Research firm International Data Corp (IDC) predicted just a few months ago that worldwide spending on Internet advertising will grow at a phenomenal annual rate of 15 to 20 percent and reach $106.6 billion by 2011. In addition, they project that online advertising will represent almost 10 percent of the overall advertising industry and soar to 13.6 percent in the next three years. It seems like the Internet advertising market share continues to expand despite the economic crisis, the global outbreak of pessimism, depression, regression, and the fact that overall ad budgets continue to shrink.

So let’s take a closer look and try to find out more about the current mood and situation of the industry in Asia Pacific. Asian e-Marketing talked to Mr Jeff Zweig, co-founder and Chief Guru of Web Guru Asia, a regional award winning Internet consulting firm specialised in interactive marketing, online public relations and web solutions development, who is responsible for all of Web Guru Asia’s activities worldwide. In the eleven years since establishing the company, he has been responsible for the success of more than 150 online marketing and digital branding projects in 15 countries, mostly working with multinational or public-listed companies, as for instance Singapore Airlines, Hong Kong Disneyland, HSBC, Carlsberg, Microsoft, BMW, Pepsi, Sony, Time Warner (CNN, Time, FORTUNE), CNBC, to name a few, besides various government bodies. His company now operates offices in 6 different countries across Asia and employs around 50 people.

What are the most common mistakes you see companies make with Internet marketing and about what business owners need to be aware of?

  1. Many companies have an over reliance on traditional advertising agencies and media buying houses to make digital strategy and campaign recommendations instead of working more closely with interactive agencies. It is only the interactive agencies that have the deep knowledge and expertise unique to digital. Some traditional ad agencies and media buying houses might have interactive departments staffed with skilled and experienced interactive specialists but most do not.
  2. Too much money is spent in digital channels that do not usually deliver solid ROI. One glaring example is the overuse of non-rich media display banner advertising purchased on a CPM basis.
  3. The erroneous assumption that only young people interact with Internet media such as websites and social media.
  4. Too much focus on metrics such as click-through rate and open rate (for email marketing) and not enough focus on conversion rate. In my view, conversion rate is where the business value lies.
  5. More education is needed in the market in the following areas:
    • How to leverage the power of social media and user generated content in online campaigns to move from passive one-way brand communications to active, multi-way conversations that often don’t even involve the direct participation of the brand
    • How best to interpret online metrics to deliver optimal ROI
    • Search engine optimization
    • Search engine marketing
    • Advertising purchased on a pay-per-performance basis (i.e., cost per click, cost per lead)

Effective Internet marketing in general doesn’t come cheap. How much has to be spent on a good solution?

I respectfully disagree with this mindset. In my view, marketing spend is a credit against future earnings. It doesn’t matter how much a campaign or a solution costs as long as it delivers a reasonable return on the investment.

How much should be invested? There can be no “cookie cutter” formula. It depends on many factors including business objectives, target audience, competitive landscape, the nature of the product or service that is being marketed, etc. plus how good the attendant marketing strategy, execution and measurement is.

And by the way, many types of social media-based campaigns can deliver stunning results with very little cost—as long as you know how.

Furthermore, campaigns running on a pay-per-performance model can take all the risk out of the equation and a campaign’s precise ROI can be determined even before it’s even run! Indeed, in this type of scenario the more a company spends on the pay-per-performance campaign the more net profit they make on their marketing investment. Not only that, but such a campaign can be modified during its run to improve results even further. This is simply impossible using traditional offline marketing methods!

Is there a higher, lower, or comparable ROI to traditional methods?

Because digital media will always be more measurable than traditional methods and because digital campaigns can be changed on the fly to continuously improve results, they will always have the potential to deliver far superior ROI as long as the strategy, its execution and the analysis and interpretation of the results are sound.

How would you characterize the unique value propositions of Web Guru Asia? What kind of Internet marketing solutions can clients expect from you?

We have a 10+ year track record in delivering outstanding results to clients, most of whom are multinationals, public listed companies, government bodies and dotcom entrepreneurs. Some of these clients have been working with us for more than 8 years.

This success stems from our strategic thinking, our focus on presenting business results and strict attention to details. I have purposely left out the word “creative” from the previous sentence because I feel strongly that although good creative work is very important, it is still only one tool amongst several others that all must work together to deliver meaningful business results for clients.

In 2009, our focus will be on delivering business results using cost effective strategies designed to deliver high ROI. This is especially critical given the state of the economy. This is why social media and pay-per-performance will continue to be a key part of our offering in 2009 and beyond.

Do you have a few key best practices for those considering Internet marketing in the future?

  • Leverage the numerous low cost and no cost (and therefore high ROI) niche-based,  first mover opportunities that exist now in social media such a blogging, podcasting, video sharing (YouTube, etc.), social networks (Facebook, etc,), social bookmarking (Delicious, etc.) and so on.
  • If advertising, use pay-per-performance models whenever possible
  • Focus on conversions and ROI
  • Focus on the specific niche(s) that the business targets
  • Always be relevant and permission-based

Regarding the topic of website monetization, what advice would you give businesses or webmasters interested in generating affiliate revenue from their websites?

  1. Follow the “Abundance Mindset”—it’s OK if affiliates make more money on each sale than the owning business does (business model allowing, of course!)
  2. Make life easy for affiliates:
    • provide them with free marketing materials such as promotional emails, banners, case studies, customer testimonials, blog and social media widgets, videos, podcasts, etc.
    • encourage friendly competition and recognition amongst affiliates by running sales contests with fun awards and public recognition for the best performers
    • provide online support and help resources
    • hire a friendly and experienced affiliate manager
    • provide real-time reporting of commissions
    • pay commissions promptly
    • offer better commissions to the best performing affiliates
    • respond to all enquiries by affiliates promptly

Would you suggest using social media to funnel traffic for affiliate revenues? If it is either yes or no please let me know the reasons.

Absolutely yes! But I would suggest using social media to funnel traffic for any business that is serious about engaging its niche target audience online—whether using an affiliate model or not.

Reasons why: Leveraging the numerous low cost and no cost (and therefore high ROI) niche-based, first mover opportunities that exist now in social media such a blogging, podcasting, video sharing (YouTube, etc.), social networks (Facebook, etc,), social bookmarking (Delicious, etc.) and so on.

Who are according to you the newcomers to the Internet Marketing Solution landscape?

Google obviously isn’t a newcomer but they are constantly developing and refining very useful and effective technologies and applications so they are always worth watching.

I would also watch the micro-blogging platform Twitter (which is slowly gaining popularity in Asia), social media aggregation services such as Friendfeed, multiple social media update services like and hellotxt, the ever-evolving free WordPress blogging platform along with its always growing collection of free plug-ins ( and not by the way), the continuously improving online survey platforms such as Survey Monkey and Survey Gizmo, online Wiki platforms like wetpaint and content sharing sites like Squidoo. Many of the providers I mentioned offer their services for free and/or at a very low cost, which offers new and exciting cost effective opportunities for brands to leverage these platforms.

What do you see as the main challenges the Asian Internet marketing industry will have to face in the future?

  1. Getting more comfortable with digital media and the enormous benefits, advantages and ROI it can deliver.
  2. Embracing the idea that openness, honesty and transparency coupled with leveraging user generated content and multi-way conversations is not only the future of advertising and marketing but also the most cost effective use of advertising and marketing spend.
  3. Getting used to the idea that losing some amount of control over conversations that take place in social media is a good thing.
  4. Changing traditional mindsets to properly leverage the numerous low cost and no cost (and therefore high ROI) niche-based, first mover opportunities that exist now in social media such a blogging, podcasting, video sharing (YouTube, etc.), social networks (Facebook, etc,), social bookmarking (Delicious, etc.) and so on.
  5. Getting comfortable in paying for performance.

There are already a few “brave” brands in the market doing so (and doing it successfully) and hopefully they will lead the way for others to follow.

Indeed, even the car makers that are under considerable strain do not save on Internet marketing as it guarantees them a targeted reach of their core audience. Still, we all know that the biggest contributors to the online advertising market remain the telecommunications providers and Internet platforms, followed by the sectors of trade and shipping, banking, insurance and financial service providers. Although they have already recognized that online advertising must be incorporated into any comprehensive ad strategy, there is still a lot of experimentation underway within the category as marketers seek the optimal mix of ad types to reach their target audience. Fact is that and it will fuel spending for all types of online ads and drive growth in online ad spending.

I take my hat off to Jeff Zweig, Chief Guru of Web Guru Asia and say thank you for giving us such useful insights into his business.

By Daniela La Marca

You can reach Jeff Zweig, Chief Guru of Web Guru Asia, Digital Marketing Specialists directly at for further discussions.