FIPP meets…Eric Olander, director of Ringier LABS

It’s hard enough keeping track of the rapid changes in the digital publishing market, says Eric Olander, newly appointed chief revenue officer and director of Ringier LABS. But that’s only part of his goal – he actually wants to get ahead of it.  

Overly ambitious? No, says Olander, and references the recent arrival of $100 priced smartphones from China, which is flooding into frontier markets. This has allowed hundreds of millions of people to engage with Youtube, Facebook, social video and various other digital platforms for the first time.

With the market in Vietnam now radically different from the one he worked in just six months ago, those brands best positioned to respond to these changes are now the market leaders. But the market is not only expanding, it is also changing. The advent of Facebook Live and the growth of social video are changing everything. “We now really have to think about how brands should reposition themselves to better take advantage of these changes.”

And it’s exciting change. Olander views Vietnam as one of the last regions in the world where there is still the potential for real growth. While some markets show signs of saturation, Southeast Asia provides an untapped market with more than 600 million people.

While some may think such a large market will be an easy sell for brands in the emerging digital space, Olander warns that it is in fact one of the most complex markets to enter. “If you look at Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam you can’t have a single strategy. Publishers need to develop a unique approach to each, which is distinctive and specific.”

These marketplace complexities frustrates many publishers who battle to develop their strategies, but Olander describes the upside as ‘tremendous’. “We are talking about hundreds of millions of people that are coming online for the first time. These people have buying power, creating a rapidly expanding market for advertisers. If we look at the car market in Vietnam, it is growing enormously. We now have an automotive advertising sector that we did not have as recently as a year ago. It is fundamentally exciting to be in publishing in this part of the world.”

That said, those who want to be successful will need to develop a “a large degree of cultural dexterity”, says Olander. The market is infamous for companies entering with big plans “and inflexible managers” only to find that they do not really know how to function successfully.

“Hence, my approach in emerging markets is to enter with an enormous amount of humility. My job is not to tell people how to do things. It is to help editorial staff to tell stories better, to help clients communicate more successfully across platforms and to breach the divide between clients and consumers to ensure that both have better experiences.”

He continues: “First we need to fundamentally understand how people consume media. You need to understand how to target different populations and segments with different media. In many ways Vietnam is very distinctive from other markets because of its emerging market population and status, yet, it also mirrors elements of the rest of the world. Like the media spend on television remains dominant. That means we have to work extra hard with our clients and agency partners to demonstrate that a targeted, measured ad spend on Ringier is often more effective than television.”

Olander is not alone in making this case. The rise of the digital sector in Vietnam is huge, with digital advertising dominated by the likes of Google and Facebook, similar to other markets. His mission is to be flexible, innovative, collaborative and data-focused to showcase why the Ringier content channels are desirable for those brands seeking to reach women who are getting married with Ringier’s platform, those starting families (, interested in food and cooking (, fashion and lifestyle ( and families seeking to purchase real estate (

Flexibility and adaptability is vital, says Olander. “The market changes constantly. Even in the past 18 months we have seen more interest in social video. Brands are becoming  aware that the conversations they had so effectively managed through traditional media have now shifted online.”

With the expectation that Vietnam will become the number one market in Asia with daily total viewership time spend on YouTube as early as May this year and one in three people already on Facebook, it has become critical for Ringier develop innovative content solutions using social media and a mix of traditional digital advertising mechanisms on behalf of clients and agencies.  

“The branded content market in Vietnam is still in its infancy so the rules have yet to be formalised. This provides us with a truly unique opportunity to be a market leader and help lead our clients into this new space through education, some hand-holding and even a bit of patience as everyone tries to figure out what is the best way to move forward in a market that is changing so rapidly.”

To add to existing platforms, Ringier also offers a service to produce custom content that will be distributed for clients across the company’s content outlets, or their own. “We provide services to clients and agencies to produce multimedia products that they can distribute across their own media channels. In essence, we see the role of Ringier LABS as to be a partner for clients and agencies to help them reach our growing audiences but also to develop their own branded content strategy through their own media outlets.”

More about Eric Olander

With an extensive background in both journalism and new media at many of the world’s leading media companies including CNN, FRANCE 24 and the BBC World Service, Olander arrived in Vietnam four years ago as general director of the largest business news channel in the country, FBNC. After a revamp of the brand and developing a new digital strategy for FBNC to become Vietnam’s first channel to broadcast live on YouTube, he also developed a branded content studio at FBNC to work directly with clients to produce original video content for distribution both on TV and other digital channels.

He joined Ringier Vietnam in April as chief revenue officer and director of Ringier LABS.

Olander will be speaking at FIPP’s Asia-Pacific Conference, taking place on 27-28 September in Singapore.

Find out more about FIPP Asia-Pacific here.

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