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Digital marketing in the Philippines poised for further growth

By Bong R. Osorio

A white paper on the State of Digital Marketing in the Philippines was presented by GetCRaft, Southeast Asia’s premier content marketing network last July 26 in Square One, Bonifacio Technological Center, BGC. The market inquiry brings   together data   and insights culled from a survey conducted in 2017 of marketers across major cities in the Philippines, involving 150 respondents — managers, directors, vice-presidents and C-level marketers from brands and agencies representing various industries. The report seeks   to deliver impartial digital and content marketing industry snapshots and entreats ideas on pushing these findings forward.  The goal is to inform the   readers about the   current state of   digital   and content marketing in  the   Philippines,   identify   pain  points among  marketers, and explore  solutions. Here are the highlights of the study:

Market overview of the Philippines digital landscape.  Total Philippine population is 104 million, 69 million of whom are Internet users, and 69 million are active social media users. Mobile subscriptions number 129.4 million, while active mobile social users are 59 million. On devise usage: 88 percent use any type of mobile phone; 61 percent utilize smart phone; 39 percent and 25 percent avail of laptop or computer and tablet respectively. Average daily use: 9 hours on the Internet via personal computer or tablet; 3 hours and 36 minutes on the Internet via mobile phone; 4 hours and 17 minutes on social media using any device; and 2 hours and 30 minutes on television. 


Social media continues to dominate, but content marketing, influencer marketing, and sponsored content are on the rise.  Brands view social media—both paid and organic— as the most effective digital channel for marketing, due to the high number of active users, the enormous amount of time users spend using the channel, and cost efficiency. Social media in the Philippines are used for searching and purchasing products or services by nearly a third of the population, with Facebook as the priority medium. 

Shayne Garcia, managing Director of iProspect shares, “No one can underestimate the power of social media in the Philippines; this is where we interact with customers, respond to their inquiries and even get real time feedback about product quality. As consumers are deepening more and more their footprint on social, so should marketers.”

Three channels — content marketing, influencer marketing, sponsored content — are not far behind social media in marketers’ priority lists.  Companies and brands who want to succeed in social media marketing should understand that one of its critical pillars is content. Pao Pena, the Chief Experience Officer at Dentsu Jayme Syfu believes, “Many brands are jumping on influencers as source of content primarily because we are selling them as paid media and sometimes without proper guidance on whether they truly add value to the marketing mix.” 

Marketers spend 21.5 percent of their budget on digital. The drivers behind this growth are mostly demographic: increasing consumerism, an emerging middle class, and rapid mobile youth penetration. Digital marketing will be buoyed by improved technological infrastructure, internet penetration and broadband speed. Increase in knowledge will also positively impact growth. As marketers better understand the models that allow them to best hit their targets, digital channels will increasingly be viewed as more cost-effective, encouraging brands and agencies to spend more on digital.

Mobile marketing is expected to reign, with content marketing and customer experience as the next promising areas. Marketers are putting priority on how customers experience their brands   throughout the   customer journey.  Rightly so as customer experience is critical in either strengthening or weakening purchasing intent, engagement, brand loyalty and brand advocacy. There are many ways for marketers to improve customer experience including using automation tools, data-powered customization, and prioritizing mobile.

The growing audience of mobile makes it an ideal platform for brands   to engage   customers through intensified content marketing and enhanced customer experience. But consuming content is only one of three digital behaviors active   mobile   users   engage   in. They are also content creators and curators, which presents an opportunity for brands to co-create content with their customers. Emphasis on content places the onus on marketers to ensure high-quality   material that target the right audiences in the right spots. This highlights the need for personalization — or the ability of brands and messages to adapt to consumers. Such an ability is crucial not only in creating and publishing content but also in improving customer experience.

Budget restraint is a top digital challenge. Even as the value of digital marketing in the Philippines grows, nearly three out  of  five  marketers say they have difficulty in getting financing for  their digital campaigns. And besides funding, they lack skills and resources, proper tracking or measurements methods, and digital marketing tools.  As there is no one-size-fits-all formula for return on investment (ROI), marketers often   struggle   to justify their budget requests. This issue highlights the need to solidify key performance indicators. Without ROI tracking, no ROI can be demonstrated, and without ROI, no budget request is justified. Budget restraints prevent companies from hiring the right people and, therefore, from getting strategies right. Skills shortfall is aggravated by the fact that innovation is at a pace unmatched by learning curves and skills available in the market. Carlo Ople, vice-president for digital marketing strategy of PLDT-Smart states, “To unlock digital spend, marketers need to stop pushing campaign budgets, and instead propose new analytics-driven business.”

Fifty-seven (57) percent of marketers are unsure about how digital marketing drives business objectives. Lack of clarity about the role digital marketing plays in a business highlights the need to intensify education and training among brands.  These efforts must involve not only those in the boardroom but the entire marketing team and other teams they work with. Difficulties in   gauging    digital   performance   could mean   that marketers are measuring too many, too few, or incorrect metrics.   “Business   transformation is key in adapting to the changes of today. However, many are still grappling due to the lack of a seamless strategic view,” says Eduardo Mapa, Jr., founder of Castle by the River. 

Videos lead the way in content marketing. As Filipinos spend more time on social media than in watching television, they are also increasingly watching videos from mobile screens. Global Webb index reports YouTube as the second most active media platform at 56 percent, topped only by Facebook. Of all Filipino netizens, 28 percent watch videos online daily; 21 percent weekly and 19 percent monthly. A clear factor driving online video consumption growth is the rise of mobile in the Philippines with 57 percent of the population watch videos online using mobile phones.

Content marketing is mostly used for awareness. Jonas de los Reyes pronounces, “This awareness measure on content marketing is clearly an indicator of the changing mindsets of marketers today who are slowly maturing and understanding the role of digital and content marketing in their overall strategy and marketing plans.” He believes this will eventually shift and the goal of content marketing will be more for influencing consideration and evaluation, because this is where its strengths lie.

Skills and resources gaps are top content marketing challenges. Crafting quality content consistently requires not just the right mix of resources but also strategic planning. “What many fail to realize is that content marketing is a long-term commitment to build brand reputation, trust, loyalty, and so forth. And to build this, the costs are not cheap.” Patrick Searle, group CEO and co-founder at GetCRAFT answers.

Most brands do content marketing in-house. The benefits of running content marketing in-house are obvious: It gives brands maximum control, limits back-and-forth movement within the team, and provides employees with opportunities to continuously learn. 

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