SINGAPORE: Many Asian marketers and agencies are in "digital denial" over the effectiveness of earned media generated by social networks and blogs, a study has suggested.

A new white paper from digital agency XM-Asia, based on insights from the client and agency sides, claims many firms only have a "token" social media presence and are instead relying too much on traditional advertising.

The paper argued this strategy does not reflect the new "user-centric" digital marketplace, in which consumers prefer to take recommendations from friends and family on social media platforms rather than from ads.

"Rather than pushing out periodic campaigns across different channels, engagement in a post digital world requires a more sophisticated tactic," the paper added.

According to McKinsey data cited by the report, owned and earned media among "traditional" marketers collectively account for just 20% of marketing spend apiece, with bought media taking up the remaining 60%.

For digital marketers, 60% is spent on owned media, 30% on bought media and 20% on earned media.

But XM-Asia advocates a major change in budget allocation, with earned media ideally accounting for 60% of marketing dollars, owned for 30% and bought for just 10%.

"There has never been a better opportunity to invest in growing earned media as social media and the mobile devices that have cemented their ubiquity come of age," the company added.

"Ultimately the digital challenge and opportunity for brands is tied to the power of communities."

Asian marketers were especially urged to make these changes, due to a "particularly potent" trend of peer advocacy shaping purchasing decisions.

Figures from the Asia Digital Marketing Association, for example, show 48% of consumers in Indonesia and South Korea will make a purchase following an online recommendation made by a friend.

Brian Dargan, head of digital strategy at XM-Asia, said: "This paper isn't about digital; it is about opportunity - the opportunity that the mass migration of consumers to social media presents brands: to reallocate their marketing budget to reflect this shift and thus driving deeper engagement with their consumers."

Data sourced from XM-Asia; additional content by Warc staff