GrabAds' head on the brand's 'unique ability' to reach 1 in 6 people across SEA

Earlier this week, we ran an article on Grab launching its new ad business initiative GrabAds. According to a press statement, this was created to provide brands with an online-to-offline platform to engage with millions of Southeast Asian consumers.

In a conversation with Marketing, Nasheet Islam, head of GrabAds who joined the company a year ago, said that while news of the platform only broke recently, GrabAds has already booked several heavy-weight clients across the region such as Pepsi, Unilever and Shopee, among others. It has also already run over 1,000 campaigns in the past year. He said:

We reach one in six people in Southeast Asia.

Islam, who joined the team about a year ago, was brought in to build up the GrabAds business, and now has a cross-functional team which includes members specialising in product, engineering, sales, operations and partnerships. Prior to Grab, he founded an on-demand valet parking start up in London, built an online ad network in Bangladesh, and was head of Mobile Ad Operations for Google APAC.

Since then, the team has been busy tying up with major partners such as Mediacorp in Singapore on a content and media partnership, with the aim to create new revenue opportunities for private-hire car drivers. Over in Malaysia, Media Prima Digital and Grab also partnered up for the launch of the in-car media platform.

The partnership will see the installation of the very first Grab in-car media platform in Malaysia, with various short-form content provided by Media Prima surrounding four dedicated segments – entertainment, lifestyle, sports and news. This is in a bid to enhance passengers’ experience.

Now, banking on Grab’s own platform, Islam and his team are running car wrap campaigns across the region to promote the new ads business unit, along with events and roadshows across Southeast Asia.

A hyperlocal strategy

To ensure a localised strategy is in place, GrabAds has partnered with local ad management companies in each market to deliver maximum results and seamless campaign management for brands and drivers.  These include the likes of StickEarn, Karta and Interads in Indonesia, United Neon in the Philippines, Carblicity, IRIS, Display Science and MMI Media Group in Singapore, and DrivAdz in Vietnam.

We take a hyperlocal approach throughout Southeast Asia, recognising that this region is extremely diverse.

"Consumers have different lifestyle preferences including how they want to engage with brands. This is why our ad product mix is slightly different from market to market, and we work with strong local ad management partners to deliver maximum value for brands and their customers,” he said.

Given the OOH market is somewhat cluttered in the region, Islam added that Grab’s “unique advantage” is that it is “the only full-fledged advertising platform that marries an extensive on-ground fleet of vehicles with rich digital presence” across 229 cities in eight Southeast Asian countries.

Currently, GrabAds offers its clients an arena to build and customise interactive widgets – games, quizzes, content - in Grab’s app. They can also engage with customers with exclusive promo codes for Grab rides along with a little surprise message. Moreover, Grab’s new app experience features a news feed that provides information relevant to  consumers when they need it.

Featuring news, reviews and entertainment, brands can co-create contextualised content with Grab for specific occasions and serve them to customers while they are on the go.

“We believe in delivering sponsored experiences that are memorable, non-intrusive and will drive unique benefits for our customers. This is currently an innovation space and we keep user experience and engagement as the top metrics across all our ad experiences, offline and online,” he said.

As for the offline car wraps, he adds clients are able to tap on to precise reporting on the number of hours on the road, the total distance travelled and the areas covered by the car wrap campaigns in any city. Grab is also working with third party measurement providers to define benchmarks on impressions and viewability for each city.

“We believe there is tremendous growth potential across Southeast Asia. Every brand has a different priority market, product strategy and expansion plan. What’s important is that we help take brands to where their customers are, and work with them on designing engaging and personalised experiences that will help them cut through the noise,” he said.