As I have discussed previously, South Korea offers an interesting proposition for global brands and marketers, with an incredibly high internet penetration rate, strong propensity to purchase and a mature ecommerce landscape.
Naver, which handles the vast majority of search queries in South Korea has several unique paid products for advertisers that are worth exploring in more detail.
An initial obstacle for advertisers looking to reach Korean consumers is understanding that with a different type of search engine also comes online behaviour that is different from what traditionally occurs in Google or other comparable search engines.
Koreans regard Naver not just as a search engine but more like a comprehensive information portal, with a number of functions covering news channels, games, mail services, comics, shopping, videos, blogs, and social media channels (such as Naver Café) just to mention a few.
Naver receives around 16m unique visitors, 1bn page views and 285m search queries per day. The huge difference in the number of page views and search queries suggests that a large amount of users do not use Naver just for search but to also consult its other services.
The portal aesthetic, larger number of potential user actions and differing types of advertising channels means that there are also more considerations and decisions to be made for advertisers as how to best communicate their brand messaging.
Is it notable in particular with Naver that in comparison to Western search engines, the more open-ended creative advertising channels and those that are data led are more closely aligned.
It must be considered that for a large number of Koreans, a brand’s entire online presence may be assessed by what they find across the various search, social and visual channels on Naver.
Paid ad options on Naver
Naver offers a number of paid search products similar to other engines but in a slightly different format and with more variety.
Naver’s PPC ads are called ‘Powerlink Ads’, which compared to Google ads are significantly shorter and have no site links or social extensions.
Naver also offers something called BrandSearch, which is similar to Baidu’s BrandZone. BrandSearch allows advertisers to show a combination of images, links and descriptions at the very top of the SERPs for pure brand, highly relevant brand, plus generic keyword variations.
Naver BrandSearch offers an opportunity to protect branded keywords from competitors that also bid on these terms, with visibility in a premium position above any general and often unrelated PPC and organic results.
Away from the better known paid products, Naver also offers other advertising formats unique to its search engine.
Webtoon is one of the fastest growing ad channels with about 20m unique visitors and around 2.5bn page views per month.
In terms of the significance to Korean audiences, it is notable that webtoons are increasingly inspiring or directly being adapted to fuel the domestic Korean movie industry.
What are Naver Webtoons?
Webtoons are online comics designed by a variety of well-known cartoonists in South Korea, which are updated regularly in one dedicated section on the Naver web portal.
Webtoons have grown in popularity across the whole APAC region; other search engines such as Daum also offer their own distinct Webtoon products.
The Financial Times earlier this year reported that: “According to KT Economy Research Institute, South Korea’s webtoon market… was worth about $96m in 2012. KT predicts that it will grow to $290m by 2015 as webtoons tap into new revenue streams.”
What are the options available to advertisers?
The advertiser selects a preferred cartoonist who will then create a story about the brand. The visibility of the Brand Webtoon depends on the popularity of the cartoonist as well as on the success of how well the story connects with the Korean target audience.
The Brand Webtoon will remain active indefinitely, however its position amongst other Webtoons moves further down as new ones are posted.
For product placements, an advertiser can also pick an existing cartoon and ask that a product or service is featured in the storyline.
The media cost for this activity depends on the popularity of the cartoon and its cartoonist.
To ensure that the product placement is most effective, it pays to have an understanding of popular webtoons and where your product or service could be most relevant.
Advertisers can also put a display ad at the end of a cartoon. This is the only option where the user can actually interact with the ad and since it is clickable, the user can be sent to the client’s website to convert.
Brand Webtoon and PPL are mainly branding exercises that do not allow advertisers to incorporate any clickable elements. Webtoon Display, however, is fully trackable and it is expected to have a significant impact on assisted conversions.
Naver is continuously developing new products that are tailored to international brands in order to improve their visibility on their search portal and help to grow brand awareness as well as push traffic and conversions.
The Korean comic industry has experienced a particularly interesting adaptation to digital and consequent monetisation strategy.
With Webtoons, Naver has not only launched a successful subscription service that captures a sizable portion of the Korean comic industry but crucially has also blended the channel with other online advertising options across its web portal and made it easily accessible.
With a highly connected populace, that demonstrates a consistently strong propensity to purchase from overseas brands, South Korea should be on the radar of any advertiser looking into APAC expansion.
Webtoons help advertisers to not only build familiarity and establish a presence in the Korean market, but can also drive significant traffic directly from a chosen cartoon.
For more on digital in APAC, read our post on how Korean brands are using mobile to boost the in-store experience.