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Agency Life

The Digital Life

The Digital Life

Natasha Smith

Natasha Smith

September 11, 2018

Like it or not, everyone’s got one.

"For people, I’d say that most of us today lead dual lives: one offline and one online—but both work together."

How do brands interact with people through digital platforms? “Stop being a brand, and become a person,” says Rohan Kapoor, digital director at Havas Riverorchid Socialyse in Cambodia. He gives some sage advice on success in the digital landscape.

 

So, define digital for brands, for buyers, maybe even for yourself.

Well for me, digital is nothing and digital is everything. It’s as obvious as the sun and the moon.

For people, I’d say that most of us today lead dual lives: one offline and one online—but both work together. Hence, the term citizens has been replaced by “netizens” and this holds true in the developing markets more than any developed market.

For brands, digital is the most powerful tool to humanize a brand. For the first time, brands now have a real opportunity to talk to people as a human in real time. What else can a brand ask for?

Do you feel that there’s still some trepidation around digital?

Talking about Cambodia, there’s definitely an uncertainty among some brands and people. In this country, Facebook dominates with 8 million active users and 40% year-on-year growth. Here, it’s the gateway to the Internet, and it is the Google for Cambodia. So both the new and the urban Cambodia are hooked on it.

As a result, convincing a brand to have a presence on Facebook isn’t challenging since the evidence supports that move. So most brands feel that digital equals Facebook, and looking beyond Facebook and being open to other digital solutions is what we as advertisers need to work on to gain a brand’s confidence.

How do you demystify digital for others?

I think it can be like math for people who have never liked math, like myself (I still get nightmares). The only difference here is math was never a part of my life, digital is. But I usually try and open this conversation with a few questions. The conversation often goes something like this:

Me: You’re on Facebook?

Him (or her): Yes, of course. That’s a silly question.

Me: You’re on apps playing games?

Him: Yes, of course.

Me: Booking tickets?

Him: Yes.

Me: Sharing, chatting?

Him: Yes, all the time.

If you’re doing all this, then you are a digital savvy person, you just don’t like this term “digital,” because people don’t break it down into what it actually means. However, this recognition is the first step of people buying into the potential of digital. When they have that understanding, that’s when I’m able to drill down to what it means for them and their brands.

"I believe that brands should stick to whatever it is that they stand for—their mission and visions."

What do you hope that brands change in their approach to digital?

To stop being a brand and become a person. On digital platforms, people listen to people.

What do you hope never changes?

I believe that brands should stick to whatever it is that they stand for—their mission and visions. This should never change. In the digital world, it’s easy to sway as you’re constantly looking at the scoreboard and chasing down KPIs. So sometimes, brands end up doing whatever they think consumers are going to like, share, and comment on—but that might be totally different from what the brand stands for.

How do digital and social media marketing vary from region to region?

We advertise to people—and people are different everywhere. It’s as simple as that. OK, maybe there are certain emotions that people from certain regions share. So a regional TVC might hit the chord of people from similar markets; however, digital is different.

We mustn’t forget that digital is a two-way conversation, and if you’re not using the extremely local nuances and hyper-targeted solutions, then you’re not using digital for its core strength.

How would you describe the market in Cambodia?

Oh, it’s an advertiser’s delight—an absolute playground. In person, Cambodians are quite shy, but on social media, they are completely the opposite. It’s a fertile land for brands to grow and really make an impact.

But digital still does not reach every corner of Cambodia. TV still plays a huge role in mass awareness, especially in provinces. But 90% of the Facebook population, which is half of Cambodia, is using Facebook through their phones. So it’s not a mobile-first market; it’s a mobile-only market. Brands need to be screen conscious. And don’t try to drive people off of Facebook, because they won’t do it. Drive people to Facebook.

Some other advice: Use influencers, and you’ll see your engagement rate skyrocket. Don’t push e-commerce as people won’t buy online. Cash is still king here. Don’t shy away from long-format videos. (Yes, you read that correctly. If it’s good, people here will still watch it. Our first viral campaign here was a long-format video which ran for four minutes. But the content was good: hidden camera, big influencer, surprise factor, it ticked all the boxes.

What differences and similarities exist in the markets across Southeast Asia?

The sheer potential and rate of growth—it’s far more than in other parts of the world. We’re talking about double digits here. But across Southeast Asia, there’s an openness of people toward advertising and content.

Each region differs in the level of market maturity, i.e., you can’t compare Singapore (cashless) to Vietnam (developing e-commerce), Cambodia (cash is king) or Laos (don’t even think about it). It’s impossible to place them under the same umbrella.

How does Cambodia compare to, say, Europe, LATAM, or North America?

When I think Cambodia I think opportunity. Everything here is happening now, and it’s only beginning. I mean imagine being a rock-and-roll fan during the Woodstock era. You can be the Jimi Hendrix of brand communication. It’s the right time and the right place. You either were there, or you’ll never be.

"For people, I’d say that most of us today lead dual lives: one offline and one online—but both work together."

How do brands interact with people through digital platforms? “Stop being a brand, and become a person,” says Rohan Kapoor, digital director at Havas Riverorchid Socialyse in Cambodia. He gives some sage advice on success in the digital landscape.

 

So, define digital for brands, for buyers, maybe even for yourself.

Well for me, digital is nothing and digital is everything. It’s as obvious as the sun and the moon.

For people, I’d say that most of us today lead dual lives: one offline and one online—but both work together. Hence, the term citizens has been replaced by “netizens” and this holds true in the developing markets more than any developed market.

For brands, digital is the most powerful tool to humanize a brand. For the first time, brands now have a real opportunity to talk to people as a human in real time. What else can a brand ask for?

Do you feel that there’s still some trepidation around digital?

Talking about Cambodia, there’s definitely an uncertainty among some brands and people. In this country, Facebook dominates with 8 million active users and 40% year-on-year growth. Here, it’s the gateway to the Internet, and it is the Google for Cambodia. So both the new and the urban Cambodia are hooked on it.

As a result, convincing a brand to have a presence on Facebook isn’t challenging since the evidence supports that move. So most brands feel that digital equals Facebook, and looking beyond Facebook and being open to other digital solutions is what we as advertisers need to work on to gain a brand’s confidence.

How do you demystify digital for others?

I think it can be like math for people who have never liked math, like myself (I still get nightmares). The only difference here is math was never a part of my life, digital is. But I usually try and open this conversation with a few questions. The conversation often goes something like this:

Me: You’re on Facebook?

Him (or her): Yes, of course. That’s a silly question.

Me: You’re on apps playing games?

Him: Yes, of course.

Me: Booking tickets?

Him: Yes.

Me: Sharing, chatting?

Him: Yes, all the time.

If you’re doing all this, then you are a digital savvy person, you just don’t like this term “digital,” because people don’t break it down into what it actually means. However, this recognition is the first step of people buying into the potential of digital. When they have that understanding, that’s when I’m able to drill down to what it means for them and their brands.

"I believe that brands should stick to whatever it is that they stand for—their mission and visions."

What do you hope that brands change in their approach to digital?

To stop being a brand and become a person. On digital platforms, people listen to people.

What do you hope never changes?

I believe that brands should stick to whatever it is that they stand for—their mission and visions. This should never change. In the digital world, it’s easy to sway as you’re constantly looking at the scoreboard and chasing down KPIs. So sometimes, brands end up doing whatever they think consumers are going to like, share, and comment on—but that might be totally different from what the brand stands for.

How do digital and social media marketing vary from region to region?

We advertise to people—and people are different everywhere. It’s as simple as that. OK, maybe there are certain emotions that people from certain regions share. So a regional TVC might hit the chord of people from similar markets; however, digital is different.

We mustn’t forget that digital is a two-way conversation, and if you’re not using the extremely local nuances and hyper-targeted solutions, then you’re not using digital for its core strength.

How would you describe the market in Cambodia?

Oh, it’s an advertiser’s delight—an absolute playground. In person, Cambodians are quite shy, but on social media, they are completely the opposite. It’s a fertile land for brands to grow and really make an impact.

But digital still does not reach every corner of Cambodia. TV still plays a huge role in mass awareness, especially in provinces. But 90% of the Facebook population, which is half of Cambodia, is using Facebook through their phones. So it’s not a mobile-first market; it’s a mobile-only market. Brands need to be screen conscious. And don’t try to drive people off of Facebook, because they won’t do it. Drive people to Facebook.

Some other advice: Use influencers, and you’ll see your engagement rate skyrocket. Don’t push e-commerce as people won’t buy online. Cash is still king here. Don’t shy away from long-format videos. (Yes, you read that correctly. If it’s good, people here will still watch it. Our first viral campaign here was a long-format video which ran for four minutes. But the content was good: hidden camera, big influencer, surprise factor, it ticked all the boxes.

What differences and similarities exist in the markets across Southeast Asia?

The sheer potential and rate of growth—it’s far more than in other parts of the world. We’re talking about double digits here. But across Southeast Asia, there’s an openness of people toward advertising and content.

Each region differs in the level of market maturity, i.e., you can’t compare Singapore (cashless) to Vietnam (developing e-commerce), Cambodia (cash is king) or Laos (don’t even think about it). It’s impossible to place them under the same umbrella.

How does Cambodia compare to, say, Europe, LATAM, or North America?

When I think Cambodia I think opportunity. Everything here is happening now, and it’s only beginning. I mean imagine being a rock-and-roll fan during the Woodstock era. You can be the Jimi Hendrix of brand communication. It’s the right time and the right place. You either were there, or you’ll never be.

Natasha Smith is the strategic communications manager for Havas Group. She happily represents 404 in the 212.

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