Richard Dunmall

Given my status as a relative newcomer to this part of the world, I thought I’d share some thoughts and observations on what I’ve experienced so far. It’s been fascinating to learn how diverse the region is, with the ever-present contradictions of mass consumer audience growth, market-specific content behaviour and varied creative, communications planning and buying efforts. That said one common trend seems to be a huge desire to grow digital media engagement and investment strategies.

While many of these factors resonate in more stable economic times, our present reality of uncertainty, higher demand for accountability and more effective media execution vehicles are particularly powerful right now. We also know that evolving consumer behaviour is driving-up internet usage, as users invest greater time in researching and hunting for bargains before buying. Advertisers are reluctant to make big commitments, they need to be able to optimise campaigns real-time, adapt to this constantly changing environment and deliver clear measurement on their investment – only digital can deliver this.

Engaging consumers in a meaningful two-way dialogue versus passive media messaging, it gives brands the opportunity not only to talk with their customers but also listen to them. I believe Microsoft Advertising is in a unique position to help facilitate this conversation through three core areas – Performance, Insight and Expertise.

Performance: Accountability, results and ROI are central to every media buy you execute. Through creative solutions, new targeting and performance media platforms, Microsoft Advertising’s strategy is to bring results to every client’s campaign.

Insight: We have a responsibility to help advertisers and agencies understand what is happening to audiences online, and how that allows brands to engage its target audiences more effectively. Clients have access to our ongoing research, new content platforms and emerging media channels, allowing them to make smarter marketing decisions, not just when investing with us, but across entire media plans.

Expertise: Digital media is more complex than ever, with new technologies, creative formats, analytics offerings and communications tools. We know that our partners expect media owners to offer deep knowledge of their products, platforms, services and audience. As we expand our proposition to a broader ecosystem of ad platforms, technologies, content offerings and media environments, our job at Microsoft Advertising is to share this expertise with clients.

I am convinced that more now than ever that media partners need to demonstrate value, flexibility and scale, supported by great people. The economic uncertainty has forced everyone to seek out partners that are trusted and have long-term investment and support that can continue to grow your business. At Microsoft Advertising, through our media and technology offerings, we are confident that we provide you with the most extensive portfolio of solutions which help solve client’s media challenges locally, regionally and globally.

What also struck me are the remarkable levels of creativity that exist in our region. Throughout the markets I visit, time and again, I see incredible executions, using innovative creative messages and ground-breaking technology. Honda recently launched a very clever campaign in Japan, where users are able to move into a new content environment and explore the New Accord model inside and out – all without leaving the original visited MSN page. This year was the first year entries and judges from Asia have been included in the MOUSE Awards, an initiative celebrating the most brilliant digital creativity. We have received an overwhelming response of creative campaigns that will be considered and I don’t doubt winners from the region will eventually compete for global recognition at Cannes later this year.

There are still areas where I feel the industry needs to do some ‘catching up’. I don’t think anyone has managed the gap between audience growth and media buying behaviour. The ‘one size fits all’ approach of many global media outfits won’t work in such a diverse part of the world, where strong local media organisations provide formidable and respected competition for us.

It is an exciting era for the digital advertising business – we face the most challenging economic situation but at Microsoft we know we have a responsibility to educate and support the market – our ongoing commitment to the upcoming Mouse Awards, agency deep-dives, and supporting industry excellence are just some examples of the work we are doing to support market and client efforts for the long-term growth of our industry.

We have just come off the launch of new products to our portfolio of advertising platforms; Windows Live Wave 3 launched recently, allowing users of our services to manage all their ‘stuff’ in one place; mail, photos, Instant Messaging, links to Facebook – all from one central repository. More than ever before, we think brands have a greater opportunity to engage their audience, and we will be busy sharing those opportunities with the industry.

I am always impressed by the sophistication of online ad networks in Asia, as it is still a relatively new industry here in the region. But scale and measurement is a key priority and our DRIVEpm network, already the largest display network in Australia, has launched in Japan, India and Korea, and allows advertisers to reach their desired audience across our extended network of publisher partners. This represents the future of digital media engagement, and offers innovative ways for clients to get the most value for their investment.

As digital continues to grow at accelerated speed in Asia, and the desire to explore new and creative ways of utilising it deepens, it is indeed an exciting time to be in the region and a part of this industry.