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On his first anniversary of joining Etcom, Thang Ngo looks back (and forward) at the changing multicultural marketing landscape. 

Firstly let me make this admission – in terms of multicultural, ethnic, LOTE (language other than English), CALD (cultural and linguistically diverse) industry – I’m long in the tooth.

Around two decades long in the tooth.

I’ve worked on the client side (Star City), agency (Mosaica, UM, Etcom), media (SBS), community (elected local government councillor). Now as Etcom general manager, it’s been a long, and hopefully lasting, flirtation with multicultural marketing.


In the early days, the ethnic media choices were limited – print and radio were pretty much your only option when it comes to reaching multicultural audiences. Back then, even on public transport, you could spot folks reading Chieu Duong, Sing Tao, Neos Kosmos or La Fiamma. At the appointed time, people sat in their living room to listen to SBS Radio, Rete Italia or another station in their language.

Back then, ethnic print and radio had particularly strong reach, and were, compared to ‘mainstream’ media rates, very cost effective.

Fast forward to today. You don’t see that many commuters struggle with broadsheets like the Australian Chinese Daily – in fact, even in the mainstream, you don’t see that many people struggle with unfolding The Australian or Sydney Morning Herald (which has since gone tabloid). When they have headphones on, they’re likely to be selecting from their digital music selection stored on their smartphone. Young, Asian pop fanatics are more likely to get their fix on YouTube than TV.

In Australia today, online advertising has overtaken TV in terms of advertising spending.

What about in Ethnic media?

Despite the landscape shifting to in-language digital and social media, this still isn’t reflected in advertising spend. Print and to a lesser extent, radio still rule over their digital counterpart.

Don’t believe me? If you’ve done a multicultural marketing campaign recently, what percentage of your budget were allocated to print and radio? I’ll bet you, most of the time it will be over 75% and in some cases 100% of the total budget.

This flies in the face of audience preference.

Take the Australian Chinese community for example. For the longest time, in the absence of audited media consumption data, print was considered the key channel to reach Chinese audiences in Australia. Think about it, do we believe that a young, educated, affluent community who comes from China – the home of the world’s largest PC maker (Lenovo), third largest mobile makers (Lenovo/Motorola), with one of the largest social media user-base (weibo, wechat, Qzone etc), do we honestly think they mainly read Chinese newspapers?

social media

According to Statista, QQ, WhatsApp, QZone and WeChat – all popular social media options for Chinese rank in the top social media sites in the world in terms of users.

What I am proud of, is that Etcom is now more digital and social media ready than ever before. In my opinion, Etcom continues to deliver many innovative firsts for our clients.

In the past 12 months, I’ve been particularly proud of our work, particularly:

St.George: Australia’s Longest Lunar Lunch Table

This year, Etcom helped St.George rewrite the record books by putting on the St.George Longest Lunar New Year Lunch Table – 20 metres long with 60 hungry diners – the longest in Australia. Over 1,200 people applied to be a part of this historic event. They applied online and via social media through WeChat and Weibo. This successful activation was supported by 100% digital media support.

In-language site list

Today, Etcom has developed the capacity to reach multicultural eyeballs via websites and social media whether these publishers are based in Australia or overseas. So it’s no longer an excuse to say there isn’t a local popular website in that language. We now have the capacity to reach IPs in Australia reading popular overseas websites.

Not all social need to be in-language

Last year’s St.George Diwali campaign is a case in point. Over 95% of Indians in Australia speak English well or very well – the Diwali campaign is all about celebrating the colour and brightness of this festival through video content that was seeded via Facebook, YouTube and Google Display Network – all targeting Indian viewers.

Behaviour Change

Working with #ogilvychange, Etcom has developed a robust behaviour change model for Chinese audiences. Beyond awareness, our behaviour change model helps us to shape action by taking into account key motivators for the Chinese community.

We believe this is a world first – a valuable asset for commercial as well as health social marketing campaigns.

Etcom has already successfully applied this model for two clients, so this Etcom proprietary resource is not theory, but works in the real world.

Multicultural media, what’s changed?

A lot. At least in media consumption.

The challenge is to make sure our campaigns keep up.

Thang Ngo is general manager, Etcom – follow him on twitter.