Isobar’s Jean Lin on Where Digital Asia Outstrips the West

Jean Lin, Isobar’s global chief strategy officer and CEO of Isobar Asia Pacific, has been a power player in the Asian digital marketing industry since 2004 when Aegis Media, parent of London-based digital agency network Isobar, bought her five-year-old independent digital shop wwwins. The new owner promptly named her CEO of wwwins Isobar Greater China. Since then she has taken on a regional and then a global leadership role in Isobar. Now, more than 550 employees work for her at Isobar Asia Pacific, with almost half of them in Greater China, which includes Taiwan. Topping her client roster is Coca-Cola, Adidas, Proctor & Gamble and Peninsula Hotels. Lin took time to share with Digiday her expectations for the inclusion of digital Asia in what she modestly calls “a global network of study groups.”

Is Asia more innovative than the West in digital marketing?
Korea, for example, is a key market that is earlier [than the West] in mobile and location-based marketing tools, influencing hugely by their digital media infrastructure and landscape. Overall the energy in Asia with social, mobile and commerce is hugely admirable. Because the economy here is still growing — driven mainly by China — Asia gives brands more confidence to embrace innovation.
How is Isobar trying to use innovations in one part of Asia to improve marketing practices in other regions?
We just launched Isobar NowLab last week in Singapore, to capture opportunities for cross-market innovation sooner for our clients in Asia. A virtual team works together at the Isobar NowLab to accelerate scaling of technology and innovation across markets. For instance, Isobar clients worldwide can benefit a lot from the current client requirements in Korea. The NowLab uses Isobar’s existing innovation resources around the world and is piggy-backed on our global Aegis Media Partnership with MIT MediaLab.
For clients trying to reach Chinese consumers, what portion of their advertising budgets are being spent on digital ads and marketing this year?  Is it different for Chinese and Western brands?
Depending on the brand category, digital marketing can range from 5 to 15 percent of the total ad budget. Typically, international brands are more structured than Chinese brands in how they spend money in digital. International brands tend to stick to their global standard [of percentage allocated to digital marketing.]
When it comes to digital marketing budgets, where is the majority of the money going?
Display and digital creative, which includes campaign creative and Web building, get the majority of the budget. Smaller portions go to search and social marketing, but social is experiencing exponential growth.
In past years you’ve said that talent scarcity and finding the right people are the biggest obstacles in the growth of digital marketing in Asia. Is that still true?
Our biggest limitation to digital remains our own imagination and finding qualified talented people to work as a team. But remember, this is still a young industry; we are seeing more and more talent wanting to jump in and make a difference.
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