack of trust in Hong Kong’s media landscape.  This lack of trust is impacting our market’s ability to compete.

Edelman trust barometer Hong Kong research indicates that a brand’s owned channels are the least trusted, by both Millennials and the general population, at 35%, when compared to social media (46%), search engines (52%), and traditional media (54%). It’s clear that trust in a brand's owned channels is necessary for a consumer to build brand affinity, loyalty and advocacy. Without this trust, there is a fundamental flaw in a brand’s ability to connect with its audience, convert customers, and in turn, build brands.

For Hong Kong to regain its marketing mojo, it must slow down and regain trust in brands, which can only happen through strategic campaigns that guide long-term brand building.

The writer is Andrew Ryder, strategy director of Edelman Digital North Asia.

Edelman is a member of the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong (CPRFHK).

Where others see gloom in the economic slowdown, Pixels CEO Kevin Huang sees opportunity.

Despite the overall slowdown, digital ad spending is set to rise, according to an industry study by the Hong Kong Advertisers Association. Earlier this year 72% of advertisers said they intend to increase their digital ad budgets in 2016 with mobile as the catalyst for that growth.

“We’re seeing a growth in digital advertising in Hong Kong and throughout Asia with clients becoming more aware of digital channels and spending more on the emerging trends of programmatic, online video and mobile advertising,” said Huang.

“Programmatic advertising has also been gaining ground in Asia, as clients seek more targeted ads and stronger ROI on their digital ad spend.”

HK2As Ad Spend Allocation 2016

READ: 15 reasons why programmatic is not mainstream

While Asia has been leading the world in mobile advertising trends, programmatic ad buying has long been a stronghold of the West. However Huang says a shift towards the programmatic buying approach in Asia as digital marketers put more focus on data-driven ad buys.

The promise of programmatic ad buying is to provide advertisers the ability to target audiences in order to provide a more relevant ad experience to the end user. However programmatic buying is not without its critics. The programmatic industry recently weathered a storm of criticism that centered on the lack of transparency in the buying process and the confusing amount of jargon that surrounds it.

READ MORE: How to succeed in China’s programmatic market

“We want to return control of the programmatic buying process to advertisers,” Huang said. “With our programmatic offerings, we want to bring the transparency and the ‘human touch’back to programmatic ad buys.

The current state of programmatic ad buying is too confusing to advertisers and too opaque. With our offering we want to empower clients to focus on their goals and leave the rest to us.”

Huang’s views are inline with the rest of the industry, which is currently moving towards greater transparency in the programmatic ad buying process. In the recent spat between brands and agencies, the lack of transparency in digital ad buys has been one of the key talking points.

“Programmatic ad buying provides great ROI for advertisers as they target relevant ads to the end-user. However it has been come too technical and too opaque for clients to stomach. Clients are asking for greater transparency in where their ad dollars are being spent and greater simplicity in making ad buys. Pixels has always championed transparency in digital ad buying and we’re pleased to see that the industry agrees with us.”

HK2As Digital Allocation 2016

With buyers in Asia becoming more sophisticated in their digital ad buys, Huang sees opportunity amidst the gloom. “During the past economic crises such as the SARS crisis in 2003 and the financial crisis in 2009, we saw a growth in digital ad sales,” said Huang.

With the bedrock of traditional display advertising being reinforced with the rise of data-driven programmatic advertising and strong video and mobile demand, Huang believes digital advertising in Hong Kong will not just weather the current economic slowdown but emerge even stronger.

Shiseido Hong Kong president Morgan Tan explains how a three-year brand overhaul is making the 144-year-old business relevant again.

Content marketing specialists seem to be the new “job du jour”.

Every creative and communication firm wants one and those that have them claim that their person can create gold from straw.

For PR professionals, now is the time to reclaim what used to be our bread and butter – our ability to create engaging content. We need to reassert ourselves as story tellers.

While a good picture does tell 1,000 words (still) and moving pictures (video or movies) are even better (witness the dominance of video in the winning Cannes campaigns), as an industry working in a multi-channel age, we should not lose sight of our role as lead scribes nor of the power of the written word.

We need to continue to train people to write well in whatever language is their mother tongue. In fact, now it’s even more important for PR professionals to be excellent writers - able to provide critical analysis of other’s work, synthesise, make sense of the complex, persuade through our ability to build emotional bonds and articulate rational arguments. Scripted storytelling is the progenitor of all multi-channel content development.

This will be where our future value lies as people try to reduce the complexity and increasing anxiety from information overload.

And it’s a space that others will find hard to claim unless we surrender this skill to them. Here are three story-telling tips PR professionals should remember to keep on top of their game.

The universal truths of story-telling remain: Stories have characters - both heroes and villains - an inciting moment, and are written in language that is real and evocative.

Great story-telling is a craft. It takes practice and structure is important. Great stories are organized around core themes and have milestones along the way to give readers a sense of the journey.

A story’s power lies in the retelling: In this multi-channel age, the way we recast and retell the same story for different audiences and channels has become all important. PR professionals need to develop that visual eye and recognize we live in an And/And world. Those who can successfully marry words and pictures will find themselves in high demand.

I would like to finish by quoting a short story reportedly written by Ernest Hemingway as a bet that he couldn’t write a story in six words or less. Hemingway was an acknowledged master of the short form and would have been very comfortable in today’s world, writing in 140 characters or less.

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

It’s poignant and leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination. The sparse language underscores the power of a few well-chosen words. It’s a reminder of the need to keep this craft alive and ensure it remains central to the requisite skills of every PR professional.

Rachel Catanach is senior partner, senior vice president & managing director of FleishmanHillard Hong Kong and a board member and former Chair of the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong.

Sony has launched a series of four online video interviews with key opinion leaders (KOL) that feature product placement of one of the brand's 4K TVs.

The pre-roll video on YouTube contains annotations, allowing users to choose which video in the series they want to watch next.

The videos are an extension of the TV's launch campaign during the World Cup and have not been broadcast on television, which is why the campaign is mainly run on digital channels.

"We will buy spaces to place a TVC in the long run but digital is more cost-effective.  Because this particular TV is a premium product, the customer's research process would be longer, meaning they would read more reviews, media reports and suggestions by KOLs before purchase,"  Simois Ng, head of marketing communications, said.

Sony Simois Ng

Sony Hong Kong's head of marketing communications Simois Ng

Digital allows the brand to capture the attention of these customers who care more about taste and quality rather than price over a longer period of time.

The KOLs speaking in the videos are film director Adam Wong, Sony Music artist Angela Pan, audiovisual expert James Chan and a radio DJ.

A video interview with audiovisual expert James Chan:

Another branded video featuring a local radio DJ:

"What you can say in a TVC is very limited.  Videos are more in-depth, where our key opinion leaders can tell our customers why the product is important," Ng said.

"Through the videos, we hope to drive more people to sign up for the workshops."

Ng believes that asking a director to discuss picture quality, a singer to talk about the importance of sound quality, a DJ to comment on the design of the TV and a sound expert to discuss the technical specifications covers all types of customers who might be interested in arts and culture, gadgets and product and interior design.

Adam Wong was a spokesperson for the brand for one of its camera products and Angela has worked with the brand for a Walkman campaign.

"When we ask KOLs to speak on behalf of our brand, we want to allow plenty of time for educating our customers.  That's why we don't just want to use KOLs once.  That would break up the association between the KOLs and our brand," Ng said.

Online content often has to be soft-sell to be effective, which is why the branded videos do not discuss the brand until the second halves.

Ng said, "Our customers are not interested in what Sony has to say - they are interested in hearing the people they admire discuss music and films.  By being more soft-sell about our products in the videos, it gets people to think about Sony subconsciously."

A contentious issue surrounding online videos is the difficulty with which one can measure their ROI.

"We rarely look at ROI for online videos because it is hard to measure it directly and it's already very cost-effective compared to TV," Ng said.

"For this digital campaign, we can measure performance through the number of views received by the videos, Facebook metrics and how many people sign up for the workshops.

Sony hopes to hold workshops and roadshows where it invites the KOLs speaking in the above videos to deliver talks, giving the campaign an experiential component.  The campaign will also be supplemented by SEM and Facebook ads.

The brand will also consider launching static ads to promote the TV product for Christmas.

September arrived with a bang. Let the season begin. Monday morning was all about preparation. We met with two sets of clients to go through the complete rundown for our upcoming events. At our weekly Monday afternoon team meeting we run through work in progress and upcoming strategy for all of our clients.

In the afternoon, I had an exciting business pitch, presenting our ideas and strategy to the management team of a cultural landmark in Hong Kong. As a born and raised Hong Konger I am passionate about my city and always strive to contribute to local culture and heritage. We rounded off the day with cocktails at Duddell’s with some media friends. It was a chance to catch up for a casual chat - no agenda needed.

Tuesday morning I had the honour of being with my friend for the birth of her child. It was an incredible experience. A shout out to Hong Kong public hospitals – they do an awesome job. Tuesday afternoon was the launch event of the inaugural WOM guide “Top 10” Restaurant Awards where I was emcee.


Our challenge was to present 270 awards in under an hour. We did this by celebrating the Hong Kong foodie community as a whole, and looking back over the last 10 years with a review of the top 10 restaurant trends over that time. I have been working with WOM guide for 5 years, so being part of their 10th anniversary event was very personal for me and it was wonderful to see over 200 friends from the F&B industry attend. I am passionate about supporting Hong Kong born brands.

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Later that afternoon, we had the launch of wine etc’s new shop at Entertainment Building, bringing the top wine writers together to celebrate the new home of Bordeaux in Central.

On Wednesday morning I focused on my inbox. My life is a juggling act of inbox and to do lists. I spent an hour brainstorming social and digital strategy plans for a travel client with my digital director and worked through a number of pending releases with my team. In the afternoon, we launched THE ONE HK with Rotary International District 3450 officiated by Dr. Ko Wing-man, Secretary for Food and Health of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.

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As an agency, we focus our charity work on supporting Hongkongers doing good for Hongkongers. THE ONE HK is a perfect example of this, inviting you all to Join the Search to #findtheonehk, an unsung local hero who dedicates their life to assisting the needy. Our next charitable project takes place on 17 September when we invite you all to Drink for Good at over 60 participating restaurants and bar in support of HandsOn Hong Kong.

On Wednesday evening we hosted a number of media engagements including all you can eat buns at Fatty Crab and a boys only Gaucho Night at Boqueria.

On Thursday, we held a press conference for the launch of Singapore Tourism Board’s Heritage Landmarks Map - a collaboration with Hong Kong illustrator AngryAngry. The event was officiated by the Counsel General of Singapore, STB Area Director for Southern China, Hong Kong and Macau and AngryAngry. It was a full house with media and stakeholders all excited to see the new initiative.

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Our objective is to create interactive calls to action for Hongkongers and deepen their engagement with Singapore. The Heritage Landmark Map includes both a fun and informative physical map and a Facebook game, bridging the offline with online strategy. As an integrated agency, our objective is to get the message out consistently through all communications channels, and this exciting project is a perfect example of our work.

Thank god it’s Friday. Today, I started the day working on a strategy for a potential new client. I look forward to a lunch at Bibo followed by an afternoon of client meetings, including with Africa Safari experts A to A Safaris – I like talking about cats of any size! But the week doesn’t end here, as tomorrow I host a brunch for a potential client at Aberdeen Street Social followed by an event looking at Tech in China.

How do we manage this? It’s all about team work. Our team at Sinclair Communications is like a family. We are here for each other, working across all clients and all activities to ensure that each and every effort we make is the best we can do. Life at a boutique agency is full, but with a curious mind and an energetic team, it’s my dream job.

Kiri Sinclair is managing director of Sinclair Communications.

Do you have what it takes to be a PR superstar? Check out the Hong Kong PR Awards for details.  

Do independent news agencies, often run by volunteer bloggers, seem to be the last place where marketers want to place ads or sponsored content?

Former House News blogger Steve Chung, part of a group of bloggers which started a new House News Facebook page to keep blog entries coming after the indie news agency closed down in late July, believes this is a misconception.

"My sense is that companies are starting to want to place ads on independent media platforms. Many feel hard-sell advertising is old school and sometimes not as effective as sponsored content," he said.

"Things are shifting in Hong Kong. In the past, companies paid for traditional advertising, then Facebook ads, and now they would give agencies money to help them do things that are softer."

But he says finding a group of readers which brands can speak to directly through content can be expensive. Instead, asking bloggers to write sponsored content gives it an extra dash of legitimacy.

Although the new House News Facebook group is now run by 10 administrators and over 100 bloggers can post content on it, the page will not be accepting ad placements for the time being.

"We are all volunteers," Chung said. "We don't want to any ties to commercial organisations. In the past, the House News newsroom had editors who selected what they would publish and handled communications with third parties.

"We don't have people like that so we ask our bloggers not to post any sponsored content on our Facebook page."

Should Marketers Score with Independent Media Platforms

Unlike independent media agencies like Post852 and InMedia which appeal to more niche audiences, House News had a base of middle-class readers with liberal political opinions, according to Chung, and received ads from brands hoping to capture this audience.

"To appeal to the middle class, you need to offer values beyond simply the product. The greater the consumer's purchasing power, the more marketers should highlight the history and essence of products to elevate the brand or product image," he said.

Kristine Nudds, founder of Boutique CSR consultancy Feel Good Business, cautions marketers against green-washing their product, service or campaign.

A company is involved in green-washing when it makes claims suggesting that it is more environmentally-friendly and socially responsible than it really is.


Nudds shares tips on how to avoid green claims from backfiring.

1. Make sure that any green certifications or endorsements are the real deal

Crises can easily arise if it is revealed that a green label or certification that your product or company has obtained is fake or has questionable assessment criteria.  Doing ample due diligence and research into green labels and the organisations issuing them to ensure they are credible.

2. Watch your language

Written, spoken or visual vocabulary in your ad visuals can be misleading.

"Don’t use fluffy language or flowery imagery which implies ‘green’ when that's not what you actually mean," Nudds said.

Another one of her pet peeves is when brands use jargon and scientific language to suggest that a product is greener or healthier than it is in reality.

3. Be consistent about your green message across all product lines

"It's no good promoting a green solution when all your other products are far from it," Nudds said.

An example is laundry detergent.

"A brand decides to launch an ‘eco’ detergent using no harsh chemicals and environmentally-friendly packaging," she said.

"But measures should be taken, or at least demonstrated, to show that the ‘non-eco’ ranges are also moving towards more environmentally friendly options – such as a reduction in packaging and compostable bottles."

This would show a genuine commitment to the environment rather than simply jumping onto the green bandwagon for a short while.

4. But don't pack too many 'green' aspects into one product or campaign

To build respect from customers and customer loyalty, honesty and openness is the best policy.  Marketers should avoid over-exaggerating green aspects of a product or service.

Nudds said, "If there are more green news to come then let the customer know it’s on its way, rather than over-greening the pudding."

5. Social media could be the medium where customers grieve their complaints

Because there are growing numbers of consumers who genuinely care about what they are buying, Nudds explains, dishonest claims about how green a product or service is can backfire on social media platforms.

"Being dishonest with customers is dangerous territory, particularly with the ease of social media to spread news and expose bad practices," she said.

6. Be transparent

Let consumers know exactly what they are buying into.

"Customers, with so much information at their fingertips, need to be kept up-to-date and knowledgeable so that they can make informed decisions," Nudds said.

This also gives businesses the opportunities to be market leaders and demonstrate best practices of environmental protection to others in their industry.

7. Higher ROI is a bonus motivation for senior management

When pitching green ideas to senior management, it helps that certain types of green practices and production processes can also lead to greater returns.

"Reducing energy has an immediate impact on energy bills.  Exercising zero waste pattern-cutting in the fashion industry will not only reduce the cost of the fabric, but also the amount of waste to be disposed of.  Caring for employees will attract and retain the best staff," Nudds said.

"But for any green strategy to really work, a caring approach to business from the top-down should always be at the heart of it."

[Image]: Shutterstock 

I like to watch local TV. Sometimes I sit and browse and stare at television shows, the language of which I can’t understand, because I see it as my job to keep an eye on who’s doing what in the ad world.

There was a time, when that meant being pleasantly surprised by the odd nice TV commercial. Either funny, or beautiful or borne out of a really clever idea.

These days? There’s as much chance of that happening as there is England winning the football World Cup again. That’s right, remote.

But where did it all go wrong? Whatever happened to the brilliant original creativity behind great campaigns from the past for brands such as Just Gold, Optical 88, Sunday, New World Mobility and Vitasoy, to name but a few.

In today’s Hong Kong, every single TV ad seems to follow a pattern, a trend. It’s as if the creative teams have simply selected “Let’s choose idea number 7” and go with that.

Don’t believe me? Here are a few of the recurring themes. Ideas we see repeated over and over.

1. The replacement head
This entails being really really hilarious by placing the product, or an object of some sort, on the head or heads of persons in the commercial. Designed to be wacky or really fun, it’s become such a cliché that almost every other spot now features some idea based on this. Once upon a time, years ago, when this first happened, it may have been original. But now? Closely followed by the joke Afro hair-do.

2. The product as cartoon character
If you can’t think of an idea, turn the product into a cute little character who intervenes in people’s lives to solve their problems and make them happy again.
Usually they sing a little jingle to make it all even more uplifting.

3. Holding hands together
Usually reserved for public service announcements, the idea is that if everyone in Hong Kong holds hands and smiles, then social problems will magically vanish. In the world of PSA’s, you never ever see the miserable faces that pervade on the streets every day in the world of people struggling to survive. You just see a happy, shining Hong Kong wonderland.

4. The perfect child
In Hong Kong TV ads, children are not children. They are perfectly groomed astoundingly clever and cute little angels who open their mouths to utter words that have been put there by agency copywriters with strict instructions from their clients. The result is nearly always annoyingly sickly, with children acting in ways that are completely unnatural. This non-idea is usually reserved for any products to do with child-enhancement, but people creating government announcements somehow think this is also a great way to change social behavior.

5. The perfect family
Featured in just about any TV ad for foods (especially rice or cooking oil) or home appliances, the perfect family live in a perfect home with perfect lives. And any small problems are instantly eradicated by the product.

6. The wandering soul
Usually popular for either camera ads or jewellery. The hero or heroine is normally some amazingly attractive lone individual who wanders remote corners of the globe taking meaningless photos with a beatific smile as if discovering their inner self. A good music soundtrack is normally applied to cover up the fact there is no concept. The guy usually has longish hair and a goatee to indicate that he is not an accountant.

I’m not making this up. This is the sorry state of Hong Kong advertising today. And while there are some exceptions, these are the general rule.

In days gone by, Hong Kong agencies produced original ideas based on insight-driven strategies. The creative people were pushed to be original. To solve problems in new and different ways. If it had been done before, you killed it at birth.

These days, it seems to be compulsory that it's tried and tested.

Is that what’s happened to our industry?

Chris Kyme is CEO of Kymechow. He is one of the most renowned ad men in Hong Kong, having worked with Grey, FCB and Eight Partnership. In 2010 he set up his own firm Kymechow focused on providing creative services.

While smartphone usage is unquestioningly prevalent, marketers need to bear in mind that their apps must solve a business issue, said Basker Rangachari, chief marketing officer, Hong Kong and Northeast Asia, consumer banking for Standard Chartered Bank.

The first half of day two of the mobile marketing summit revolved around this, that mobile initiatives must solve a key business problem.

Opening the sessions, Rangachari said What's App, the top downloaded app is hugely successful because it meets a specific need. He then described the bank's efforts in launching Breeze, an app it created aimed at young executives. The app allows users to even write checks electronically.

According to him, if a business knows its objective, even having a "use and discard" strategy for apps will work. "Apps don't have to have a long shelf-life to attract attention and fulfill its purpose".

Besides having a strong objective, marketers need to have a holistic approach towards their mobile marketing initiatives, said the speakers.

Presenting in the next session, Phil Mundy, director of mobile, twentysix told marketers that while mobile is tempting, they need to be as serious about pushing their apps as they are about creating it.

The Mobile esb电竞数据投注电脑版 Summit is an invitation-only, two-day event that's 100% focused on key issues relating to marketing through mobile devices.

The event features an agenda dominated by case studies from senior brand marketers designed to appeal to director and vice president level marketers from other top consumer brands active in Asia.

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