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3 Tips for Mobile Advertisers Who Want to Tap into South Korea

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Boasting the highest smartphone penetration in APAC standing at 94% of the total population and rising to 100% among 18-34 year olds South Korea is one of the strongest (and most competitive) app markets in the region for mobile advertisers. As a global leading mobile ad tech organization, we have also taken note and are presently expanding into high growth markets in the Asia Pacific (APAC) and working with clients and agencies in South Korea.

Certainly, our growth in South Korea would not have been possible without our hands-on, dedicated APAC team of account managers with localized knowledge. Want to learn some tricks of the trade? We have called on Suyoung Oh, Senior Business Development Manager at WeQ, to share some of the top tips she picked up working with local Korean brands. Get her advice on how you can help drive user acquisition in South Korea below.

1. Be creative with your mobile adverts to stand out

Koreans know how to make a splash! With a keen sense of aesthetics, Koreans are attracted to bold statements: this applies from their taste in fashion, to the way they consume apps. In fact, Korean apps get very creative when it comes to their advertisement content and whether it’s video or display ads, they frequently update their creatives with bold and flashy graphics: for example, anytime they do an in app event, release an upgrade, or change characters. Whereas a gaming app could be changing creatives twice a month, a shopping app could do it on a weekly basis. Also, it’s best to use clear and minimal, simple text in creatives with direct call to actions, such as: “Promotion: Hotel in Jeju $100”. So, to wrap up: if you want to stand out, be trendy (think more on the kitsch side), direct and keep the messaging simple. Obviously, most apps in Korea are in Hangul and not in English so do keep that in mind.

Take a look at the example below by NCSoft, an RPG game with different servers to choose from. By server, we mean different stages within the game: by changing/upgrading servers the users can experience new characters and items, for example. At the end of August they promoted a short-time event which gave users the chance to change server for a short time period. The banner clearly says: “2018.08.29 Lineage M Server Change” combined with characters packing and moving elsewhere. Simple and effective!

Also, be mindful of the vertical of your app when tailoring your creatives. Koreans use food delivery apps often, as they are popular and in high demand, you need to stand out! As a Korean myself, I normally eat out or order in when socializing with friends, rather than making homemade food — the main reason being that grocery shopping often ends up being as expensive as going to the restaurant. Keep an eye on what the big players are up to, such as Baedal Minjok (e.g. “Let’s go on a diet with Photoshop!” meaning, don’t worry about putting on weight by ordering food with us) and Yogiyo to get an idea on creatives and messaging. Fun fact: Baedal hit the highest number of orders (140K per hour) during the Korea-Mexico world cup match between 7 and 9pm. Orders per hour during World Cup fever regularly ranged between 100K to 150K. Our top tip? Combine fantastic creatives with burst campaigns during peak times of the year, such as sporting events and special dates (Christmas, Children’s Day and Parents’ Day in Korea), to boost your user acquisition.

2. Network and get social! Koreans value meeting people in person

First of all, I’ve noticed a shift in how brands run advertising campaigns and it’s a positive one for non-Koreans. In the past, local brands would run all media campaigns – from print, to TV, and mobile – with big agencies, these days they are more likely to work directly with smaller ad networks. With more foreign networks opening up offices in Korea over the past few years, there is certainly more scope for global advertisers to grow.

To get your foot through the door, be proactive! Do your research — for example, using a market data and insight platforms — to spot interesting apps and check if they have SDKs integrated with various advertising platforms, as it usually means they running active campaigns. When initiating contact and starting a partnership, aim to meet them in person at industry events such as G-Star (great for gaming – we’ll also be attending) and Max Summit (for ad tech) or schedule a trip. Koreans are very sociable and prefer to schedule business meetings in the flesh or invite you around to their office. When it comes to virtual communications, be prepared: I always put together a meeting or call agenda before and give them a detailed plan in advance, as they value efficiency. To find out more about their local customs, check out our business etiquette tips for APAC and Korea here.

My experience working with Korean brands has been extremely positive, with our partners being highly proactive and transparent. They are very data-driven and grant access to their data-sets, including owned data; they also keep an eye on numbers regularly and communicate clearly if they have any questions or needs. Their trust and transparency enables us to be on the same page and work collaboratively, resulting in successful campaigns.

3. Steer clear of unethical and illegal websites at all costs

With the increased importance of brand safety, take all the steps to ensure that adverts are not shown on illegal or unethical websites and apps, such as streaming or torrent sites. There are a ton of those out there, so make sure to blacklist them from your campaigns. It can negatively affect your brand and would lead to a big loss of trust on the part of consumers – and brands, of course. Stay on guard! Also, steer clear of content of political, sexual and offensive nature in your creatives.

Images courtesy of: Shutterstock, WeQ, ECCK, Pixels

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