In many quarters these days, both inside China and out, listed Chinese companies continue to be viewed as opaque organisations hiding financial weakness and corrupt practices.

Muddy Waters, in a report issued four months ago, alleged that China’s biggest operator of dairy farms, China Huishan Dairy Holdings, had inflated expenditures on its dairy farms by as much as 1.6 billion yuan. In response, the South China Morning Post reported last week, local government officials called in company representatives to meet with scores of lenders, including Bank of China. The previous Friday, the company’s shares plunged as much as 90%, wiping out US$4 billion of market value.

Short sellers, such as Muddy Waters, take advantage of negative perceptions to issue research reports detailing accounting fraud at publicly traded Chinese companies, then buy the company’s shares at a discount.

William Pesek, writing about Huishan Dairy in Barron’s , observed: “As more and more investors question opaque companies that look too good to be true, the China Inc. brand will take bigger hits.”

David Shambaugh, a China expert at George Washington University, told The Economist last week that China spends US$10 billion a year to build its “soft power,” while the US spent less than US$670 million on its “public diplomacy” in 2014.

While everyone around the world is familiar with the “Made In China” label on a variety of consumer goods, Chinese supply chains remain synonymous with shoddy products, such as electronic goods that don’t work, milk laced with melamine, and rotten meat.

What must China do to build its brand in the 21st century?

  • Move up the manufacturing value chain and improve the quality of its products. The “Made in China 2025” initiative addresses some of these issues.
  • Improve the quality of its manufacturing and food processing supply chains.
  • Demonstrate leadership in environmental initiatives domestically and globally, and develop green technologies.
  • Build transparency and rules-based culture into Chinese companies in all industries.

In Interbrand’s list of the top 100 global brands published last year, only two were Chinese: Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications supplier; and Lenovo, a multinational technology company. No mention of TenCent, Alibaba, or Haier, for example.

To help Chinese brands go global, China itself must be positively re-branded. It is already taking steps to do so. It is rebalancing its economy to rapidly grow the consumer sector. And the country is building the foundations for an innovation-driven economy by concentrating on next generation information technology, numerical control tools and robotics, energy saving vehicles and medical devices, among other sectors.

Only one question remains: which PR firm will become China’s agency of record?

Robert T. Grieves is chairman of Hamilton Advisors and chairman of the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong.

(Photo courtesy: 123RF )

It has become widely said that people’s horizons have narrowed. That they are increasingly isolationist and inward looking. That the general public no longer cares about issues that seem too big, too far away, or too difficult to fix.

For the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the agency charged with tackling the global refugee crisis, such thinking presents a fundamental challenge. How can you make refugees relevant to people’s lives? How do you forge a connection that prompts them to back the cause and to give generously?

After years of ‘sad-vertising’, research and experience suggests many of us are increasingly immune to the sights and sounds of human suffering. One remedy is to leverage the power of peers. Edelman data shows that in almost every market, we trust a ‘person like ourselves’ more than any other type of spokesperson. The most trusted content creators for online or social media channels are our friends or family members.

With this in mind, UNHCR, in partnership with Edelman, decided to showcase the voices of everyday Hong Kongers. Together, we told their emotional stories: why they cared about the refugee issue and what they were personally doing to make a difference and inspire change. The stories challenged people’s perceptions. It helped Hong Kongers to realize that refugees needed their help - and most importantly, that they could create change themselves through simple acts.

As well as generating 35 pieces of earned media coverage, the campaign inspired 300,000 Hong Kongers to join the Facebook conversation and 2,000 people to sign an online petition calling on governments to do more. It achieved a fourfold return on media spend. But perhaps the campaign’s biggest legacy was a waterfall of donations, showing that when inspired in the right way, Hong Kongers remain as generous and open-minded as ever.

This article was contributed by Edelman. 

The dust has settled on the floor of the Legislative Council, more succinctly known as LegCo. Following a six-week campaign period, a record high turnout at polling stations voted in Hong Kong’s youngest legislature since the handover in 1997.

Now, 17 of the Legislators will be under 40, compared with seven last term. Young new joiners have brought down the average age of the chamber to 49 from 54. The outcome of the election has not only affirmed the power of Millennials in social mobilisation, but also their influence at home.

The entry of Millennial Legislators reflects a growing desire amongst Hong Kong people to seek change. How companies adapt to Millennial values and expectations will become a key factor in determining corporate and brand reputation in the local market.

Overview of the results

2.2 million people voted in the election with a record turnout rate of 58%. Of the 70 LegCo seats, 40 have gone to those from the Pro-Establishment camp (down 3 seats overall), and 29 have gone to the opposition (up from 27), including 8 Localists.

On the whole, the Pro-Establishment has retained their control of the legislature, while the anti-establishment camp has retained their one third blocking minority. The opposition that was once known as the Pan-Democrats have reduced in number, and they are now sharing power with Localists who call for Hong Kong’s ‘self-determination’ and a more combative approach in dealing with the Government.

The full results are set out in the table below:

table capture

Parents voting in favour of Millennials

Gains for the Localist movement were largely fuelled by the rise in the number of first time voters, but that is not to say they are the only ones who supported Localism. Altogether, Localist candidates earned over 400,000 votes, which well exceeded the number first time voters.While full voter data is not yet available, it is clear that a significant proportion of the other supporters are older than Millennials.

A common interpretation is that these older supporters come from relatively low-income districts. Living in the margins of prosperity, they are disgruntled by the establishment and are inclined to support the protectionist, welfare-oriented agenda of the localists.

While this is indeed the case, Localists have also secured a fair share of middle-class votes. On Hong Kong Island, for example, 23-year-old Nathan Law, one of the student leaders of the Occupy Movement, consistently won 13%-19% of votes in populous middle-class neighbourhoods, higher even than in the largest public housing estates.

What happened was that many young voters have engaged in debates with their parents on the candidates and have successfully persuaded parents make the same choice as them. Their persuasion was aided by the Localists’ creative marketing that spoke not only to young people, but also appealed to the wider Hong Kong public.

What’s next for business

Millennial Legislators will have a strong influence over Hong Kong’s political agenda in the next four years. When Millennials will gain comparable influence over domestic purchasing decisions is yet to be seen, but it is clear that they now have a much greater say at home. Their sensitivity to social justice will most certainly raise the standards of corporate citizenship in Hong Kong.

  • Stronger call for a creative, community-based economy

With slowing growth in mainland China, the Government and the establishment will put greater pressure on the new legislature to support key industries that drive growth, including financial services, trading and logistics, and other professional services.Meanwhile, the opposition will advocate for policies that foster community-based economy, support innovation and the creative industries, and tighten control over the property market.

Companies whose business can create shared value with the local community will have an upper hand in earning public trust.

  • Re-defining good employers

The bar for good employers will rise. A number of labour or employee-related issues will likely dominate headlines for prolonged periods, including an overhaul of MPF, standard working hour legislation and LGBT rights.

Young Legislators, who are by far the most effective (though not always accurate) communicators we have seen in Hong Kong’s political arena since the handover, will raise awareness of related bills and proposals amongst young employees, reinforcing their sense of entitlements to benefits or treatment that are not currently part of the norm.

  • Lobbyists be patient

The large number of young Legislators also means that policy education will become a critical part of lobbying efforts moving forward, which may require lobbyists to go “back to basics” when explaining their policy positions. In the immediate term, businesses will need to carefully monitor the evolving legislative agenda and opportunities to influence the debate, as well as build relationships with the newly elected members of the legislature.

The new Legislative Council takes office on 1 October 2016, and will serve a four-year term until the next election in 2020.

Elizabeth Fung is senior account manager - corporate affairs at FleishmanHillard Hong Kong, a member of the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong (CPRFHK)

The public relations industry in Hong Kong has always faced a talent squeeze. But as the local economy has slowed, that squeeze has turned into a crunch.

According to the 2014-2015 Benchmark Survey published earlier this year by the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong (CPRFHK), more than 40% of survey respondents reported a staff turnover rate of 20% or more.

Indeed, attracting, training and retaining the right talent continues to be the challenge most often cited by CPRFHK survey respondents, particularly with regard to social, digital and integrated marketing skill sets. Of the firms reporting growth, 60% indicated a 20% increase in fees, suggesting that incremental sales of social and digital are beginning to have a significant impact on firms’ top line revenue.

Given the speed with which the PR industry in Hong Kong is moving towards digital and social solutions for clients, the need to train and develop young talent to meet the new demand is greater than ever.

At the same time, the industry seems resigned to the continued poor quality of external training offerings for employees. Firms are increasingly hiring young people from outside the PR industry and providing them with in-house training.

However, current in-house training programs do not seem to be enough to retain the talent PR firms critically need, as the agency brain drain to the client side has not abated.

In our survey, moving to an in-house role was cited as the number one reason for staff turnover, with 79% of firms attributing this as a primary reason for staff attrition. The offer of an increased salary as an important reason for staff turnover rose from 44% of our respondents in 2013 to 57% in this poll.

Half of our respondents said staff left to move to a larger company, while 36% said employees left for a more senior role or a better title. Twenty-one percent said staff left for exposure to different clients, while, to add insult to injury, 7% reported staff leaving for the opportunity to receive better training.

What does all of this mean for the future of staff recruitment and retention at Hong Kong’s PR firms?

I believe it is a call to action. Necessary steps should be taken now:

  • Training : Employees must have specific job outcomes and benchmarks set for them when they receive focused and relevant training at their workplace. Outside speakers should be brought in to address staff on issues that affect their roles.
  • Engagement : Employees should understand how their role fits into the larger team structure, and how management views their role and the firm in terms of client service offering. Team building is a key to engagement.
  • Incentivisation :   There are ways in which to incentivise employees, such as a new title or responsibility for a new practice area that may or may not involve money, depending on the situation.
  • Rotation : Swapping jobs or offices for a fixed period of time, where appropriate, can refresh employees’ enthusiasm for their role within an organisation.

Public relations is a wonderful career for anyone who is interested in learning as much as possible about how organisations can interact with each other and connect to audiences to achieve maximum outcomes. Talented, hard-working employees at PR firms must be given a chance to gain new skills and expand their capabilities if their managers wish them to continue to contribute at their firm.

Robert T. Grieves is chairman of Hamilton Advisors and chairman of the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong .

Hong Kong is traditionally positioned as "the world’s gateway to China". As marketers and business transformers, Hong Kong is often sold as a well-positioned strategic hub for brands wanting to enter the world’s largest economy. The city is in the perfect position to access a billion Chinese consumers and its professionals best understand the brand-thirsty burgeoning Chinese middle class.

But that gateway now swings both ways.

More and more Chinese brands are beginning to look outwards, ready to take their stories to a world open to products “Made in China”. Just look at the success of Huawei, a brand that now sits proudly among the world’s top 100 Most Valuable Brands.  And let’s not forget the impact Jack Ma and his special brand of customer-centric genius has had on the West.

So, does this mean the role of Hong Kong’s professional and creative services is also evolving to push not just ‘up’ but also ‘out’? It makes sense the answer to that question is, yes.

When it comes to brands using technology, Chinese consumers, and in turn Chinese consumer behaviour, has proven to be a predictor for the West. The most obvious example of this is the rise of social commerce in China, and now in turn the rest of the world.

International clients often ask Hong Kong professionals: What can we learn from this early adopter behavior?

Artificial intelligence done right

With two negative AI incidents in the press (Microsoft chat bots and the Tesla Model S fatal accident), a question lingers in the air - what is the safe and moderate application of AI that will steer our society? Here in China we’re seeing AI applied to enhance service and app experiences, raising Chinese consumers expectations.

Didi, a taxi hailing app, has seen refinements of its user experience to incorporate AI through machine learning i.e. when booking a car in the evening from the office, it predicts where you want to go and pre-fills this information in the destination field. This makes booking a journey a more seamless experience.

For brands, it’s time to think of AI as a way to elevate the customer experience.

WeChat shifts to value and utility

As platforms like WeChat evolve, so do consumer behavior and expectations. A major WeChat revolution is boiling up - the pendulum is swinging from push based content and marketing to pull through utilitarian and value.

Smarter brands are moving away from conventional communications and content to provide valuable tools that connect to the IOT. Wulian, LeEco and Caesars Entertainment have all leveraged WeChat as an interface to control electronics and connect to various services.

Other brands are using WeChat as the core platform to manage customer relationships.

At Wagas, a restaurant group, their consumers are able to accrue reward points, redeem and manage their membership all via their WeChat experience. It’s time for brands to ask, how can my WeChat strategy evolve to keep me ahead of my competitors.

Mobile payments as a catalyst to success

The tipping point for any technology is mass consumer adoption. Behavior always wins - mobile payment purely as a technology isn’t new, but China is well ahead the curve in adopting it. The masses are using it, for everything, everywhere!

Mobile payment is not only a critical factor to a brand’s success in China, but also the rest of the world. AliPay, WeChat Pay, UnionPay (alliance with Apple Pay) are all commonly used forms of payments Chinese consumers are using in China. But we must remember, China also has the biggest amount of outbound travelers around the world.

There’s a lot to learn from China’s mobile payment experiences. We’ve tackled security concerns - bio security and single use passwords. These have given Chinese consumers a unique perspective on mobile payment technology and reasons of why it is so widely adopted.

Emotion in design

As human being's digital communication has definitely changed the way we communicate over the last few decades. But no amount of technological brilliance has been unable to fill the gap of what is human after all - emotions.

All experience designers face the same conundrum, how to bring a human element into interfaces and interactions. This element can change the entire customer experience, elevating the interaction with your brand’s product or service.

Notice how brands like Facebook and Apple iOS 7 have evolved their social and  messaging platforms from simple “likes” to now a plethora of emojis? Apple is also leveraging full screen take over animations in the up-coming iOS release. BUT these were all in China first, WeChat had already introduced full screen animations and customisable emoji-cons for its various users to better express themselves in richer forms.

How can I trigger or allow for the expression of emotions in the experiences I create?

Whilst this is just a starter list, and there’s so much for global brands and global consumers to learn from China’s experiences and consumer behaviour.

James Chiu is executive creative director at Razorfish China.

First off, it is important we define what programmatic ad buying is as many marketers still believe that it equals real-time bidding (RTB). Companies that are positioning themselves as programmatic agencies are continuing to provide programmatic solutions to their clients simply through RTB. This is not the full picture.

Real programmatic ad buying is a digital campaign that consists of all the following elements and processes:

  • The purchase of inventory must be automated using technology, and this can occur in different ways.
  1. Firstly, publisher inventory can be placed into an ad exchange; publishers can allocate the inventory they choose and set minimum (floor) prices, but essentially, many buyers will enter an auction and bid in real time for the impressions they choose.
  2. Secondly, publishers can control the buyers they allow to bid in a smaller auction; this is a private marketplace and gives both seller and buyer more exclusivity and control.
  3. Finally, publishers and buyers can enter a one-to-one agreement, determine a price upfront and see set allocations of inventory earmarked for one buyer. This is programmatic direct.

The movement over recent months has been towards programmatic direct as both buyers and sellers want to know exactly who they trade with and to seek more control over the process. Based on our large blue-chip client base, approximately 50% of the Xaxis business is programmatic direct. Do note, RTB is not programmatic ad buying – it is just a small part of overall programmatic ad buying. We should note that header bidding is changing this landscape and encouraging publishers to allocate all inventory to programmatic in an effort to get the max yield for each impression irrespective of purchasing method.

  • The ability to use data so that each impression can be chosen based on the user looking at that impression. Whether it's a publisher surfacing user valuable data when they offer ad inventory programmatically, or an advertiser using their own data management platform to make this selection; this has become a fundamental part of succeeding in programmatic buying. Data can be as basic as: whether a user has been exposed to an ad before, whether they have visited the advertiser site or more advanced, such as their recent cross device behaviors, including their locations. A good DMP must not only collect this data, but also make it applicable to the inventory available. All these strategies are pre-set in advance and control if the ad is going to reach the right audience at the right time and at the right place.
  • Campaign performance data should be real-time and unified across all campaigns. Marketers – as the ultimate buyer – need to be in complete control with complete knowledge, meaning one having consistent and independent measurement. Where individual websites and vendors are measuring and providing their own tracking, or where they are preventing external platforms from making targeting decisions, it is detrimental to giving marketers control. Scaling programmatic means giving marketers knowledge and control.

The above three points are the must-have components that describe this process as programmatic ad buying. Furthermore, agencies that can provide insights like audience index and segment overlap about visitors to their website, have an added bonus assisting them on their next media planning strategies.

So, now that we know what programmatic ad buying is, let’s discuss why marketers are going programmatic?

We have seen fragmentation of media, and as a result, audiences now have access to millions of websites and apps. This means that in order to find your audience comprehensively, and in the most cost effective way, advertisers need a neutral media buying approach – one that is not constrained by boundaries that audiences don't see (so why should we as marketers). Buying platforms with inventory from all vendors make this possible; Xaxis itself is investing in cross-device solutions to further enable neutral audience targeting wherever that audience may be.

Certain publishers are large enough to warrant consolation of budget, though I would counter not complete consolidation. This means that even though you could reduce partners, you still shouldn’t put your entire budget with one. Unfortunately, if you’re still buying direct with vendors, you are subject to their definition of your target audience, and they will all be slightly different. Marketers want to refine their own definitions using a range of data inputs (including their own data) and then buying that definition consistently across all vendors. For this reason, marketers are embracing programmatic. Xaxis’ work with major platforms (such as YouTube) to enable Xaxis DMP (Turbine) audiences to be exclusively buyable across these is a reflection of this client demand.

Finally marketers are aware that certain premium environments and large vendors were gaining control and forcing pricing to levels that meant digital media no longer was cost effective. Programmatic buying technology brought more inventory options (still deemed premium) and measurement – in terms of ROI or new metrics such as viewability or ad dwell time – into the market. In turn, this reduced demand of the certain few, accurately matching pricing to performance and marketers objectives. At Xaxis, being outcome focused and always compressively measuring this is central to our proposition, whether it is in awareness or performance marketing.

Since traditional site buy and ad network buy are all about content/vertical targeting, marketers pre-judge the vertical channels through ad networks or specific sections through site buy, resulting in a higher conversion rate, engagement rate or click through rate. While there is nothing wrong with this perception, is it certainly not the best. Why?

Think about a hotel/airline client that typically selects travel websites, or the travel section on a website, to place their ad. What if the audience doesn't browse your selected website during your campaign period? You will definitely miss targeting them.

My advice is to find a programmatic agency that has its own DMP with a sizable and local segmented cookie pool, in addition to real-time data updates and a mixture of targeting methods, including audience (cookie) base targeting, vertical/content targeting, keyword contextual targeting, look-alike targeting, retargeting and optimising based on KPI throughout the campaign period.

If you are going to run TV ads, programmatic ad buying can even synchronise your digital ad with your TV ad, or even your competitors’ TV ad in real time programmatically (case study). Moreover, we should always track our campaign’s viewability, as well as include brand safety filtering in our programmatic setup. Last but not least, we should avoid ad fraud as it is so common in many developed markets.

Time to execute!

Andy Chung is managing director of Xaxis Hong Kong.

Asia is currently leading the world in implementing wholesale smart city change – the integration of multiple information and communication technology (ICT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets, such as schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, water supply networks, and other community services.

The Hong Kong government has identified the Internet of Things (IoT) as a potential new economic driver, but is still in the early stages of developing a so-called smart city blueprint. It will soon commission a study to map smart city development plans up to 2030, and start-ups are encouraged to engage in those plans.

Plans and blueprints are good, of course, but Hong Kong needs to innovate more – and faster - to become a truly smart city. The Octopus card is now 15 years old, and in the intervening years no other truly innovative product has appeared.

In Shenzhen, no one carries cash anymore; everyone uses their mobile phone to make purchases. In Hong Kong, fintech has yet to take off, despite there being lots of investor and government buzz about it. Becoming, and remaining, a smart city is a process rather than a 'one and done' event.

In this context, there are opportunities for brands to add value in Hong Kong, but they do face hurdles, such as inflexible regulations.  The SAR must take a holistic and open approach in developing itself along these lines.

Meanwhile, according to a story in the 22 June, 2016 edition of the South China Morning Post , Hong Kong faces a potential challenge from Singapore in attracting start-ups in the emerging IoT and connected devices markets.

Singapore is poised to become the world’s first smart nation with free, nation-wide Wi-Fi, crowd-sourced public transport and autonomous medical support. The Lion City is actively supporting entrepreneurs to develop ideas for its “Smart Nation” plans, which Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in 2014.

Earlier this year, the Singapore government dedicated US$13.9 billion to research and development, including support for smart cities technology. And just this week (27 June) it has announced a plan to run the city on APIs, with an app called 'One Service' that allows citizens to report municipal issues through a single unified interface, where queries and complaints about anything from pest control to construction sites get routed directly to the right department.

In point of fact, Hong Kong already has resources that it can use to develop itself into a smart city. It is next door to Shenzhen, China’s Silicon Valley and a tech manufacturing powerhouse. Start-up tech companies in Shenzhen can easily tap into Hong Kong, a more mature economy with a capitalist system and a world-class stock market, to secure funding and marketing to launch their brands in the IoT space.

Private brands, as well as public systems, can spearhead change and drive innovation. For instance, private brands have been almost entirely responsible for accelerating the current smart transportation revolution: City Mapper for public transport, Uber for ride-sharing, and Waze/Google Maps for private transport.

Given the momentum behind smart cities, brands should be asking themselves how they can capitalise now. However, consumer cynicism (especially for potential buzzwords like smart cities), concerns over data privacy, and increasing awareness of cyber-risk, make this a more complex prospect than just jumping on the bandwagon.

Examples of brands that have leveraged the momentum behind smart cities and thrived include Philips and MediaTek. Philips looked beyond lighting, connecting with telecom partners to repurpose traditional streetlamps as Wi-Fi hubs. This initiative worked because ordinary citizens benefit from high-quality, city-wide Wi-Fi. Councils benefit from reduced maintenance costs and more broadly, everyone benefits from reduced energy usage.

To help educate consumers about the power of smart cities, chipmaker MediaTek invited consumers to explore the benefits of their IoT technology by creating a virtual ‘Everyday Genius’ world – a prototypical smart city complete with driverless cars, weather-predicting fish and food that knows when it’s going off.

Examples of brands that have not so successfully leveraged the smart cities momentum include Ford and Nest. This year Ford unveiled the FordPass, which it promised would “change how the world moves and make people’s lives easier.” The reality was a parking app and a removable fuel-level checker. The less than kind media response proves that while smart city rhetoric is easy, delivering against the resulting expectation is a serious challenge.

Earlier this year a bug in a Nest software update caused thermostats to shut down, leaving houses cold. Nest apologised and issued a nine-step solution, but not before angry owners flooded social media. While a mobile bug may cause you to lose a few photos, bugs in smart appliances have much greater consequences. At the level of smart cities, cyber-risk becomes a significant threat and thus cyber-security a significant concern.

So how can brands stake a relevant, credible and differentiating claim in the smart cities space?

They must bring relevant innovation to urban challenges, including increasing urban density, ageing populations, increasing energy usage and ageing infrastructure, as well as consumer needs, and marry them both to technological possibilities such as mass connectivity, artificial intelligence, and converged IoT.

At Prophet, we believe that relevant and feasible ideas for new initiatives sit at the intersection of three driver sets: urban challenges, consumer needs and technological viability.

When these three areas align, the utopian smart city vision can become a reality, and practical initiatives that address both significant long-term issues and current consumer needs can be found.

Collaboration between multiple stakeholders is needed to ensure success: the brands that manage to position themselves in this space will be able to achieve long-lasting engagement with public agencies and citizens while ensuring their promises can be backed up with action.

David Brabbins is associate partner at Prophet in Hong Kong.

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.

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