Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Malaysian digital growth in 2020: exponential online traffic means exponential opportunities

Malaysia – 2020 was a challenging year. Across the board, people have had to adapt to new styles of working, adapt to new business strategies, and even changed industries. It would be easy to write off 2020 as a ‘bad year’, but I believe that’s the wrong way of looking at things. In fact, there is a case to be made for 2020 being one of the most important periods in the evolution of digital marketing, all over the globe. Let’s look at the facts.

1. As a direct impact of the lockdown in the pandemic, specifically called Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia, there has been a surge of online activity that was unprecedented. Everyone staying at home with no recourse for outside entertainment meant that users were highly more inclined to spend time online. Think about what that means in terms of your online audience, and compare it with the online audience of, say 2019.

2. With MCO, suddenly there are more people on social platforms than ever before. When users used to consume digital media when they were at home pre-COVID, now entire nations can (and do) consume digital media throughout the whole day. And it doesn’t end at media consumption. Over the course of 2020, users have also taken more decisive action to leverage digital platforms to fulfill consumer needs.

3. Where there have previously been large pools of users that were either unfamiliar or untrusting of e-commerce and online shopping, those groups have largely been converted. Where there was once a common mistrust, there are now entire generations of new believers.

4. Think about it, now your parents or grandparents have become somewhat accustomed to the online shopping process (at the very least, they understand how to browse and then ask for their children’s help with the purchasing process).

5. To illustrate the above point, Facebook recently reported that Southeast Asia as a whole has undergone an approximate 5 YEARS worth of digital ‘education’ in just one year of 2020. This means that what would have originally taken 5 years of digital education to achieve this size of audience with media consumption and e-commerce familiarity has only taken a year because – that’s right – new users have taken the initiative to educate themselves on how the process works. This in turn means great news for all digital marketers.

6. As marketers, in order to sell, you need a market to sell to. For digital, understand that your audience is limited to users that are on the digital platform. To grow your potential audience, an education process must happen to educate users about their ability to conduct purchases online. There is an overwhelming increase in demand for online consumption, and the supply of services is struggling to keep up. The climate is still fresh.

7. So what does this mean for you? Don’t worry, a rising tide raises ALL ships.

8. If you are a small business owner, you can pivot extremely fast in order to scale. You have an expanded audience to collect data and learnings from, and with the right automation tools deployed strategically, you can grow your business at an accelerated rate than you would have been able to just this time last year. Use this knowledge as leverage that you have an exponentially bigger audience to sell now vs. just a year ago.

9. If you are a larger scale marketer for bigger brands, you should also rejoice, as the digital market is bigger than ever, with so much more to play for. There is a bigger slice of the pie to corner, assuming you are willing to experiment with new strategies and pivot as you go along. With the power of scale, your analytics tools will be more important than ever in leveraging the mass amounts of data available. This is the time to run mass A/B testing and test out different audience sets as there is more data than ever, and there is a key opportunity here to actually help shape the market in these early days.

10. Come 2021: NOW is the time to make big, bold moves on digital. This is the time for taking bigger risks, and collecting learnings while the new digital climate is still fresh. For those that refuse to adapt…the market will not wait for you.

This article was written by Fadli Azali of iProspect.

iProspect is a digital marketing agency part of the Dentsu Aegis Network in Malaysia. It delivers integrated marketing campaigns such as performance marketing, search engine optimization, website, and app development, content marketing, as well as social media, and CRM.

Marketing Featured South Asia

Ad watchdog in India releases official COVID-19 guidelines

India – The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released on Tuesday an official advisory for brands and companies in releasing COVID-19-related advertisements.

The authority said the guidelines are in response to a proliferation of ads with misleading claims around coronavirus cures and preventions.

In the statement, ASCI cautions ads that claim destruction or removal of any virus other than COVID-19, a violation of the authority’s clauses 1.4, and 1.5, pertaining to the distortion of facts and the misframing of information for consumers. 

In cases that an advertiser opts to include such claims, ASCI reminded that the disclaimer “claim not applicable to coronavirus (COVID-19),” or a similar message, must be displayed, and shown in the size and position aligned with ASCI’s specifications. 

Advertisers are also likewise warned to be extra conscientious in making, whether direct or indirect, claims in reducing the chances of becoming infected with the virus, or gaining immunity against it. In such cases, advertisers should be able to substantiate such claims with technical support by recognized or approved health authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), or any health organizations of similar stature. Support may also come from well-recognized medical and technical literature or by regulatory-approved clinical research conducted by a recognized medical institute and laboratory.

Similarly, the authority made mention that brands offering products that are not internally consumed or applied to bodies hence, those not requiring a license under the Drug & Cosmetic Act, must be particularly careful in making claims regarding the prevention, immunity, and treatment for the virus unless supported with sufficient data. 

In April 2020, the Ministry of AYUSH has released an order for regulatory authorities in the states and union territories on AYUSH, drugs that have been launched without any rigorous pharmacological studies and clinical trial, to stop and prevent publicity and advertisement of AYUSH-related claims for COVID-19. In the guidelines, ASCI emphasized the order which restricts communications on print, TV, and electronic media. 

ASCI said the released directions are only the first of many steps to safeguard consumers from the plethora of misleading pandemic-related claims

Since the Ministry of AYUSH’s memo in April, ASCI has processed 250 violating advertisements and reported 233 from the healthcare sector to the ministry. 

General Secretary of ASCI Manisha Kapoor said that although the pandemic is a difficult time for everyone, even for brands, it isn’t a reason to resort to negligence.

“Manufacturers and brands have responded to consumer needs arising out of the pandemic. However, we want these products and advertisements to stick to claims and promises that are well backed by adequate substantiation,” said Kapoor.

Kapoor added, “We want advertisers to be more mindful in creating advertisements and making claims related to Covid-19. Given the pandemic and the extended lockdowns, people are obviously concerned.”

ASCI has already rolled out digital banners of the guidelines on its social media pages.

Main Feature Platforms Global

Facebook on anti-vaccine ads: “We don’t want these ads on our platform”

United States – The social media giant will now be enforcing a global policy prohibiting ads that discourage people from getting vaccinated, it said Wednesday on a blog post.

On the post, Head of Health Kang-Xing Jin and Director of Product Rob Leathern straightforwardly said, “We don’t want these ads on our platform.”

The new policy is another step forward to Facebook’s goal to fight misinformation amid the pandemic, having previously put restrictions on vaccine hoaxes identified by World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

“Now, if an ad explicitly discourages someone from getting a vaccine, we’ll reject it,” it said.

Facebook will, however, still allow ads that advocate for or against legislation or government policies around vaccines, but will be requiring them to get authorized and have the ‘Paid for by’ label included in order for people to see the brand or company behind them. 

“We regularly refine our approach around ads that are about social issues to capture debates and discussions around sensitive topics happening on Facebook. Vaccines are no different,” said Facebook.

Aside from the policy, Facebook announced that it will be launching a new information campaign to encourage people to get their flu shot. It will be initially launched in the US in the current week and will be gradually rolled out in other countries.

Marketing Featured Global

H&M to close 250 stores by 2021

Sweden – The Swedish-grown fast-fashion brand H & M has revealed in its nine-month financial report that it will be shutting down 250 of its physical stores by 2021.

H & M disclosed that it has been putting stores into temporary closure since March due to the negative impact on sales development brought about by the pandemic, where at most, approximately 80 percent of the group’s stores have been shut down.

CEO Helena Helmersson said that the coronavirus outbreak prompted more customers to start shopping online during the pandemic, and they are making it clear that they value a convenient and inspiring experience in which physical stores and online channels interact and strengthen each other.

“The substantial investments made in recent years have been very important for our recovery and we are now accelerating our transformation work further to meet customers’ expectations. We are increasing digital investments, accelerating store consolidation, and making the channels further integrated. To ensure that our offerings are relevant to customers and improve availability in all channels, speed and flexibility will be even more important in the future, particularly in the supply chain.”

Currently, the brand operates its own online shopping website,

Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Agoda poll reveals Kuala Lumpur as top-searched destination among Malaysians

Malaysia – Online travel agency and metasearch engine Agoda has released its latest survey of most-searched destinations on, where Kuala Lumpur is revealed to be the top-searched among Malaysians.

Kuala Lumpur was followed by Penang and Langkawi as the second and third most searched destinations, while similar local spots such as Port Dickson and Malacca rounded up the top five. Malaysians were also shown to shine interest in places outside the country with Thailand and Tokyo making it to the top 10 list. Meanwhile, national destinations such as Kota Kinabalu, Cameron Highlands, and Genting Highlands were also among the top searches. 

Kuala Lumpur remained the top destination for other types of searches such as for the couple, family, and solo travels while Bentong topped the list for group travels. Almost the same mix of places resulted from each category. Ipoh and Johar Baru entered the list for the couple searches. Malaysian families, on the other hand, were also keen for Korea as the country ended as one of top-searched for the family category. Meanwhile, the group travel search saw Allepey, Kuching, Koh Samui, and Taiping entering the list, while heightened liking towards international locations demonstrated among solo travel searches, with almost half being foreign countries such as Singapore and Taipei.

Agoda’s Vice President for Corporate Development Tim Hughes said that while Agoda’s search data shows that there has been a shift towards domestic destinations amid regulations for domestic travel, people are still dreaming about international travel adventures. 

“[Travelers] still have hope that travel corridors will open later this year to some key markets where COVID has been more contained, and are looking out for great deals for when they do,” said Hughes.

Main Feature SME Global

Entertainment bosses bullish on business amid COVID-19

Singapore – When COVID-19 struck, its catastrophic blow on businesses spared no industry. There are definitely sectors that are more hard-hit than others, but every business had a fair share of economic decline.

Amid the pandemic, one industry that has not been thoroughly checked on as others is the entertainment industry, and a survey by live events and entertainment company Branded revealed that senior executives are quite bullish on business despite having to deal with pandemic-induced disruptions. 

The study captured the views of more than 60 movers and shakers, and C-suite decision makers in the entertainment industry. It found that 58% of bosses feel confident in the performance of the sector over the next six months, while 23% described their business to be in a current state of decline. 

Executives also demonstrated continued optimism when asked about how long they expect the effects of COVID-19 to last on business. A large portion, 70%, feel that the perennial effects of Covid-19 will only last between one and two years, with just 17% feeling it will last from two to five years. 

The study also revealed that smaller businesses, those with annual turnover of US$1m or less, feel significantly more bullish on their future market performance than larger businesses of US$6m or greater.

Jasper Donat, CEO at Branded said, “In a period that has totally uprooted the entertainment industry, it is now a challenge to judge what will be a temporary knock, and what will have a seismic impact for years to come. The survey does however reveal a forward-looking optimism from business leaders and a renewed commitment to purpose-led business.”

Main Feature SME Southeast Asia

This Malaysian SEO company will offer SEO rescue package for free for SEA-bound social enterprises

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Malaysia-based SEO agency JinMatic announced that as part of its efforts to aid companies amid the pandemic, it has released an SEO rescue package, which will be given for free for social enterprises in Southeast Asia.

The package will include a customized strategy plan, a website diagnosis, and market research, where comprehensive reports will be provided.

The company said that it is its desire to help businesses, especially social enterprises, keep intact their brand and revenue health amid the difficult time of the pandemic.

“Running a social enterprise is more challenging than small and medium enterprise because social enterprises have to achieve both economic sustainability and their social mission.”, said Terence Lim, founder of JinMatic.

Lim added, “We are all going that extra mile to support one another during this difficult, unpredictable period. By offering this package to social enterprises, we hope we are doing our bit to support the good cause.”

JinMatic’s digital marketing team will be reviewing the company’s websites and provide actionable insights on aspects such as user experience, current keyword rankings, and website architecture and content. A maximum of three working days will be allotted for the review.

“For example, the team will analyze the applicants’ website security and loading speed, which are important factors in improving user experience,” stated JinMatic in a press statement.

The company shared that it got inspired by the idea when it recently collaborated with an Indonesian social enterprise Du Anyam, which is aimed at improving the health and financial condition of women in rural areas.

Technology Featured Southeast Asia

Philippine university rolls out virtual learning system that allows students self-paced learning until “mastery” is achieved

Manila, Philippines – Philippines-based university FEU Institute of Technology (FEU Tech) has released a proprietary learning system for its students, Mastery-based Individualized Learning Enhancement System (MILES), as its response to schools’ shift to a new normal amid the Pandemic. 

The country’s government has been firm in its decision to hold off face-to-face classes until the availability of a vaccine, urging schools from primary to tertiary levels to take learning online. While many have opted to leverage available online tools such as ZOOM to administer classes, FEU Tech has taken the liberty to create its own system for learning. 

MILES runs on online learning platform Canvas. The system differentiates itself from other virtual learning systems via its “Mastery Network,” wherein in every course, students are required to achieve a certain level of mastery in one topic before they can go study the next, eyeing a more targeted and goal-oriented learning.  

According to FEU Tech Executive Director Dr. Benson Tan, he and his team have high hopes for MILES because the program was built to address the learning gap of the often favored method of rote memorization which is not enough to integrate into students deep knowledge of a topic.

How the mastery network works, students will be given the option “to try as many times as they need,” until they have achieved a certain minimum score on a test that demonstrates mastery. Alongside this, the system offers asynchronous learning, where they can easily access learning materials online at any point in the day. 

FEU Tech explains in a press statement: “Take the subject of trigonometry. Under a normal classroom setting, students may only have a few weeks to fully master the sin, cos, and tan operations needed to find certain angles. With MILES, students can undergo a formative assessment as many times as they need to, solving different trigonometry problems each time. Eventually, the students will come out with a better understanding than if they were rushed.”

Within MILES, FEU Tech is also determined to give students a holistic experience, albeit virtually, of campus services. Through a Blue button in the Canvas platform, students will be able to reach out to school-bound departments such as the clerical office, the library, and even the guidance counselor. The same goes for the university’s faculty.


Through the same Blue button, students will be able to easily consult professors on the course material. For every course, faculty will be ready to answer questions as they come, where at least one professor is made available online from 7 am to 9 pm. 

“On top of a self-paced learning environment, our faculty are ready to lend assistance at any time, whether that means simply asking a one-off question about the lesson or even taking time to give students one-on-one tutorial sessions,” said Tan. 

FEU Tech is the dedicated technology institute of Far Eastern University (FEU), and was established in 1992 in the country. FEU currently has six tertiary level branches and one secondary school campus. Aside from FEU Tech, the MILES program so far has been launched to two of its other campuses; FEU Diliman and Alabang.

Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

Unilever Philippines joins Grab to launch Safer Meals campaign

Manila, Philippines – Grab Philippines has tied up with Unilever Philippines to launch the Safer Meals Philippines campaign, a program which provides hygiene kits to GrabFood merchant partners and delivery partners. 

Through the kits, Grab aims to ensure utmost safety and hygiene at every stage of the food delivery life cycle. Part of the kits is Unilever’s newly launched Lifebuoy sanitizer and Cif multi-purpose cleaner. 

According to a press statement by Grab Singapore, the partnership with Unilever covers the whole of Southeast Asia in the objective to protect Grab riders as well as to support the livelihoods of small business owners. 

GrabFood Philippines Head EJ Dela Vega said, “Keeping our communities safe is core to everything we do at Grab, and we are fortunate to find a partner in Unilever that shares this philosophy and be able to make a difference through our Safer Meals Philippines campaign.”

Since March, Unilever has been doing its part to support nationwide efforts in supplying basic goods and services amid the pandemic.

It announced its local response “Malasakit for All” (compassion for all) to support its employees, partners, and communities, where among the initiatives are the provision of hygiene relief packs and medical supplies to hospitals as well as NGOs and affected groups nationwide.

Unilever’s VP for Communications in Southeast Asia, Ed Sunico said, “Building trust across communities and consumers is a way to move forward from the challenging situation that we’re all facing right now.”

Main Feature SME Southeast Asia

65% of Singaporeans expect workplace will improve after COVID-19, says study

Singapore – Almost two thirds of workers in Singapore, or 65% of them expect that their industry will change for the better after COVID-19 due to the changes being implemented amid pandemic response, according to a research by customer experience tech Qualtrics.

The Qualtrics study surveyed 800 Singaporeans, and more than half, or 57% rated their employer’s response to the pandemic as “above average.”

With many people working from home during the pandemic, a large portion, 42% of respondents, said their employee experience has improved during the pandemic, while the same number said it has remained the same. 

The most effective actions employers have taken to make their teams feel more valued throughout this period leaned more on workplace flexibility with 51% of companies, followed by gratitude from the direct manager, and improved benefits, both with 21% of companies undertaking such measures.

“As a result of their employers’ quick thinking and actions, the majority of workers across Singapore say they feel a lot more valued at their company, and a lot more proud  to work for them,” Qualtrics SEA Head Mao Gen Foo said.

“While many have made steps in the right direction, businesses cannot afford to take their foot off the gas. Employees want to be listened to, and there is more change on the road ahead as people return and industries adapt,” added Mao Gen.

The new normal in the workplace

While employees have imparted the present measures their companies are undertaking, they  also gave insight into what actions they want to see more of from employers.

For 77% of Singaporeans, it’s important that their employer asks for feedback on what action can be taken to make them feel more confident about returning. 

Within such desired feedback, the study revealed that a flexible work schedule is the most coveted change that workers want to see in the workplace with 69% of them expressing it as a top concern.

This was followed by wanting companies to have a higher focus on personal hygiene with 44%, while about 39% said that actions should be taken to have greater focus on employee mental health. Meanwhile, almost the same number said that freedom to choose their work location is a factor.

Mao Gen said that while employees can agree prioritising safety and hygiene is essential moving forward, there is a slight gap between the actions they want to see, and which they expect to see outside of this. 

“Singaporeans want to see their employers continue to focus on offering more workplace flexibility – such as less time spent commuting, and wearing more comfortable clothing to work,” said Mao Gen.