We’ve now reached the tipping point in the evolution of NFTs where you can no longer afford to misunderstand what is happening around you for fear of missing out on the defining opportunity of a generation.
MEDIA 7: What inspired you to build such a successful career in digital sales and marketing?
ADRIAN WATKINS: Although these days I’m known for ‘growth & transformation’, sales and marketing to me are the two functions that can influence change across the entirety of a business. It touches most departments including strategy, sales, data intelligence, technology and even finance. As Sales & Marketers, we get to place ourselves at the heartbeat of a business, truly listening to what our customers and clients are saying, reacting to feedback and weaving stories and product roll-outs that address concerns excites new business and acquire new customers while being able to share this knowledge both internally and with the market.
I began my career as a writer before moving deeper into technology and partner management, before finding my sweet spot in commercial with Virgin. Fortunate to work at a senior level across multiple MNCs in different continents including two Virgin companies: News Corporation and ViacomCBS, I also helped grow the potential unicorn theAsianparent (as Chief Strategy Officer), and have built, sold and advised on various startups. Much of my focus has always been commercial strategy, sales, marketing and data analysis - all of which I loosely group under ‘growth’. I now lead Marketing and Growth in Asia-Pacific for AdColony - part of the Nasdaq AdTech darling Digital Turbine which is the largest independent platform that leverages unique on-device technology across major carriers and telcos with direct SDK supply, powering access to high-value consumers from their first & earliest device interaction, throughout their device journey, with a core focus on mobile and gaming marketing in Asia-Pacific.
M7: AdColony was once again named the Best Mobile Ad Network by 2021 Adweek Readers’ Choice: Best of Tech awards. What was the strategy behind achieving such prestigious recognition?
AW: Adweek's Readers' Choice Awards are fast becoming one of the most important ones in North America, and growing internationally (Adweek's audience is mostly in NA, but they are growing!). Since it's voted on by Adweek readers, our strategy was simple: Raise awareness. It's a reflection of the work we do with brands and agencies throughout the year. Fortunately, the people think we're doing a great job, as AdColony won the award in its inaugural award in 2019, was runner up in 2020, and reclaimed the crown this year.
Be as prepared as possible, but take calculated risks.
M7: What are some of the benefits that AdColony offers its clients through its advertising and marketing platform?
AW: AdColony has a unique reach for advertisers. Now that we're able to access both AdColony's direct inventory as well as Fyber's, our direct supply footprint eclipses everyone but Google when we look at the app environments Fortune 500 brands care about. There are other synergies we're working through that tap into the value of Digital Turbine's On-Device technologies (more exciting news to come on those in the future).
M7: According to you, which is your preferred marketing channel and why?
AW: Gaming (especially via a mobile phone) is the most exciting and innovative marketing channel that exists today. Mobile gaming is on track to surpass $120B in spends globally. Based in Singapore, Asia-Pacific is home to 54% of the world's gamers & is the fastest growing market. Players have spent more than 1 trillion hours playing and an additional 25 billion hours watching gaming streams, which is more than the time spent on social media and watching television. Everyone is now a gamer. Global brands such as Unilever, Gucci and Mercedes are embracing gaming as they know that and can’t afford to ignore the genre. For instance, did you know that almost 80% of mobile gamers are female, more than 75% of mums are mobile gamers, and more than 80% of the high income segment audience are mobile gamers? The potential that gaming holds has also been identified by media giants like Netflix and Facebook, who are exploring gaming to further drive user engagement on their platform, with Netflix planning to introduce games on its platform, and Facebook using gaming as a pivot to its ‘Metaverse’ ambitions.
Gaming as a marketing channel is constantly evolving at lightspeed. In fact, gaming marketing feels like the next monumental industry shift which hasn’t happened since the launch of Social Media or Search Marketing - this feels like the next big industry evolution.
Let’s explore just a few examples (and buzzwords!) of innovation that are happening right now which marketers can’t afford to miss:
The Metaverse: Simply put, the metaverse is the intersection of entertainment, gaming and communications, with its own ‘play economy’, and ignoring conventional business models. It's the experience of choosing a digital avatar, creating original work, finding a connection with virtual experiences to match those offline, and valuing digital goods on a par with the physical. We can game, shop, buy land, use digital items for real-world purposes, lend money, and more. Right now, businesses are considering their future roles in the metaverse. For example: Gucci sold a virtual bag for more dollars than the real thing in the platform Roblox, Nike dropped virtual Jordans in Fortnite, Coca-Cola launched avatar wearables in Decentraland, Sotheby’s has an art gallery your avatar can wander, and $191M was transacted on “play to earn” blockchain game Axie Infinity in its first 30 days.
The future of content, e-commerce, and engagement is in the metaverse. Our job as business leaders and marketers is to prepare for that future today for our own businesses but also to help facilitate this new channel for brands and their agencies.
NFTs & Collectibles: We’ve now reached the tipping point in the evolution of NFTs where you can no longer afford to misunderstand what is happening around you for fear of missing out on the defining opportunity of a generation. NFTs are innately valuable due to their constrained supply, and community drives much of the early value of projects. Digital collectibles are already a major part of the online gaming experience, creating longer-term value for the collector (e.g. Axie Infinity), and now real-world utility is next: imagine holding an NFT which gives you exclusive access to content, product launches, or events. This brings amazing opportunities for brands to innovate in their marketing strategies. Mobile advertising campaigns using NFTs can be distributed programmatically across digital platforms, offering personalised gifts or vouchers to customers. Brands can monetise ads multiple times by turning them into NFTs; increase equity via storytelling and collectibles; create buzz in the lead-up to events or product launches via early access tokens.
I expect to see more brands jump in and start to experiment with releasing digital collectibles. For brands, this is an opportunity to generate additional revenues and engage with a core fan base by creating exclusive experiences.
In-game adverts which simulate IRL advertising: The most wonderful thing about working in the digital ecosystem is that it nevers stands still, and this is true when it comes to gaming as a the leading innovative marketing channel. Outside of block chain, the most recent example is the emergence of adtech companies which enable brands to programmatically serve posters inside games (think ‘Virtual Digital Out Of Home’). The leading company in this sector is Anzu.io, which for the first time, enables ads in game to be fully programmatically targeted, safe, and verifiable.
However, as with all technology, there needs to be supply and demand: For supply, as free-to-play games continue to gain momentum and infiltrate all game genres, games studios will be forced to change their way of thinking to see in-game advertising as a sustainable business model if they want to continue making games relevant and accessible in this highly competitive landscape. For demand, this is where Marketing and innovation really comes to the fore because with any new product it takes time for brands and their agencies to truly wrap their heads around it. AdColony (which sells Anzu exclusively in Asia-Pacific) is already ahead of the curve as several international brands have already embraced this recent channel.
Education, ultimately leading to adoption, which is achieved through cohesive and often innovative marketing, is critical here: whether through thought-leadership articles, sharing infographics of latest case studies, discussing with like-minded people on panels, or just with peers in the pub! - a compelling narrative, backed with data, is critical for success.
I expect to see more brands jump in and start to experiment with releasing digital collectibles.
M7: What do you believe are the top three marketing challenges in the post COVID-19 era?
AW: In fact, there is one MASSIVE one. Marketing has evolved - brands and agencies need to embrace this change. COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we engage with content, shop, and hang out with our friends and family, with people now more glued to their screens than ever before - and this is again where gaming leads the charge for the ‘new normal. Gaming apps are even larger than the top entertainment apps. Across Asia-Pacific, the top gaming apps consistently take in at least 1.5X monthly active users (MAUs) compared to the top entertainment apps, and mobile gamers are prominent across all age groups and genres. This means a brand’s potential customers are already there, but more importantly, is the brand there yet? When benchmarking consumer behaviour since COVID-19, more than 90% of mobile gamers have bought luxury goods online in the last year, mobile games contributed to 77% of total app revenue in Asia-Pacific, and the top gaming apps across Asia-Pacific hold higher MAUs than the most popular OTT (over-the-top) apps.
M7: What is your advice to aspiring marketers stepping into such a dynamic market today?
AW: Be as prepared as possible, but take calculated risks. How? Through as tried and tested framework of:
(1) Discovery is key: Read everything you can, talk to friends and colleagues, reach out to leaders in your industry and ask them for a Zoom or a coffee meeting - you’d be surprised how many people are willing to help when asked
(2) Plan: Have a clear, orientated (and data driven) plan: marketing works best when it is layered, tracked, and optimised.
(3) Iterate: just because you executed a plan, it doesn’t mean it was (i) right (ii) will be successful
(4) Data: data is truth. Ignore it at your peril. Learning to determine insights from it is crucial
(5) Upskill: there are so many free online courses available, if you aren’t dedicating at least 10% of your month to upskilling, then you should be!
(6) Trust your instinct: if it feels wrong, it probably is!
(7) Learn: from your mistakes… and then go again! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, everyone does. Just control the fallout and use this knowledge to iterate better next time.
I can guarantee you that for every person who isn’t going through the above, there are many more that are; Competition is fierce, ensure you can stand out as the leading light as much as possible.