Behind the story: Q&A with SCMP Advertising leaders

May 12, 2021
SCMP Insights
Following the rebranding of SCMP’s commercial arm as SCMP Advertising, three of the team’s leaders took the opportunity to walk us through this change.

Hear from Romanus Ng, SCMP’s senior vice-president of advertising; Ian Hocking, vice-president for digital and Karrie Lam, vice-president for sales and Morning Studio, about what the rebrand means for our business. 

Q1: Could you give us a general overview of the rebrand?

Romanus: The goal of this rebrand is to align our digital innovation with an insights-first approach to deliver impactful marketing solutions to brands across the APAC region for their campaign success. 

SCMP’s digital transformation lies at the heart of our rebrand, as it has allowed us to empower our partners with insights through digital-first innovations. As a first-party data leader in Asia, we have direct access to the SCMP audience’s market intelligence, enabling us to deliver more effective and efficient campaigns with better-targeted audiences. Given that trust is one of our core values, brand safety is a top priority for us, ensured by our publisher-built brand suitability tool. We are also home to an award-winning studio that’s equipped with bespoke brand storytelling solutions to connect thought-leading editorial content across SCMP’s print and digital media platforms. 

Bringing our advertising business forward into the digital age has also broadened our international relevance and global reach going beyond just Hong Kong and China, with a renewed focus on Southeast Asia and the United States. 

Q2: What do you think will be the most important digital advertising trend in 2021 that defines the near future? How has SCMP been preparing for this?

Ian: We believe that building deeper first-party relationships with our readers is essential for SCMP and our partners. In June 2020, we moved to exclusively use 100 per cent first-party IDs and data. This means we are already well-paced to guide partners through any changes in privacy regulation and maintain persistent user-level data and IDs. 

To unlock the power of these insights, SCMP created Lighthouse, a new privacy-compliant platform that delivers unique insights into our audience and how they engage with our content and ad campaigns. Today, 100 per cent of targetable SCMP users have a first-party unique ID that we use to help our advertisers discover, engage, target and retarget with accuracy. 

Q3: Why is SCMP investing in proprietary digital product innovations? 

Ian: We believe that building our own tools enables our partners to get the best out of SCMP. It gives us the flexibility to build a tool for our specific requirements, as well as to a higher specification than is available in the marketplace. 

For example, we take brand safety so seriously that we built our own artificial intelligence-based natural language processing tool, SCMP Signal, right into the content management system used in our editorial workflow. This tool goes much further than other ad tech vendors could and ensures the safety of all campaigns on SCMP. Campaigns that use Signal reach up to 55 per cent more users and can receive an 80 per cent uplift in engagement by using context, sentiment and suitability to actively put their ads in the right space at the right time.

Q4: Why has branded content proven to be so effective?
Karrie: Consumers are bombarded with ads constantly. In this era of ad fatigue and ad blocking, audiences are more inclined to view native ads and consume their content.

While display ads are designed to raise brand awareness, native ads are complementary to building deeper brand relationships with audiences. This is also what makes branded content popular and accepted by marketers – it helps convey brand purposes in an authentic way that attracts attention and fosters brand recognition, which in turn creates trust between the brand and the consumer.

Q5: How does Morning Studio help brands expand their horizon?

Karrie: Morning Studio’s team of professional talents are dedicated to helping global brands create bespoke brand storytelling solutions, with a narrative that employs native advertising as a storytelling vehicle in order to drive home the brand’s values and aspirations with impact. With SCMP’s expanding international reach, we provide advertisers with new opportunities to connect with globally-minded readers. 

For instance, our award-winning Hello Hainan campaign, a seven-episode video series created to promote tourism and business travel in Hainan after 59 countries were granted visa-free access to the Chinese island province, was aimed at both local Hongkongers and international audiences. The series reached a combined 1.3 million global users and generated more than 5,300 interactions with the global audience.

Another example is the inaugural WRLDCTY festival – a global celebration of urban culture, design and innovation. Given the objectives to commemorate the joy and strengths of Hong Kong as a global city, Morning Studio provided Brand Hong Kong an integrated marketing solution with a hybrid event that consisted of live, pre-recorded and documentary video productions. The WRLDCTY event was broadcast to people all around the world. 

Q6: What are the challenges with building trust in the digital era?

Ian: As with life, you need to build trust based on experience and understanding. That means building a relationship and being transparent in your practices. At SCMP, we translate that into a commitment to build the best possible customer service experience and tools that ensure transparency. We believe this is why we see marketers today actively conducting supply path optimisation and creating fewer direct relationships with trusted partners. 

It’s not easy to build out your platform in this way. It requires a lot of data and commitment from the business to audit, consolidate and build the infrastructure required to have the foundation for trust. Then you need to consultatively work with clients to build their trust. SCMP, with more than 100 years of trusted authority, is constantly working to deliver on this promise.