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The changing landscape of advertising & PR: from intentional innovation to AI-led advancements

By Charles Ogilvie

The advertising and PR industry is currently undergoing unprecedented change. Great Hong Kong SAR, Mainland Chinese and other Asian brands, as well as overseas brands looking to do business in Asia are thinking differently and approaching challenges differently. One of the primary reasons for this is technology, increases in the value of data, and AI advancements that come from marrying the two. Put down the WeChat session while you read this article!

Not joking, but as companies navigate through this new and rapidly transforming world, they cannot rely on tools like encyclopedia’s or roadmaps to guide their way but must instead develop their own strategy and path forward. As, AI, effective analytical tools combined with Big Data, and other new technologies bring revolutionary change to the advertising and PR industry, businesses must evolve, quickly innovating progressively and adopting a more future-forward, out-of-the-box culture than many are used to in order to succeed.

Technology & rapid innovation are a driving change in advertising and PR
Not just in Asia or the US, but globally over the years, the advertising industry has adapted to new technologies. Sometimes these shifts have been due to disruptive technology or practices and other times due to progressive client needs. Advertisements have moved from print to radio to TV to riding on IP packets over the Internet.

Even more recently, as they have shifted online and embraced social media, they have found new, increasingly more effective ways of reaching their targeted audiences. New technologies not only bring new formats for advertisers to adapt to, but also new placement and targeting opportunities. 

For example, instead of relying on large leaderboards installed in stadiums, elevators, taxis and more, advertisers can now deliver digital out-of-home advertisements through smartphones and mobile devices. It isn’t just a single channel or a single outlet that allows effective communication with consumers, but it is a unique blend that perhaps a range of skillsets can now deliver. Top creative folks are still in demand, like a Chef at a Michelin Star restaurant, but also there is tremendous room for a Chef at a reasonably priced local eatery to deliver messaging effectively through these new channels, knowing the customers’ unique palate/preferences and expectations!

Advertisers must “show”, as well as “tell”
Changes in the types of media that advertisers use to deliver their messages have led to significant changes in the ways they can communicate with customers. In the 21st century, PR is no longer all about the written word or even the still image. Today's consumers want to see products in action and feel a real connection with the brands from which they choose to buy. 

For instance, thanks to increasing internet speeds in the home and on mobile networks, video content has recently become extremely popular online. That's why many companies now choose to showcase their products in promotional videos instead of or in addition to describing them through text. Short, snappy videos are immensely shareable on social media, allowing advertisers that master this medium to reach out to wide networks of potential customers. The Asian market is no exception, with WeChat, Line, Kakao, What’s App and others moving literally hundreds of messages or more per user in a week.

As an example, marketers can look to brands like Land Rover, Mazda and Ford. Chevrolet even created a video campaign that highlighted people giving back to their communities. Humor and heartwarming stories are both excellent ways to evoke a positive reaction from people on social media and encourage them to share branded content. The concept of Show & Tell certainly lives on at all ages!

Consumers are now in control
Changes to mobile devices are responsible for some of the latest radical changes to the PR and advertising industry. Device control and opt-in features are now being designed into most devices as the norm. These changes put consumers in control of the advertising messages they choose to receive, when and in what context. It also alters the playing field for advertisers and PR firms, who must rise to meet the new challenges. More specifically, they must find a way to use app notifications and direct messages to inform their customers about new products and promotions, but without bombarding them until they feel they have to switch off. There is a fine line in any technology towards oversaturating consumers with choices or making an easy interface and nesting options in well though through user journeys. Who can remember the TV remote controls of the 1990s and early 2000s and how overly complex they were? Simplicity, as demanded by consumers being in control, is now of paramount importance.

Thought leaders will win the day
PR is no longer simply about promoting products and services. Hong Kong and Asia, like the rest of the world, are far more sophisticated and technologically astute audiences then they were just 4 decades ago. 

The most successful companies today are thought leaders, setting the topics for discussion in their industries and staying one step ahead of the competition in the way they approach the problems their customers face in their daily lives. Their leaders aim or find themselves being well liked and are approached for a quotation every time there is a relevant story about their industry. I recently saw a great piece on Bloomberg from HK while in Atlanta with real estate genius, C-100 member, and well known Asia/US thought leader Ronnie Chan (Hang Lung Group / Asia Society) and I know his message was well received around the world. It isn’t just the top saavy business people, but once an entrepreneur or corporate / public sector worker becomes known as a thought leader in a particular niche, other people are likely to share their content and look to them for opinions; this means both they and their companies get their PR for a reduced cost but also showcases that their innovations or messages are novel and worthy of mention by notable authorities and publications who address their particular niche or space.

Creating engaging content is the key to establishing thought leadership in a particular industry. Today, businesses have many channels they can target with their content, ranging from short videos shared on social media to in-depth podcasts. Thought leaders continue to be masters of reaching out and building connections on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.

Are advertisers and PR professionals ready for change?
As a whole, the advertising / PR industry is ready for change and to handle content with greater targeting accuracy, flow rate and a wider range of topics. However, for some businesses, the ground remains uncertain. Consulting agencies, data analytics firms and disruptive ad-tech startups have stepped into the world of creative-driven advertising and shaken things up with innovations that disrupt. Some have elaborate test protocols to advocate the efficacy of their techniques, but many are simply well-dressed, bolt-on creative firms with pitch decks the size of a stack of pizzas. Some of their new ideas will stick and others will need to be retooled. What the consulting firm approach does bring to the table a new way of looking at challenges and perhaps through a very different lens. Advertisers and PR firms are getting to know what to expect and double-down on their own cutting-edge strategies.

As a result, companies have new opportunities to connect with consumers in a way that truly engages and excites them, although they also have new challenges to meet. Businesses across the globe, many great examples across Asia, Australia, the UK, the EU and the US, must be prepared to embrace the changing landscape in advertising and PR in order to reap the benefits of today’s marketing opportunities.

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