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Ahead of Digital Marketing Leaders Summits Hong Kong 2019, we recently had an interview with Mr Ian Hocking, VP of Digital at the South China Morning Post. Mr Ian provides strategic direction and leadership to deliver sustainable revenue across all SCMP digital platforms. He is responsible for the company’s digital agenda both internationally and in Hong Kong, ensuring digital operations deliver the highest quality experience for SCMP’s marketing partners.
 
Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your role at SCMP?
 
I moved to Hong Kong to work for SCMP as VP of Digital a year ago from the UK where I was Head of Programmatic for News Corp in their Strategy and Partnerships team. My role here is to create the strategic framework and culture for SCMP’s digital growth including programmatic, data, digital Ad product, operations and off-platform. 
 
How does SCMP’s digital agenda differ in Hong Kong compared to the rest of South-East Asia.? Have you noticed any major differences?
 
Every country is different and sees value in a different part of our offering. Some want to tap into our 1st party data, others our heritage as a content publisher via Morning Studio. The challenge is to create a consistent product and experience across all markets that still allows local partners to get the most out of us. 
 
What strategies do you undertake to ensure that all digital operations are delivered to the highest quality? 
 
Operations deliver our commercial product and ensure we have an amazing customer service, so we spend a lot of time trying to create the best possible experience. It starts with making sure they are properly briefed on the campaign goals (KPI’s) and have a great understanding of how the client likes to work. It’s only then we can properly optimize and manage the campaign.  We provide in-flight reporting as required and all campaign data stored in our DMP is mapped to a user ID allowing us to create in-depth optimisations and post campaign reporting that go way beyond a CTR, into engagement and audience insight.  That data is stored to ensure that the next time a client spends we can take that insight and apply it to the next campaign, adding value to every dollar spent. Using this methodology we maintain an average CTR 6x higher than the industry average. 
 
As digital channels continue to evolve, what measures do you take to adapt or embrace these new technologies? Would you say the constant evolution of technology is one of the biggest challenges of your role?
 
There has never been a more exciting time to be in AdTech. We love the challenges (and opportunities) that come with a rapidly evolving market. I believe that the most important thing is to have a clear identity and value proposition and build on that. This way you don’t get distracted trying to keep up with every little change.  
 
However, we are set up for innovation, working in three-month innovation cycles that allow us to shift resources when necessary. This promotes a start-up culture across the team.  
 
Your presentation at the summit will focus on the biggest digital marketing trends for 2020. What can you tell us about the current digital landscape in HK and how do you think businesses can unlock the untapped potential in the current digital economy? 
 
The HK market is suppressed right now. Whilst this is a challenging time for all of us, it does represent an opportunity for some brands to find amazing value and cut through what would normally be a very competitive market. Quality publishers like SCMP will use sophisticated brand safety tools such as Grapeshot to ensure every impression served is safe allowing brands to maximise this opportunity, 
 
What advice can you offer to small businesses or startups who are trying to survive in the digital age? With smaller budgets and less advanced technology, how can they compete with global giants? 
 
Most of all, it’s all about understanding your value. First, know who your audience is and the value they see in your offering. Then create a way for brands to connect to that. 
 
You don’t need hundreds of clients to be successful. Most publishers will make the majority of their digital revenue from less than 40 clients. Focus on those that see your value. 
 
Then work with AdTech partners that value your business. Set up strategic partnerships that add value to your offering and remove those that don’t. A handful of great partners you can work closely with to develop your offering with are better than lots of mediation for little return. 
 
SCMP is transforming from a regional newspaper to an international media organisation. What is the objective at SCMP in terms of its digital offering? What are the short term and long term goals? 
 
We believe that there has never been a more important time for independent media to report accurately and honestly on what is happening in the world. SCMP’s USP is that we come with 116 years of experience as a global news brand and can deliver that insight with an Asian voice to a global audience. 
 
In the short term, we are concentrating on telling that story to a growing audience by improving our onsite user experience and off-site discovery. That means bringing inhouse talent and technology to deliver award-winning video, infographics, reporting and branded content. 
 
In the long term, we will be releasing more of our own proprietary AdTech to allow for frictionless buying and access to our data.   
 
Mr. Ian Hocking is the speaker at the upcoming Digital Marketing Leaders Summit Hong Kong 2019. To find out more information about his presentation, please click here.
 

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