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Zalora CMO on omnichannel's increased relevance & doubling down on influencers



Zalora tapped former Red Bull head of digital Elias Pour in September as its new chief marketing officer, taking over from Tito Costa, who had taken on the CMO function while also holding the role of managing director.

Pour is now part of the leadership team that leads over 150 people, while specifically leading the full marketing operations of the fashion e-commerce retailer. He has relocated to South East Asia from Australia, where he spent his last eight years working for brands such as Red Bull, as well as Adobe and Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

The Drum caught up with Pour to chat about Zalora's omnichannel approach, its influencer marketing and advertising strategy, solving logistical challenges for major sales days such as 11.11 and competing with the likes of Lazada.

Since joining Zalora, what has been your immediate priorities as CMO?

I joined in early September and my immediate priorities were around finding that way to break-even as fast as possible. For example, where do you stop consuming from the business and start contributing to it? Which is really important.

My first 30 days were all about listening and learning. Zalora is a very complex business operation in a very complex region. It is important that we make the right decisions in the beginning.

Now, I would say my priorities would be going into this very important holiday period with 11.11 and 12.12 [a similar shopping festival to 11.11 and Black Friday in Asia], and making sure that we have the proper capabilities to support those really key dates.

It has been really important for me to show support to the teams and make sure that we are well prepared for that. And lastly, as we are going through such a high growth period as a business, we are doing a lot of hiring in preparation for next year.

In terms of marketing and advertising the brand, do you think anything can be done better? What do you want to introduce?

Moving into 2019, we will definitely find a better balance between short-term and long-term brand initiatives, so we will definitely see a balance there. But it is also a little bit early to go into the proper tactics at the moment.

Zalora introduced its omnichannel approach (O2O) in 2014. How has the progress been and how will you take it further?

That was a very important project that we looked at and initiated back in 2014. It has been a very important part of how we assess both online and offline. For us, going into next year, it is going to be very important to double-down on the fact that we are an online pure player that operates fashion e-commerce.

We will definitely invest more in advance in experiments that are physical. We know our consumers are demanding that from us too. They are very digital-first but they are starting to crave a little bit more of a well-curated, offline and physical experience, so we are going to do that too.

However, for omnichannel, the offline to online play, it is probably more relevant to the traditional brick and mortar stores that are now connecting the dots. We have a very strong heritage, being an online pure player, so for us, it is more of an exploration space offline to offline than it is for many of them.

We are offering free delivery and free returns, which solves a number of problems for a lot of our consumers. They can order and try it out at home and if there are any items they are not happy with, it is a no-questions-asked return policy. So it is super, super easy for our consumers.

How does Zalora spend its media and advertising budget, and work with influencers?

As on online pure player, we have this innate tendency to spend a lot on digital. Influencer marketing is a very, very critical component of that for us. We see them as our partners, we invest in both research and product development with them and we did a bag collection a while ago. We just launched a bag with Jessica Jung and we have even more upcoming collaborations.

Influencers are very much centred in our marketing strategy already and that's something they really want to scale for and double down on next year.

In terms of our overall investment, we do have a majority of our spend going into digital but we will probably find a little bit of an increase in investment going into offline next year. We will invest more in events, experiences, and pop-ups.

In my opinion, influencer marketing works best when it activates well-curated brands, so it is really important for us to curate our brand really well. That is, both digital but also offline.

Do you think the SEA fashion e-commerce scene has become too crowded and saturated, with Love, Bonito and Pomelo in the market, as well as e-commerce players like Lazada/Taobao having a fashion collection?

I definitely think there is much more to come in this space. I don't think we have hit critical mass yet and so I definitely do not think the market is oversaturated. Love, Bonito and Pomelo are actually very important partners for us too. We do not really see them as competitors but as partners.

With Lazada and the general merchandise players, I think there is a proposition of e-commerce players that sell apparel and clothing like us, which is purely focused on fashion.

I think we solve two different problems for consumers and we do not really see general merchandisers as our main competitors. We do not really aim to sell batteries and tool belts.

What makes Zalora special and what makes you stand out among the rest?

I think it is the singular focus on just being a fashion player. That really sets us apart. You see that brands show a lot of preference for us too. They want to partner with somebody who also works very closely with them, preserving their branding and visual identity, which is really, really key.

I think our opportunity in this market is that we have a very strong heritage in being a fashion-only player. We will definitely double-down on that too.

How is Zalora trying to improve logistics to deliver products on time, especially during high-peak periods like 11.11?

One of the most fascinating things about this region is also how dynamic and complex it is. I think one of our key unique selling points at Zalora is how we have embraced that complexity.

If you look at our business model from the supply chain, to order fulfilment, to local marketing, to customer experience, we really embraced that complexity and we have delivered to thousands of different islands in the region, which I think is a testament to our commitment to the region, as well.

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We have the ability now to deliver to tier three, tier four cities, which are not the typical big and major cities. People living there are not very close to high street streams and brands, but now they can now have access to some of the most fascinating products and brands, which we can deliver it the next day or within a couple of days, that is amazing.

The proposition will be properly tested during 11.11 and 12.12. We feel very confident in the rise in demand that we have, that we will be able to meet all those expectations.

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Who should take advantage of IGTV first?



YouTube has had a near monopoly on the long-form video space — until recently. Instagram’s IGTV is here and it looks like it could be a formidable competitor. IGTV is the popular social media platform’s very own vertical video app, which is designed to allow brands, influencers, and creators to post longer segments; allowing for videos up to one hour in length, compared to the previous length of only one minute.

IGTV will almost certainly develop as a bona fide YouTube competitor, at a time when YouTube may be in its most vulnerable state. Here are the most likely reasons why:

IGTV could be a brand safety oasis

YouTube is especially sensitive to IGTV at the moment due to brand safety concerns. For the past year, YouTube’s biggest challenge has been assuring advertisers that their buys will be safe. At one point, 250 brands stopped advertising on the platform altogether. And, while almost all brands have returned, and YouTube has invested heavily in being a better partner, half of advertisers say YouTube has done a poor job with brand safety and managing inventory quality.

For IGTV, this is a gift. Though it has been careful not to say so explicitly, Instagram will likely be positioning IGTV as a more curated and brand-safe environment than YouTube. Brands want an alternative in light of safety concerns, so they’re looking at options from Snapchat and other premium publishers. We see this in our own spend data, with YouTube ad growth almost completely flat; increasing by just 0.2% from January to May.

So, what can brands do in the interim, whose main concern is brand safety? The instinct is to be cautious. But that may not be the right answer. Instead brands should be clear and firm with expectations. Brands first to market will be able to push Instagram to be brand safe – to demand it – and IGTV has the opportunity to challenge Google Preferred by providing brands with a transparent, brand-safe solution to YouTube’s shortcomings. However, the platform has to prove it by example first.

YouTube has made significant strides in showing advertisers that they are taking brand safety concerns seriously (e.g. the implementation of whitelist and blacklist technologies, partnering with DoubleVerify). IGTV has to be brand-safe out of the gate — or at the very least, safer than its competitor — to draw those advertisers away from YouTube.

Advertisers will like IGTV for performance

Beyond brand safety, IGTV could beat YouTube on performance. Over the past two years, the demand for performance by digital media has exploded. Last year, brand frustrations culminated when P&G and Unilever, two of the world’s biggest advertisers, dramatically cut ad spend due to concerns around transparency and ROI. Ad budgets are being scrutinized more than ever and a growing number of operations are being taken in-house.

This ties back to IGTV and YouTube in a few ways. First, according to ANA data, influencer marketing has surged. Seventy-five percent of brands are spending on influencers and nearly half will increase spending in the next year. Why? Sixty percent say they’re happy with the performance they’ve seen, with Instagram being the second-most popular channel for influencer programs, just behind Facebook.

Instagram has established itself more strongly as a performance channel than YouTube and it offers an unmatched ability to drive purchases. That’s an advertiser’s dream, of course. A recent study, reported by RetailDive, and conducted by Dana Rebecca Designs, revealed that 72% of users have made a purchase decision as a direct result of something they saw on Instagram. YouTube, by contrast, has helped with purchase decisions already planned. If Instagram can deliver similar performance through IGTV, advertisers will come calling.

Retail brands, specifically those that are significantly reliant on online shopping, should realign their budgets to make IGTV a priority, as IGTV will be a great resource for driving the right type of customers toward a purchase.

Instagram is growing, while YouTube is not

Unfortunately for YouTube, brand safety isn’t the only major challenge it has grappled with recently. In addition to ad growth, viewership numbers have begun to slow down. A few months ago, major channels and influencers on YouTube saw their monthly views stall. An analysis by eMarketer echoed this pattern, noting that YouTube’s audience growth was 13% in 2016 but only 9% in 2017. According to the report, “YouTube viewership is nearing saturation in many markets.” Those numbers are likely to continue to erode.

IGTV, by contrast, is only just getting started. Its growth prospects are bright. Instagram’s user base is growing by 5% each quarter. The company recently announced 1 billion monthly active users. YouTube has more at 1.8 billion, but Instagram hasn’t shown any signs of plateauing. Also, consider that consumer tastes have shifted towards vertical video as mobile viewing has exploded. IGTV is a vertical video-first platform, while YouTube only added vertical video compatibility in January. The viewership trends are in Instagram’s favor, whereas YouTube is playing catch up.

YouTube could wonder about its ability to maintain audience numbers if top stars and influencers desert it. At its core, Instagram is a social network. YouTube, by comparison, is not. Most come to YouTube for personalities like Smosh and Jenna Marbles. But if the personalities go away, so do the viewers.

In recent months, some influencers haveeither left the platform or chosen to diversify their content across challenger services such as Twitch. As YouTube tightens brand safety and copyright controls in an effort to calm advertisers, creators are concerned that the cleanup is leading to “viewer suppression” and demonetization. IGTV has already partnered with popular influencers such as King Bach and LeLe Pons for its launch, and any blowback among YouTube’s community of stars will only help it attract more creators.

Tread cautiously

IGTV’s opportunity to become a brand-safe, performance-driven, vertical video alternative to YouTube isn’t just hype. That being said, brands should remain vigilant during this time, and not act on impulse once IGTV decides to monetize. Some may be tempted to dive right in, due to the influencer-heavy list of content creators on the platform, but IGTV will have to prove it has learned from the woes of its competitor, before it can truly outshine YouTube.

Todd Krizelman is chief executive officer of MediaRadar

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Group Nine centralizes branded content team with launch of an in-house studio



Group Nine Media is bringing its branded content strategy under one roof with the launch of in-house studio Brandshop.

The digital publisher announced today (11 December) that Brandshop will bring together the creative services teams across its four brands — NowThis, Thrillist, Seeker, and The Dodo — and the branded entertainment piece of its production studio Jash.

Group Nine president Christa Carone said centralizing everything will better inform the outlet's editorial strategy.

"The campaigns, the videos, and all of the programs we're developing are entirely informed on the insights that we're seeing from the audiences that engage with our editorial content. So, when an advertiser asks what young are people interested in, [we have a] robust set of data to be able to answer that question in an informed way," Carone told The Drum.

According to Nielsen, Group Nine reaches over 80% of US adults in their 20s. Group Nine brands earn more than 140 social engagements each month, per Listen First Media.

Yosef Johnson, senior vice president and head of Brandshop, will lead the new studio. He called it a "holistic new shop" across Group Nine's four brands.

Group Nine is the latest media company to push a brand content strategy. Condé Nast recently set up its own agency and brand consultancy in the UK.

Carone said Group Nine is seeing "very healthy, double-digit growth" in the area, and that as a social-first publisher it has a unique position in offering branded content.

"We lean very heavily into the social platform. It's one of the reasons we know advertisers want to work with us, because we are known in the marketplace as being one of the most robust social-first publishers, so our learnings from that are helping advertisers better understand how they can engage with younger audiences on social," Carone said.

Digital media currently stands on some shaky grounds as it competes for advertising dollars with giants such as Facebook and Google. BuzzFeed's chief executive suggested a merger among media companies could help publishers better compete.

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A big hairy toe appears on NYC Subway as Billie expands ‘Project Body Hair’ into OOH



Direct-to-consumer (DTC) razor brand Billie has taken to New York City’s Subway for the launch of its first out-of-home campaign, a series of images depicting real female hair on previously undepicted body parts – including the toe.

‘The underrated toe shave’ – a close shot of a woman shaving her immaculately pedicured-yet-fuzzy digits – is just one of the images featured in the campaign now live in Williamsburg’s Bedford station.

Other creative features armpits in various states of regrowth, and a razor cutting through the lawn of a women’s leg.

The work was derived from Billie’s Project Body Hair launch video. The razor brand’s overarching ad campaign, which racked up 22m views across social media, was lauded internationally for being the first to depict real body hair.

The shot of a toe being shaved in the film triggered a particularly positive reaction, which led Billie to place a similar image front-and-center of its first foray into OOH, explained founder Georgina Gooley.

“The poster of the hairy, big toe is…big!” she told The Drum. “We’ve received overwhelming support for acknowledging ‘underrated shaves’ and this will be the first time a toe is displayed like this in OOH.

"We’re hopeful women in Williamsburg will be supportive of us doing things a little bit differently. It was incredible to watch the [Project Body Hair] film ‘go viral’ and it’s been even more rewarding to see it start an industry trend and change the way women are portrayed in advertising.”

The initial campaign led Billie’s sales to double in one week. The brand also carved out the project’s longevity with the creation of a free-to-access image library of women proudly exhibiting their body hair.

Now, with an expansion into OOH, Billie joins the ranks of subscription-based, DTC brands capitalizing on the Subway’s inventory to reach young, affluent audiences.

“We’re looking forward to seeing how [outdoor] performs as part of our larger 'test and learn' strategy,” said Gooley.

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