How to Break Into the Mobile Advertising Landscape in South Korea & Japan

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Having recently opened a new Apptrust office in South Korea, we have been working steadily with a number of partners on the continent, both direct clients and agencies. By helping them run their mobile advertising campaigns, we have deepened our knowledge of the South Korean and Japanese ecosystems specifically. 

Are you looking to expand your mobile advertising reach in the thriving APAC market? Then, read on for our tips to help get your foot in the door. But first, let’s take a closer look at the opportunities, trends, and challenges. 

Opportunities in APAC for mobile marketers
APAC is the fastest-growing app market, with mobile advertising exceeding $200 billion by the end of 2019 – providing massive, dynamic growth potential for performance marketers.

South Korea is the global leader in smartphone and internet usage

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  • South Korea’s society is the most heavily connected in the world. The country ranks number 1 for smartphone ownership worldwide – standing at 95% of the total population. Koreans are also the world’s biggest internet users at 96%.  
  • Ad spending in the digital advertising market amounts to $5,923m in 2020 – up by 13% year-on-year (Statista). An ad spending growth of 9.6% is expected in 2021.

Image credits: Statista

  • It is estimated that 50% of total ad spending will be generated through mobile in 2024. (Statista) The average ad spend per user is $120.95, a 10% YoY increase.

Japan is a notoriously insular market to break, but it is totally worth the effort

  • Mobile advertising media expenditures exceeded one trillion yen for the first time in 2018Desktop is prevalent at just over 57% and mobile at 38%. 
  • 96% of smartphone users said they aren’t absolutely certain of the specific brand they want to buy when they begin looking for information online – this means that brand building happens on a moment-by-moment basis. 
  • Video is king, with eight in ten digital video viewers watching content via smartphones, and teens engage with video for up to an hour at a time.
  • Traditional banner ads produce an average click-through rate (CTR) of up to 1% – of course, keep in mind the adjustments required for the specific devices. With 94% of Japanese consumers willing to use ad blockers, avoid use of interstitial ads if possible.

Don’t rely just on building up the numbers – build relationships

Here is a tried-and-tested framework you can apply for breaking into the APAC markets.

Start by doing your own in-depth research of the market you are targeting. This is a must! Study the trends and verticals, get familiar with the industry leaders. Reach out to any contacts who can provide you with invaluable first-hand insights. Ask the right questions.

Next, start researching prospective partners in the region. Once you have a list, prepare your pitch and introduction. Showcase your expertise with numbers and case studies, but just as importantly, show your genuine interest in how you can best support them with achieving their mobile advertising goals. We can’t stress enough the importance of honesty: do not trick your prospective clients or clients at any point. Be as transparent as possible from the beginning about numbers and traffic you have from the start of the partnership.

Here is what you need to realize: success in South Korea and Japan isn’t a solo achievement. This means that relationship-building is where you’ll need to invest most of your time and resources. There is no other way around it: forming a solid partnership with a local, reliable media agency can set you off for success in the highly competitive APAC landscape.

In fact, Apptrust’s success in the region is only possible thanks to a collaborative effort between our team of mobile advertising experts and local partners. It all starts with building trust – from the moment you reach out and throughout the partnership.

Useful tips for relationship-building:

  • First impressions count! Respect local cultures by addressing people in Korea and Japan in a formal way. 
  • If you find that the language barrier is holding you back, look for a translator to assist you and run anything by them to ensure there is no miscommunication.
  • Do not rush it and only focus on numbers. It’s a process of building trust and cooperation. 
  • Kindness goes a long way. Mark local holidays on your calendar – they will appreciate you not chasing them on those dates, or better yet, sending them a local holiday greeting. 

How can you help your clients navigate the Covid-19 pandemic?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

This is a question we have been asking ourselves daily since the Coronavirus measures have been put in place. 

We work with different verticals and see that many budgets are shifting, with some app verticals are losing out, and others are winning in earnings during the pandemic (for more info on that, check out our blog post The Impact of Performance Marketing on Coronavirus) – but rather than focusing purely on numbers, we find that it’s more important to stick together and support each other, irrespective of budget. 

In this uncertain time, it’s very important to make your clients – whether direct or agencies – feel supported and cared for. Remind them that you are there to assist with their UA strategy as always – and there is no better way to do so than to offer the best service possible. It’s not just about reaching out and looking for budgets, rather to be present and reliable for your clients. 

We know that it will take some time to return to normality, but in APAC the situation is already improving in some regions and this gives us hope for the future. 

Our goal is to continue to cooperate and move with our partners together in the same direction, towards a brighter future. 

We urge you to focus on building a solid and mutually profitable cooperation with your partners – both by doing a great job managing performance marketing campaigns, but also by showing kindness and appreciation – especially at this time. 

Are you looking for support to launch and manage your user acquisition strategy in APAC or globally? Drop us a line at

Author: Elizabeth Marchetti